By DAVID COOK
The Vista RV Crossover has rapidly gained a reputation as a luxury Outback touring camper that can and will go just about anywhere The world of camper trailers, probably more than any other sector of the recreational vehicle industry, has become an arms race in recent years. In most cases this arises from the camper trailer being a relatively recent phenomenon and starting from a fairly fundamental base, but it’s also come from a handful of entrepreneurial manufacturers who have looked at what was being served up for the marketplace and saying, “Surely we can do better than this.”
One such manufacturer is Louie Cretella and wife Lorraine, who five years ago decided their very successful company manufacturing electrical switchboards and similar items could branch out into an area in which they had a greater personal interest: camper trailers.
Louie started tinkering with a hard floor camper design, adapting the paradigm that he saw all about him, but then he came across some interesting data.
“It was a sort of diary kept by a man who manufactured flip-over campers, and he recorded the wish list – or whinge list as I call it – of his customers,” Lou told us. “I went through Mr X’s diary and what kept coming up was that you tend to get sick of the canvas after a while, especially when it’s wet.
“Our prototype that we were working on was a big, king-sized flip-over hard floor camper trailer and I asked myself what are we doing here? We’d just be head butting all the kings that have been at it for years and giving the customers more canvas. The way I read it, when you’ve got rid of the kids and it’s just mum and dad going touring, where they’re not staying put too long and are often setting up and packing up every day, it’s the canvas that’s the killer.
“That’s when we started remassaging the concept and that’s how we came up with the Vista Crossover you see today, it’s not a caravan and it’s not a flip-over camper, it doesn’t have the compulsory canvas, and we promote it on the lack of that canvas. You can turn up at a camp site and it’s blowing a gale, drizzling rain and you can simply run to the back, undo a couple of latches, step inside and push the roof up. “If the bed’s made and you’re happy to sit on it then you’re right, but you have the option to flip over the foot of the bed and up comes the table and you can sit upright at a table. There are facilities to be able to reheat on a portable stove at a small kitchenette, with its own sink. It was designed to be practical and comfortable.”
The Vista has long gone past the stage of interest at a distance, and now there’s a steady flow of orders coming to the Cretella’s Bayswater, Melbourne factory.So what is it that’s struck such a chord with the buying public? It isn’t a bargain basement price, because the level of technical sophistication and finish that come with the Vista RV comes at a cost that puts it out of the reach of many. What a Vista customer gets comes in many forms.
“We wanted something that looked tough and space age, and aerodynamic, but we also wanted that military tough look. If you look at the exterior of the Vista there’s a similarity with military gear, like a Hummer or a Land Rover, with everything riveted together – and to put them in perspective rivets are stronger than welds. But we also wanted comfort inside for the girls, and we knew that if we could win the women over we were more than half way there.
“We wanted to make it user friendly, so whether you’re strong or not so strong, tall or short, there’s nothing on the Vista that you can’t operate on your own. Everything opens and shuts easily; the user simplicity of the design is important. Everything is intuitive and easy.
“There’s plenty of storage, inside and out, and we wanted the ability for it to be able to go anywhere, and that’s why it has the footprint it does. It’s no wider than your tow car, no higher than most cars and tracks in the same wheel tracks as most cars.
“It’s dedicated to harsh offroad conditions, if that’s what you want. Anywhere that you’re able to and allowed to drive with a car, the Vista is able to go. Australia has some of the harshest off-road conditions in the world, especially the corrugations. Our benchmark trailer, the first one off the production line, has done 82,500 kilometres, it’s been around Australia about four times and we offer it on loan to all manner of people, from outback mapping people to magazine reviewers. It’s had a tough life, and a few scrapes. We use it as a selling point in the factory, and the only things that have been replaced on it are its second coupling, tyres (twice) plus the brakes and bearings.”
There are three models in the Vista RV Crossover range: the original Vista RV Crossover, the smaller and more basic TVK (Touring Van Kompact) and the recently introduced and now extremely popular XL.
All the Vista campers are built on a super-tough hot dip galvanized chassis, the basis of all good offroad campers. The suspension is independent, based on a pair of sophisticated asymmetric lateral links each located by two unequal length longitudinal control arms, HD coil springs and Koni shock absorbers.
The original Crossover has the basic form of a small caravan, but with the external kitchen that pretty much defines the camper trailer concept. There is a large queen-sized bed that can fold back on itself and under which is a table and two bench seats. Headroom is created by tilting up the roof, and there is a wealth of storage areas beneath seats, in cupboards, and a full length robe for long clothes.While there’s a small kitchenette internally there’s a large pull out external stainless steel kitchen, with two-burner stove with wind break, cutlery and crockery drawers, stainless sink and power tap. Being able to cook outside is one of the pleasures of enjoying the bush and which has served to make camper trailers so popular with those who love camping.
Externally there are a number of other lockable storage bays, carrying capacity for up to four jerry cans and 9kg of gas storage. The body is a fibreglass roof with fibreglass and ply composite side walls. The front and rear of the van are composed of sheet metal components, riveted together for strength and as mounting points for a range of components.
There are full 12V and 240V electrical systems, with a 100Ah battery, smart charger and all-LED lighting inside and out.
Options include a fold-up rear mounted solar panel, rear shower room, roof hatch, CTek DC-DC charger, inverter, inner spring mattress, pantry on the inside of the access door, extra water tank, full length side canvas awning to replace the standard triangular sail awning and end walls and much more.
The TVK was designed as a minimalist version of the Crossover, with the body shortened from the standard 4.9 metres to 4.5 metres, the weight reduced from 1150 to 1050 kg but the ball weight going up from 120kg to 170kg.
The Newly released Crossover XL has proven very popular with customers. It is 300mm longer, at 5.2 metres, for added room inside, which raises the tare weight to 1220kg but the payload dropping by 50kg.
“This has been a project of passion,” Louie concluded. “Our bread and butter business of manufacturing component parts for other businesses means we don’t ever get to finish the job and turn the switch on. Now, with the Vista RV we not only get to finish the whole job but we get to put the smiles on people’s faces when we hand over the keys. The job satisfaction is ten-fold.”
Durability and strength
Camper benefits with caravan comforts
Wide range of options
Heaps of storage
Price – but you get what you pay forOptional extras that really should be standard
Minimal front stone protection
Vista RV Crossover XL
Weight: 1220kg Tare and 1620kg GTM
Ball weight: 120kg
Full specifications at www.vistarv.com.au