Coastal Motorhome

By: Bill Savidan

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A brief sojourn in a fine example of a New Zealand-built motorhome

Coastal Motorhome
Coastal Motorhome

Just over six years ago, a woman from Europe advertised in New Zealand that she "wished to have a motorhome built for use there. Manufacturers interested in building one, please reply with contact details."

Mike and his wife, Gayle had recently purchased Coastal Motorhomes, retailers of new and used caravans. In the short time they had owned the business they had diversified, fitting out imported Japanese buses to client requirements, as well as building stock motorhomes for their dealership.

Mike knew of a local sheet-metal worker with coach building experience who was keen to build motorhome bodies. He already had a local cabinetmaker experienced in motorhome fit-outs, so he replied to the advertisement. He was the only NZ builder to do so. The woman contacted him and Coastal Motorhomes had their first order. They have since built her a second motorhome, built another for her sister, and built more than forty others for their happy family of customers.

Over the years, Mike has listened carefully to clients’ requests for this and that, so that the current Coastal Motorhome embodies features like a separate shower, lots of storage, room for a couple of sets of golf clubs, many hours of house battery capacity, solar storage – the list goes on.

Today, the bodies and interiors are built in Taupo. Originally the bodies were aluminium frame construction, infilled with insulation foam and the interior/exterior cladding mechanically fastened. The side, end and roof panels are vacuum bonded. Although an alloy frame is used, the main strength and rigidity comes from the foam sandwich enclosed on the inside with plywood with a pre-finished surface, and on the outside an alloy sheet bonded to plywood. Many overseas manufacturers use this method because it is strong, durable and efficient.

The interior cabinetry is mostly handcrafted in the vehicle once the body is closed in. Gayle and Mike work together on the interior décor, and they have found that using light colours for the panels and pale shades for the timber trim provides a smart backdrop for the client’s choice of decorating colours. Eucalyptus fastigata is the timber used. It is a renewable resource, grown in eastern Taranaki, a good milling timber from large size logs. Hardwearing, it comes in various hues from pale cream to pinkish brown.

The central lounge is the focal point of the interior. The twin facing settees have comfortably upholstered cushions covered in a black fabric with a delicate bronze paisley pattern, which is very easy on the eye. The champagne coloured roman blinds with their discreet black, gold and silver stripes are a tasteful compliment to the cushion colours, resulting in a smart, practical and understated impression. There is ample storage in the overhead lockers down both sides of the lounge, and a large cupboard above the cab for housing the bedding for the lounge double bed, should it be needed. The Samsung 48cm TV lives under these cupboards on a slide-out panel that, when fully extended, hinges downwards to display the TV screen. A pair of curtains screens off the cab for privacy.

Mike showed how practical the Alko roof hatch is: "the only one I could find with the winding handle positioned to allow the hatch to be raised and lowered with the insect screen (and blind) in place, which means insects and flies can’t get into the vehicle while you are adjusting the hatch".

The centrepiece of the kitchen is the smart, black Caprice oven with separate grill. Surrounding the bench are matching tiles trimmed with silver edging – stylish and practical. Again, there are overhead lockers above the bench. A feature locker with a timber-framed glass door separates the kitchen lockers from the lounge lockers, avoiding the impression that living space is overwhelmed with lockers. Between the access door and the permanent double bed at the rear is a large floor to ceiling cupboard unit enclosing the 175 litre Dometic fridge/freezer. This unit also contains wardrobe hanging space, a home for both the coffee, dining tables and the ironing board, and above the fridge is the pantry.

The double bed has storage beneath which can be accessed from inside through the locker door beneath the bed or by (the gas strut assisted action of) lifting the mattress. This space can also be accessed from outside through a locker door. I tried the bed, it is very comfortable, and the lower edges of the side and rear windows are sufficiently high enough to provide complete privacy when sitting up in bed. There is an overhead light each side of the bed for reading. If you are cold at night and are dextrous with your toes, you can adjust the space heater settings, as the adjustment knob is at a convenient height on the wall at the foot of the bed! Roman blinds, in the same fabric as in the lounge, integrate with the interior colour scheme. A second, large Alko roof hatch means there is plenty of daylight available.

The bathroom is a lovely combination of style and practicality. It has yet another Alko roof hatch. The layout flows well (pardon the pun); through the entry, past the swivel toilet to the standing space in front of the hand basin, then past the shower screen and into the separate shower stall. There is a window above the hand basin, and the mirror is fitted to the inside of the bathroom door. Lots of light, lots of ventilation and sufficient space adds up to a great bathroom in my book.

The pièce de résistance in the bathroom is the 12-volt heated towel rail. "It doesn’t use a lot of power," says Mike, "and it gets the towels dry in no time at all."

I was very impressed by the work of Haddock Spray Painting of Whakatane, which did the exterior paintwork and Mobile Signs and Graphics, which applied the body stripe trim work. They painted all the caps and hatches, as well as the Camec security door. There is very neat work around the hatch rubber trim; the backs of the hatches are painted to match the bodywork and all lockers fully painted inside.

There are two lockers on the kerbside. The forward one houses the extra toilet cassette, while the rear one is large enough for two sets of golf clubs. The locker for the two four kilogram gas bottles is on the driver’s side and it also houses the latest Sureflo water pump, the Smart Sensor 4900. This high pressure pump has a sensor that varies the pressure to suit the load, reducing pump noise and eliminating pump ‘chatter’ that occurs under very light pump loads.

I’m generally regarded as a slow learner, but one thing the years have taught me is that women see things differently from men, so I asked Jill what points of interest in the Coastal Motorhome had caught her eye. Here is what she saw.

The coat hooks beside the access door, the wine rack beside the settee, spice rack over the bench, the valuables safe, the gas detector, the T & G pattern on the vinyl flooring, the overall impression of light and the interior colour scheme.

The seven-metre Coastal Motorhome is built on a Ford Cab/Chassis with a 140hp turbo diesel and a six speed manual box. I drove it around Whakatane all afternoon and I kept finding excuses for not going back to the dealership; I was having too much fun. It is lively, handles more like a car than a light commercial vehicle, and no trouble to manoeuvre through the tight spots we encountered as we sought out suitable photo opportunities.
It did not seem as big as it is, seven meters long, 2.3 meters wide and 2.98 meters high. The six-speed gearbox provides all the power needed for steep inclines as well as handily spaced ratios for motorway cruising.

The Coastal has a comprehensive standard specification and apart from the fixtures and fittings already mentioned, the following items are part of the standard fit out:

  • Reverse camera and sensors.             
  • Teleco satellite self-seeking TV aerial
  • Fiamma 4 metre awning                    
  • Gel house batteries with 5 yr warranty
  • Dometic double glazed windows with built in insect screens and blinds
  • Powermaster 3 stage smart charger    150-watt inverter
  • 90-watt solar panel                   
  • Stainless steel wheel trim
  • External power outlet                        
  • External gas outlet for gas BBQ External shower
  • CD/DVD and Satellite decoder

I enjoyed myself reviewing the Coastal Motorhome. It is a fine example of a New Zealand built motorhome. When I asked Mike what improvements he had in store, he said, "It’s a process of evolution rather than revolution, but like any good product, it requires changes from time to time to keep ahead of the field. You will just have to wait and see what we have planned."

Watch this space!

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