Almost exactly six years ago, in the younger, more innocent days of 2012, we looked at an absolutely wild caravan concept from New Zealand architecture and engineering firm W2. The Swiss Army-like Romotow was a vision of a swing-out trailer with a combination of cabin space and sheltered deck, easily packed up and towed to camp but doubly spacious once there. At the time, even W2 wasn't sure if it would move past the concept stage, and to be honest, we didn't really expect to see it again. But fast-forward to late 2018 and W2 is deep in the works building the very first model, with sales to commence next year.
We've seen some equally fantastical expanding caravan designs in the years following the Romotow debut, including the pop-up (and out) Tipoon travel machine and self-sufficient sCarabane, so Romotow production is not quite as surprising as it might have been in 2012. Still, given that it'd been six years without much sign of progress, we previously presumed the Romotow concept dead and buried.
But recently we noticed some healthy vital signs, and co-owner and structural engineer Stuart Winterbourn confirms the very first Romotow unit should be ready in early 2019. It will be used as a demo model to show potential customers.
Winterbourn seems to be the point of contact for the Romotow (or at least he's the one who answered our queries in 2012 and 2018), but the initial idea came from W2 co-owner and architectural director Matthew Wilkie. Sitting at the park with his son one day, Wilkie began envisioning the type of camping trailer he'd like for family holidays. The idea for the Romotow was born, and Winterbourn happily lent his expertise toward pulling the vision out of Wilkie's head and rendering it for the world to see.
When the Romotow was making headlines back in 2012, W2 was still just gauging interest and looking around for potential manufacturing partners. Eventually, the firm realized it wasn't going to be able to just market the renderings, it would need to build out an actual trailer that people could step inside and touch. It hired on Nic de Mey, an experienced boatbuilder and composites expert, and after the proper funds were raised and factory space secured, de Mey headed up the start of construction in late 2016. The fruits of that construction will finally be seen in the coming weeks.
The 30-foot (9.2-m) Romotow looks much the same as it did in 2012, shedding the common rectangular trailer box form in favor of a more interesting shape that looks a bit like a finger. Its signature rotating design nests the cabin snugly inside a hoop frame during the ride. Push a button and the cabin turns 90 degrees, leaving the hoop open as a raised, covered deck. The deck sides can be optionally enclosed with canvas to create a sheltered sitting area or a four-berth auxiliary sleeping area.
Campers enter the cabin through a large sliding door, stepping into an open front space with dining/living area and kitchen. A dinette set sits at the very front, nestled against the large wraparound window, and switches over to a double bed at night. W2 doesn't list kitchen equipment item by item, saying only that the cooktop will be hooked to the same diesel supply as the heating system and promising to personalize each kitchen space according to the individual customer's wishes.
Walking back from the kitchen, a large bathroom compartment fills out the cabin center. Here, W2 has installed a roomy shower and macerating toilet. A few steps farther, and you get to the rear master bedroom and its queen bed.
Romotow residents will likely remain quite content taking in the views through the many picture windows placed throughout, but should they desire alternative entertainment, they can turn their attention to the pop-up TV in the front living area. That TV is complemented by a multi-zone audio system with additional speakers in the deck area and bedroom. The bedroom includes a wall-mounted TV of its own.
Other listed specs include a fold-out deck grill, 400 Ah battery bank and up to 1,000 watts of solar. Customers will be able to select their own materials and finishes, but the demo model will feature teak joinery, cowhide leather wall and ceiling trim, Corian countertops, and synthetic teak decking.
W2 is constructing the Romotow out of carbon fiber and other composites. It hasn't penned in a final weight, but the axle weight rating slides in at 3,200 kg (7,500 lb).
The aforementioned layout is the standard travel trailer configuration, but W2 will work with each client to custom-build Romotows around their specific needs, whether for camping, off-grid living, business or other purposes.
"The interior space can be manipulated to suit alternative applications like a mobile office, shop or promotional vehicle," says Winterbourn. "Although price is at a premium at this stage, you need to consider it is effectively two caravans in one and currently is being sold as a custom build. As we progress, we will be looking at how we can produce a range of offerings."
"Regards to pricing, we need to gauge market reaction to our finished product," he explains. "Whilst the imagery is impressive, when you experience this product in real life, you can appreciate that it is without comparison to anything else available in form, function and quality."
Whether the price slots in at $350,000 or a different number, it's safe to say it won't be anything close to an affordable, everyman camper. But that never seemed to be the point. W2 will initially focus on custom orders and small-batch production but hopes to ramp sales up enough to take on a contract manufacturer closer to its primary customer base(s).
We look forward to seeing the finished, real-deal Romotow and will run a follow-up once it rolls out under the bright lights.
Product page: Romotow
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