Reprinted with permission from ACP Media. Motorhomes and Caravans
Warrick Stapleton collected me from the Christchurch airport, took me to his factory 10 minutes away and introduced me to his new creation. Although it is now owned by another, I realised from the look in his eyes how strongly attached he still was to the ‘Silver Nomad’.
It was built at Design, Coach and Body Ltd. Warrick was the shop foreman and he organised the work programme and did a lot of the construction himself to ensure the customer received the vehicle on time.
The owner of the Silver Nomad, Wayne Densem, was so impressed with the final product that when Warrick decided to go out on his own building motorhomes, Wayne joined him in the business as a silent partner. Wayne’s new vehicle is the prototype/demonstrator for the business.
The first contract-build for Chateau Travelhomes is already underway. Mounted on a Mercedes Sprinter 5 Series, five-tonne, 180hp model, it has a slide-out in the lounge and is seven-metres long – 1.3 metres shorter than the model reviewed.
My first impression of the Silver Nomad was its size. With a four-cylinder turbo diesel motor through a five-speed automatic ‘tiptronic’ gearbox, it has dual rear wheels, a 4.3-metre wheelbase and the rear overhang uses the full 70 per cent of wheelbase allowance, achieving an overall length of 8.3 metres. The exterior body-width of 2.35 metres (plus the awning) over this length produces a large volume of interior space to accommodate the fit-out. The superb silver and black paint styling takes the eye off the bulkiness from most angles. The Mercedes engine/gearbox combination is flexible and lively, and has all the power needed for the job at hand. There is surprisingly little body roll for such a big body, however, you do have to be careful when crossing the kerb not to drag and damage the rear overhang.
I liked the careful attention that has been paid to exterior details. All doors, hatches and frames are painted to match the bodywork. There is a very neat stainless steel step fitted to aid entry to both cab doors. Electrically powered levelling jacks have been fitted to lift the vehicle level if stopping on uneven ground. No excuse now for the barman to only half-fill your glass! The slide-out mechanism is computer controlled to keep the slide-out tracking squarely under all load conditions, and avoiding having the slide-out jam when operating.
With the slide-out section of the lounge in the open position, there is 1.6 metres between the two facing settees – plenty of room to lounge about, read, watch DVDs or TV, play a little music or entertain some friends. The cab seats rotate allowing the lounge to accommodate up to seven people. The settee cushions are innovative in appearance and very comfortable. There is ample headroom too, as the roofline slopes up to accommodate the cab-over storage. In fact, it is so spacious that at times you forget you are in a motorhome. Good storage space is provided in the cab-over section and overhead lockers above the slide-out settee.
The kitchen is located opposite and just forward of the access door in a small alcove created between the lounge seating and the sink bench return. This provides an exclusive area for the cook to call his/her own. It is compact but contains all the essentials: Caprice oven with a four-burner hob, a Dometic 175-litre fridge/freezer, a full height pantry plus and under-bench pantry, a Panasonic Genius microwave and a fan-assisted range hood. Two adjacent windows at bench level provide daytime light and ventilation.
I liked the simplicity of the bathroom. It features an elegant cone-shaped ceramic basin set on a shelf above the swivel toilet. It has a separate shower cubicle with its own vent and light, an extending drying rack and a soap/shampoo shelf enclosed behind a sliding door. A window and a vent for ventilation and light, and overhead lockers with lights below, complete this functional and attractive space.
I’d appreciate having my siesta in a dedicated snoozing area without the risk of interruption. The king-size island bed in the rear bedroom of the Silver Nomad is ideal for this, as well as sleeping the night away. Blinds and curtains on all windows, screens and the overhead hatch control light levels keep the insects out. Storage is well catered for as there are bedside units and hanging lockers each side of the bed, overhead lockers above the bed-head, and more storage under the bed. It has its own TV and speakers from the lounge sound system, so you can watch TV in bed or listen to your favourite CD. Alternatively, you might prefer to flick on the overhead reading lights and curl up with a book. All in all it is a very comfortable area.
Each motorhome built by Chateau Travelhomes is fitted out to the client’s specification, but would usually include the following, which were fitted to the vehicle I reviewed: battery capacity of 220 amp/hours, a 16-amp smart-charger, 2 x 60-watt solar panels on the roof, 51cm Majestic TV with DVD/CD player and four speakers, 600-watt moderated sine wave inverter, safe for valuables, a Truma LPG 2.4kW space heater, and an Air Command 230-volt air conditioner.
Tank storage consists of 200 litres of fresh water, 200 litres for wastewater and a 100-litre black water tank.
Electrically operated steps are fitted below the Camec security door with built-in insect screen, and a Fiamma awning above. All windows, except the rear, are Dometic double glazed acrylic with built-in blinds and insect screens.
Wayne is very happy with his new motorhome and Warrick has every reason to be proud of the finished product. Improvements for future vehicles are planned and will include an outside locker big enough for two sets of golf clubs!
When I visited the factory the next contract was being built, and already had the frames erected. Chris Morresey, another experienced coachbuilder who worked with Warrick previously, was installing the side lockers. I was impressed with the quality of the steel work and by the tidy, organised work environment Warrick and Chris maintain. I look forward to seeing their new seven-metre Chateau Travelhome when it is completed.