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Off-road upgrade for Exclusive

  • Werner Grunder
    Werner Grunder on

    After purchasing the caravan and looking at the overall dimensions, it was clear that the road to off-roading would be long – but I like a challenge.

    Firstly, I had to do my homework to some extent to remove the two axles. My first order of business was to strengthen the chassis of the caravan to help it cope with rough roads, so I took 50mm x 50mm x 5mm angle iron and ran it from the front of the chassis to the point where the axles stop. The angle iron was boxed to the section where the axles are bolted to the original chassis.

    I then measured the wheel arches to determine what space I had to work with, as this would determine what tyre size I could fit under the caravan, and whether I had to move axles wider than normally fitted. After doing the math, I determined I could go from 175/60/ R14 to 205/80/R14 tyres, which gave me a 30mm lift. With the 50×50 angle iron welded together correctly in a rectangular shape (not square), this gave me 60mm – so in total I had 90mm of lift. The chassis was also much stronger. 90mm is not a lot, but on this low rider caravan it makes a huge difference.

    I had to move the front axle 15mm to the front and the rear axle 15mm to the rear to allow proper spacing for bigger wheels, and I fitted the brake cables in rubber hose to protect them.

    I also removed the four 2mm plate brackets holding the 60L water tank to the chassis, and fabricated new brackets from a 12mm stainless steel threaded rod and 25mm x 25mm x 4mm angle iron because the original brackets would not have supported the water tank for long periods of rough roads.

    On the left-hand side wheel arch there are two places where wiring gas and water lines (which go to the fridge, microwave, wash basin and stove) ran, and they were not protected from stones, mud, etc. So, I fabricated two custom plates which screwed into the fibreglass mud guards and also bolted to the steel chassis. I fitted mud flaps to protect the area behind the wheels because we would be using the caravan on gravel roads, where stones, mud and water could damage the steel and wood underside of the caravan over a long period of time.

    I removed the original battery system and fitted a larger system (a bigger battery and Brad Harrison connection for solar charging) inside the front dining area seating box. This move was also aimed at taking weight off the front of the caravan and placing the heavier things over axles. I removed the old battery box from the A-frame and fitted aluminium checker plate to make it look a little more off-road.

    I cleaned and sealed the seams on the bottom of the caravan with black sika flex sealant to try and dust-proof the unit as much as possible.

    The caravan got a major service, which consisted of a complete reseal, bearing and brake service. I also resealed the inside of the shower. We had a custom towing blanket made from rip-stop canvas, and proper padding to protect the caravan from stones, mud, and whatever the BF Goodrich Mud Tyre on our towing vehicle could throw at the poor caravan.

    We then fitted a 4100 Howling Moon quick-pitch awning to be able to get some shade quickly.

    To ensure that the door keeps closed during bad road conditions, I fitted two heavy-duty locks. The locks are the same as those of the Jurgens Explorer – the type with the square T-bar key. All internal lights were replaced with LEDs.

    I have also purchased the same fibreglass cupboard and caravan hot and cold water tap which the Explorer uses in the shower tap and pipe storage cupboard. I fitted it on the outside of the Exclusive to use that as an outside washbasin for all those big dirty pots that don’t fit in the small inside washbasin.

    The caravan already is kitted with a gas fridge, geyser and 2-plate stove; and, combined with the bigger battery system, it makes a perfect off-road caravan. With my solar panel and extra water, my wife and I intend to do a lot more offroad camping.

    FYI: I know the caravan does not track 100% within the towing vehicle’s track, so deep sandy sections will be tricky. We will also never be able to go down Van Zyl’s Pass with this van, but for half the price of a new semi off-road caravan I have created our own one with all the luxuries of home. This benefits us even more because we love winter camping… no more wet tents!


    Clarence on

    Great job Werner!
    Having a caravan that you like and being able to go almost anywhere you like is fantastic.
    Did you do any strengthening of the caravan body eg reinforce the side walls where they join the floor, etc.?

    wgrunder on

    Hi There I did various thing to strengthen the body and chassis apart from the frames We installed on chassis we strengthened the floor outriggers underneath the caravan floor with 12 mm round bar I made 45 deg gussets witch we welded to caravan chassis and floor outriggers . The inside we sealed all the corners ,seams and edges of the caravan with seika flex to help cuboards , panels and internal fixtures to cope with the flexing of the body we also fitted a lot of these plastic corner blocks to also try and strengthen inside . We do a lot of gravel road travels for our camping so to help the caravan even more we let the 4 tyres down to 1 -1.2 bars ( the bigger wheels coupe fine with the low pressure ) and the keep the speed around 60 -80 km/h .

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