We came to our decision about purchasing a Free Spirit Caravan when we met a lovely couple travelling around in theirs. It had first caught our eye in Darwin, when we had to stop there for a new battery after the Gibb River Road had shaken the charge out of ours and we had to be jump started by a Nissan Patrol. Owning a Landcruiser, this is supposed to be one of the most humiliating experiences. We made this guy's day, he grinned from ear to ear and I am sure he still is. It's alright though, I am sure we will pull one or two Patrols out of a bog at some stage. LOL
We met them again at Corella Dam, a free camp about 50kms out of Mount Isa on the way to Cloncurry. They showed us through their van and discussed the pros and cons of buying a custom made van. They had to supervise their build from Sydney. After our experience of non-existent after sales service with the makers of our previous caravan in Melbourne, we wanted to find a van manufacturer close to home so that if there were problems, we weren't far away.
Free Spirit Caravans is located in Caloundra, a short drive for us up the Bruce Highway, so this met requirement number 1.
As our Ecotourer kept the dust out of the caravan for the first 10 days of our 14 on the Gibb River Road, we wanted something a little bit more effective at keeping out the dust. Peter wanted lightweight - we had met another lovely couple with a SLR Caravan that was a minimum 4.5 tonnes - not exactly the lightweight we were looking for. FSC met requirement number 2 in that they have an aluminium grade chassis and frameless fibreglass walls.
We made an appointment to meet with Ralf, the owner of FSC and this is where we really got excited about purchasing a van through this company. Ralf liked our idea of RV recliners instead of cafe seating, we had purchased a Daewoo washing machine to be fitted on the back wall of the ensuite and also wanted to incorporate our Waeco fridge/freezer as extra freezing space.
Ralf had also said that one of their customers came up with the idea to use the chassis rail as a general water tank and we were eager to trial this as well. There is a separate drinking water tank and grey water tank for the times you can't just run it out on the ground.
In September 2014, we signed up for the wait list. At the time, there was a 5 month waiting list, but to our delight, an opening occurred and our build process on FSC 068 started.
Here are some pictures of our build:
The Through Boot
The tool box with generator slide
Peter using the two stage ladder
The electric awning is out
The Sirocco 12v fan
Our Daewoo washing machine
I love the led door handle
Another picture of the washing machine
Our Heckie Hatch
On the weighbridge
Our new spare wheel cover from Michele Pike Artworks
Getting the finishing touches
The process hasn't been without its problems, especially when you opt for custom made. It is important to check it out at each stage and be knowledgeable about your choices and how they work. On the picture above, we asked for the electric awning, but it was installed without the supports in the middle. We insisted on those, as we didn't want sag and the awning company recommended that awnings over a certain length should have the supports.
Just some feedback I have given to them, the company does need to improve their internal communication, as it doesn't always get passed on to the appropriate person until you chase it up. Also, they finish up at 1pm on a Friday and aren't back until Monday morning, so if you have any questions or problems over a weekend, you need to wait.
We have had to take it back for a couple of things that weren't quite right, but at least Free Spirit Caravans has an after sales services, unlike the previous caravan company we dealt with in Melbourne.
I will share some more pictures of our finished van when we pick it up from them shortly after getting these couple of things fixed. Just to reassure you, they are not major problems, just things that would really bug us if we didn't get them fixed.
We are going to have a couple of shakedown long weekends away, but our first big trip is going to be down to the hot pools near Burren Junction and then out to Birdville for the races.
Thanks for reading this blog, I hope you enjoy it.