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The Caravan Road and site test No 196
Fleetwood Sutherland 15
Comfortable fifteen footer

FOR MANY YEARS, the name Sutherland has been well known i n the mobile home market, but it was not until 1965 that the present range of Fleetwood tourers was introduced. In the com­ paratively short time since then, Sutherland tourers have made th eir mark and a substantial proportion of the factory's output is going for export, particularly to Scandinavia. That a caravan c an be exported to that design-conscious part of Europe implies that the standard of interior decoration, layout and workmanship are high. In most respects, th is is true of the Fleetwood 15.
The exterior styling is clean and uncluttered with no real distinguish ing features except perha ps the patterned glass opening top half of the door. If, however, the van is placed alongside some :r.er makes of van it is immediately apparent that the Fleetwood built much lower on the chassis th an is normal for this country. The chassis is low to match up to the influential German standard 5in. towing ball height, so that an even ride proved somewhat difficul t to achieve when towing Behind the editorial cars. Despite a three-inch-drop adaptor plate on the bracket, which creates as much leverage as is acceptable for safety, the rear of the van grounded w hen entering and leaving drivew ays. The best solution for towing w ith British cars and brackets would be to put a packing piece on the drawbar to raise the coupling to the required height.
Inside the van, immediate impre ssions are of warmth and c0 mfort. The walls are in a light coloured wood veneer a nd the furniture in a darker shade; the mattresses are also predominantly brown, and the curtains a patterned yellow. The in terior is saved from being too dark by the white pre-painted hardboard ceiling. The high gloss finish on the walls attracts condens ation and detracts from the general appearance of the interior.
The Fleetwood 15 is basically a four berth, but the front end singles convert into a Continental st yle triple bed if required. The ot her two sleepers are accom modated on a three-seater dinette double bed at the rear. The front en d table is of ample size for the wh ole family to have a meal tog ether. The table slots into a channel on the front wall and is supported by a single length of chromium plated tubing which rests in sockets in the floor and on the underside of the table. This leg arrangement would be perfectly satisfactory if the table were held firmly in the channel, but the amount of movement is such that the leg can easily be knocked out of place allowing the table to collapse.
At night, when the bed is made up, the table rests between the bedding lockers, and two loose plywood boards are used to fill the remaining gap between the bedding lockers. The mattresses give plenty of support, but were a little hard for some of the test team. Bedding storage space under the dinette is ample, but access to the lockers, although not cramped, could be better The hinged lids are set forward so that the mattresses can be stood on edge, but there appears to be no structural reason why they could not extend the full length of the lockers Ventilation in the lockers is to the outside through the floor and liable to do more harm than good as moisture from the road could easily find its way in.
The rear three-seater dinette is a complicated design and in order to find room for all the mattresses, each side of the dinette has a double thickness backrest which leaves rather a small area for sitting. There is a small table secured in the same way as the front end table.
A storage drawer under the single seat, the table and a large loose board complete the bed base. The photograph shows the in­genious retainer which prevents the base moving about at night. Bedding storage under this dinette comprises the large drawer and a front access locker under the rear seat.
Other storage space for personal items is in the wardrobe and two roof lockers. The wardrobe is built over the off side wheel arch. There is plenty of hanging space and a large shelf. The door does not extend to the floor, and there is a substantial well around the front of the wheel arch which is useful for shoes and similar items. The well is designed so that Continental owners can install a heater without having to alter the wardrobe door. Wheel-arches on both sides are completely boxed in except for a small gap at the front in the wardrobe, and there is a danger that small items might drop through into the gap round the wheel arch and be irretrievable.
Roof lockers extend across the full width of the front wall and above the double seat at the rear. Access is through top-hinged doors which are large enough but have no stays, so that one hand has to be used for holding the door open, leaving only one hand free. The bottoms of the lockers are made from very thin plywood, and heavy objects would be safer elsewhere. Sutherland are wise to reduce top weight as much as possible but they have been a bit over-enthusiastic here. There are small window shelves at front and rear. The toilet room is of ample size and fully carpeted. Light in the toilet room comes through an opaque glass window, but at night, there is no borrowed light from the interior. The window has an opening top section which is the only ventilation.
The kitchen comprises an Argyll two-burner hotplate and grill, sink and drainer and cup­board storage above and below. The hotplate was appreciably lower at one end than the other. This may have been due to it being dropped at some time before installation, but it is the kind of fault that should have been dis­ covered before the van was allowed to leave the factory. There is no water pump, but a hand or foot pump can be fitted as an optional extra. The hotplate and the sink unit have separate working tops, which are melamine faced and backed and which hinge back against the wall where they are retained by brass bolts, a simple and very effective arrangement.

  1. Interior looking forward and looking to the rear. The walls are finished in a wood-grain veneer. Note the large end roof lockers. Quilting on the mattresses prevents the cover­ ing material rucking up.
  2. Access to the bedding lockers is fair, but could be better in view of their ample size. Two bridge pieces and the table make up the base for the centre of the large triple bed
  3. Making up the rear double bed. the base board rests on a large drawer, and is held in place by a rail which slots down the front.
  4. The fitted carpet extends into the toilet room. Note the small waist-high shelf. There is no night-time illumination
  5. The kitchen ready for use. There is storage round the sink. The crockery locker has holders for cups and glasses, and a rail to retain plates
  6. The hotplate in the test van was badly fitted, and looked as if it had been damaged before installation. It was not mounted level in its recess
  7. Comparatively low floor and sill heights give a satis­ factory view through
  8. This type of windowed door, looks out of place on a modern van. A packing piece has to be used behind the lock to provide sufficient door thickness

Storage in the kitchen comprises two cupboards and two drawers below the hotplate and sink and a crockery cupboard above. There is also a reasonable amount of space round the sink to which access is gained by lowering the fall-front, designed to give access to the grill. The cupboards are a reasonable size but the shelves are too low for water carriers to be stood below them, and too flimsy to take any such weight. The fall-front was not usable as extra work surface as the stays allowed it to fall below the hori­zontal. The crockery locker above the cooker and sink is fitted with cup and plate racks. It has both top opening and bottom opening doors, and although the latter is stayed to prevent it falling past the horizontal the top opening one is unsupported. If the costing allows only one set of stays they should be on the top-hinged sections.
Although there is only one roof vent, it is so placed that most of the fumes and heat which occur when cooking are dispelled, whilst at the same time providing ade­ quate ventilation for the rest of the van. Plenty of good weather ventilation can be obtained by opening the glazed top of the door. The style of the door, with its fully-glazed casement top and scrolled handle did not impress the test team, but they would have liked it more if it had closed properly without catching on the frame.
The two Morco lights, although not positioned very well for lighting the kitchen, provide sufficient light. If some of the family want to stay up late, a partition curtain can be drawn across between the front dinette and the rest of the van, and there is still sufficient light from the one remaining light for most purposes.
Privacy at night is important, and the curtains are plenty wide enough to ensure this. On tow, it was annoying for the driver of the car to have his view through obstructed by loose curtains which had drawn themselves. Some type of retainer is needed, especi­ally since the curtains move easily on the Drape rail.
A track speed of 62mph was recorded, but this could easily have been higher with a more powerful car, less wind and a level van. Towing characteristics are hard to assess as the van was riding appreciably nose high and was hence more unstable, but other than the occasional waver caused by cross winds, there was no reason to doubt the stability of the outfit at even quite high speeds. Braking was excellent, the van wheels locking at the same time as the car wheels, and con­ tributed 25 per cent of the total deceleration of the outfit.
This van should be within the capabilities of a wide range of cars as it is undoubtedly light for its size, and within the capacity of a large number of pockets; at £385, it is the cheapest 15-footer in quantity production. Although the interior finish would not suit everybody, the design and work­ ability is good, and few makers could offer such comfort at such a competitive price.

Spec sheet
"Reproduced from an article in the March 1967 issue of The Caravan"
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