Thinking outside the square
Combining retro curves and sleek modern finishes, the Sportscruiser is unlike any other caravan on Australia’s roads
By ROD BRUEM
Queensland’s newest fibreglass van is the creation of John and Wendy Smallwood. Like so many other ‘southerners’, the couple moved to the Sunshine Coast a decade ago for a life of semi retirement. The plan was to relax and spend time travelling Australia in a caravan.
It was the caravan holiday part that brought these plans unstuck.
After a lifetime of boating, the couple began to lament the fact they couldn’t find a caravan with the same attributes of a well-built yacht.
As well as being a competitive sailor, John Smallwood also had a successful career as an accountant and corporate bail-out specialist. It wasn’t long before he began to do the numbers on designing and building the caravan of their dreams, inspired by his yachting experience.
The aim was to produce a 15 foot van that was strong and comfortable with everything two adults would need. A “one size fits all’ package that feels roomy and easy to maintain.
The result is the closest you’ll get to ‘caravan cool’ and surprisingly great value.
It’s a caravan that really does stand out. You get plenty of looks on the road and more than a few questions when you pull over for the night.
The Sportscruiser had an interesting evolution. Construction initially started inside a manufacturing facility at Maitland Jail in NSW, with inmates providing the labour. (“It did have its challenges,” John says.)
Today the fibreglass shell and chassis are manufactured in China. John says it’s not an issue for most buyers, who recognise some of the best manufactured goods today come from there.
He says the industrial mega city of Guangzhou in particular has a reputation for building some of the world’s best plastics and fibreglass products and has been building luxury yachts for decades.
“It’s no different to anywhere else, you pay for quality, set the right specifications and standards and maintain strict quality control and you will get a quality product.
“For us it’s a continual improvement process and we will continue to add components from where we can source the best quality at the best price.
“We haven’t put this much work into building a high quality van just to risk having it messed up by something that’s not up to the best standard.”To date just over 100 Sportscruisers have been built, with the firm planning to
start ramping up production over the next 12 months now they’re satisfied they have the right people and systems in place.
John says 60 percent of the job including interior fit out takes place at the firm’s Kunda Park base, just west of Maroochydore.
He’s assembled a specialist team to work on the interior and while the Sportcruiser looks pretty amazing from the outside, inside it is equally impressive.
The large Dometic windows and sleek cabinetry, also made of a hi-tech composite, combine to create a unique uncluttered minimalist feel. This is a caravan you really enjoy hanging out in.
The layout is neat and practical, with good storage areas including a large spacem upfront with metre-wide hatches accessible from both sides outside.
The kitchen and bathroom are at the back – both easy to get to from the door at the rear end. As you’d expect in a van this size, the ensuite is not large, with the shower over the toilet set-up, but this is one of the better units we’ve seen of this type. It’s fitted as one piece into the van during construction, so there are no potential cracks, making it easy to clean and maintain.
Comfy seating is in the centre of the van and it doesn’t have to be moved or folded away for bedding. It’s great for relaxing and taking in the view from the panoramic windows at any time of day. The beds fit neatly up front with the heads fitting in under the curved ceiling. There’s a choice of double, queen or two singles.
The standard van priced at $39,950 comes with leaf suspension, 12 inch alloys, braked drums and 1900kg rated suspension. The spare wheel is neatly stored under the front chassis, out of the way and very easy to get to when needed and there’s great ground clearance all round.
Heavy duty off road suspension packs are available as extras. The particular van we tested had top of the range Cruisemaster airbag suspension. As well as making the Sportscruiser equipped to take on the Tanami desert, it allows the van to be levelled out on sloping ground at the touch of a button. This particular suspension pack will set you back another $4,500.
The Sportscruiser team has obviously worked very hard to keep the van below the $40,000 price tag and some features considered standard on other vans are extras on the Sportscruiser, such as a TV aerial or microwave oven.
We were most impressed at the moulded polyurethane storage unit added to the front of our test van, which neatly concealed the two gas bottles as well as providing a sizeable space for tools and other essentials. Not only is it practical, but also compliments the curvaceous fibreglass front of the Sportscruiser – one of its stand out features. But the box is one of the extras, in this case costing $500.Nevertheless, the standard package has all the equipment most buyers would be looking for and would happily drive away with including reverse cycle air conditioning and a roll out side awning.
Be prepared to set aside a little bit more for some bespoke extras to suit your particular needs. For example, you could get the front storage box, plus an upgraded off road suspension system, solar panels (it is wired ready), a drop down external table and a slightly larger fridge (106 litres is standard). You can get all this for under $5,000, which still makes it a very attractive package. In summary, this is a home one wheels we genuinely enjoyed hanging out in. It just doesn’t feel like any other caravan – and in many ways it’s not.
The tough composite fibreglass shell and metal frame make the Sportscruiser virtually unbreakable and certainly hail resistant!
Sportscruiser set out to create something unique in just one model and they’ve achieved that.
If you’re at a stage where you’re thinking you wouldn’t mind a caravan, but nothing you’ve seen quite appeals. This could be the answer.
Full details and specifications www.sportscruiser.com.au
It’s tough, stylish and affordable
Spacious interior – if you love modern and minimalistic, this is for you
Limited sleeping capacity – two people only
Combined shower toilet – admittedly one of the better units we’ve seen.