One of the most read articles on 4x4fever is our story of GIC/Black series campers and how legal action cast a spotlight on this brand.
There’s been an amazingly constructive and positive discussion happening on the post since we shared it and one of them Chris, offered to put together his own experience with his new Alpha. Here’s a review of the Black Series Alpha Camper from someone that actually owns one …
The pick up
I picked up the Alpha and all was set and ready. Rego stuff as easy as it is when dealing with the Roads guys. Passed inspection fast and easy. No prob.
Took it home and checked it out. So far so good.
- Issue 1. The hose from the water tank to the tap was not sealing at the connection. Sucking air. No good.
- Issue 2. The gas bottle holders were too big to hold the gas bottles. At tightest setting you could still lift the bottles straight up. Loose as…
Took it back to GIC. To fix the air leak from the tank to the tap they suggested a new hose or even a new tap. No clue as to how to fix the gas bottle thing.
Now before anyone poo poos GIC, a point or 2. The guys at the showroom are sales guys, not mechanics, so there’s not much point carrying on.
Yes it is brand new and this shouldn’t happen… but it did and I easily fixed it! I had to as we were leaving the next day for our shake down test camp.
Thanks to my wife’s suggestion, credit where it’s due, the air sucking hose was sealed up just using plumbing thread tape around the male end, about 4 or 5 turns, tight fit, clicked in. Fixed! Better than new (?). No sucking air!
The gas bottle holders were a bit different. The guys didn’t know why the bottles didn’t fit, so left me to ponder while they answered the phone. I took the bottle around to some of the other models and found that the higher end models had the proper rubber collars/spacers on the gas bottle holders and they fit snug as a bug. Got some rubber collars/spacers from the guys and all fixed. Seems there may be an attempt at cost cutting on the Commando/Sergeant/Alpha models.
Let me say that the GIC sales guys were great and I feel they may have been a bit set up and left to pick up the slack from elsewhere.
These two issues are know on social media. We found out later. They were very easily fixed. Makes me wonder though…
The first trip
Off we went. Melbourne to Pambula. Tows like it’s on rails. The Alpha has an extended draw bar and is rock solid! Towed behind a 2014 Nissan Patrol, 4cyl turbo diesel, 5 speed man.
We had already put up the tent once to weather it, found it reasonably OK. As a first go we did OK. At the camp site we had to put it up in failing light trying to beat the thunderstorm we had driven through an hour earlier. We didn’t quite beat it but putting it up the second time was way easier and a bit more fun. We got pummeled but laughed all the way through it. You know, if it’s going to rain at least it really bucketed. Tent held up really well. More on that later. Rain cleared. Starry cool night. Got the annex roof up quite quickly too. All pretty straight forward but we will get better over time.
Next day, in daylight, put up the full annex. Pretty easy and no issues. Pummeled with rain that day and into the night. This time got a few leaks in the main tent but we really copped it. The annex hadn’t been weathered at all so we expected the worst but were pleasantly surprised at how well we came through. The canvas is heavy and solid and a bit stiff as it’s new but really good quality, heavy stitching and good strong zips and fly screens.
The bed is fantastic! Full Queen-size! I’m 6’5″ and it’s the best camp sleep I’ve ever had! Could be a touch thicker, but I could lose some weight too I suppose.
So far so good.
Awkward bits (not bad just awkward) follow.
The locks are OK but seem to be a bit on the lite or soft(?) side. Again brand new and a bit stiff but they all worked fine.
The camp kitchen, or opening tailgate, has a very weak locking pin position that may be an issue if not heeded. I can think of a better/stronger spot that I might try for in the future.
We found that the work bench was great. If you wanted to put a gas cooker on it, the gas hose would have to be on the left hand side or the back of the stove. The right side is a bit too cramped up to the sink. We had a gas stove on a stand (that caught fire but that’s another story, nothing to do with the camper) with a gas lantern and it all worked to a tee! I’ll try and post some pictures.
The drain for the sink is a lite plastic extending hose easily forgotten when you close the kitchen up, so is easily damaged but also easily fixed. Might try and look at that too.
One annoying point was the annex has no allowance for the spare wheel on the tailgate when you open it out. You have to remove the spare wheel assembly or just put up with the annex being pushed out looking “off”. Some sort of zip assembly in the annex might be a good idea.
Inside the main tent you can access the 3 compartments under the bed…… BUT the opening to these drawers is too small to be able to open them out. The only way around this is to un-peg the 2 closest points at the floor and lift the wall and floor up to allow the draws to open. Caution is required as there is a very high chance of ripping the wall if not careful.
It seems to me that the tent is made for the Commando model and then fitted to the larger Sergeant and Alpha models as an after thought. While the tent does work these are the few little issues.
We bought an Alpha. We knew there were some issues (from other posts). We paid $8,890 (not $35K) which included $400 delivery charge from Sydney and got a lot of extras eg boat carrier, portable toilet, cover and a few more. We were not expecting a $35k camper. We love our camper and are clocking up some experiences with it. We are dealing with issues as they pop up and so far they are all very minor and easily dealt with. We will be dragging it up the guts of Oz and around to the north east up to FNQ. It will be punished. It will be used. So far I am confident it will do the hard yards… or miles… or K’s….whatever. I’m sure any issues that “pop up” can be easily addressed. After touring around Oz on a bike with a tent, this is luxury.
We are very happy. We bought the best we were prepared to pay for at the time.
..and from 4×4 Fever, Chris mate — thanks so much for sharing this!