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Brian, grey nomad, character of the road
Brian’s Grand Villa is a ‘mansion on wheels’

Brian, 65, has imported his dream rig –  a mansion on the road – from the USA, and the extremely big adventures have begun.

What is your rig?
1989 Foretravel, Grand Villa motorhome. It’s 36’, 10 ton and has a 300 HP Caterpillar motor, and an Allison 4-speed auto gear box. My mansion on the road does 14 MPG. I also go camping on my motor bike with a two-man tent.

How did you find the coach?
Many years of internet study until I had the money to buy. I was sent lots of pics and made many phone calls to the USA to ensure I could import what I wanted. It is very second hand as I don’t have the money to buy anything new.

Any modifications needed?
It was all done in the USA before transporting to Oz. The steering was converted to right-hand drive, the electrics were changed to 240 Volt, the gas tank is unuseable here and I re­placed it with 6 X 12 LB bottles of Swap and Go Propane.

How does it go?
My coach is still being made ready to live in permanently. I have done 2000km in it just to find out what is right or wrong with it. Driving my coach is a pleasure all round. It has air bag suspension and it’s like rid­ing in a big luxury car … except for its size. It accelerates better than a car, and stops almost as quick. I took four years going around Australia in the early ‘70s and it’s been a lifelong ambition to go again.

… but is it ‘too’ big’?
Two coaches passing in the Ot­tways on the Great Ocean Road is squeezy! They can have the road! I normally need two goes when turning on roundabouts. They are built for cars, not buses … and in tourist areas, as well!

What’s the reaction of others?
Mouth open. Jaw on ground. Very big wide eyes. It’s a show stopper when I drive up. It certainly makes people notice. People on the street stop and watch it go by. It’s a novelty in Australia as there are only seven of them here.

Where do you camp?
Free camps only. Side of road, creekside, beach side, super­market car parks, Anywhere there is a view I like. I am a pensioner, so my money has to last me. Parking overnight is just pulling up on the side of the road anywhere it’s flat. Not that it makes any differ­ence to the coach … it self levels anyway, hydraulically and automatically. Pull the curtains around, and it just looks like a coach that’s parked, even with the lights on inside.

Why not travel full-time now?
I should have been gone in March this year but I’m waiting for my boat to be repaired. I have a US-made 2002 Gemini 105MC 34’ sailing catamaran. It was also bought sight unseen from Fiji and I sailed her back to Oz, single handed. I want to sail around Oz in my boat before I live permanently in my coach. I now need the money from selling the boat before I travel in the coach.

How’s the boat?
Well, I sailed about 3000 miles from Fiji to Bundaberg and then down to Broughton Island where I was thrown up on the beach and rocks in a violent storm, sinking it! It was written off by the insurance company. I bought it back damaged, and it’s currently being repaired. I will eventually be sailing it to the Kimberley and down to Perth and back to Melbourne, where I will sell it. Then it will be the coach’s turn! I am a fully-fledged grey nomad now.

Tips for wannabe nomads?
Carry spares for everything if possible. Other than that, just do it. You will never look back. It’s a lifestyle you can only dream about. I’m almost broke but I do own everything … and I have a smile on my face.


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