Tuesday, 16, Nov 2010 03:34
Inspired by the fifth wheel trailers from the States, these unique tourers built by the Fifth Wheel Company are distinctive in design.
The 'fifth wheel' refers to the nose end hitching device which attaches to the back end of a flat bed truck or utility vehicle.
In the beginning
The company began importing fifth wheel type tourers from the States in the late 1990's converting them to comply with European safety standards for the UK market. Encouraged by an enthusiastic response from customers, the decision was made to design and build an in-house range of Fifth Wheelers which have been in production since 2002.
Fifth Wheelers explained
Originating in the US Fifth Wheelers are attached to the towing vehicle, not by the traditional tow bar as with other caravans, but via a connection plate similar to those found on articulated lorries. They are built to be towed by pick-up trucks and open backed vehicles such as the Nissan Navara. The Fifth Wheel Company build models which are better suited to smaller UK roads and driving conditions.
Design and construction
The living area can be extended using an electronic space expanding feature providing an extra few feet of living space once the tourer is parked up. The nose end of the caravan loses half the height to the 'fifth wheel' which secures it to the towing vehicle, so the headroom in the sleeping area above is limited.
The forward position of the tow hitch makes fifth wheeler very stable when towing particularly in crosswinds, with minimal movement felt when larger vehicles overtake. The company will run you through hitching and unhitching the rig before it is driven off.
Prices start at £42,000 making them considerably more expensive than traditional caravans, but the company have picked up numerous accolades for their designs. The Caravan Club Design Awards have celebrated the product five years in a row. Nottinghamshire Police commissioned a bespoke fifth wheeler to be used as a central base at events and incidents that require a semi-permanent police presence.
February 2011 saw the launch of the firms first ever touring caravan - the Inos.
The name comes from an anglicised version of the Welsh word 'Ty unnos' - an old tradition which allowed any person who constructed a house on common land in a single night to lay claim to that land forever more.
Using technology borrowed from its line of fifth wheel touring vehicles, the Inos features Europe's first ever production line 'van with a slide-out section, increasing the internal floorspace by 3 metres square. It's a very high spec two berth layout and features a separate shower and WC, read end island bed and spacious U-shaped lounge area towards the front.
In April 2012, it was announced that Fifth Wheel's prices would be affected by the Government's tax rise on static caravans. As a result, prices across the range could rise by around 20 per cent from October 1st 2012 onwards to come in line with the new higher rate of VAT.