Loftus Caravan City has begun importing sleek, sophisticated Swift caravans from the UK, bringing a premium European brand to the South African market. Swift is the largest manufacturer of recreational vehicles in Europe… but why did Woody Loftus decide to take the leap? Caravan & Outdoor Life spoke with him to find out.
“We want to give South Africa some new and fresh designs, and move away from wood in body construction.”
With the Swift brand, the Loftus team saw a vehicle that would blow the local market away.
They are currently importing two models (a single and double axle caravan), to be sold locally under the names Atlantic and Coastline. While both models can sleep up to four people, the single axle Atlantic is the slightly smaller of the caravans, with a Tare of 1 236 kg and GVM of 1 500 kg. The double axle Coastline has a Tare of 1 419 kg and GVM of 1 800 kg.
“Both models have drawn plenty of attention at trade shows,” continues Woody.
“Many of the oohs and aahs were directed at the sunroof, one of the many innovations people so desperately crave here.”
But it’s not just the modern design and high quality workmanship that has caravanners gawking, it’s also the reasonable pricing – with both imported models sold at under R500 000.
THE FUTURE IS FIBREGLASS
So, what exactly makes the Swift so special? For Loftus, it comes down to two things: build quality and design.
Swift caravans are completely timberless, meaning no wood rot.
“Because of the solid roof they can’t leak and water can’t even flow into the walls,” they explain.
There is also no risk of the walls warping, since even though it looks like wood on the inside, it’s actually printed fibreglass, meaning the interior and exterior body construction is all of the same material.
“If there are temperature or moisture changes in the air – with wood it would swell, one side would expand and kink the other side. What we have is fibreglass on fibreglass with foam in the middle. The minute you have same material on the inside and out, it stays straight in all conditions.”
This construction also means that the caravans are easy to repair and maintain.
“Fibreglass can be repaired anywhere,” says Woody.
“But all the panels can be brought in from Europe, and over time we’ll obviously carry all the spare stock. Many of the parts are already imported, like Dometic and Al-ko.”
SOLID AND LIGHTWEIGHT
GRP body panles
Moisture-proof PURe polyurethane timberless framed body shell
Polystyrene core (22mm in sidewalls, 32mm in roof)
44mm sandwich floor construction (GRP skin, ply upper, Styrofoam core)
Hail resistant roof – fully bonded
Swift caravans are built on German-engineered Al-Ko galvanized steel chassis. These chassis are not just state-of-the-art, but since most of the strength of the caravan is mostly in the body construction and vacuum-bonded floor, the chassis uses less steel than most local units.
“It’s a weight saver,” the Loftus team tells Caravan & Outdoor Life.
“It’s part of the reason why we can have a 7,98 metre long caravan with a Tare weight of only 1 419kg.”
LAYOUT AND DESIGN
The Atlantic model has a relatively standard design in relation to SA caravans, with a dinette in the front, an inside kitchen (on right hand side of caravan, opposite entry door), followed by a double island bed and a bathroom at the back.
The Coastline has a more unique layout where the bathroom is in the middle.
“You have access for the kids from one side, as well as from the main bedroom on the other,” say Loftus.
Both models’ bathrooms have a flush toilet, washbasin with running water, and full hot/cold shower.
In both models the island bed is swung sideways. The double beds can be extended by simply pulling the bottom out. This allows more movement space around the bedrooms (when the bed is “shortened”).
In the dinette area (which can be converted into sleeping space for 2), you immediately see and feel the European quality. The tri-foam cushioning of the seats and backrests not only provide a luxurious area to sit, but also ensures a comfortable sleep.
The “table” in the dinette is also different to most local products. At the front of the caravan, between the two benches, is a chest of drawers system with a slide-out extending top which creates the table. Built into the top of drawers are plug points.
Swift caravans feature all the standard bits and bobs you’d expect from a quality caravan: fly screening on all doors and windows, hot and cold water, 220/12V power with gas, etc.
What drew a lot of attention was the front sunroof fully integrated curved blind system above the dinette area.
“The sunroof went down well at the show,” says Loftus, “people really went ‘wow’, because it makes the vans light inside.”
Outside, customers can choose a living area that suits their needs.
“We have have different tent or awning options… clients can go for an Isabella tent, or some like just an awning (Thule). We can customise the outside area.”
Tare: 1 236 kg
GVM: 1 500 kg
Payload: 264 kg
Length overall: 7 540 mm
Length internal: 5 830 mm
Width: 2 250 mm
Height: 2 590 mm
Headroom: 1 950 mm
Tyre size: 185 R14C
Price: R469 000
The inside or outside kitchen debate has been raging for years. And while European caravanners might prefer an inside kitchen, South Africans love to be outside. This of course has a lot to do with our climate!
In Europe, neither of these caravan models has an outside kitchen, so we hope that a conversion for the local market is on the cards.
Loftus say: “We are looking at giving the caravans a work surface and multiplugs outside… for a Snappy Chef, toaster, etc. We are also looking at the possibly of a pull-out fridge/freezer on the outside.”
Inside, the Swift caravans are not fitted with airconditioning units, since the European market favours a heating and a ventilation system. The Truma blown-air system warms the areas under the beds, seats and the washroom.
Loftus Caravan City do say that they are planning to retrofit the vehicles with airconditioners.
Perhaps Swift’s most innovative design is the Enhanced Swift Command System, which allows you to control everything from climate control to lighting via your Bluetooth-enabled smartphone. You can also monitor your battery, water level humidity levels, and more. Otherwise, you can manage the caravan’s functions with the Sergeant Electrical system.
When it comes to towing safety, Europe is at the top of their game. Swift caravans come standard with Al-Ko stabilisers. They have all the safety features you’d want, including on the inside where there is a smoke alarm and carbon monoxide detector.
While caravan theft is not prevalent in South Africa, it does happen. Swift caravans can be fitted with what is probably the best anti-theft device in the industry: Al-Ko Secure.
This wheel lock is different to most other devices because it bolts through the wheel itself, rather than clamping around it.
The Swift caravans come standard with wheel lock receivers, and installation of the locks is very easy.
The housing is fitted to the wheel drum and prevents the wheel from being removed. A gigantic bolt screws through the heavy metal plate and into a receiver in the wheel. You then insert a nine-pin circular lock and turn the key, and your caravan is safe from being hauled away by thieves.
We have mentioned the quality of the Swift range over and over, and Woody shared an interesting story with Caravan & Outdoor Life regarding Swift’s quality control.
As soon as the caravans come off the production line, he says, they are meticulously inspected in the company’s massive quality check area by a women-only team.
“It’s like a swarm of bees as the women go through each caravan looking for any defect, like things that are skew.”
Apparently Swift has found that women see things that men just don’t – and the ladies at the Swift factory are the fussiest in the world!
Woody says this actually reflects in the purchasing of caravans here in South Africa: “Between 60 and 70 percent of the time, it’s the woman who selects the caravan
“It’s about the look and the feel, and not so much about the technical side.”
Still, it’s clear the Swift range has enough of both!