Two new Australian-designed and built Bailey Rangefinder lightweight ‘on-road’ caravans have come through a unique trans-Australia torture test with flying colours.
Towed by a brace of identical Toyota Land Cruiser 200 Series Sahara V8 diesel SUVs, the prototype 21ft 7in Gemini ‘Family’ bunk van and a 22ft 6in Nebula luxury caravan successfully crossed the centre of the Australian continent at its widest point – from Shark Bay in Western Australia to Byron Bay in New South Wales – to prove their suitability for the hardest of Australian touring conditions.
Travelling via Laverton, Uluru, Alice Springs ands Birdsville, the Rangefinders each covered nearly 8,300km from West to East, with around 2,200 of that spent on unsealed roads ranging from broad gravel ‘highways’ to badly corrugated and sandy roads during their 14-day journey.
Including their trip from Bailey Australia’s Melbourne factory to the WA starting point and their return trip to Melbourne from Byron Bay, the Rangefinders covered more than 14,000km in just three weeks.
It was the first time that any Australian manufacturer has subjected a new model mainstream caravan range to such a public endurance test, with the new Rangefinders following much of pioneering route used by the Leyland Brothers nearly 50 years ago.
What made the run most remarkable is that the new Rangefinder were not specially strengthened ‘off-road’ models, but full-length and fully-featured standard ‘on-road’ vans without any special modifications to their Australian designed and built chassis and suspension.
The Gemini was already a ‘veteran’ before the trip started, as it had just returned from a weeklong programme of ‘destruction testing’ on the Australian Automotive Research Centre test track at Anglesea, Victoria – the equivalent of more than 10,000km of hard caravanning.
Thanks to their mould-breaking lightweight design – with tare weights as low as 1800kg – the Rangefinders were able to maintain high average speeds and achieve impressive fuel economy on the trip.
Despite being driven hard all the way, on and off road, and taking full advantage of the maximum allowable speed limits– including the newly extended de-restriction zone on the Stuart Highway north of Alice Springs, the rigs’ diesel fuel consumption was as low as 15.9 litres/100km, with the Gemini returning 18.1l/100km overall for the entire 13,000km round trip.
The other LC200 towing the larger Nebula averaged 19.9l/100km overall, but its economy was compromised by its fully-laden, full-length roof rack that carried 60 litres of spare fuel, two full-size mounted spare wheels and tyres and two pairs of MaxTrax throughout the trip.
Both caravans also travelled with their twin 105-litre fresh water tanks (total 210 litres) full, laden to close their class-leading payload of 500kg.
Also impressive was the entire absence of drama on the trip.
No punctures were experienced on either the tow cars or caravans despite the widely varying road conditions and air temperatures in the range from zero to 30 degrees C and nothing structural broke on any caravan or tow car.
Bailey Australia Managing Director Adrian van Geelen was delighted with the result.
“We really stuck our chin out on this trip and the small issues we had with both vans will now be addressed in production versions that are now being built,” he said.
“More importantly, as the major chassis, suspension, body structure and interior cabinetry and equipment is shared by all Rangefinder caravans, we can be confident that every solution we apply will be shared by all Rangefinder built.
“It was a great opportunity for us to put these new caravans through real-world testing rather than rely on feedback from customers after they take delivery, as many other manufacturers do.”
Australia-wide Rangefinder pricing has been confirmed as $60,550* for the Astro, $63,900* for the Gemini and $67,990* for the Nebula.
* The advertised ‘from’ price is the base price of the van and excludes any additional options and accessories. The price may not include additional costs, such as stamp duty and other government charges. Please confirm the price and standard features of the caravan with the selling dealer. Prices are subject to change without notic
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