Front run­ner

With the fo­cus on pro­vid­ing both lux­ury and sim­plic­ity, Olympic’s 2015 Marathon is welle­quipped to go the dis­tance.

Motorhome & Caravan Trader - - 2015 Olympic Marathon - Words Philip Lord Pics Jack Murphy

Olympic is an Aus­tralian car­a­van man­u­fac­turer of long-stand­ing and, here, we are test­ing its 2015 lux­ury tan­dem-axle van, the Marathon. Ac­cord­ing to Olympic, the Marathon is in­tended for buy­ers who have al­ready owned a van and want to up­grade into some­thing big­ger and bet­ter. It might not ex­actly fol­low Henry Ford’s, ‘any colour you like so long as it’s black’ phi­los­o­phy for the Model T, but the Marathon is all about sim­plic­ity. This 2015 van was only avail­able in the one body size (6.3m) and with one lay­out choice – the is­land bed, cafe dinette and rear bath­room setup.

As for the Marathon’s in­clu­sions, there was one in par­tic­u­lar that Olympic was keen to have on­board af­ter much cus­tomer feed­back – a wash­ing ma­chine.

THE START­ING BLOCKS

An Al-ko 50mm hitch is at­tached to the 4in A-frame on which two 9kg gas cylin­ders are housed. The jockey wheel is cen­trally-mounted on a cross beam that links the A-frame. This al­lows for bet­ter place­ment of weight dis­tri­bu­tion hitch tor­sion bar brack­ets, with­out the fid­dly prob­lem of ex­tri­cat­ing the jockey wheel from a po­si­tion on the A-frame side rail.

The ex­ter­nal tap mounted on the A-frame is not pro­tected, as such, but is mounted rel­a­tively high up be­hind one of the gas cylin­der mounts. The gas cylin­der (if in place in its bracket) would do a lot to pro­tect the tap from stone dam­age. While the A-frame does have tubu­lar brac­ing un­der­neath the

frame lengths, it lacks the mesh plate be­tween the frame lengths that some vans have for fire­wood or stor­ing bulky items.

The A-frame runs to just be­fore the wheelset and is welded to the 4in chas­sis mem­bers. A 2in riser is used from the wheelset to the rear of the van. C-chan­nel sup­ports run across the van and also along the length of the van body within the chas­sis frame lengths. The plumb­ing and some wires hang low un­der­neath the van – per­haps some­thing that could have been bet­ter lo­cated to avoid dam­age.

The sus­pen­sion is the fa­mil­iar live-axle, roller­rocker tan­dem leaf spring ar­range­ment, at­tached to drum brakes and 14in al­loy wheels. At the rear of the van, a steel bumper is bolted to the chas­sis and serves as the mount­ing point for the (al­loy) spare wheel. An Al-ko drop-down sta­biliser leg is found at each of the four cor­ners of the van.

Ex­ter­nal stor­age is in the form of a tra­di­tional front boot. The lock­ing boot lid is held up with gas struts and re­veals quite a gen­er­ous amount of stor­age space. The boot’s in­ter­nal walls are lined with gal­vanised sheet steel and it houses the Trail-a-mate jack, wheel­brace, bat­tery, Ctek MXS 15 charger and Mo­tor­mate bat­tery pro­tec­tion. Also housed in this space is the Brake Safe break­away con­troller.

An ex­ter­nal pow­erpoint is fit­ted on the near­side wall but no ex­ter­nal TV or au­dio speaker pro­vi­sion has been made. One ex­ter­nal LED light is fit­ted be­low the roll-out awning. A lock­ing pic­nic ta­ble is mounted mid-way along the near­side, too.

The body is framed with mer­anti tim­ber, clad in fa­mil­iar alu­minium sheet­ing – although, in a wel­come de­par­ture from the usual white, metal­lic sil­ver has been used in­stead. The front lower half is pro­tected with padded vinyl and the wheel arches are nicely capped off with plas­tic mould­ings.

GET SET TO STEP IN­SIDE

Ac­cess to the van’s in­te­rior is via a rear door which com­bines an ex­te­rior flat-sheet door with a de­tach­able se­cu­rity door that locks and comes with a fly­screen.

No fold-down step is re­quired; the body is lower at this point, so you walk straight in and up a step in­side the van. Here, you are pre­sented with the walk-in bath­room on the right (at the rear of the car­a­van) and the liv­ing and sleep­ing quar­ters on your left (to­wards the front).

The bath­room is a rea­son­able size – it can’t lay claim to be­ing overly gen­er­ous, but nei­ther is it short on space. It has a stone fin­ish and looks like an up­mar­ket home bath­room, with a sink that has a mixer tap and a large mirror above it. There are two cup­boards above the bench­top and also cup­boards be­low. There is also, of course, the 2.2kg wash­ing ma­chine, set in the bench.

The toi­let is a Thet­ford cas­sette and the sep­a­rate shower with hinged shower door has an ex­trac­tion fan mounted in the ceil­ing. A small screened win­dow is lo­cated on the off­side of the van, al­low­ing in plenty of nat­u­ral light and ven­ti­la­tion.

Mov­ing out into the liv­ing area, there’s a pair of coat hooks and mag­a­zine pock­ets on the en­try wall. A padded sec­tion is fit­ted just above the en­try door to take the pain out of bump­ing your head on the egress if you’re par­tic­u­larly tall.

The cafe-style dinette on the near­side of the van is roomy for two adults and could sit four at a pinch. There are small cup­boards un­der the ta­ble and three large stor­age lock­ers above.

Across from the dinette is the kitchen, which has quite a large amount of food prepa­ra­tion space, al­beit some­what com­pro­mised. With the cut­ting board that cov­ers the sink and the fold-up bench sec­tion that re­veals the cook­top both in place, there is am­ple room to get food ready to cook. The

and above the bed are three gen­er­ously-sized lock­ers. Read­ing lights are fit­ted to the sides of the wardrobes.

The large hop­per win­dows al­low plenty of light into the van, and have pel­meted cur­tains and lace screen­ing as well as fly­screens. In the ceil­ing there is a large, open­ing sky­light and plenty of LED down­lights.

I felt the over­all ef­fect of the dark brown in­te­rior decor was let down a bit by the tan cap moulds. Per­haps the idea is that this pro­vides a con­trast to the dark tim­ber and soft fur­nish­ing ma­te­ri­als, but I’m not so sure it works.

THE BOT­TOM LINE

This is a lux­ury van from a long-stand­ing Aus­tralian man­u­fac­turer, with a fo­cus on sim­plic­ity in the lay­out. And with this 2015 model only avail­able in one body size and one lay­out op­tion, the de­ci­sion­mak­ing process might just be a lit­tle eas­ier.

The 2015 Marathon is a fully-stocked van and pro­vided a lot of equip­ment at a rea­son­able price, as new. While it is, in many re­spects, a tra­di­tional van, it has mostly well-cho­sen colours, which give it a con­tem­po­rary feel.

The roll­out of new tech­nol­ogy in both car­a­vans and tow ve­hi­cles has made it eas­ier for trav­ellers to cut their tra­di­tional um­bil­i­cal cord – the 240V power lead – and go bush for longer.

Mul­ti­ple wa­ter tanks, so­lar pan­els and banks of deep-cy­cle bat­ter­ies have al­ready taken us well down that re­mote track and are now as com­mon­place and fash­ion­able as check­er­plate. But ban­ish­ing the gas cylin­ders has been a step too far for most car­a­van man­u­fac­tur­ers... un­til re­cent years.

Sure, smaller spe­cial­ist hybrid mak­ers of­fer diesel cook­ing, hot wa­ter ser­vice and cen­tral heat­ing as

SE­RI­OUS PUR­POSE

Like its big­ger brothers in the 2014 Terra Sportz range, this is a dis­tinc­tive car­a­van, with the satin sil­ver of its smooth alu­minium com­pos­ite walls con­trast­ing smartly with its lower black check­er­plate and bright or­ange Nova de­cals and logo.

It’s not the light­est so­lu­tion for car­a­van con­struc­tion, with the walls weigh­ing around three times more per square me­tre than the con­ven­tional tim­ber-framed and ribbed alu­minium al­ter­na­tive found on other Nova on-road tour­ing vans, but it’s strong and gives you the feel­ing that it’s built to last many ad­ven­tures.

A Ve­hi­cle Com­po­nents DO35 of­froad cou­pling, a high check­er­plate front panel, a large three-quar­ter tun­nel boot, 12in Al-ko elec­tric brakes and rugged 16in al­loy wheels with 245/75 Light Truck tyres are all clues that this van is de­signed for se­ri­ous use.

DIESEL DE­LIGHT

Un­like the usual four-burner cook­top, griller and (per­haps) oven in the kitchen, our re­view van sported a smart We­basto Diesel Cooker X 100, with just two burn­ers be­neath its flush-fit­ting glass ce­ramic top – the larger one de­liv­er­ing cook­ing power of up to 1800W, and the smaller for sim­mer­ing.

It all looks sleek and stylish, if a lit­tle min­i­mal­is­tic at first, with the ob­vi­ous ques­tion be­ing ‘how do I cook toast?’ But if you are plan­ning to travel with­out de­pen­dence on gas re­fills, you’ll prob­a­bly do that over a por­ta­ble bar­be­cue flame or open fire out­side. And the ab­sence of an oven could be cov­ered by hav­ing a mi­crowave fit­ted, or by us­ing a por­ta­ble bar­be­cue, but that wasn’t this cus­tomer’s choice.

It wasn’t just about the cooker. Tak­ing full ad­van­tage of the al­ter­na­tive diesel path, Nova also equipped the van with a com­bined diesel-fu­elled We­basto Dual Top Evo in­te­grated hot wa­ter ser­vice and cen­tral heat­ing unit.

Lo­cated un­der the lift-up queen-size bed, the sys­tem’s 11L-ca­pac­ity, 20kg boiler oc­cu­pies nearly one quar­ter of the avail­able stor­age space, but

or take a few hun­dred dol­lars if you were re­plac­ing all three of these ap­pli­ances, and that’s re­ally not much in the to­tal cost of a se­ri­ous of­froad car­a­van, given the ex­tra trav­el­ling free­dom it of­fers.

De­spite the boiler un­der the bed and the diesel tank above the rear bumper, the 16ft 6in 2014 Terra Sportz re­mains the well thought-out, roomy and prac­ti­cal car­a­van that an Nova cus­tomers have come to love.

The front north-south bed flanked by good­sized wardrobes and cup­boards, cen­tral kitchen with leather-trimmed café dinette op­po­site, and com­pact but work­able sep­a­rate shower-toi­let en­suite across the rear of the van, make the 16ft 6in Terra Sportz seem roomier than you’d ex­pect in a car­a­van of its size. This is an im­pres­sion height­ened by the re­view van’s pre­dom­i­nantly white dé­cor with con­trast­ing black leather lounge.

But it’s the lit­tle touches, like the re­cessed LED pel­met light­ing, the care­ful an­gling of the kitchen bench­top for easy bed­room ac­cess, and the solid slid­ing door to the en­suite, that show Nova un­der­stands its cus­tomers and their needs.

THE BOT­TOM LINE

The 2014 Nova Terra Sportz is a strong, well­built car­a­van de­signed to take sus­tained of­froad pun­ish­ment. Yet, de­spite its com­pact over­all di­men­sions, its lay­out makes it an invit­ing place to spend qual­ity time well off the beaten track.

Even with its ad­di­tional cost, the avail­abil­ity of diesel cook­ing, hot wa­ter and cen­tral heat­ing on the op­tions list will en­hance the ap­peal of the Terra Sportz to ad­ven­tur­ous long-term trav­ellers.

Even if you forego the diesel op­tion and opt for con­ven­tional gas ap­pli­ances, the 16ft 6in 2014 Terra Sportz de­serves your se­ri­ous con­sid­er­a­tion when shop­ping for a van to en­joy well off the bi­tu­men. 2014 • $44,500 • NSW • 0401 322 736 Nova Terra Sportz Fam­ily 20ft 6in 2015 • $79,995 • QLD • 07 3073 8062

Clock­wise from top left: The Marathon is clad in stylish metal­lic sil­ver alu­minium; Al-ko hitch is at­tached to the 4in A-frame; flip-up front boot with gen­er­ous stor­age space; 14in al­loy wheels; fold-down pic­nic ta­ble.

Clock­wise from top left: The 2015 Marathon cuts a fine shape at camp; 184L three­way fridge/freezer is op­po­site the en­try door; the bath­room van­ity has de­cent bench and cup­board space; a top-load­ing wash­ing ma­chine is tucked away un­der the bench; the cafe-

Clock­wise from main: De­spite its small di­men­sions, this is a com­fort­able van at camp; front tun­nel boot; the A-frame is sparse with­out gas cylin­ders or jerry can hold­ers; Hitch­mas­ter DO35 all-ter­rain cou­pling; the van’s un­der­belly is very well pro­tected.

Clock­wise from top left: Michael comes to grips with the diesel-fu­elled cook­top; the wall-mounted Air­com­mand air-con­di­tioner was a cus­tomer choice; the un­der-bed stor­age space also houses the diesel hot wa­ter/space heater; front north-south bed; pres­sure

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