by Richard Robertson
An enthusiastic email from Len Williams popped into the iMotorhome inbox in February, detailing his terrific looking new motorhome and plans for an extended lap of Australia over the next six or seven years. As he and his wife Jenny were in Sydney for a short while before wandering north, I thought it prudent to catch up with them and take a close look at this very interetsing machine.
What’s the Catch?
Len, a builder by trade, is a recently retired Sydney bus driver – sorry, Operator – who, along with his wife Jenny, moved to Australia from South Africa some 30 years ago. The couple’s love of travel and Len’s 13-odd years of bus driving experience culminated in the plan to buy a largish motorhome and head off around Australia, more-or-less indefinitely, on ‘the big lap.’
They originally put a deposit on a C-Class, Iveco-based motorhome, but Jenny decided it was too much like a truck. She wanted something more comfortable, like a coach, and so the search was on! As fate would have it (and it often does), Len found the vehicle destined to become theirs via an online ad; the only drawback being it was in Perth. The seller was highly motivated and offered to pay the airfares if they ended up buying the vehicle.
“In Perth I got to know the guy who built the motorhome for the owner and he put a lot of extras in there for me, like the generator, solar, the awning and annexe, which turned it into a home away from home,” Len explained.
“The owner in Perth, who runs a machinery business, has a big business and buys 10 to 12 of these vehicles as coaches, complete with seats and everything, then has them stripped right down to the chassis and built up as motorhomes.”
The motorhome carries the Catch name/brand on the front and is 9.4 metres – a fraction under 31 feet – long and tips the scales at 8500 kg empty, with a maximum weight of 11,000 kg. Len estimated its currently loaded weight at about 10,500 kg. Other interesting details include a fuel capacity of 250 litres and fresh and grey water capacities of 300 litres each. A cassette toilet is fitted, rather than a system with a black water holding tank. Up on the roof are four solar panels (Len couldn’t remember the power rating), while a 3 kVa Yamaha generator on a slide-out tray lives in the front luggage bin, just behind the driver’s front wheel.
Even though it’s a Chinese coach, the drivetrain has a strong American accent. Power comes from a rear-mounted 6.7-litre Cummins turbo-diesel producing about 186 kW (250 hp) and driving through a six-speed Allison automatic transmission. Suspension is airbag all-round and although Len wasn’t sure, it likely rides on American Meritor axles and running gear, which is the norm for Australian-bound, Chinese manufactured coaches.
The engine meets the latest Euro-V emission standards, which necessitates the provision of a separate AdBlue tank. AdBlue is a urea-based additive for the latest generation of diesel engines that is consumed at the rate of about five litres per one hundred of diesel and works to reduce nitrous oxide emissions in the vehicle’s exhaust. On the delivery run from Perth to Sydney Len reckons the big gold beast has averaged about 16.5 L/100 km, which equates to 17 miles per gallon. That’s a pretty decent figure for a vehicle of this size and weight and should equate to a range of around 1500 km if he doesn’t mind running on vapours at the end.
Interestingly, the coach body was built by the Zhongtong Buses and if you visit their website (http://www.zhongtongbuses.com/6-private-bus.html) you’ll find a fully fitted-out 8.4 metre Swagman motorhome on display!
Fit for Purpose
Despite lacking slid-outs the Catch has plenty of interior room for two people; with a forward lounge, mid kitchen and rear bathroom and bedroom.
“Fit-out is all Tassie Oak and it has some really good inclusions,” Len enthused. Air suspension seats cosset the couple as they travel, with Len’s ‘work station’ as swish as any I’ve seen: A full woodgrain dash with a multitude of instruments, controls, switches and warning light’s, plus a multifunction steering wheel, reversing camera and more make it a highly desirable place to spend those hours on the road.
Behind Len’s seat is a plush three-seater cream leather lounge, while between Jenny’s seat and the side entry door is an L-shaped work station that houses a myriad of things, including computers, TV and more.
The galley-style kitchen is quite compact and has relatively little bench space, but is well equipped, with a full oven, grill and cooktop; large two-door fridge; microwave and of course a sink, plus quite a lot of cupboard space.
Moving aft you pass down a small hallway that has the toilet on the left and the shower on the right, in separate cubicles, before entering the quite generously proportioned bedroom, with its island bed and expected wardrobes, drawers and other storage spaces.
When I finally broached the subject of price Len was more than happy to talk.
“Initially, this was advertised new in Perth for $235,000,” he said.
I’d been thinking $250ish thousand, so the advertised price seemed quite good value. The owner apparently had two vehicles left over from his initial batch of ten and so was in clearout mode.
“But we didn’t pay that,” Len continued. “Brand new, with just 212 km on the clock and as the first owners, we paid – ballpark – $133,500.”
I nearly chocked.
“We’ve been in now for nearly nine months and we absolutely love it,” Len continued. “This is our home – we’ve sold our unit – and we absolutely love it.”
For $133,500 why wouldn’t they!
“I think the colour gold attracts a lot of people,” Jenny chimed in. “He’ll be sitting there and say ‘Oh my, look at the people standing there having a look. They walk this side, then that side.’ We’ve even had people come to the door and want to know all about it. On top of that, on the way across from Perth we even had one lady ask if she could take a photo so she and her husband could send it home and show everyone what they’d just bought!”
Len and Jenny are currently heading north and are booked in for an eight-month house sitting job on the Gold Coast, complete with coach parking.
“We’re having a sign or plaque made up for the side of the bus and we’re going to christen it Rusteloos. It’s a Dutch/Afrikaans word that in English means Restless,” Len said.
“Jenny’s Grandmother used to call us Restless Children. We were never home at Christmas, never home for holidays, because we were caravanning. Caravanning was our life. So that’s what it’s going to be called.”
You can meet and follow the slowly unfolding adventures of these two restless road kids through their newly created Facebook page, Williams Backyard (embed link into name please http://www.facebook.com/pages/Williams-backyard/121603141355530).
I wish Len and Jenny all the very best with their travels and look forward to hearing more from them further ‘up the road.’ Somehow, I know I’m going to...
For the full article download Issue 21 of iMotorhome eMagazine by clicking on the link below.