Smooth in the rough

All Evernew car­a­vans are tough, but the re­spected Melbourne car­a­van maker’s first ever smooth-sided of­froader is even tougher.

Motorhome & Caravan Trader - - 2016 Evernew E900i Series - Words Michael Brown­ing Pics Stuart Grant

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

CLADDING COUNTS

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.

Clock­wise from main: In busi­ness for 54 years, Evernew have a 30 year use pol­icy on their car­a­vans; you’ll find stor­age for your camp­ing gear; Evernew’s E900I Se­ries vans fea­ture an even stronger A-frame; Cruise­mas­ter XT sus­pen­sion is also a fea­ture.

Above: High gloss sil­ver and white fur­ni­ture has been used in place of tra­di­tional tim­ber. Right: The com­pact kitchen fea­tures a four­burner cook­top and griller.

Left: You’ll find an am­ple sized fridge. Be­low: The cafe dinette and tri-fold ta­ble has room for two.

Clock­wise from top left: The car­a­van-queen-size bed is flanked by wardrobes and small chests of draw­ers; the Evernew E900i can sur­vive years of all-road use; the full rear en­suite fea­tures a re­cessed van­ity basin, toi­let and shower cu­bi­cle.

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