This article was originally published in Sep 2005.
Our Coromal Silhouette 392 camping trip ran into a storm which brought down big trees and gave real meaning to practical testing.
But when the wind started to gust hard from the north-west we were comfy and warm in the roomy, spanking new camper and not interested in anything outside in our Victorian caravan park world.
We had a good camping site in the Point Leo Park. It was flat, sheltered from the wind by high ground and our camp came with a fine view of a shiny Westernport Bay to the east.
When we arrived in the sunny mid-afternoon the easy to use well-designed camper clicked into place in quick time. We plugged in the external electric power and mains-pressure water and we headed off on a beach walk.
That is what it is all about; easy to use means more time to play and this modern, impressive unit is easy to use. Even, as we found out later, in a storm.
We watched surfers ride the small break from the point into the sparkling bay. We talked, walked and enjoyed a good meal cooked in the Coromal Silhouette's well planned slide-out kitchen. The slide-out is a great idea and glides out easily to give the working area useful extra space.
The four burner gas stove and grill combo works well. There is a useful stainless steel sink combined with wide bench tops and the three-way fridge is in easy reach. If a speed feed is the thing then there is a microwave in its own console and bench near the door.
So well fed and watered and warmed by a two-bar radiator we settled at peace with the world among quality fabric and textured prints in Queen-size, well-padded bed comfort for the night.
The Silhouette design was released in 2003 and lessons learned by Coromal from the intensive research and development program which led to its birth make for ease of use, outstanding finish and useable space in the 3.9m x 2.16m camper concept we tried.
Around 1am the strong wind changed its tune. It blew up a storm. The gusts roaring overhead reached a locomotive rumble. One of my great loves is sailing, so for me this is the sound of adventure. The exciting, frightening high-powered adrenaline rush which comes with really big winds.
But as the weight of the storm bounced off the sheltering high ground and over the top of our caravan park campsite, there was no problem while the wind stayed in the north-west.
It was a beautiful night, the sky was broomed clean and stars blazed while the big wind orchestrated a sound like surf through the madly dancing treetops. We love nature and this was exciting. But just in case it got worse we put the things we needed for a graceful exit where we could find them easily – relevant tools, torch, and a ground sheet. Then we brought our faithful Mitsubishi Advance V6 station wagon into position for hitch-up.
We know front-wheel drive family vehicles don't fit 'traditional' towing wisdom, but up to 1500kg (with good electric trailer brakes) and four bar load levelling system the comfortable Mitsubishi more than does the job and economically too!
It makes great affordable camping holidays an easy experience at any caravan park which is on a half decent road. That is the majority of the more than 2700 caravan parks throughout Australia.
We went back to bed, but soon after the storm wind shifted to the west, and thundered into the side of the Silhouette.
The stylish camper is well built in fibreglass. The one-piece roof has an inner core between two skins, which provides great strength to the particularly rigid camper structure.
The Silhouette's sides are one-piece fibreglass panels, fitted to an aluminium frame and the result is insulated with styrene foam. These design strengths rest on a full-length galvanised steel chassis with the ply floor bonded and fastened to it.
The camper is a solid citizen and even when the storm gusts made the camper shudder it stood firm. But sleep was definitely not on with the wind in full cry.
We are regulars in this coastal part of Victoria and from past experience know that once it starts to blow hard it often stays for days. So with home only an hour away we decided to pack up.
We doubt we could have given the Coromal Silhouette systems a more thorough practical evaluation.
Setting up on a calm sunny day is one thing. Reversing the process by torchlight in a storm wind is much sterner stuff.
We took our time, checking each step to make sure we left nothing inside the Silhouette which should not be there nor anything outside which must come with us.
We cleared all bedding off the big beds to make sure the roof came all the way down. Then we transferred our clothes and cooking gear to the Mitsubishi.
The sliding kitchen was actually propelled in by the force of the wind and we locked it in on its piston bolt. Then we dropped the bed awning props stowed them under the mattresses and folded the camper curtains carefully to make dropping the roof completely trouble free.
We turned the gas off inside the camper and at the gas bottle in the big boot at the front of the Silhouette. The boot provides excellent storage space in a camper of this size.
The fridge went off and its door clip was locked for travel. The effective one piece camper door slid easily up into its roof straps and clips. All straightforward stuff, although done at a measured pace by the light of the torch aided by the camper's excellent interior and outside annexe lights which we had backed up with a deep-cycle 12V battery in the handy external battery compartment.
Our initial preparation during our sunny set up paid off too. We used a spirit level to make sure the camper was level and this certainly helps prevent binding when the roof winds down.
It is even more important when a storm wind is forcing the camper's strong 8oz. canvas and heavy duty vinyl in on one side while blowing it out on the other as you wind the roof down.
The most important thing of all it to take the time to make sure all the canvas and vinyl is clear when the roof drops. My patient wife worked with me to beat the wind. Pushing the canvas in and working out any potentially bad folds.
With the twin props removed from underneath the front Queen-size (1500mm) wide bed, it slid in easily. But we had to juggle the rear 1205mm bed in after hitting a 'stopper' brought about by the pressure of the storm on the side of the slide-in kitchen and the camper canvas which jammed the bed runner track. Working in the dark we did not spot the problem at first.
With the fibreglass roof almost right down we went around again on a final check on our folding work and then we fitted the separate travel door before fully lowering the roof with the winch handle via the locking cap on the left rear of the camper. We found, to our pleasure, that the winch socket has its own lighting.
Another nice design touch is that the travel door clips to the camper and doubles as a clever outside table when the camper is set up.
It required my full (90kg) weight on the corners of the roof before the four high field clips could be locked down. There was certainly storm air pressure in the camper.
On a damp site at night, we blessed the ground sheet we prepared earlier as we wound up the campers stabilisers and crawled about to retrieve the four wooden blocks we use as pads.
With the Coromal Camper on the Mitsubishi's tow ball we used the Camper's jockey wheel to wind the drawbar high enough to fit the four torsion bars to the Equalizer Head and hoist them with a lifting hook into the rod brackets bolted to the camper drawbar.
The Camec Load Equalizer system makes a big difference in the load transfer to the Mitsubishi's front drive end and on the night provided just enough traction to get us off the wet, slippery, grassy site and onto firm gravel which our Michelin tyres could really grip.
It was a windy ride home, made a great deal easier by the 1050kg Coromal Silhouette's wind-cheating design and independent suspension.
Towing campers with the Mitsubishi V6 is usually an economical experience thanks to the beautifully engineered 3.5-litre power plant which develops a respectable 300Nm at 4000 rpm. But fuel economy depends on how and where you are towing and what the conditions are. For example on the way to Point Leo we ran at an easy 11.3 litres a 100km, moving at highway posted speeds of up to 100km/h.
On the way back over the same flat route, butting into the storm winds, the vehicle computer reported 12.6 litres a 100km. It was a slower, but extremely lively drive with bits of trees in the air and on the road. We dodged about. The aerodynamic Silhouette, on its independent suspension, never wavered despite raging gusts.
The campers wheels are 14 inches and come shod with 8-ply light truck radials. They matched well with the Michelin Certis radials we run on the Mitsubishi Magna Advance V6. No, they are not standard Magna, but we have learned to trust them in all conditions so we always change our 'boots'.
The camper is a pure pleasure to tow, a point illustrated by my wife's remarks.
On the way to Point Leo, we decided to stop for coffee and a meal at the interesting Merricks General Store. As we approached from the main Flinders Road I asked 'Where would you like me to park?' 'In front of the store,' she said. 'But, what about the camper?' I asked.
'Camper?' She queried. 'Oh, I forgot it was there!'
It does not get any better than that.
Silhouette S392 Specifications:
Tare weight: About 1050kg (this varies from 980kg to 1100kg between models).
Towing length: 5.5m
Towing height: (Includes the hatch), 1.7m
Cost: About $23,000. (GSA used a deep-cycle battery which was not ex-factory). The range starts at 3.23m in length, then 3.9m and 4.23m which are both available in two layouts. The biggest is the 4.56m, available in three layouts. Two do not have slide-out beds and are designed for two people. They come with single or a double bed.
A Pioneer option is available in all eight Silhouette models for more demanding camper adventures, probably 4WD powered.
The slide-out kitchen is available with most models.
From: Coromal Dealer, Caravans West 1A Berkshire Rd, Sunshine.