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HSV-inspired independent caravan suspension

Big change: Jayco says it will introduce its first caravan with independent suspension next January.

Former HSV chief engineer now weaving some chassis magic for Jayco Australia

General News logo4 Nov 2013

FORMER Holden Special Vehicles chief engineer Joel Stoddart is playing a key role in the transformation of the suspension systems being used by the Jayco Australia caravan company, the country’s biggest.

Jayco Australia founder Gerry Ryan could not be happier with his surprise hiring of last June, even though the move raised some eyebrows at the time.

“People were a bit critical, saying he doesn’t know the caravan industry,” Mr Ryan told GoAuto during a factory tour last month.

“I say no (he doesn’t), but if he’s managing he doesn’t need to. He needs to know how to get the best out of people. He’s a great fellow,” Mr Ryan said. Mr Stoddart was down at the Anglesea test track putting the new system through its paces on the day of the tour.

Mr Ryan said Jayco was planning to reveal its first caravan with independent suspension – designed by Mr Stoddart – next January. And that would be just the start.

It won’t be the first time Mr Ryan has decided to challenge the status quo or try something from left field.

 center imageLeft: Jayco Australia founder Gerry Ryan.

Jayco has long been a supporter of sports around Dandenong, where the company is based, particularly women’s basketball and cycling, but in 2012 Mr Ryan stepped up and helped form the Orica Green Edge professional road race cycling team, which won two stages of the Tour de France this year.

He was also the financial strength behind the development of the Walking With Dinosaurs arena production and the King Kong stage show now on in Melbourne.

Mr Ryan said the new Stoddart suspension would be very cost-effective, at least compared to other independent systems.

“We have halved the price of an independent suspension system. In fact, the US wants to buy the system,” Mr Ryan said.

The US buyer would be Jayco Incorporated, a company formed in 1968 and which offered assistance to Mr Ryan when he was getting Jayco Australia up-and-running in Australia in 1975.

The background to Mr Stoddart joining Jayco is a reflection of the way Mr Ryan looks for ideas and inspiration in unexpected places.

“Earlier this year our former manager of R&D (research and development) took off and is sailing around Sydney Harbour in his yacht, although he is still doing a bit of consulting for us,” Mr Ryan said.

“We spoke to HSV to come and look at putting a different spin on our motor homes.

“When I saw him I thought I recognised him.

“He said ‘Gerry, I rode for you in the Jayco (cycling) team back in 1993’.

“He loves camping and later he asked, would you have a job for me? I said you’re hired,” Mr Ryan said.

“He brings a different dimension.”

Mr Ryan said the independent suspension system would be used on both single-axle and double-axle caravans.

But that would not be the end of suspension development, he said.

“The next generation will be air suspension.”

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