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A Vehicle to Envy
Rod Lee explains the fine art of how to create a vehicle to envy.
Words and Images by: ROD LEE W65844

Perhaps the single most important decision you will make on the road to grey nomadism is your choice of vehicle. It will be determined in part by what your whole rig is planned to be, but of course the most important issue is making your fellow travellers envious.

This story focuses on vehicles which will tow something. As I have a well justified reputation as a ‘revhead’ you are probably expecting this to be an informed and well reasoned dissertation on the relative merits, for grey nomad purposes, of various brands and types of vehicle. So you should now prepare to be profoundly disappointed. However, let us ponder about what your vehicle says about you.


Of course the brand of vehicle you buy will tell your fellow grey nomads a lot about you. For instance if you have a Toyota or Nissan, you are practical, where a BMW, Mercedes may say the opposite. American monsters (eg Chevrolet) – well, let’s just leave it there. For brands which offer SUVs (Suzuki, Subaru, Honda etc), these are typically off the hit list for the grey nomad because they are not suitable as tow vehicles.


If you wish to be recognised as a ‘proper’ grey nomad, your tow vehicle must be a 4WD, in either wagon or ute style. The only acceptable alternative is a 4WD truck which might suit some of you who will insist on taking almost all your worldly possessions on the road with you.

Sedans and hatches are clearly not suited for accessing those remote fishing locations, which are an essential part of the grey nomad lifestyle.

It is becoming very fashionable to have a ute with a crew cab – thus providing a spot for the dog to sit, or room for the grandchildren, if you are so besotted that you find it necessary to take them with you. If you must take companions, stick with dogs – the small children will be unbearable after the first 100km.

Note that if you opt for the ute, there will be substantial additional cost to kit it out to grey nomad specifications (refer later material on accessories). This is in addition to the ‘standard’ list of essential accessories required on every vehicle.


Grey nomads concern themselves a great deal about fuel economy and where to buy cheap diesel. However if you want recognition and admiration, then your vehicle should have the most powerful motor available. Big V8s are always acceptable, but high powered turbo charged V6s are also OK. It must be diesel – anything petrol powered is considered a museum piece.

To be seen as ‘cutting edge’, the grey nomad will have chosen automatic transmission rather than a manual gearbox. Of course there are the old die-hards out there who still imagine they are smarter than a computer, but sadly they are wrong.

To impress everyone with your adventurous spirit you  will need to dispense with the vehicles standard wheels and fit something both wider and larger in diameter. Picture an iron ore haul pack – that is the look you should be seeking.

By the way, think carefully about the brand of tyres you choose. You must be fully informed about all the benefits of your brand, but more importantly about all the short-comings of the brands chosen by others in order to test your wit.


The list of gadgets you can hang off your vehicle is almost endless, but in addition to the wheels and tyres referred to above, you will certainly need almost all of those below, if you are serious about adopting grey nomadism.

Bull-bar – custom made for your vehicle and incorporating mounting for an electric 12 tonne winch, at least two radio aerials, no less than six fishing rod holders, and some very expensive driving lights (the really with-it grey nomad  will fit an LED light-bar in place of, or in addition to the conventional driving lights). Note that under no circumstances will you actually be driving at night. If you can get ‘mates rates’ you might manage to do all this for about the same cost as ten family holidays in Bali.

Roof-rack – obviously with provision to carry all sorts of odds and ends, but also incorporating the boat rack and with at least one (but preferably two) side mounted roll out awnings. If you do not have a boat rack, you must have a roof mounted tent, making it clear to the casual onlooker that you undertake perilous outback journeys, where being three metres off the ground is the only way to avoid all the poisonous and maneating creatures as you sleep.

Suspension – upgraded springs, shockers, perhaps air-bags, maybe with the whole thing designed to provide more clearance. Now you can forget any more overseas travel in your lifetime.

Engine modifications – the sky is the limit here. But at the very  least you should add a snorkel to the air intake. This looks so macho even though the nearest you plan to come to fording a deep creek is crossing the Sydney Harbour Bridge. If your vehicle is not turbo charged you will be a sorry sight at the 5pm drinks gathering. Every other grey nomad has a turbo charged vehicle, and the really happy ones have twin turbos.

Side mirrors – any grey nomad who tows something will have extra side mirrors which somehow clip-on to the vehicle and were originally designed for a tourist coach. The acceptability of these is directly proportional to their size – so the bigger the better.

Interior – the possibilities for blowing the whole super package just continue to grow as we think about all the goodies we should have inside the vehicle. Obviously at least one two-way radio, so you can listen to truckies. Naturally you will need a GPS on the dashboard (of course you wealthy devils have probably purchased a vehicle with built-in GPS). It is in the rear of  the wagon (or ute) where we can have most fun with the credit card. To create the most envy you need to plan a comprehensive storage area which looks like a highly professional tradies vehicle housing tools, spare parts, and all manner of other gear which you will never need. This is fortunate because, having stored it there, you will never be able to find it again.

Utes – if you have opted for a ute as your RV, you can take the ideas above to a whole new level, beginning with custom made storage boxes enclosing the entire floor of the tray space. These must be either aluminium checker-plate (for the most rugged ‘I go bush’ look) or moulded fibreglass, with a paint job to exactly match the vehicle colour, however with a depth of finish most vehicle manufacturers only dream about. You should also plan to live a shorter life than previously envisaged, so you can afford the paint job. 

Extra side mirrors are a must for any grey nomad

Category: Features
Written: Sun 01 Apr 2018
Printed: April, 2018
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