BE­HInD tHE sCEnEs: pA­trIot CAMpErs we catch up with Justin Mon­te­salvo



For the last four years, Pa­triot Campers, un­der the di­rec­tion of com­pany owner Justin Mon­te­salvo, has taken the X1 to vic­tory in its re­spec­tive cat­e­gory at the CTOTY awards. In an in-depth in­ter­view, Dan Everett dis­cov­ers the mo­ti­va­tion for this in­trepid en­tre­pre­neur and the se­cret to Pa­triot’s suc­cess.

CTA: Things have been tick­ing along quite well at Pa­triot for a while, how big is your op­er­a­tion now?

JM: All up, be­tween Pa­triot Campers and the sheet metal shop, we’re at just over 90 staff now and have just taken over our third build­ing so we’re sit­ting at about 6000m2. We have a pro­duc­tion line for the X1s and X2s and then we have other fa­cil­i­ties for man­u­fac­tur­ing the cus­tom goods like Toy Haulers, Su­per Tourers and those sort of things.

CTA: To a lot of peo­ple, Pa­triot has boomed out of nowhere and started dom­i­nat­ing the camper trailer mar­ket. Ob­vi­ously, you started some­where; what were you both do­ing 12 months be­fore you sold your first Pa­triot?

JM: Twelve months prior I was in my eighth year with my sheet metal busi­ness in Bris­bane. We utilise all the pro­cesses that are used in our Pa­triot campers: laser cut­ting, fab­ri­ca­tion, pow­der­coat­ing, elec­tri­cal assem­bly, so we were pretty well geared up to man­u­fac­ture the Pa­triot campers.

CTA: You’ve done a fair bit of travel all over the coun­try both be­fore and af­ter you donned the Pa­triot shirt, what has been your most mem­o­rable ex­pe­ri­ence out on the tracks?

JM: My most mem­o­rable ex­pe­ri­ence would have to be the first time we went up to Cape York with an X1; it was our first real shake­down. We’d de­signed and built the first X1 and had done a cou­ple of lo­cal trips, then once we were happy with the de­sign we took it on its first proper trip right up to the top of Aus­tralia.

CTA: If you could only head back to one spot where would it be?

JM: The Kim­ber­ley, [es­pe­cially] Hon­ey­moon

Bay. It’s just like nowhere else that I’ve seen in Aus­tralia, the di­ver­sity of the coun­try side and the jour­ney up there. It’s just so re­mote, so far away, you could be any­where in the world, you could be on an­other planet.

CTA: What is it that makes Pa­triot stand out from the crowd?

JM: There are a mil­lion things. I think all the Pa­triot prod­ucts are so left-field, they were and still are un­like any­thing else on the mar­ket. The style of camper is start­ing to be im­i­tated but we’ve stayed so far ahead of the com­pe­ti­tion by re­fin­ing the de­sign ev­ery sin­gle year. We’re con­stantly us­ing them, we’re do­ing the R&D and mak­ing them

bet­ter and bet­ter. By the time some­body pro­duces that style of camper trailer, we’ve al­ready left them in the dust.

CTA: Your win­ning camper of 2017 is the first we’ve ever seen with a grand stair­case lead­ing up to the master bed­room. Should we ex­pect any more big de­sign sur­prises for the 2018 com­pe­ti­tion?

JM: The new X2. We’re about to re­launch the X2, the mar­ket­ing stuff has all been done last week, we’re go­ing out to shoot the video on it next. The X2, for me, is tak­ing it back to where Pa­triot started. It doesn’t pre­tend to be any­thing it’s not. It’s su­per light­weight, can be towed be­hind ab­so­lutely any­thing, it’s stupidly fast to set up. You drive like there’s noth­ing be­hind you, it’s got a Tare of 640kg. The new X2, for me that, is the trailer, the one I’ll be us­ing out on the week­end ev­ery time.

CTA: How did you feel when you got your first phone call to say you had won CTOTY?

JM: Com­pletely over­whelmed. There was zero ex­pec­ta­tion we were in the run­ning, we were brand new to the in­dus­try, didn’t un­der­stand the pol­i­tics, didn’t un­der­stand how it all worked. But we knew when we were at the our CTOTY we had some­thing pretty spe­cial just from the re­ac­tion from all the judges, and prob­a­bly more im­por­tantly, from every­body in the in­dus­try. There were in­dus­try peo­ple there who were happy to get ex­cited for an­other Aus­tralian man­u­fac­tured prod­uct so dif­fer­ent to ev­ery­thing else, and then the there were the guys who were a lit­tle stand-off­ish. It was re­ally sur­real.

CTA: Did you ever think you’d be able to pull off four wins in a row?

JM: No way. But now look­ing back at it, es­pe­cially af­ter 2017, and the changes we made, there are a lot of very clever

in­no­va­tions in the X1 – the new stair­case, the way our tent works – it just falls in line per­fectly with what Pa­triot Campers is all about. We don’t fol­low the crowds, we could pro­duce a bud­get trailer to tap into that mar­ket if we wanted, we could go and build a hard­floor like every­body else with the re­sources and man­u­fac­tur­ing and de­sign pro­cesses I have at my dis­posal now but we won’t. If it was about mar­ket share and in­creas­ing rev­enue it’d be very sim­ple to do but that’s not what we’re about, not what the brand is about.

CTA: You’ve both made a ca­reer out of chas­ing your dreams, what ad­vice would you give to some­one look­ing to chase theirs?

JM: There’s a quote our whole com­pany lives by from Richard Bran­son: “If some­one of­fers you an amaz­ing op­por­tu­nity and you’re not sure how to do it, say yes,” – it is at this point when you try fig­ure out how to make it work. That’s our phi­los­o­phy. When some­one here comes up with an idea, whether it’s an idea for the camper trailer or pro­duc­tion or mar­ket­ing, it’ll be so left-field you’ll get a lot of peo­ple rais­ing their eye­brows, but we lis­ten and have a crew of peo­ple that can make that a re­al­ity. It’s epic.

CTA: Ev­ery de­sign you do is ei­ther com­pletely left-field or full of lots of lit­tle en­gi­neer­ing ideas, where do all these ideas come from?

JM: It comes from us­ing the prod­uct, that’s it, that’s the re­al­ity of it. I’ve stated it a thou­sand times, we never got into this in­dus­try for the Pa­triot X1 or any of our prod­ucts to be com­mer­cial prod­ucts, we’ve built al­ways pri­mar­ily for our­selves. And we test, and we use our prod­ucts. It’s a whole life­style, we live and breathe this stuff so when we find some­thing that’s not quite right with one of our de­signs we’re ag­ile enough that we can change it. We lis­ten to what our cus­tomers want and the ad­vice they give us, and we use the prod­uct our­selves.

CloCk­wise from top left: Justin says the Pa­triot crew can take a left-field idea and make it a re­al­ity; Four in a row in more ways than one!; Dan, Stu and David get the low­down on the X1 Grand Tourer from Justin at CTOTY 2017; Airbags de­liver op­ti­mal com­fort, offroad per­for­mance and ease-of-use on our CTOTY 2017 test track through Bri­bie Is­land; The X1 Grand Tourer’s light­weight Tare and low cen­tre of grav­ity pro­vided out­stand­ing sta­bil­ity on all an­gles.

CloCk­wise from top left: Justin plays around with the Pa­triot Toy Hauler; The win­ning X1 in 2015; 2014’s model hit the mud; The best of both worlds. A luxury stair­case pro­vides easy ac­cess to bed with gen­er­ous stor­age un­derneath.

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