But it’s a van with a payload for serious swag, too…
Words & images Mark Allen

When was the last time you spotted a brand-new caravan utilising good ol’ aluminium exterior panelling… just like caravans used to be manufactured? Sure, there are a few big name companies still practicing the dying art, while most have tripped into the future with the latest material trends of fibreglass and composite panels… for better or for worse.

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Great Ocean Caravans is one mob that has stuck with the tried and tested ‘Old School’ look combined with a few new-age external materials such as black checker plate on its Optimum models. In this case, we’ve sampled the larger 24-footer and it’s jam-packed full of style and long-term off-grid livability as standard.

Don’t go thinking that just because these luxurious vans retain that ‘old style’ look they’re stuck in the eighties with the rest of their components. No siree! And there are two other smaller versions that pace out to 21 feet and 22-feet long, should this one not fit under your carport.

This van is designed to be a semi off-road rig that’ll take you most places you prefer to tour, albeit while offering total self-sufficiency in maximum style and comfort with the standard inclusions.

OUTSIDE
As mentioned, the outside of the Optimum has retained the age-old look and build material of aluminium sheeting with the addition of black checker plate on its lower sides, some a bit higher on the front for extra rock-strike protection and none at the rear. That rear end also features a single spare wheel carrier mounted to a two-arm bumper bar as well as a high-mounted rearview camera to help tuck the long van into tight spots without the need for ‘touch parking’.

The underbelly features include a six-inch Supergal chassis with an additional two-inch raiser and a six-inch drawbar. Light Truck tyres in 235/75R15 size with off-road orientated alloy rims are bolted to drum brakes and solid axles which in turn ride on shackled, rocker-leaf springs with shock absorbers. Old school again, but a reliable system that requires little ongoing maintenance and (most importantly) offers a load-sharing system that few trailing-arm coil-spring systems can replicate.

Also tucked underneath are two 95-litre water tanks plus a third 95-litre tank that is isolated specifically for clean drinking water. Having 285 litres of life-giving fluids goes a long way to allowing longer off-grid stopovers. So do the two 120-watt roof-mounted solar panels that feed two 105-amp AGM batteries; a great set-up to keep 12-volt power stocked up.

Cleverly, instead of mounting the batteries under the bed or taking up space in a floor-mounted cupboard, the batteries are mounted externally on the chassis – down low for improved lower centre of gravity – and not taking up valuable internal storage space.

An external LPG bayonet fitting is supplied, making it easy to plug in your portable barbecue; a perfect cooking option given you can perch your TV on the external dedicated compartment or tune into your favourite radio station or music CD while lazing under the long, side-mounted roll-out awning. Of course, while you’re outside, being able to nibble on your favourite snacks from the flip-down picnic table rounds out life’s open-air luxuries – we wouldn’t want you to strain yourself walking inside, now.

While there is a huge full-width boot that’s perfect for… umm… long things, there is no front storage toolbox to toss your tools, wheel chocks and jockey wheel into. On that fairly vacant drawbar rest two 9kg LPG bottles and a simple (yet effective) firewood tray, which you could strap a few items onto if it’s not being used to cart firewood. A rear (driver’s side) storage compartment can also host more gear.

A standard 50mm ball coupling resides on the A-frame, as do the telltale lights for the AL-KO ESC (electronic stability control) unit – a great safety feature. A small (but often misplaced) detail is the positioning of the jockey wheel; it’s mounted in the centre of the A-frame rather than off to one side, providing equal weight proportioning of the huge 700kg payload… not that all of that would get loaded up-front of the axles.

INSIDE
Wandering inside the Optimum van should bring a smile to most chefs’ faces; as well as those wanting an all-encompassing luxury compartment. The full-sized convection oven (with overhead rangehood) incorporates a four-burner cooktop (three gas and one 240-volt) combined with the recessed microwave oven and larger-than-normal bench space. This arrangement should allow for any fancy-pants meal to be prepared, cooked to perfection and served at the huge leather-clad club-style lounge that surrounds the swivel dining table.

I guess my only concern is the washing machine mounted right next to the dining table. I can only imagine my undies swishing around the glass viewing door while I’m chomping down on a roast and sloshing it all down with a glass of bubbly… oh, who am I kidding… a cold beer! The washing machine is also the first component that greets you as you walk into the van. Perhaps a re-positioning exercise could place it in a more discreet location?

Plenty of overhead and under-bench cupboards and drawers provide more than enough space in the kitchen, dining area and bedroom; while the Dometic 186-litre fridge will keep your gourmet foods and drinks chilled and the full-height roll-out pantry provides easy access to foodstuffs.

Prior to entering the bedroom, you pass through the ensuite which provides a flushing toilet, a ceramic vanity basin plus a hot and cold shower recess. The bedroom features a north/south fitted queen-size bed with adequate room on either side to access both the edges of the bed and the bedside storage cupboards. Of course, a running leap and dive onto the inner-spring mattress is the alternative bed entry method – via the run-up afforded by the (unimpeded) long centre aisle of the 24-foot van!

Large double-glazed windows, combined with multiple skylights throughout the van, deal up plenty of natural light. LED roof lights take over during the night hours.

Should the natural environment not offer your desired personal temperature, a roof-mounted IBIS 3 air-conditioner can be dialed in to suit; albeit only on 240 volts. All up, while this van will not accompany you to extreme off-road destinations, it will allow you to tow it in sensible off-road situations to experience our great country in style.

Verdict
A large caravan that can handle being towed over moderate off-road tracks makes sense. Substantial interior living room and storage space allows for plenty of gear to be taken on board, with a huge 700kg payload.

Specifications
External body length: 24ft
Tare weight: 2601kg
Payload: 700kg
Price as tested: $84,900

Pros

  • Huge internal space and luxurious appointments.
  • Large external storage compartments.

Cons  

  • Washing machine placement.

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