639 - 649 Springvale Road
Springvale South Vic 3172
Ph (03) 9546-9822 Fx (03) 9547-4803
Pedigree is targeting first time buyers with a new 5.2 metre 'entry level' pop-top.
By Peter Lawson-Hanscombe
Pedigree is a niche market manufacturer with a strong reputation for building high quality product for discerning caravanners.
According to Pedigree's Michael Hawkins, the company targets serious caravanners. "Our client base comprises mainly buyers who are on perhaps their second or third van - they have developed a pretty accurate idea of their needs. We talk to, build for and sell to people who know exactly what they want, he told CW.
The well equipped 17ft Horizon suits the average car and is great value at $23,500.
Pedigree is by no means a volume builder. In the well equipped factory a small team of experienced and qualified craftsmen produces two units a week consistently.
Even though Pedigree isn't exactly swamping the market with product, the presence of the brand name across the caravanning landscape is surprisingly intense. In the thousands of kilometres CW travels annually across Australia (to some out of the way places, it must be added), the number of Pedigrees spotted, going in both directions, through the Suburban's windscreen is surprising.
As Michael Hawkins says, "You don't see very many Pedigrees in urban Australia, but it's pleasing to observe the numbers out there where serious caravanners go.
Pedigree possesses a unique cachet. The company's top-of-line custom-built units, the majority of which are shower-vans, reflect a lot of thought, a high standard in fit and finish and some extremely well executed floor-plans.
A glass splash panel protects adjacent
furnishings when cooking is in progress
The stamp of Pedigree design is a precise grasp of engineering niceties. Among the many options available throughout the range is the innovative fold-up A-frame draw-bar - an addition that has proved a boon to users who may have restrictions on storage space, particularly for larger vans.
The company also approaches other options with style and high quality finish. Small considerations such as a slide-out barbecue or the well engineered addition of storage batteries (also slide-out) are given special treatment.
Pedigree has now launched the entry level Horizon range of 5.2-metre pop-tops which are anything but basic. In terms of the custom-built range that trickles, two at a time, from the Pedigree factory, Horizon could even be dubbed a budget model: price-wise it provides excellent value' for $23,500.
Presenting a substantial image in terms of cabinet work, amenity and space Horizon is, to misquote A. A. Milne, 'A (tandem) wheelbarrow full of surprises'. The layout defies some of today's usual design practices, but does so with subtlety.
The spacious seating arrangement caters for
dinner parties, or could be a bed for the kids.
Horizon has a front lounge and dining setting. At the left of the front door, the cafe seating arrangement abuts the front wall of the van. On the offside, seating stretches beyond the endline of the large table. This provides a nice position for someone to sit and have a glass of something while watching TV or chatting to the duty cook.
The seating arrangements feature some pleasant comfy corners as well. The table is spacious enough to accommodate a full-on dinner party for four and the top doubles as a base board for a good-sized (three-quarters) bed. The positioning of this immediately evokes the potential of the 17-footer as an excellent 'Grandma and Grandpa' van, or even a family van.
Michael Hawkins and his brother Steve agree that Horizon offers a great opportunity for a large family, modeled on a grouping of retiree grandparents who would perhaps use the unit for the main part of a year, with the rest of the family - sons, daughters and their families - sharing it during the summer holiday season.
"The Horizon is an affordable time-sharing proposition for family holidays and it has a tare weight including gas bottles of just 1390 kg - the right combination for Holden and Falcon drivers," say the Hawkins.
The most impressive component of the Pedigree design is the kitchen. It's a simple layout but, according to Michael Hawkins, "one born of listening to what the majority of our customers have said they wanted in a design".
The L-shaped kitchen is the choice
of the majority of Pedigree customers.
The result is a user-friendly kitchen which, despite its proportions, has a raft of benchtop space surrounding the cross-mounted sink and drainboard that comes with a handy sink cover. At right angles, again amid lots of space, there's an Electrolux Spin-Flo cooktop and grill. The kitchen is also sensibly mounted over the wheel-boxes which, in the sleeping area, have been cleverly used to support useful triangular cupboards. Beneath the cooktop and grill there's a large pot-drawer.
Pedigree's people were politely circumspect as to what could be incorporated into the Horizon specification. As Michael told CW: "We can accommodate some changes, such as the pot-drawer could be swapped for a Spin-Flo oven, or the microwave cabinet work could be alternated with that of the television position. But because of economies of scale and the fact that the Horizon is a very well equipped and specified product there are limitations on what can be changed."
The need for any change to the Horizon inventory appears minimal. There are some very pleasant features in its design, such as a frosted glass splash panel at the end of the kitchen bench, and a very convenient and again, well thought out, cabinet array on the near side of the unit.
The Electrolux three-in-one fridge is elevated and the bench space atop it is designated for the TV with, to its right, a well constructed housing for a Sanyo microwave oven. Beneath the microwave there's more bench space. Pedigree has incorporated a real-time heavy duty pantry mounting with a sturdy slide-out mechanism that is a much better option than some seen by CW in recent times.
Strategically spaced and positioned reading lamps are a convenient addition and there's a fluorescent light by the sink, near the rangehood. The lift-up double bed at the rear is supported by gas struts, and little struts support the doors in the multitude of overhead cupboards.
The Horizon cupboards also passed the CW 'finger test' with flying colours (for a little indicator on quality assurance in caravans run a finger around door apertures it's surprising how often you will pick up a jagged edge, or worse, splinters).
The pop-top is aided by Ezy-Lifters and has detachable flyscreens on the sleeves. Horizon features wind-out windows and there's plenty of light sweeping into the airy pop-top.
The remainder of the Horizon' s specification, as an entry model, would do credit to some perceived, 'higher end' models of other makes. Underneath there's a heavy duty Duragal chassis, with its A-frame extended through to the spring hangers. Above the chassis is 15 mm water-resistant bonded plywood flooring.
The vinyl-covered boot also deserves mention. Its lid is supported by gas struts and there's a light inside - a nice touch, again, for a so-called 'entry' model. Add to this a lining in bonded white aluminium and you've got something really swish.
Anything but basic, the Horizon is an affordable
time-sharing proposition for families.
The clincher on the Horizon inventory, however, is something quite small - but a thing which underlines the effort Pedigree puts into its product. The tandem suspension is fitted with mud-flaps, but Pedigree has considerately also placed mud-flaps forward of the jacks. How many times has a caravanner arrived on site after some hours of driving, to then spend 20 minutes 'de-muddying' the jacks? Then there's the patination of the jacks by road-gravel - that can take the sheen off a pristine van if nothing else can!
Such considerations are part of Pedigree's refreshing approach. The Horizon, according to its builders, is but an entry model, but in terms of quality and darned good value for money it's a product that's well worth a look for both the caravanning beginner and the experienced 'old soldier'.
Source: Caravan World and Outdoor Life, Jan 2000