Smooth in the rough
All Evernew caravans are tough, but the respected Melbourne caravan maker’s first ever smooth-sided offroader is even tougher.
Have you ever noticed how many Evernew caravans and pop-tops are on the road? Start counting next time you’re on a major highway and you’ll be amazed.
This says two things about the company that is still building vans in Heidelberg, Victoria by the same founding family, a stone’s throw from where the first Evernew took shape in 1963. One is that about 8000 Evernews have been built since then, and the other is that a lot of them are obviously still going strong. That’s thanks to the unshakable policy of founder Bruce Bailey and son-in-law Darren French that they should survive a minimum of 30 years of use.
Meranti timber is used for the framing of the front, side and rear walls because being a natural material, it absorbs road shocks and flexing that aluminium frames do not. Darren understands this from his knowledge of the aviation industry, where aluminium airframes have a predictable life expectancy. The longevity of timber framing he says, is based on keeping water out, so the majority of Evernew caravans are built without front and rear windows.
Then there’s the hot-dipped galvanised steel G&S chassis that is custom-built for every Evernew with extra cross-bracing every 450mm (18in) for extra torsional rigidity, plus additional steel plate bracing in areas that are subject to greater flex.
There is also 70x25mm Oregon roof beams on every full-height Evernew, spaced 450mm apart on average and checked into the walls for extra support, compared with the industry norm for on-road caravans of 42x19mm finger-jointed Meranti.
So when Evernew announces that it has built a new ‘offroad’ van, you know that the lip service sometimes given to this term in the Australian caravan industry does not apply.
‘Offroad’ at Evernew starts with an even stronger 150x50mm A-frame and chassis, larger 265/75 R16 General Grabber light truck tyres on alloy rims, 12in electric drum brakes on single-axle models and premium Cruisemaster XT suspension.
Throw in lots of checkerplate cladding and that’s
The 5.3m (17ft 4in) E900i Series single-axle van was the first production van that Evernew has built in 53 years that has smooth, aluminium exterior cladding over a Meranti timber frame. Ribbed aluminium has been applied to all previous models.
Nothing new here, you might think. Modern caravans now come in many colours and cladding types. However to meet Evernew’s demanding 30-year standard, the aluminium outer skin of the composite that Evernew uses is 4mm thick. This makes it an important strengthening feature, compared with the common 3mm aluminium.
The composite sheets are also joined no more than 3m apart to allow for expansion. The result is a weight penalty of around 30kg on the review van over ribbed aluminium, but that is arguably
inconsequential in a caravan weighing 2t.
Evernew is reluctant to call its new composite walls stronger or longer lasting than traditional ribbed cladding, instead acknowledging that many of today’s buyers prefer the smooth, more modern look and that the company is catering for these buyers in a very ‘Evernew’ way.
In addition to the hail-resistant cladding, beefier underpinnings and standard big brakes, wheels and Cruisemaster suspension, Evernew has also added additional stone protection to its new offroader.
It starts up front with a truck-mesh stone shield ahead of the van’s twin gas cylinders and jerry cans. For practical reasons, the shield is attached to its tubular steel frame by special fasteners, allowing it to be easily removed for cleaning or replacement after an offroad trip.
The front of the Evernew is also well protected from any stones that get past this first line of defence, by checkerplate that covers the van’s flat front panel. Further back, additional checkerplate protects the A-frame tap, the aluminium drop-down step, the drop jacks and the rear under-floor plumbing.
In lieu of a front boot, the van has a huge
full tunnel storage area – one of the largest and most useable I have ever seen on a caravan. It fits in well with Evernew’s philosophy of giving its customers a minimum of 600kg of payload, conscious that many will spend weeks or months on or off the road and will need to carry more gear.
However, I did notice some black overspray on the inside of the nearside hatch cover, while the checkerplate shield for the tap had an unacceptably sharp edge.
INSIDE THE EVERNEW
Our review E900i Series continued its modern (for Evernew) look inside. High gloss silver and white flat-look furniture was used in place of the traditional timber picture framing that the majority of Evernew’s admittedly conservative customer base still prefers.
Combined with large front bedroom windows, this created a bright, light-filled interior that created the impression of much greater space than the tape measure suggested.
The van has a conventional layout, yet the hand of an experienced caravan builder can be seen all throughout the interior.
It starts with the centre-front entrance that capitalises on the space to access the north-south queen-size bed, which is flanked by wardrobes and small chests of drawers, while three large clothes storage cupboards span the front wall overhead. Look underneath the bed and you will find a large, totally unencumbered rectangular storage area.
It’s all conventional to the right of the door, with the compact kitchen and its four-burner cooktop and griller on one side, opposite a cloth-upholstered café dinette with a tri-fold table.
Evernew’s experience in simple, workable design also shows in the full rear ensuite that features a simple recessed vanity basin in between the china bowl toilet and separate fibreglass shower cubicle. There’s no washing machine – Evernew only fits these in caravans with an internal length of 5.5m (18ft) or more.
THE BOTTOM LINE
It all adds up to an impressively strong caravan that might be sold primarily for sealed-road use, but even with roller-rocker leaf springs can survive many years of all-road use and still scrub up fresh.