either standard equipment or an option (depending on the model), but they are still rarely, if ever, fitted by mainstream caravans makers.
But Nova wanted adventurous caravanners to take its 2014 Terra Sportz seriously, so when a New South Wales customer asked the company to build a diesel-only caravan based on the 16ft 6in (5.03m) single-axle 16679-9 variant, the team welcomed the opportunity to get acquainted with this increasingly popular technology.
As well as seeing how they adapted it to a caravan that is usually built around gas or three-way
But it’s what you don’t see that makes the real difference. Underneath, there’s Cruisemaster XT trailing arm coil-spring suspension with twin shock absorbers per wheel, while everything from the water and waste pipes to electrical cables and other piping is shielded by checkerplate. Some makers of faux offroad vans might add it unnecessarily to the upper body as part of their ‘visual marketing’, but I have rarely seen so much protection underneath a caravan.
Other things you can’t see that give this 2014 Terra Sportz some offroad cred are its 12mm waterresistant polyurethane-coated ply floor and the gusseted frame for extra strength. There is also a pressure hatch to keep dust out on unmade roads, and polyplastic double-glazed windows.
But the elephant in the room – or rather missing from it in this particular Terra Sportz – was the A-frame.
The ‘naked’ 150x50mm galvanised steel was devoid of gas cylinders and, curiously, jerry can holders – the former because the van had no gas appliances, and the latter by special request from the customer. I say ‘curiously’ because I would have thought a jerry can of diesel would be the easiest way of carrying the fuel for the black 9L diesel reservoir located above the rear bumper on the van’s offside rear panel.
So apart from its mesh stone shielding underneath and checkerplate-shielded tap, the A-frame looked strangely bare. The reason becomes
it can be located in other parts of the caravan, depending on its layout.
Operated through a single wall-mounted control unit located just inside the door, the Webasto system supplies hot water at temperatures up to 70°C – the same as most gas/electric caravan hot water systems – while also delivering warm air to the interior for those chilly winter nights.
Apart from the space-saving and practicality of using the same fuel source as the majority of tow vehicles that will haul the Terra Sportz offroad, the advantages of the all-diesel system is its flame-free safety, simple installation and repair without having to call on a licensed gas fitter, and the ability to reduce the number of dust-ingesting vent holes that are required by law in a caravan with gas appliances.
Nova took advantage of this by fitting a solid, vent-free door in the customer’s diesel-powered Terra Sportz, eliminating one of the major sources of dust invasion – the lower door vent.
Nova’s standard Terra Sportz pressure hatch (located above the bed in the forward section of the van’s roof) allows the interior to be pressurised on unsealed roads, minimising dust entry from other body vents.
The customer’s decision (for overall height reasons) to forego the usual roof-mounted Aircommand air-conditioning system, and locate it above the fridge instead, means that the system vents into the dust-prone front offside of the van, but the air-con could just as easily have been located in its usual spot on the van roof. So, is it all worth it? The cost of going diesel is usually held up as a major deterrent, but in reality it’s not that expensive if you deduct the cost of the gas/240v hot water service, gas central heater and gas/electric cooktop and grill that it will replace.
I worked it out at a premium of around $700, give