Lighter. Stronger. Larger. These three principles summarise the overriding narrative of Australian caravan manufacturing. Any caravan builder worth its salt is nowadays employing new technology and manufacturing techniques to achieve these aims.
In the evolution of Roadstar Caravans, to understand the significance of the new GT Sport Mk2, it’s important to understand where the brand has come from.
Roadstar, a mainstay of the Australian caravan industry, is moving with the times. Once, it was all about meranti timber frames and traditional aluminium cladding secured to a galvanised steel chassis, perhaps with independent suspension. But Roadstar owner Ken Nizam wanted something more for his brand. His vision was to build caravans that stood apart from their white, aluminium-clad counterparts seen touring up and down the Stuart Highway and on the Gibb River Road.
In fact, in 2013, he brought his vans, kicking and screaming, into the 21st century with the release of the overhauled Safari Tamer. Its smooth composite aluminium panels, precision-cut CNC furniture and the attention to detail throughout were a breath of fresh air. The design effort and expertise required to build such a van signified that Roadstar Caravans was serious about its place in the market. The company had staked its claim.
A NEW APPROACH
The GT Sport Mk2 represents Roadstar’s latest efforts to raise the bar in caravan manufacturing. It is the company’s first attempt at fibreglass sandwich panel construction and they’ve nailed it.
Comprised of two one-piece sandwich panel walls and a one-piece front, roof and rear section, all bonded and then sealed with Novatio sealant (a special MS polymer adhesive exclusive to Roadstar), the GT Sport Mk2 is one of the toughest vans we’ve seen. Not only are the panels hail-resistant, they will literally withstand a good kick with steel-capped boots. We know because we tried. As hard as we could, we hit and kicked the van, trying to put a dent into the sides and the front, but the best we could manage was sore wrists and ankles. So confident is Roadstar of the structural integrity of this van, the body structure comes with a five-year warranty.
The point of the GT Sport Mk2, Ken says, is that it couldn’t be built or replicated by other manufacturers.
“We’ve developed this van from scratch and we firmly believe that the GT Sport Mk2 is unique; it raises the standard and sets us apart,” he said.
It’s true that the external finish is impressive, with no ripples in the fibreglass or any other imperfections. The decals are eye-catching, too.
As you’d expect, the offside of the caravan is straightforward, with just the access point for the toilet cassette and a locker door for the front tunnel boot. The nearside, however, is complete with a well-integrated picnic table, an access point for the tunnel storage, 12V and 240V powerpoints, and a Carefree roll-out awning.
It is always worth inspecting the underside of a caravan for low-hanging plumbing and wiring. In the case of the GT Sport Mk2, everything is strapped out of harm’s way, and we liked that the wiring for the electric brakes went directly to the drum, with no dangling terminal blocks to be seen.
Two 95L water tanks are fitted as standard to the GT Sport Mk2, one fore and one aft of the axles and Torflex independent rubber suspension system, which is also standard on this van.
Up front, on the 6in A-frame, you’ll find two 9kg gas cylinders, a centre-mounted jockey wheel, and standard ball coupling. This is not an offered caravan as such, so the ball coupling is perfectly suitable.
NEAT AS A PIN
Inside, the GT Sport Mk2 is neat as a pin. Because of the fibreglass sandwich panel construction, Roadstar needed to go back to the drawing board when it came time to design and build the cabinetry.
Ken said each piece and section of furniture was CAD-designed and CNC-cut, with tight tolerances and precise joins the order of the day.
“Like with the sandwich panels, what we’ve done with the furniture and cabinets can’t be reproduced by just any caravan manufacturer,” Ken said. “A lot of engineering and design work has gone into the furniture to give the van the best finish possible.”
Indeed, the fit and finish of the cabinetry is of a high standard. But the best bit is that all of the electrical wiring in the van, from the LED lights to the water pump, can be accessed by removing the rear panels of the relevant cabinets. The wires run neatly behind, with no conduit to be seen.
A decent spread of storage is on offer in this van. We particularly liked the storage nooks either side of the bed, in the wardrobe.
In the kitchen, we liked how Roadstar has mounted the 240V powerpoints underneath the overhead lockers rather than to the wall so that they’re out of sight. It’s a nice touch that we haven’t seen before.
Beneath the Swift four-burner stove, Roadstar has fitted a Swift microwave/griller, while opposite, on the nearside, you’ll find a dinette with trifold table. The lounges are upholstered in Annahide but fabric is available. The best bit, though, is that Roadstar has fitted speakers inside the storage compartment beneath both dinette lounges. Big deal, you might say. But turn on the caravan’s stereo and you’ll appreciate the extra bass.
Across the back of the van, the bathroom is fitted with a shower, Thetford toilet, washbasin and a decent amount of storage. The wall-mounted washing machine is a nice touch, and Ken was quick to point out the additional engineering required to mount the machine. “We couldn’t just bolt it to the wall,” he said. “We needed a steel backing plate and some custom design work to make the washing machine secure.”
Naturally, other layouts are available; however, besides certain colour changes, layout changes can’t be made due to the intricacies involved in the design process.
Obviously, this caravan comes with all the necessary gear for comfortable touring. As standard, it gets one 100Ah AGM battery, an Aircommand Cormorant air-conditioner, a 28L Swift hot water service, full bathroom facilities, a washing machine, Swift microwave, griller and stove, solar provision, Torflex independent suspension and more.
The gloss laminate panels seen in this particular van, however, are optional, as were the external speakers and the pre-wiring for a reversing camera. After all, when it comes to fibreglass panels, it’s probably easier to run the wires when the van is being built, rather than afterwards.
Now that Roadstar has nutted out the issues involved in fibreglass sandwich panel construction, the company plans to roll it out across the range, though composite aluminium panels will remain available to customers who prefer them.
The GT Sport Mk2 on show here is an example of what can be achieved when a caravan manufacturer combines modern manufacturing techniques and technology with an enthusiasm to raise the bar. Clearly, Roadstar doesn’t want to be a follower; rather, the company is putting in the hard yards to be at the forefront. Will it pay off? Time will tell. In the meantime, it’s obvious the GT Sport Mk2 strikes the right balance between strength and weight. For a tandem-axle van with all the gear, it’s Tare of 2030kg (ATM: 2480kg) is surprisingly light, firmly in Prado territory. and the 450kg payload is slightly above industry standard.