Review: Spinifex Off Roader
This Spinifex Off Roader is built for life off the bitumen, but this caravan doesn't scrimp on luxuries.
AFTER YEARS OF WORKING for other caravan manufacturers and repairers, Steve Thompson decided there were too many so-called 'offroad' vans on the market that didn't live up to their hype. So when he started his own repair business four years ago, he was quickly encouraged to start building his own caravans. With that, the Spinifex brand of custom-built caravans was born.
The name Spinifex was chosen because it reflected the Australian outback, which was where these vans should be enjoyed. Surely, caravans tagged with such a name must come with the promise of being sturdy and strong enough to deal with whatever the rugged Australian bush offered up.
We recently hitched a Spinifex Off Roader to the back of a Toyota LandCruiser 200 Series to see if this van lived up to the company's claim.
Based on looks alone, this custom rig appears ready to tackle all the rough and tumble of the outback.
Successfully and reliably getting off the bitumen means relying on a strong, well-built chassis, and this Spinifex's 200mm dual beam hot-dipped galvanised unit fits the bill, as does its Cruisemaster independent airbag suspension. This is top-of-the-line suspension for the dedicated offroad RVer.
For an offroad caravan, the Spinifex's Tare of 2980kg is reasonable. I've come across some smaller offroad vans that registered more kilos at the weighbridge.
The silver-grey cladding, with stucco finish, twin boot doors and ample checkerplate is reminiscent of the sort of finish you would normally see from a quality manufacturer such as Kedron.
Spinifex has opted for an interlocking aluminium frame for the walls and roof. Steve believes any van worthy of an offroad tag should have an aluminium frame, something Spinifex has in common with Kedron and Bushtracker.
Any caravanner who wants to splash through creek crossings somewhere along an outback track shouldn't risk the structure of their van to timber frames that are vulnerable to water damage, he says.
READY TO CAMP
Anyone interested in offroad caravan action usually signs his or her name beside the word "independence". And true caravanning independence means plenty of gas, water and power.
A pair of 9kg gas cylinders means plenty of fuel for more than a few days with which to sizzle some sausages and keep the fridge cold. But there's the rub: the Vitrifrigo fridge in this custom build is a compressor-style that runs on 12V power - not gas.
An advantage of this setup is that a 12V compressor-style fridge can be quite economical when compared to your typical absorption fridge, and thanks to the three 135W solar panels on the roof that charge the three house batteries, the chances of running out of power are minimal.
There is a definite sense of style about this Off Roader, obvious from the moment you step inside and see the brilliant red leather dinette. But this is not an example of style over substance. There is plenty here that would appeal to even the most pragmatic caravanners.
Beyond its striking aesthetic values, the cafe-style dinette is a great place to sit and relax, and its versatile tri-fold table means it's well suited to a couple of drinks or a meal.
For the travelling gourmet, the kitchen is well laid-out with sufficient bench space to allow you to whip up more than beans on toast. Also, the cupboards and drawers are all well made and finished in Tasmanian Oak, which means there's little likelihood of jagging your fingers on a splinter while fishing around for the bottle opener.
The front bedroom is a very well appointed space, with bedside cabinets, drawers and small wardrobes, as well as a row of lockers above the bedhead and the usual under-bed space. Speaking of storage, the bedhead also has a couple of nifty extra storage spaces under pull-up lids. The bed is large enough to comfortably fit a couple.
The interior is kept cosy thanks to air-conditioning for those hot days, and a diesel heater for cold nights.
When you have had your fill of nights in the bush, it's good to know this van comes with its own washing machine, skilfully hidden away in the good sized and elegant rear ensuite with seperate shower, toilet and vanity.
There is a lot said these days about custom building. While some manufacturers claim to custom build by simply allowing buyers to chose little more than curtain colours and the stain of the furniture, Spinifex vans are the real deal.
The buyers of our review van had decided on every aspect of their caravan, from the suspension type to every minute detail of the internal layout.
THE BOTTOM LINE
This is a very comfy van capable of catering for the needs of offroad enthusiasts. The Spinifex Off Roader shows how a company in tune with the market can produce a high-quality product that is custom-built from the chassis up.
For quality of build and its willingness to meet the demands of its clients, Spinifex is making a name for itself in offroad caravan build and design.