Hodge RV Free Spirit

By: Malcolm Street, Photography by: Malcolm Street

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Built tough to withstand the lesser travelled roads, yet comfortable and safe, the Hodge RV Free Spirit is a great option for the bold

Hodge RV Free Spirit
Hodge RV Free Spirit

Fifth wheeler RVs are often something that anyone who is vaguely interested in the RV world associates with the rather large units that are built in the United States of America. So it’s sometimes a surprise to learn that a Christchurch-based company, Hodge RV has been building Kiwi-sized units for quite some years.

Hodge RV is a family run company, set up originally by Kay and Peter Hodge (who are presently wandering around Australia) and is now run by their family.

Up until recently, Hodge RV mainly built its fifth wheelers just for NZ, but not so long ago started building rigs for the Australian market. NZMCD was able to get its hands on one of the export units (they are being built for the local market as well) and take it for a spin.

Called the Free Spirit, it has a few modifications to make it better suited to rougher Aussie outback roads but is essentially the same as other Hodge fifth wheelers.

As with any RV, the starting point is the chassis, which in this case is built from 5mm and 3mm steel components. For corrosion protection, Arc-Spray coating is used – it’s a thermal zinc treatment. According to Dean Hodge, "Hodge RV believes it is superior to galvanising because it allows the chassis to be a sealed unit". To back this up, the chassis carries a 10-year warranty.

Dexter torsion suspension is used for the axles, and each axle is rated to carry the load of the fifth wheeler. That might seem excessive, but when traversing undulating terrain it might be needed. All-terrain 30x9.5/15 tyres are fitted to the wheels. Above the axles, the generously sized 210-litre water tank is fitted – centrally mounted to solve any weight balance problems.

Above the chassis, the body is built from vacuum bonded walls that have an aluminium frame, which is welded rather than being riveted. Aluminium is also the material of choice for internal framing as well.

Above in the ceiling, the framing is strong enough for the roof to be walked on (by four people so Dean says), as is the EPDM (Ethylene Propylene Diene M-class, in case you were wondering) rubber, which is used to seal the roof off.

Fact file
Manufacturer: Hodge RV
External length: 7.18m (23ft 5in)
External width: 2.26m (7ft 4in)
Interior height: 2.0m (6ft 7in)
Nameplate ATM: 3200kg
Nameplate tare weight: 2080kg
Pin weight: 420kg
Frame: Aluminium
Chassis: Zinc-treated steel
Suspension: Dexter torsion
Fridge: Dometic 2355 90-litre
Microwave oven: Opt
Shower: Separate cubicle
Toilet: Thetford
Lighting: 12v incandescent
Gas supply: One x 9.0kg
Hot water: Suburban 22-litre
Fresh water tank: 210 litres
Grey water tank: 210 litres
Black water tank: Thetford cassette

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