New ‘Aussie’ Bailey caravans follow wheel-ruts of Leyland Brothers
A brace of prototype Australian designed and built Bailey Rangefinders will depart Denham in Western Australia on August 22 on the most demanding endurance test ever undertaken by a new model local caravan.
Following in the wheel-ruts of Mike and Mal Leyland, whose historic crossing of the Australian continent from West to East nearly 50 years ago made them Outback legends, the Bailey Australia West2East Challenge will follow a similar trans-Australia course – but with a twist in the tail.
Instead of travelling the 5,700 shortest route through the centre of the Continent by 4WD alone, as the Leyland Brothers did in 1966, the modern-day adventurers will drive current model 200 Series GXL V8 diesel Toyota Landcruisers towing two brand new Bailey Rangefinder caravans.
The two-week torture trip, that will incorporate more than 2,200km of unsealed and corrugated roads, is the finale to a demanding six-month programme of accelerated life testing undertaken by the new ‘Aussie’ Baileys ahead of their public release at Melbourne’s Leisurefest from October 8-11.
In a series of ‘firsts’, the trip will represent the longest endurance test ever undertaken by an Australian manufacturer and the first time a caravan manufacturer has crossed the full Australian continent with a new model
Like the Leyland Brothers, the West2Eest Challenge crews will take the hard way across the Continent.
Instead of crossing the Nullarbor as most east-bound caravanners do, the two Rangefinders will travel via the Grand Central Road, which at 1,126km from Laverton to Yulara is Australia’s longest major Outback highway. Only the Canning Stock Route (1,850km), the Gunbarrel ‘Highway’ (1,347km) and the Anne Beadell ‘Highway’ (1,325km) cover more ground, but even their most ardent admirers wouldn’t describe them as much better than ‘tracks’, rather than caravan-capable roads.
Laverton and Warburton in Western Australia, Yulara and Alice Springs in the Northern Territory and Boulia and Birdsville in Queensland are also well-known Outback centres on their unsealed route.
The two new model Rangefinder caravans on the trip are a 6.59 metre 22ft 6in (interior length) Rangefinder Nebula and similar-sized Rangefinder Gemini – two of the five models that will ultimately make up the Rangefinder line-up.
The Nebula features a panoramic front ‘entertainer’ lounge, a central galley and separate shower and toilet bathroom and a rear ‘island’ double bed. The Gemini is a new family van with a typical Australian front island bed, central galley and L-shaped lounge, with twin rear bunks opposite a separate shower and toilet ensuite at the rear.
What makes the journey by the Gemini remarkable is that this same van has already been subjected to a full week of accelerated life testing at the Australian Automotive Research Centre in Anglesea, Victoria.
This intensive ‘destruction programme’, which corresponds to the structural testing standard required of all new British-built Bailey caravans, is regarded as similar to 10,000km of on and off-road travel in demanding Australian conditions.
So in effect, the Gemini effectively has already completed the equivalent to the West2East Challenge before!
Even more impressive, the two Rangefinders taking part in the West2Eest Challenge are regular ‘on-road’ caravans – not specially prepared or equipped ‘off-road’ models – making their torture testing in this caravan-unfriendly landscape even more relevant.
Both caravans feature Bailey ‘Alu-Tech’ interlocking aluminium extrusion framework and fibreglass bodies, re-engined to accept rugged locally-designed Australian chassis, suspension and other proven local fittings and their under-body equipment.
The marriage of these leading-edge designs has produced the sought-after combination of a fully-featured, full-size caravan with an empty (Tare) weight of just 1,800-2,000kg (depending on model) and a payload of 500kg, allowing them to be towed legally and safely by large Australian family cars and mid-size Australian 4WDs like Toyota’s top-selling Prado.
Follow the West2East Challenge!
Follow our journey across Australia via the Bailey Australia Facebook page: Bailey-Australia, Twitter page: @BaileyAustralia, also via the Bailey of Bristol Marketing Director’s (Simon Howard), Twitter pages: @BaileyofBristol and @SRHBailey, as well as Hannah Pointer (competition winner from the The Caravan Club UK) Twitter page: @Caravan_Han