The Wanderer Magazine – Feb 2014 Frontline VW T5

Frontline VW T5

On the line Frontline’s VW T5 Adventurer camper is born of experience. When those humble visionaries, Don and Erica Whitworth, started the Campervan and Motorhome Club of Australia, the campervan component of the club’s membership was much Greater than it is today. Not coincidentally, there were considerably more specialist manufacturers around. Since then, the percentage of campervan manufacturers has decreased markedly in favour of motorhomes.

Still, some manufacturers do a good job for those who love lightweight travel and work and therefore need around-town transport and are on a budget. One is Sydney-based Frontline Campers which builds several camper conversions based on a Volkswagen T5 or a Toyota Hiace. Several layouts are available; our review van was the Adventurer model with a folding seat/bed in the rear. BASE VEHICLE A flexible design, the Adventurer conversion is available for a Toyota Hiace campervan or a VW T5 van. While the Hiace is cheaper, there are several reasons, principally the flat-floor design, that make the VW a better conversion prospect. There’s one additional feature in the case of the T5. It’s available as an all-wheel drive – VW calls it the 4Motion. This was the Adventurer that Frontline’s Peter Farrugia made public to us.


• Road characteristics of the VW T5 • Large screened windows in the canvas roof • Kitchen layout • Rear storage which can be used in various ways • Slide-out Origo cooktop


• VW radio/CD player • Insect screens for the doors • LED ceiling lights instead of fluorescents There are many turbo-diesel engine variants available in the VW T5 range, and Frontline usually opts for the 103Kw/340Nm version with a six-speed manual gearbox. However, the more powerful 132kW/400Nm motor is an option, as is the seven-speed DSG automatic for either engine. 4Motion buyers, however, only get the 132kW engine and, in this case, the seven-speed DSG gearbox


One of the little things distinguishing a campervan from a motorhome is that the latter is usually coach built and constructed on the back of a cab chassis. In the case of a van conversion, while most of the body is retained, it has several holes cut in it. The largest is for the rising roof, but fridge vents and water fillers are also available. Because this camper has a methylated spirits-fired cooktop, there’s no need for a gas cylinder bin. Of course, there are a few bolt-on items, like the Fiamma awning. The pop-top roof is well integrated into the van profile and has been colour matched to the body and the top.


With base vehicles, there’s no doubt that the VW T5 is the winner on the road compared to the Hiace. Whereas the former is pitched towards the passenger car market, the Hiace is more delivery van. The VW bucket seats are more comfortable for long distances, and the ride is better. It’s not all bad fits, Hiace – it is $8000 cheaper and is backed with legendary Toyota reliability; we also suspect that servicing costs are more affordable, and essential items like the radio/CD player are just so much better. Driving the VW is simply fun.

Press the right foot, the 132kW turbo diesel delivers in spades, and the seven-speed auto gearbox is smooth and sure. The vehicle handles the contours and curves of undulating roads without a problem. Although we didn’t test the AWdidn’tthis review, we recently tackled a 4WD training course in a T5. It’s undoubtedly notIt’sardcore 4WD vehicle, but its capabilities are assured. Once a few off-road driving tricks are learned – something we’d recommend is it will be interesting to see where the T5 4Motion will go and what it will do.


Motorhomers might look down on their smaller neighbours but setting up the Adventurer for day use doesn’t take long. doesn’t the sliding door release the four pop-top roof straps and push up the roof – something made relatively easy by the gas struts? An advantage of the complete rising top is that air circulation is most effective in warmer weather. Unless the weather is freezing, the optional Fiamma awning does an excellent job protecting the side of the van from sun and rain.

Many people only think of it in terms of the sun, but a partially open awning is excellent for these vans and very effective in keeping the rain away from the opened sliding door. One of the options we’d select would be velcwe’d insect screens for sliding and rear doors. In hot weather, having both doors open is an asset. It’s also possible to get it sent for the rear doors and screens/walls for the awning, but that takes up valuable storage space.


As we mentioned, the VW has a flat floor. This makes access to and from the driver’s cab relatively driver’s allows the swivelling passenger seat to be incorporated into the design. The layout is simple, with a kitchen/storage area cabinet along the offside and a day/night lounge taking up the midsection. The lounge can be used for passengers (with two optional seatbelts fitted) or just for sitting on when camped by day or folded down into a bed by night. The rear area has a platform and a large cushion for that purpose. A single, pole-mounted table, generally stored behind the driver’s seat, can be used by a driver with the rear seat.


Fitting out the offside kitchen in a van conversion is challenging, but the Adventurer shows Frontline’s experience. AFrontline’snchtop, there’s a stainless-steel there’s-up bowl fed by a flick mixer tap. That still leaves room for some bench space under a slideout two-burner Origo spirit cooktop – a simple but effective set-up. An alternative to this arrangement, which removes a drawer and makes the fridge more challenging to reach when being used, is to have a swing-out cabinet behind the passenger seat.

This cabinet contains the Origo cooktop above and a cupboard below. The upside to this arrangement is that more storage space is available, but the downside is that the cabinet must be swung out of the passenger’s swivel seat. The passenger’s Engel fridge is fitted under the cooktop. Alongside the fridge is a small wire basket pantry with a shelf above. That leaves room in the adjacent space for the optional microwave oven with a drawer above and cupboard space below. The 12V fuse and switch panel are also located here, but that’s about to be supersthat’sy a new panel with 5V USB chargers. All of the above might sound like a cramped design, but old hands will recognise that it’s a workable arrangement.

SLEEPING HOURS Setting up the bed is simple – release the catches on either side of the rear seat and then lay it flat. The bed measures 1.88m x 1.29m (6ft 2in x 4ft 3in) and narrows to 1.17m (3ft 10in). Bed width can be expanded by not having the offside rear cabinet, but that substantially reduces the storage area. Making the bed can be quickly done by two people, one at the back door and one inside. LED reading lights are fitted on both sides at the rear. On the subject of lights, the leading roof lights are mini fluorescents that look a bit old hat, but Peter Farrugia reckons they give a better light in the confined space. Still, LED lights are an option.


Filling the rest of the offside rear, there is a sliding-door cabinet, the front half has shelves, and the rear has a small hanging space. Right in the rear corner is a small shelf area holding the optional external shower hose on this van. Under the bed cushion base at the rear is a good storage area accessible from the end and a hatch inside – it’s ideal for large plastic boxes on rollers. The house battery and the charger take part of this area, but the rest can be used for assorted bits and pieces required for travel.


Mention the word campervan, which produces various images depending on the listener’s perspective. Slistener’s too small, but it is a very affordable budget motorhome and a great little weekend escape machine to others. They also see it as a rig that is easy to park and convenient around the city, not to mention being able to transport four people quite easily.

It’s not hard to see the It’saction that still exists, especially when looking over this Frontline conversion. The 4Motion VW is more expensive than the 2WD, and this conversion’s base price conversion $64,800, with plenty of options available. In the case of this VW-powered Adventurer, there’s another aspect, too, as Frontline proprietor Peter Farrugia points out with a smile. Some owned a VW Kombi in the 70s and want to re-live their youth … or something like that.

Manufacturer Frontline Campers
Model Bed Seat camper
Base Vehicle VW T5 4Motion
Tare weight 2100kg
GVM 3000kg
Licence Car
Passengers Four
Engine 2.0-litre turbo-diesel
Power 132kW@4000rpm
Torque 400Nm@1500-
Gearbox Seven-speed DSG
Brakes ABS disc
External length 5.29m (17ft 4in)
External width 1.9m (6ft 3in)
External height 2.48m (8ft 1in)
Internal height (roof raised) 2.04m
Rear bed size 1.88m x 1.29m
Fridge Engel ST90F, 80L,

Time to Roam Australia – Frontline Adventurer Review

The great escape vehicle

Since the advent of the original VW Kombi, having a camper van as a second vehicle has been the dream of many Aussie families. And why not? You get a reserved set of wheels in the garage and a great escape vehicle for holidays and weekends away.

Tried and Tested Frontline Adventurer Review and photos by Paddy McCann

Of course, the downside in the past has been the bulk of the van. Suitable for leisure trips, but not very zippy or much fun for a quick dash across town.

But times have changed. The Powerful 132kw diesel engine in the latest VW T5 drives so well that you must pinch yourself to remember you’re getting around town in holiday garb. Frontline Camper Conversion’s Peter Farrugia and Jeffery Verhagen have been designing and building camper conversions in Sydney since 1987. Today they focus on three base vehicles the Toyota Hiace, Landcruiser and VW.

The VW T5 is more “car-like” due to the out-front engine, which translates to a car that is just a little bit nicer on the road. It also has a brilliant walk-through cab, and the front passenger seat swivels to face the rear, adding to the usable space in the vehicle when camping. Frontline offers four different layouts in the VW T5, the Freedom, the Adventurer, the Vacationer and the Avalon.

Family Friendly

“ For travellers who like to travel a little fast or people who want to take weekend getaways at every opportunity, this camper van has great appeal.”
“ For travellers who like to travel a little fast or people who want to take weekend getaways at every opportunity, this camper van has great appeal.”

The Adventurer is one of their best sellers due to the addition of a rear bench seat and the fact that the vehicle is fitted with four seat belts, making it popular with families. Frontline Camper Conversions’ point of difference begins in the back of the car and their approach to fitting the van’s pop-top roof. From their first pop-top campers back in the 1980s to the current 2014 iteration, not much has changed in Frontline’s approach to creating a robust, highly usable, value-packed camper that is as affordable as possible without sacrificing quality.

For example, Frontline still opt for the full pop-top rather than the tilt style of many European vans, and in the T5, the top is entirely seamless with the look of the van underpinnings right down to an exact match on the paint. (not sure what the underpinnings are?) Frontline even takes the trouble to disassemble and colour-match paint the Fiama awning that they optionally offer with all Frontline campers. This attention to detail is typical of Peter and his team’s commitment to quality, and there is no denying that the final finish reflects the extra effort.

Our test vehicle took the custom camper to look further with a black and orange colour scheme, extending to the custom wheels and chunky all-terrain tyres. Around the car, the air ventilation grills, 240v power plug and even the water inlet have been painted a gloss black. The overall look is striking and makes you realise how sophisticated Frontline production technology has become in recent years. This vehicle came in one piece straight from the VW factory. In the back, the general layout around the van’s midway point is consistent throughout the Frontline T5 range. There is a sink plus bench space directly behind the driving seat with a compressor driven two-way (12v / 240v) fridge below.

Out the back

Behind the passenger seat is a swing-out cupboard that houses an ever-reliable mentholated spirits cooker. Peter says they moved away from LPG cookers and gas-lit refrigerators several years ago with the gain of more space, reliability and safety. “The fridge, lighting and pump will run for around two days with the included camping battery, but it can be extended to 7-8 days with an optional solar booster or four days running simply by adding an extra battery”.

From the midpoint back, the Frontline VW T5 design varies slightly depending on your chosen layout. The T5 Adventurer has a row of perfectly fitted cupboards extending down the driver’s side, ending with a cabinet containing a retractable shower that can be accessed by opening the rear door of the camper. The shower is pump fed, and the flow is excellent. The 55-litre water storage is more than enough for a few quick showers, and it’s also perfect for washing off sandy feet or hosing down a mucky dog. When the shower is fully retracted, there is no sink or catch tray to protect the cabinetry from drips. However, the internal construction of all cupboards is lightweight plywood covered in a high-pressure laminate similar to a kitchen worktop.

This makes for a very tough interior, and a few water drips will not hurt it. Next to the row of cupboards and rear shower is one-half of the double bed with the bench seat in front. During the day, the bench seat is comfortable seating for two. At night, the rear bench seat is folded flat to join up with the cushioned area directly behind it, forming a large double bed. There are even convenient cubby drawers under the bench seat, one of which provides storage for the optional Porta- Potti fitted to our test vehicle. The cab was remarkably quiet on our road test, with very few rattles and creaks. Invariably, campervans and motorhomes get noisier as they start covering more kilometres. Still, it’s hard to imagine the quality of the Frontline fit-out giving much slack over time. Every cabinet is precision milled using Frontline’s computerised routing machine and then screwed together by talented craftsmen. Peter is a cabinet builder by trade, so quality cabinetry is part of the company culture.

In summary

The Frontline Adventurer is a practical and well-put-together vehicle that offers good value for money. When you consider the price of a base model VW Transporter van is around $50,000 and the price of a baseline Frontline T5 Campervan is around $64,800 (or $76,740 as tested, which included 120w solar amongst other premium goodies), tried + tested | camper review there is not that much in it. This camper van has excellent appeal for travellers who like to travel a little fast or people who want to take weekend getaways at every opportunity. Not only can you get an adventure vehicle that will take you almost anywhere under your own steam (Frontline even offer an all-wheel drive model), but you also get incredibly low depreciation – enough even to keep an accountant happy.