In all fields of human endeavour, there are people, brands and teams who earn iconic status through the strength of their achievements, standards and ability to inspire others. In the Australian camper trailer world, the Ultimate brand must be considered one of those.
Ultimate was the creation of boat builder Michael Hackett, who, with wife Wendy, was a keen camper. Dissatisfied with tents and their vehicle’s capacity to house them when out in the bush, Michael and Wendy began, in 1994, to design and build a camper trailer in their shed in Batemans Bay, NSW.
Michael used materials and techniques he understood, and applied the standards typical of the luxury yacht industry in which he worked. The result was a unique trailer, with a strong resemblance to an inverted boat, a classic aerodynamic shape and a standard of construction and durability that left many in its wake. They figured they’d created the ultimate camper; the brand name came easily.
The business has come a long way since those early days. Now based out of a state-of-the-art 4000m²-plus complex north of Moruya on the New South Wales’ south coast, the company is still producing trailers in the image of those first Ultimates but has now branched out developing new lines for other market niches.
Ultimate manufactures a steady flow of trailers each week, and there is never less than a three-month wait for your own trailer. Each camper has its own unique number, and that numbering now exceeds 1800. As with all good camper trailers, while there are basic formats for each model, each trailer is also constructed to your own specifications where possible.
The basic Ultimate camper has changed little in external appearance since its inception. Even the livery barely changed until the 2013 release of the Xplor. Ultimate streamlined its range of offerings, dropping the Elite models and replacing them with the Xplor and enhancing the introductory level Xtrk models with a wide range of options.
April 2015 sees the release of two new X Series models: the Xplor GT and the Xterra.
As every unit is numbered, Ultimate can and does work hard to maintain a register of the owners for each one, no matter how often they change hands. The company sometimes even buys back, restores and sells its old trailers as testament to their worth and enduring stability.
Regular Ultimate musters are held in New South Wales, Victoria and Queensland, where owners from all over Australia get together to talk travel and all things Ultimate. That sort of long-standing proprietorial interest speaks volumes for the brand and its customer relations.
Back in the day, the company organised the first few events. The inaugural get-together at Long Beach, NSW in 1998 had 10 campers in attendance, followed by another in Nelligen, NSW, which attracted 25, with 70 Ultimate campers congregating at Moruya in 2007, almost a decade on.
Graham Hanna, an Ultimate owner since 2007, has taken on the unofficial role of event coordinator for New South Wales, after spearheading a get-together at Wombeyan Caves in 2008 which saw 15 owners attend.
Since then, Graham has organised musters in Gloucester and, more recently, in Potato Point, where the number of Ultimate campers exceeded 50.
“It was great to see so many Ultimates in one place because they are an unusual looking vehicle, but the fact is that there were so many people you couldn’t get around to everyone and make friends. I think the future will be one of more frequent and smaller gatherings,” Graham said.
This is a view shared by Queensland muster organiser Max Borrows, who enjoys organising get togethers of between eight and 15 campers at short notice, largely in the south Queensland region for a group who calls themselves “Ultimate Queenslanders”.
In 2014, travellers in 20 Ultimate campers converged at Chambers Pillar in the Northern Territory mid-tour. The shindig happened during Ultimate’s 20th anniversary year, with a handful of those travellers joining 200 others (in about 90 rigs) for the company’s official celebrations at Merry Beach on the New South Wales south coast.
Max is organising a major Ultimate event in 2015 at Stanthorpe in southern Queensland. Thirty-five Ultimate owners have already booked, but if you’d like to join, Max can be contacted through the Ultimate forum.
Colin Eiper has hosted the annual musters in Victoria for the past seven years. The Tasmanian local will also be hosting a “Rendezvous” on the Apple Isle in February 2016.
The Ultimate premises include two factories, a showroom and management offices.
Everything for the original format Ultimate is manufactured in the 2600m² workshop area, except for a handful of aftermarket parts like shock absorbers, hitches, gas stoves and the trailing arm suspensions. The chassis are welded on a jig adjacent to the canvas loft, where a team of sail makers prepare the canvas.
Applying fibreglass to the body components takes place at the far end of the factory, with the finished frames joined by the body and the various fittings in the middle. The spotless modern production facilities have a ventilation system that regularly replaces all the air to ensure worker wellbeing.
Seven months ago, a new 1400m² factory opened across the road, specifically to undertake assembly of the Nautilus. Built to the same high standards as the original plant, the facility has helped gradually clear backlog on the luxury unit to a point where new customers can have their units within four to six months.
Check out the full feature in issue #88 May 2015 of Camper Trailer Australia magazine.