Van

Motorhome & Caravan Trader - - 2014 Nova Terra Sportz -

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

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