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Bolwell ditches canvas for pop-up

Former Victorian sports car manufacturer Bolwell is now making lightweight caravans such as its new Air compact expandable camper.

The Air costs $32,990 drive away and is just like Bolwell's sports cars - small, light and aerodynamic. With a weight of just over one tonne and a ball weight of 100kg, it can be towed by a wide variety of vehicles.

Together with its low drag coefficient, it adds up to good fuel economy for the tow vehicle. But the most novel characteristic of the compact caravan is its ability to expand the main body without canvas.

The lack of canvas means it is quieter, more secure and better insulated from weather extremes with foam core insulation throughout. The caravan can be quickly expanded to create a big interior with wide opening windows on all sides. Air will sleep three with an oversize double bed and dinette seating that converts to an extra single bed.

There is a lot of storage space in the small caravan. It has twin front storage pods with galvanised mesh utility tray, a rear tunnel boot, front and rear storage tubes for annex poles or fishing rods and clever external access to the under-bed storage. You can also add a large lockable front storage boot for $550 and roof racks for $395. It sits on 14-inch steel wheels with 16-inch alloys a $590 option.

Standard features include blockout blinds, fly screens, three-burner cooktop and sink with draining board, 82-litre water tank, 105Ah deep cycle absorbed glass mat battery, microwave, CD/radio audio system and internal and external 12V accessory outlets.

You can also customise the Air with items such as a better audio system, a bigger battery, Hitchmaster DO35 coupling, airconditioner and a canvas annexe. Bolwell also makes a Nautica V-nose that attaches to the roof. The alloy punt is 3.55m long and costs $1995. There is also a short-chassis option at no extra cost.

Campbell Bolwell began making sports cars in his parents' garage when he was 16. In 1962 he opened the doors to his Bolwell company and built and sold more than 800 sports cars over the next 20 years.

Since 1982 Bolwell has built cabins, hoods, fairings and other components for about 30,000 Kenworth trucks, plus Australian military vehicle components and aerospace products. Moving into caravans in 20120 was a natural progression as it uses similar materials and manufacturing processes.

Their caravan bodies do not use rivets and screws. The separate parts of the body are bonded with powerful industrial strength glues that chemically weld the material at a molecular level, creating a strong, corrosion-resistant structure.

The Air is the second caravan in Bolwell's range after the $59,999 Edge luxury rough-terrain tourer. It features similar lightweight body construction and aerodynamic design with a heavy duty chassis, independent trailing arm suspension, urethane stone chip protection, steel mesh reinforced door and foam core insulation.