Underway on Sydney’s Northern Beaches, the project is a new mid-size 6 berth-plus 6 seat motor-home with the guiding principal of using only environmentally friendly components and without fossil-derived materials.
At the centre of the design and engineering is Dick Clarke, Director of Insideoutback Campers, a building designer and self-described “designer of things”.
“I run a small architectural practice,” he explains. “Most of what we do is building design, but I have a history of other things as well, including designing camper vans and motor homes during the 80s.
“Fundamental to my work since that time was the aim to reduce fuel consumption and carbon emissions. It has to be about the eco-impact of the materials you’re using as well. In 2016-17, I built a motor home that was vacuum bag foam sandwich construction, extremely light and strong, but with conventional materials. When I was looking to make an awning cover, I discovered these new organic composite materials and fell in love with them and decided to work with them on a prototype motor home for our kids and grandkids to travel with us.”
The relationship with ATL has its origins years ago, when Dick worked with Ian Wright from Norman R. Wright & Sons on his modular home, dubbed “Eco Casa”, constructed with the DuFLEX panel system.
Dick contacted Mac Dalton, ATL Technical Sales Manager and the sustainable campervan project began.
“The days of big heavy campervans and motorhomes are numbered; The era of the compact fold-out campervan and motorhome has arrived,” says Dick. “We have three guiding principles: agility, economy, connection. Agility refers to compact campers and motorhomes that can travel light on the country with ease, low centre of gravity, low wind resistance, low tyre wear.
“Economy means lower capital cost, vastly lower fuel and maintenance costs, lower depreciation: keeps you on the road longer, bank balance healthier. Connection refers to keeping you in touch with the land you came to explore, not cocooned in a boofy hot-box with project-home decor. We design ultra-compact expanding vehicles that work from the inside out.”
Dick’s dream of building the ideal eco-camper is close to fruition.
“This has some carbon fibre as well, used strategically in the high stress joint areas. The bio-epoxy resin combined with the flax on a balsa core makes for a motorhome body built almost entirely from biologically derived materials – grown in a forest or a paddock. There are still net emissions, but much less than products produced using materials made from fossil fuels. We’re combining hi-tech sustainable, eco-friendly products (flax, bio-epoxy, balsa) with a bit of carbon fibre.
“In this case, where high dynamic loads are applied in the stairwell, including the mass of metal fold-out steps that are bolted underneath, all still using the lovely bio-epoxy.”
The cost is higher than a traditional campervan due to the premium materials.
“But it’s a matter of economies of scale,” says Dick. “If we were all using these materials, the price would come down.”
The panels were constructed at ATL and delivered in May. At this stage, Bruce is undergoing his paint job, installation of the canvas top, to be followed by internal joinery and electrical installation. “I’m working part time on the project, so it’s just two days a week. It could be another few months with the finishing touches over the Christmas break.”
As for the intriguing name, Bruce, Dick says it was a group decision based on feedback from his family and others who are the target market.
“Bruce Sprintstein is a cool name. It’s a play on the vehicle (Mercedes Sprinter) and a nod to the famous rock ‘n’ roll rabble rouser, Bruce Springstein.”