Part of a seven-camper line-up, the Grand Duke is the most popular model and the perfect introduction to Goldfields’ relatively new brand.
Based out of Maryborough, Victoria and supported by the team behind Lyal Eales Stores, the Grand Duke cuts a familiar shape on pick up. Instantly recognisable as an import of similar proportions to the likes of the Austrack Telegraph and MDC Cruizer Highside. If you were comparing these, I’ll help by getting a few seldom-noticed details out of the way.
The Grand Duke has a bit more water storage than both and a good AL-KO offroad jockey wheel (though the Austrack has a-better-again ARK XO), and the MDC can only hold 4kg gas bottles. All come with a good-sized annexe, though the Austrack has extensions for the kids and a porta-loo. The MDC has more power and solar, but then it is also more expensive. From what I can tell the suspension, wheels, brakes and chassis are as good as the same, though I was told on pickup that the Goldfields features a bit more adjustability in the alignment and that all campers are properly aligned offsite by a specialist before delivery. From my tow I’d believe it, but more on that later.
So, which would you choose? Well, that's a tough one as they are closely priced and specc’d, so the important quality I believe is trust and warranty.
No, not Supacentre and their new (and frankly expensive) box trailer, but Lyal Eales Stores. If you’re from the Victoria Goldfields region, you’ll know Lyal Eales Stores, the mainstay and go-to for almost anything you need to live the rural life.
I met the team, including founder Lyal Eales at the Maryborough store which shares a site for the assembly and sales of Goldfields campers. It was one of those stores people like me struggle to leave. I found the right size MyCoolman fridge for my LandCruiser, some freshwater fishing gear I really need (or so I tell my wife) and all sorts of small but handy tools I could do with (ever seen a pair of cable tie cutters in action? You’ll want them too). But I digress.
In the corner of the shop, partitioned by shelving, reside the display units for Goldfields. It was here I got to meet the smaller and larger models that make up the range around the Grand Duke. I spent some time with Stephen, founder Lyal’s son and the lead representative for the brand.
Stephen freely admitted that the company were once a major distributor for another imported brand, a household name, but after serious successes at regional shows, the brand decided to control the process in-house, effectively reducing the profits the team worked so hard for. This led to the team going it alone, but it wasn’t just a case of ordering the same campers again with a different sticker. Stephen and Lyal knew what their customers wanted and made the changes to meet that.
One of the big differences is taller sides which allow for raised bench seats in the lounge. As many of us at Camper know, this is good. Many campers of this style have very shallow seats which have you sitting with your knees around your ears — fine for kids, not for adults. Other little changes are the already-mentioned water capacity increase, which comes from a second tank and a tall tent with tropical fly. The canvas felt good and heavy at maybe 400-ounce and features the current layout of choice, a full opening front section to give the lounge the best outdoor feel as well as large windows around all sides of the beds. All have good-sized rain protection which doubles as shade, and the standard awning well and truly covers the kitchen. As it should be, the canvas is inside the tightly woven mozzie screen and the zippers were easy to get to and use. We found we tucked the weather shields down under the mattress or behind the seatbacks, which made for a clean and tidy camper to be proud of.
An area of pride for Stephen was Goldfields’ decision to have the gas certified in Maryborough and at the same time invest in having it plumbed from the twin 9kg holders to the kitchen so there is no crawling under the camper to fetch a bottle at camp. The twin bottle holders are flanked by two jerry can holders that’ll swallow 20, maybe 25L, jerry’s for boat fuel, extra water or fuel for the tow-tug.
Although normal and I know much appreciated by many, I personally don’t tend to stay in one place long. Because of that, I prefer not to have a full awning that needs masses of poles to erect, so it was nice to be able to quickly and easily unzip and store it for the shoot.
On the subject of poles, yes, there are many and it will take some time to get your head around what goes where. I would like to see spring steel used on the weather shields to keep them taught and away from the main tent, but I’m getting picky here.
THE IMPORTANT BITS
Back on the trust issue mentioned above. We know the Grand Duke comes from a family business with a solid reputation, but they could have easily followed other importers and offered short warranties. They haven’t, with a five-year structural warranty and one-year appliance/fittings warranty. That's pretty decent and when presenting Stephen with some hard questions around this, he stood firm on what matters, the customer and their experience. Digging deeper, I tried to get some examples of issues and the worst we had to talk about was a loom that presented issues for a Queensland owner. A new one in the mail and a couple of hours to have it fitted, and the customer continued on their outback adventures.
After support comes capacity, as remote touring is impossible without enough water and power. The 160L of capacity is split between a primary tank of 120L and a secondary 40L tank, both with a level gauge and flow to the taps by an electric pump and both stainless steel. It’s unlikely that you’ll puncture either as both are well tucked away and well protected with alloy bash plates, but the redundancy of two tanks is a nice touch.
Power is stored in two 100Ah AGM batteries housed in the storage space under the lounge. Battery management is by Projecta and charging is by way of an Anderson plug at the drawbar and supplied solar panel. A display that shows your power reserves lives in the same panel as the water level gauges, where you’ll also find your main fuse (40A) and minor fuses for the sockets, fridge, water pump etc.
There are five power outlets around the Grand Duke with USB plugs inside and out so keeping devices charged should be easy. In the fridge slide, which will comfortably swallow a 60L fridge, is an Anderson plug while the runners felt solid and tie-down points were well placed.
One of my favourite inclusions has to be the boat rack. Not all campers in this price range come with them as standard and they can be an expensive option. Not fitted to the test camper was an outboard motor bracket which would replace one of the two standard spares. I had a look at an outboard bracket in the factory and it was a good design with the leg tucked up nice and high, though a cover to keep the dust off would be a must-have if you plan on towing on any dusty roads. We found the boat rack easy to use with the 3.5m Stacer tinnie we borrowed for the shoot easy to lift off with decent gas-strut assistance. One person could do it at a pinch though two is better. With the boat off, the rack becomes a fantastic clothesline for drying off swimmers and washing. And if you leave the tinnie at home, the rack will take a good load of firewood — just keep an eye on your payload as this is one area I’d like to see the Grand Duke do better.
BY THE NUMBERS
With a tare of 1500kg and an ATM of 2000kg, the Grand Duke could do better. The 500kg payload is quickly eaten up by the 160 litres of water, tinnie and a full fridge. With empty water tanks, it should be plenty though, so use some common sense and fill the tanks as needed and you should be right. Ball weight was 138kg on our test camper so no issue and, boy, did it tow well.
Our test took us all of 600km in total, including plenty of Melbourne’s worst traffic, best freeways, and shoddy backroads. All in all, it was a faultless tow. The brakes were responsive to the D-MAX’s factory fitted brake controller and there no excessive bounce, no sway at all and even though long, it was an easy to place camper when reversing. Just have a spotter when the boat is on as that’s all you’ll see when in reverse.
Part of the reason she towed so well will be the alignment mentioned earlier but also the balance of springs and shocks. Twin shocks on both wheels do an excellent job off road reducing hop over big bumps, while the chassis as a whole looked rock solid with no flex evident.
HOW IT'S MADE
We know it is an import and that it comes in semi-assembled (body off chassis, suspension not fitted) but that’s only half the story. The chassis is 120 x 50 x 4mm and heavily coated gal. It looks okay. There were areas where excess gal made it look a bit daggy, but that is not necessarily a bad thing — though it does make inspecting welds hard. The external panels are a composite sandwich with alloy skins, pretty common and probably the best option available. You can choose your Grand Duke in a few colours though you’re most likely to see black with gold as it is the signature combo for the company (and if you can’t tell from the pictures, it looks fantastic).
Inside is a vinyl floor covering and leatherette seat coverings so cleaning up should be a breeze. The mattress is an innerspring and at 110mm, it's thick and proved very comfortable for winding down after a long day shooting. Access to the great outdoors is by split door with canvas topside and fold down lower that doubles as the entry step. Once outside, the kitchen is immediately to your left, with plenty of storage to your right and beyond that, the big fridge bin.
COOKING UP A STORM
The kitchen is standard fare which I’ll run through shortly, but first two details that I appreciated. A decent fold out rack extends up from above the sink that will hold a beverage for the cook or cleaner as well as dishes to dry or condiments. Second, a cleverly designed bolt-down support resides over the four burner stove to stop the heavy racks from bouncing around and causing damage when travelling. A simple design, it is effectively a nutsert in the centre of the stove with an X-shaped brace to hold it all together while towing — sorry Stephen, the cat is out of the bag now.
For the rest, there are plenty of drawers, good lighting, a USB outlet and enough bench space, with an extension at the end a welcome sight.
I’ve said a few times that I feel the Grand Duke is good value for money, but always leave the best bit until last. At under $22k as-tested, the Grand Duke is great value for money. It sits a couple grand under its main rivals and, with the current inclusions list, comes very, very well-equipped.
It’s a great tow, good looking and offers plenty of space for a growing family. It might not be the easiest or quickest to set up but it is a fine compromise for what is a well-supported brand, sold by genuine folk and ready to see the best of our outback.
Ball weight 138kg
Suspension Independent Trailing Arm with
Brakes 12in drum
Coupling Cruisemaster DO35 (polyblock standard)
Chassis 120mm x 50mm by 4 mm
Cladding Composite Panel
Wheels 16in Alloy rims
Tyres Goodride M/T 265/75R16
Style Forward Fold
Trailer size 5.3m (L) x 2.13m (W) x 1.47m (H)
Awning size 2.4m x 4.20m
Hot water service Smart tek hot water service
Toilet Porta Potti 145
Battery Charger Projecta Intellicharge ic1500
Kitchen Slide-out with four-burner, sink and bench space, LED lights and dish rack
Battery 2 x 100Ah AGM
Solar 160W solar panel
Companion 60L fridge/freezer
PRICE AS TESTED
Address 29 Maryborough-Dunolly Rd,
Maryborough VIC 3465
P (03) 5461 4222