Paul and Kathy named their motorhome ‘the Tardis’. MCD editor Claire Smith found out why when chatting with Paul.
Before buying your current motorhome, did you have any RV experience?
Many, many years ago I owned a classic caravan that was manufactured in Christchurch in the 70s. That was back in the days when there were no self-containment requirements or anything like that. I actually used it for duck shooting, and it was pretty ideal for that sort of thing.
But I got interested in motorhoming through a very good friend who I used to catch up with regularly for a cup of tea, when I was working at the Coach House Museum in Feilding. He introduced me to the NZMCA, which I’d never heard of until then. Anyway, after many cups of tea, we ended up opening up the museum carpark as a POP (Park Over Property).
Naturally enough, you get chatting to the motorhome owners who would stay, and I realised that they all seemed like a pretty happy bunch, and just lovely people. So I started to think that this could be something that Kathy and I could do too. We joined the NZMCA, but it was actually about seven years before we bought our motorhome, a Sunliner Olantas 0532.
How did you go about researching?
I guess you could say we spent seven years researching! In that time, we hired a few motorhomes in New Zealand, as well in the United States, so by the time we were ready to buy, we had some very valuable experience.
Being part of the NZMCA Facebook group was very helpful too. And of course, we read through magazines and went along to a few shows. But I think hiring motorhomes was the most valuable research. That gave us a really good idea about what sort of layout would suit us, as well as some of the pitfalls to look for.
So what was it about the Olantas that appealed?
We just love the layout, it suits us perfectly. It has most of the ‘must-haves’ we wanted, plus it has two slide-outs, which make the interior incredibly roomy – hence why we think of it as ‘the Tardis’! One of the slide-outs includes the cafe-style seating and the head of the bed, and directly opposite the end of the bed is a smaller slide-out. So when both are out, you can actually fit in a king single blow-up bed at the foot of the permanent bed.
Initially, we were very determined to buy a Kiwi-manufactured motorhome. But we found the options were a bit limited, and there was a long wait time for a build. But in the process of researching, I discovered that the manufacturer of Sunliner motorhomes is actually a Kiwi from Tauranga who set up business in Australia and exports back to New Zealand.
So there is that New Zealand connection that is important to us. We bought the motorhome from Road Life RV in Tauranga.
The Olantas is built on a 3L Mercedes Benz V6 and drives beautifully – lovely and smooth. In fact it’s so good I won’t let anyone else drive it! It’s amazing how many friends you end up with when you have a motorhome.
What other features did you want (or not)?
One thing we really wanted to avoid was a dropdown bed – I just dread the thought of a mechanical failure that could result in the bed not coming down at bedtime! So a permanent bed was high up on our list.
We also wanted a good-sized kitchen with a reasonably big fridge/freezer, and were keen on a face-to-face dinette. Another priority was diesel heating, to keep us warm when we travel over winter.
We liked the idea of a rear bathroom that ran across the full width of the motorhome. The Olantas bathroom ticks that box and has plenty of space too.
Have you made any upgrades?
We have had a few modifications done. We had air suspension added to lift the back of the motorhome a bit, because we hit the bottom of the ferry getting off in Picton once. We also hit the bottom driving out from Couplands Pies in Blenheim – and that’s one of our favourite stop-off points. So I figured we needed to get that sorted.
We also upgraded the solar to about 670W and two 100amp/hr lithium batteries, because we were using quite a bit of power in the evenings – so now we have no problems with power.
Is it just you and Kathy travelling most of the time?
We have two adult daughters, both with partners. We’re self-contained for four people, and we could probably sleep five at a pinch. So they sometimes join us, although we also bring along a blow-up tent which they stay in while we enjoy a bit more comfort!
How was the buying process?
Very good actually. At Road Life we dealt with Leanne and Michele in the early stages, and met with them over a couple of visits. Closer to the time of purchasing we met with Rhys who was able to talk through the more technical aspects of the motorhome. We spent quite a few hours with Leanne at the handover. She answered all the questions we had. They know their products very well and do a great job of helping their customers.
What’s your tip for first RV buyers?
The number one piece of advice would be to go out and hire a motorhome at least once or twice – preferably trying a few different layouts. Everyone’s requirements are different, so you need to spend a bit of time in a motorhome to find out what works best for you.
Tell us about the drawing of you with your RV
I belong to the Feilding Club, which is an old club that started in the 1820s and has some old traditions – one is that the club organises to get your caricature drawn. They’re done by a chap in England who has been doing them for about 30 years. But the really interesting part is that the caricature is based on how the other club members see you, so you don’t get to have a say in it! So mine includes our motorhome in the background, and some cattle because we live on a small farm. And because I managed the air force museum at Ōhakea for a few years, there are some air force planes flying through the skies too.
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