Hard Case (Soft Centre)

Story and photos by Richard van Ryneveld

After Kobus returned, full of praise for the Invader off-road camper he had taken on a trip to the Cederberg, (see our September 2013 issue) we knew we’d have to go back for a closer look. Our newest staffer, Richard van Ryneveld, was lucky enough to draw the short straw. 

It was hard to miss the Invader off-road camper standing in Staal Straat in Brackenfell in the Cape. Predominantly military green, the chunky square camper looked like a miniature version of the famous army Ratel. In army slang, it would be described as paraat; an off-road machine prepared to take you safely into the sticks and back. A man’s machine – but it doesn’t take long before you realise that the Invader is fully in touch with its feminine side; or, as Dan-Pierre Louw, part of the Invader trio, explains on first meeting, “Tough on the outside, but soft on the inside.” He adds, “That was our aim for the camper from the start.”

The Invader is the dream child of Hannes Louw, who, with the input of his experienced camper sons Dan-Pierre and Hannes Jnr, came up with this unique off-road trailer concept. With Hannes and Dan Pierre, we do a preliminary inspection of the Invader set up outside the factory. Hannes Senior quickly corrects me when I call the Invader a trailer. “I would rather describe the Invader as a versatile camper with the go-anywhere capabilities of the ordinary off-road trailer, but with the space and luxury of a caravan.” That’s quite a claim! Talk the talk – but does the Invader walk the walk? Let’s see, and start at the beginning.

The first thing that impressed me about this family business was the ‘preparedness’ and neatness of everything these guys did. The brand new off-road camper had been fully set up in front of the factory. Apparently this is done for every client who drives away with a new Invader. Dan-Pierre gave me a comprehensive and detailed run-through of every single item on the van, starting with the chassis – a seriously strong, steel ladder chassis made up on the premises before being sent away for hot-dip galvanizing. The mainly military-green body with its two black trailer lids is made up of fibreglass. Interestingly, the pigment is completely integrated in the fibreglass – so no stone chip marks or fading. The staff at Invader are extremely proud of their work and Norman Louw (unrelated to the owner’s family) took me through the whole process, from the chassis-welding section to the final finish section. Here, Brendan Claasen was busy fitting the cupboards. He showed me the 80-odd brackets cast into the fibreglass that secure all the interior fittings.

The kitchen is always the first thing I look at when evaluating a trailer or caravan. The Invader’s kitchen, with its 2-burner press-button-lighting Dometic gas cooker, and 60-litre Snomaster fridge/freezer, can be accessed from outside the trailer. The Snomaster compartment, with its twin locks, is nearest to the nose cone. It comes out on its own roller drawers. Although it looks fragile, the roller system can support 180 kg! A neat addition is the springloaded catch which secures the fridge when slid back into its compartment for travelling. Next up is the Dometic stove, with its modern glass top which folds open. The white wash-up sink slides out from under the stove – and the clip from the door compartment on the nose-cone side has been ingeniously designed to lock and steady the sink. For the serious ‘no movement’ brigade, there is an extra threaded knob. I found the door clip perfectly adequate.

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