Black Pearl 430 Stopover
Rob McLean has a bunch of stick figure drawings in his drawer, and a portfolio of successful designs to his credit. His doodles' have resulted in products as diverse as commercial farm equipment, shower units and corporate gifts ranging from bar leaners to dog houses. One 'doodle' was picked up to be used by Lion Breweries, so Rob is no stranger to commercial success. In fact, throughout his working life, Rob says he had never been associated with anything less than commercial success, until the global recession hit, and then – after more than 20 years in the fibreglass manufacturing industry – it was literally back to the drawing board. Diversity was the way forward and Rob added camping trailers to his range of fibreglass products. Rob entered the fibreglass industry fresh from school. So fresh in fact that he left school on Friday and began his apprenticeship at Buccaneer Boats the following Monday. He still regards his first boss, Gerry Gerrand, as a respected mentor. It was nine years before he looked for a change of scene at Tristram Boats where Rob remained for a further four and a half years before deciding, in 2000, to go out on his own. He sold everything and poured the money from his hard-won assets into a business which quickly won a manufacturing contract with Rayglass boats and came under the watchful eye of another mentor, Tony Hembrow, whose successful Rayglass brand was eventually sold to US marine giant Brunswick. Rob has now been working with Rayglass for 12 years and still considers Hembrow a life mentor. “I may have spent the past 25 years learning about fibreglass, but it was Tony who taught me about business,” he says. He regards himself as very fortunate to have had three terrific mentors, beginning with his father who died shortly after Rob started work, but whose legacy lives on in the design of his latest refinements to the Work & Play camping trailer. The trailer itself grew out of a product Rob initially designed for his personal use. And while the sleekly aerodynamic 430 Stopover has little in common with a dog kennel; it was a kennel Rob designed to transport his hunting dogs that contributed to its evolution. As a child growing up In Ngaruwahia, Rob spent a considerable amount of his leisure time hunting, fishing and shooting in the nearby hills. Holidays were spent camping with his family. Year after year, he observed his father cramming every imaginable recreational “toy” into a conventional trailer. “My mother was an avid camper as well and the inside of our tent had a real woman's touch, right down to the mats,' Rob says. A passion for the outdoors has remained to the present day and Rob can often be found in the backblocks stalking supper with the aid of his hunting dogs. He contrived special accommodation for the dogs and when his wife, Louise, sagely observed that if Rob made it a little bigger he could also keep himself warm and dry, it proved a light-bulb moment. These days the Work & Play has evolved to the point that the 430 Stopover has all the bells and whistles – from a separate shower and toilet, a solar panel, lighting, two sinks and a slide-out barbecue. Building on the current base, it can be custom-made to almost any requirements. “From those initial thoughts, the product we now have is at the stage that we deliberately seek the input of our customers to tell us what they want.” What they want no longer surprises Rob, but it may surprise the rest of us. For example, he received a recent request from a hunter for the 'shower' cubicle to be purpose-built as a meat safe for hanging game. And while he may not be surprised by customisations, Rob was in for a shock at a recent show when he made a spontaneous decision to take the 430 Stopover along to display alongside his hunting products, and sold two units on the spot. He also continues to be amazed at the diversity of his clientele. The two buyers from Taupo's Sika Show could hardly have been more different from each other, nor did they fit the traditional hunting mould. So the sales that resulted from this show were particularly sweet; and also provided the best possible snapshot of the camper trailer's broad appeal. One couple comprised 30-something triathletes who wanted the trailer to accommodate them and their two-person support crew when they compete in the Speight's Coast to Coast Challenge. The other couple were recently retired and current owners of a motorhome. The 430 Stopover is not intended to replace their motorhome but to supplement it when family join them on holidays. It is also to offer them greater off-road flexibility so they can go further and deeper into the wilds to visit places they could not previously access. The 430 Stopover can be certified for self-containment; which is good news for regular freedom campers and back-country hunters alike. One keen hunter had his trailer customised to carry a 4WD quad bike to tow the Work & Play into the woods when the road runs out. Customers can specify additional ground clearance of 120mm more than standard. The flexible accommodation makes 430 Stopover ideal for multiple occupants like hunting parties. Up to eight people can be accommodated in three separate 'rooms’. In addition to the flip-out roof tent, the awning has the option of zip-on side panels to create a tent. Then there's the all-weather entry and, even if you choose the basic model, a wide enough 'lounge' floor will provide a comfortable possie for a mattress. The value of a good night's sleep is placed highly in Rob's estimation and he expects his customers (despite their differences) will place a similar emphasis on comfort. Sinks – inside and out – also provide greater flexibility during meal preparation. Meanwhile, a 240/12 volt system is supported by an optional roof-top solar panel, together with a charger connection to the tow vehicle. Rob estimates he has been involved with the construction of more than 5000 boats during his career. Bringing fibre-glass boat building technology and the subsequent need to cleverly utilise every spare inch of space has added some welcome refinements. One example is the use of non-skid surfaces on the stepped exterior, which ensures safety when reaching the roof racks during adverse conditions. Owners will also appreciate the thoughtfully contrived wet-locker, meaning water and mud aren't carried indoors. And users of the optional rooftop tent will be assured to know that the ladder is so solid that it actually assists with structural integrity. It has been cheekily dubbed “the stairway to heaven”. And it's not hard to imagine. This is one trailer that is sure to take you places you never dreamed of. Feel free to make a comment or ask us a question about this story on the MCD page. For the latest reviews, subscribe to our Motorhomes, Caravans & Destinations magazine here.