The Van from Snowy River
I think it’s fair to say that some imported caravans and camper trailers don’t get a good wrap and in reality you don’t have to dig too far to find there have been some real shockers. So, I have to admit to some concern when I was asked to check out this new range of imported vans.
Snowy River Caravans are relatively new to the local scene, but their development has been extended and assiduous. It all began when the Chinese-owned Long Tree Company bought Regent Caravans and set about expanding the portfolio with a new brand to be built in their huge facility in China. To oversee the project they secured the services of Regent’s production manager, Theo Geustyn, who helped develop the Snowy River brand and now regularly travels to China to review quality control and construction methods.
Theo has been in the industry for over 20 years and brings valuable experience and ideas of his own to the venture. As well as knowing how to build vans for local conditions, the expectations of the savvy Australian public are ingrained into his system, so he knows that vans need to be sturdy to match our less than perfect roads.
The team realised they would be dealing with a wary Australian public and needed a commitment to innovation and quality, so, with this as their charter, a blank sheet was given to the design team. The result is a range of vans built using fibreglass reinforced composite wall panels on an internal structure of an aluminium frame and XPS insulation foam. These walls are bonded and fixed to single piece 40mm floor and 42mm roof to form a stable monocoque body. This is set on an electro-galvanised steel chassis with a semi-independent suspension to complete a well-proportioned and robust structure.
The bonding process of the wall panels took eight months to perfect and was only achieved after a USA made vacuum press was imported to the Chinese factory. At the same time, the designers were at work enhancing the smooth look of the exterior panels for a sporty look that matches the adventurous construction.
At the time of our review, the bodies of the vans are constructed in China and shipped on their chassis to Snowy River’s Campbellfield facility adjacent to the sizeable Regent complex, where appliances are installed, and the suspension is fitted. Electrical wiring is then completed to CE certification, and the water supply is finalised to Australian Watermark standards.
At first sight, the new the SR19 is impressive with a distinctively modern appeal. Our review example has bright white sides and ends with black checkerplate down low, although I imagine it could be easy to include a range of designer wall colours in the future.
The body sits on an ADR compliant 6” chassis with 2” risers, leading to a 6” A- frame that connects through a standard 50mm tow ball rated to 3500kg. As well as a 12pin connector, there’s also an Anderson plug for the battery management system while in tow.
Also up front are the usual assortment of twin 9kg gas bottles, a water tap, a high-pressure inlet, brake-away controller, a big tray for hoses and a central jack with single clamp.
Storage options include a roomy front boot with twin locking points and a full-width tunnel with hatches both sides. An Aussie Traveller awning covers the passenger side, and as this is where most folk spend their time in camp, the picnic table, bright LED light, 12v, 240v and TV points will come in handy.
Black 15” alloy wheels with 235×75 tyres match the dark checkerplate, while plastic spats around the wheel wells keep things looking neat. A single spare sits on a two-arm bar down the back and, although the slimline LED traffic lights look sporty, I wondered if larger ones might be more visible.
All water and electrical leads underneath seem well protected, and the chassis welds look neat and complete. Two 95L water tanks are located either side of the suspension and have metal guards and senders to water tank level gauges inside the van.
The tandem suspension is Al-Ko’s independent rubber torsion bar system, and I’m a big admirer for its simplicity, strength and reliability. It has been around for a long while and seen service on many vans around the world that are put to rough use. It is well suited to our dirt road environment and with a rating of 1500kg per axle loading on the tandem system SR-19, it should be a good match for extended touring.
Inside the van, the design is sharp and contemporary with clean lines and well-finished CNC furniture formed from lightweight ply. Curved faces on the timber laminate of the overhead cupboards and platinum gloss doors lower down impart a classy impression.
Layout follows traditional lines, which research shows is most popular with couples, with a rear entrance adjacent to the full-width ensuite, and the queen bed up front – all is as it should be in the bathroom. The shower is roomy, there’s good light and ventilation, the vanity has the de rigueur floating rectangular ceramic sink, while the washing machine lid pulls out for easier access and to make a place for the washing basket.
The kitchen features rolled post-formed benchtops with a choice of laminate colours. Drawers are soft closing with European styled handles, and the stainless steel sink is offset with on-trend mixer tap. Appliances are well-known mainstream caravan items including a 184L Thetford fridge and Mini-Grill Mk3, so there’s no cost-cutting with cheap products.
On the kerb side are the café dinette with trifold table and comfortably padded seats with cheerfully patterned backrests and cushions. Seated there I got an excellent view of the scenery, and like all windows, through the van, it’s a double-glazed model with blockouts and screens.
Tare weight is 2256kg, with a 2656kg ATM, so most mid-range vehicles will easily haul the SR 19. On the tar, it followed smoothly, tracked well and I encountered no sign of sway at any speed, nor any pulling to the side under brakes. Over some rougher surfaces, there were no squeaks or rattles, and the suspension appeared to soften the ride well. Payload is 400kg of which 190 litres is for water and 18kg is for gas. While this is pretty standard for this size van, there is increased demand for greater carrying capacity and a greater awareness of the authorities coming down on overweight vans, so maybe a rethink of the ATM numbers might be in order.
Word of mouth is everything, so it was interesting when I read the positive comments on an owner-moderated Snowy River Caravans group on Facebook where a number of happy brand advocates share their experiences. Sales across the range have been steadily growing and, with a price as tested at a very tempting $56,990, I’m not surprised. The price includes a 120w solar panel and a 100ah battery, allowing a welcome degree of free camping. The brand name conjures images dear to our hearts, so let’s hope the van from Snowy River can live up to the rugged legend of the man lionised in the Banjo Patterson poem.
- Contemporary styling and layout.
- Innovative construction techniques.
- Quality inclusions and attention to detail inside.
- Well priced.
- Payload could be higher.
Snowy River does not sell direct but has a dealer network in the Southern States.
250 Princes Highway, South Nowra 2540
Ph: 02 4421 2055
Find Out More
Springvale Caravan Centre
723-731 Springvale Rd, Keysborough Vic 3173
Ph: 03 9798 3954
1 Pinn St, St Marys, Sth Aust 5042
Ph: 08 8277 2942
Manufacturer: Snowy River
Model: SR 19
Overall length: 6.97m
Body length: 6.4m
Travel height: 3.05m
Tare weight: 2256kg
Carrying capacity: 400kg
Carrying capacity less fluids: 192kg
Ball weight: 142kg
Price as reviewed: $56,990