639 - 649 Springvale Road
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Since the early '90s, Caravan Court's Pedigree brand has attracted a small but loyal following. The latest model should only enhance that reputation.
Melissa Baldwin reports.
Until now, Caravan Court has been one of the quieter names on the scene, manufacturing caravans and pop tops in a low profile operation from its extensive Melbourne site.
Over the past 18 years the Hawkins family has built up a business empire that, aside from building and selling Pedigree caravans (arguably the best known of which has been the 'Backpacker'), also includes caravan hire and even an on-site residential caravan park!
The bedroom has a soft ambience (and plenty of storage)
that's become a Pedigree theme.
But that quiet image is set to change with the launch of the Pedigree Elite Frontier, a top-of-the-range model that consolidates on the release of the first Pedigree Elites.
Michael Hawkins, son of company founder and managing director Ken says Pedigree's main selling feature has always been quality, both in construction and finish.
"For many years Pedigree has been producing caravans to a very high
standard. The GL is the base model of the Elite range and the GLX a more
upmarket model; the new Frontier follows in this tradition, building on the
Elite's reputation with additional features and new styling. All models
Ah yes, the new Elite Frontier. Michael had already flagged that the Frontier (and no, it's not an off-road model) had the same standard specs as the existing Elite GLX model with 'a few extras', but CWs first look at the top-of-the-range Frontier revealed more than that. The Elite Frontier proved itself a unit as characteristic of Pedigree's careful attention to detail as to its application of clever ideas. And in that department, it had some very impressive interior features.
The external barbecue,
handy for roadside stops.
A corner cocktail cabinet with a sliding curved door was the most visible addition, but an exterior locker complete with slide-out 240 volt barbecue and interestingly, something it didn't have - a shower - were more subtle extras. "People are surprised that it has no shower, but it is a very popular layout," said Michael.
This interesting design decision reflects the flexible attitude Caravan Court takes toward the building of its caravans. Like most manufacturers, the company has recognised that clients look for the right package of individual features and style.
"No Frontier is the same as another," said Michael. "Ninety-nine per cent of our work is custom built and it's usually for 'fussy customers' - we know what customers want," he explained.
"We have also found needs in different States are quite different. We build exactly what we want, and judging by demand we seem to be getting it right."
Judging by the latest Elite Frontier (a new Backpacker is also expected later in the year), if what customers are looking for is a comfortable, stylish unit with interesting details, Pedigree certainly is getting it right.
The exterior of this mid-sized tandem axle unit reflected clean lines, with the front slanting down to a point just below the pebble guard-covered boot topped by a slim towel rail. The roof line, arcing back to the rear in a gentle curve before dropping down to the powder-coated bumper, continued the trim lines, Matching grey door and window frames, wheel spats and rear light assembly provided subtle contrast to the attractive Frontier striping.
A Trimatic security door and Galaxy tinted windows are standard on the Frontier specification, along with handy door-side exterior lighting and annexe light. That outside barbecue sits neatly on the nearside close to the A-frame.
Completing the exterior fit-out on this substantial unit is load-sharing leaf spring suspension, light truck tyres on Delta steel rims, a box steel Duragal chassis and solid 15 mm ply flooring.
Inside, the rear kitchen layout makes good use of space. To the right of the rear door stepwell is a small but well-planned work area with sink and flush-mounted Spinflo Integrill cooktop and oven; this sleek unit gives additional space when not in use. Bench edges throughout are finished in classy timber.
In the offside corner next to the sink is a large toilet cubicle. A Thetford unit is teamed with a handy corner wash basin that's finished with a neat timber-edged laminate surround, overhead cabinet and mirror. This well-proportioned cubicle is a welcome addition for roadside stops or when the park amenities block is a little too far away for those nocturnal visits.
A highlight is this classy cocktail cabinet.
Diagonally opposite the toilet area is the well-sized storage area. This is the bit which features that impressive corner cupboard with the segmented sliding door concealing an attractive cocktail display. The unit also houses an Electrolux RM 4400 fridge and a microwave oven in the Tassie oak-trimmed cupboards overhead. These cupboards come complete with push-catch - or, as Michael likes to call them, 'espagulette' - handles. Also figured into the storage capacity are four slide-out baskets, a large pot drawer and a pantry.
The dinette includes deep pillow upholstery, and Heron air conditioning installed overhead. Other nice touches include an on-board clock and gold-trimmed timber pelmets which frame windows dressed by net curtains, pleated curtains and blinds. Lighting throughout is 12/240 volt halogen spots.
A low wall separates the living space from the bedroom area. It has ample storage space - twin robes and dressing tables each side of the double bed, plus another dressing table in one corner and an extra robe in the other.
It's a pretty exhaustive specification, one that doesn't take into account the very pleasing ambience inside this unit. Subtle upholstery patterns and soft French blue curtaining add to the mood, even when the practical features, many inspired by European engineering and construction methods, have long - dare we say it - been taken for granted.
"We have heaps of ideas, it has just taken us a long time to get them working," said Michael.
But now that things are really starting to take off for the Pedigree, it just goes to show there's a lot to be said for the 'quiet achiever'.
Source: Caravan World and Outdoor Life, Aug 1999