Tuesday, 26 July 2011

Leaf Springs On Your Caravan??

For  a little while now I've been following Jenny & Robin who live down in New Zealand and their adventures with their caravan.

A number of the things that I've found intriguing about their caravan is the fact that its leaf sprung! Not only that but it has a diesel night heater fitted! I've mentioned these to Robin and he has said that this is fairly normal for caravans down there! 

Ive cut and pasted part of the email he sent me, I found it interesting hearing about his caravan, hope you do to. You can find him direct at http://romanyrambler.blogspot.com

We do of course have European and English made caravans here and they appear to be all on Al-ko chassis which I under stand are a dedicated caravan and motor home chassis manufacturer.  If I understand correctly the suspension is a rubber torsion arrangement.

 For our home grown industry we do have a similar suspension available called "Trojan" and we have had a caravan with this configuration.

 To give a bit of history, the caravan industry in NZ has been in the doldrums for many years now.  Back in the 70s we have something like 20 or more caravan manufactrurers which was a lot even for our small population. But along came a Prime Minister who was also Minister of Finance and he slapped a Sale Tax (pre VAT OR GST) on all caravans and boats. Also at this time was I think the first oil shock and petrol prices shot up to about todays prices and we also had carless days.  This combination killed off any demand for caravans and hence we now have only about 2 or 3 caravan manufacturers in operation.

Boats bounced back quite quickly but caravans have languished until now and once again there is a mini resurgence.  This in some respects is due to the large Motor Home rental industry and therefore the continual availability of used rental motor homes coming onto the private market and the importation of used Japanese buses that have been converted into motor homes.  These have all increased the demand for camping vehicles.

 However manufacture of large trailers for carting horses, cars etc have still been made and because of the extra weight to be carried have traditionally had leaf spring suspensions.

Another factor for the continued use of leaf springs is our appallingly rough and uneven roads and also we still have a number of country roads that are unsealed.  Therefore a more robust suspension is required.  The Al-Ko Chassis is able to flex to much in our conditions, just my thoughts.  The best caravan I have towed was a Australian one we owned for a while; this was a tandem but had wishbones, coil springs and large shock absorbers on each wheel.  This was a dream to tow as the van in effect had four wheel independent suspension, was self supporting and had minimal effect on the tug.  It also followed behind like it was supposed to. It was built for the Outback!

 To summerise we have vans that have the Al-Ko chassis and suspension, full underfloor chassis and Trojan suspension and full underfloor chassis and leaf spring suspension.  And to make your mind spin even further some vans are made with foam sandwich walls and roof some with aluminium or fibreglass cladding, some with foam construction with aluminium struts inbedded in the sandwich and still others like ours built using a timber frame, polystrene insulation and aluminium cladding (of Fibreglass).  This of course makes for a heavy van ours is approx 1800kg empty.

 I have a mate with a Swift Carisma Tandem and he tows with a Toyota Highlander petrol were as I have to use a Toyota Land Cruiser Diesel. Both vans of a similar size in length.

 You now know as much about the NZ caravan scene as me.

Thanks Robin for that, I like the bit about the roads being uneven and bumpy, you should try driving around here! A coil sprung caravan, sounds just the job!

Till later...........

1 comment:

  1. Get leaf sprung!!! ha ha. Hey listen i have been reading your blog and am really fascinated by your alternative way of life. So much i wrote you a long email but it wouldn't send :(. I sent it to bakers_cottages@btinternet.com too!!. So i decided to get a message to you this way instead. I'm Shameme and know of a young boy who lives in a VAN (not caravan) with a woman and her 3 small children!. I would like to hear from you and if you would like to make contact it's shameme.adams@gmail.com.
    Bye you two!!