Metalian may not be churning out the volumes of units that the larger manufacturers are doing ... yet. But keep a close eye on this company, because their product has all the credentials to make it one of the leaders in the field.
Heinz Modricky, owner of Metalian, is an interesting fellow. He’s forward-thinking and innovative, has strong opinions, and sees the off-road market as a dynamic entity, where challenges that arise are only catalysts for opportunity. Every day he scours the online off-road forums to glean as much information as possible to improve his brand, to find out what the people travelling through the bush, who’re covering hundreds of kilometres on rough gravel and setting up camp in the most remote spots, are looking for in their off-road trailers. This gives him a window into their minds – where their current off-road trailers are falling short, and where his trailers can be improved. What he’s come up with is a winner.
Categories I was intrigued by Heinz’s view of the off-road towable market in South Africa. He feels strongly that for buyers to be able to compare apples with apples when making a purchase decision on an off-road trailer or caravan, the models available need to be divided into subsegments: they can be segregated into roadsters, top-loaders, expedition trailers, crossover campercaravans, and off-road caravans. And there’s a heap of merit to his reasoning. You can’t, in fairness, pit any subclass of trailer against a comprehensively kitted expedition trailer that comes fully accessorised. Not only are the finishes and construction vastly different, but the price will also differ substantially.
That brings me to Heinz’s Metalian brand. The driving principle here is that you can buy a Metalian trailer that’s as basic or as advanced, in terms of features, accessories and stowage space, as you require. Why? Well, you might want to get into off-road trailering, but be on a really tight budget. Or if you’ve got a stack of your own gear already at home, from years of accumulating offroading and camping items, you’ll want to accessorise your new off-road trailer yourself. So why buy all those items new again? It’s all to do with making a purchase decision that suits your needs exactly, and being confident that what you’re buying has been well made, with lightweight strength and innovative thought as the driving principles. Although the Metalian models you see on the roads – and particularly the back roads – might look different, they’re all built on exactly the same platform. This means each model can be added to, if and when you want to improve your trailer, perhaps by adding shelving, a rail system, or even a nose cone (if your original unit was nose-cone-less). It’s all infinitely doable.
Dissected Let’s break down what went into our Metalian trailer test unit. This will give you a thorough idea of what would make up the skeleton of your Metalian, to which more ‘ligaments’, ‘muscles’, ‘tendons’ and ‘limbs’ can be added later. It comprised a monocoque design, as do all Metalian trailers. No, ‘monocoque’ isn’t a rude word – to quote Wikipedia, it’s a construction technique that supports structural load by using an object’s external skin, as opposed to using an internal frame or truss that is then covered with a non-load-bearing skin’. Yes, in this instance, Wikipedia is right! Essentially, the trailer’s body itself is fundamental to its strength.
The monocoque design incorporates pre-punched and preformed panels of 3CR12 stainless steel. That takes care of your corrosion concerns. When the trailer is being put together, these individual panels are configured, using triangulation and overlapping methods, so they all ultimately form one homogeneous structure. This results in a super-strong, yet lightweight, trailer. Interesting for me was Heinz’s comment that you actually want your trailer to flex and absorb the shocks and impact of rough off-road terrain, rather than be totally rigid. Rigid ultimately results in severe metal fatigue, and breakages, usually at the most inopportune times – like in the middle of the Kaokoland, with an angry matriarch desert elephant on your tail. Not ideal.
These panels are initially fixed together using 6 mm bolts through pre-punched 7 mm holes, which allows for an assembly accuracy of only 1 mm. Impressive stuff. Another feature of the monocoque design is the three body-wells located below the trailer’s floor level, each 230 mm deep – and amazingly, these don’t compromise the ground clearance in any way. The front well is specifically designed to house the standard spare wheel, should your budget not allow for a rear-mounted spare wheel bracket. Clever. The centre well accommodates two 75-litre fresh-water tanks – that’s a reassuring, and vital, 150 litres of water when you’re driving through the most parched portions of the Namib! The rearmost well, should you opt for a battery system, fits the deep-cycle batteries. With these heavy items out of the way and below floor level, the trailer’s centre of gravity is kept low, which is an asset when negotiating hairy off-road terrain, where roll-over angles really come into the equation. These below-floor stowage spaces effectively add around 25% more packing volume, smuggled into the same overall body size. The overall trailer height sits at 1535 mm.
The trailer layout makes use of 60:40 ratio logic; the body is divided into four primary areas. There are two side cupboards, each 40 cm deep, and the central rear opening and front opening, which are each 60 cm wide. Perhaps a unique viewpoint at Metalian is that traditional ammo boxes, commonly seen on other off-road rigs, are cumbersome and offer impractical dimensions and functioning. A trip to any old plastics supplier offers a wide selection of containers that follow the preferable, and internationally accepted, 60 cm x 40 cm format, with many smaller container sizes of the same proportions also available. Locally, Addis manufacture the ‘Clearly’ range of containers that fit perfectly into Metalian’s trailer dimensions. Not only can you see through these containers so you know what’s inside, but they’re of a manageable size, easily replaceable if they break, and affordable!
Heinz believes that women customers are often neglected when it comes to off-road trailer design. As he puts it, ‘They often have to deal with containers and contraptions that look like they belong in the garage. I want a woman to feel like she’s looking into a kitchen cupboard at home, and not her husband’s toolbox, when she opens the trailer’s door.’ With this in mind, a great deal of emphasis is placed on finishes too. All guillotined steel edges are purposely folded over, providing a much softer, and safer, finish. Multiple slots and holes, found throughout the trailer, offer hold-down and fixing points, allowing for maximum adjustability and usage of storage space.
To further enhance corrosion resistance, only stainless steel cap screws with nylocks are used, and all hinges are stainless steel with nylon sleeves and brass pins. All locking bars and escutcheons are 304-grade stainless steel. The body is seam-sealed and powder-coated, in either an exterior-grade brown – my personal favourite – or white, which is probably much more practical for sizzling summer African temperatures, when you want to keep the contents of your trailer as cool as possible by reflecting the heat of the sun, rather than absorbing it with a dark colour. With a white exterior you’ll improve your trailer fridge’s performance, because it’s not battling against sky-high ambient temperatures.
What other telling traits made me sit up and take note? Cunningly, the water tanks drain like kitchen sinks, into small cups from which the water is then pumped to the taps. This means that when the tanks get right down to almost empty, no water is left stranded in the tanks – a vital feature when every drop is needed! 150 mm-diameter top access holes have been added to the tanks, which allows you give them a thorough internal clean when necessary. The pump is a Sureflo diaphragm unit, which is supplied with a tap and override switch. All piping is food-grade quality, ensuring that there’s no contamination of the water as it passes through. The tanks are centred directly over the axles, meaning they won’t change the trailer’s balance as they become emptier or while they’re being filled. Something that I didn’t like was the flimsy-looking tap in the kitchen. It’s neat, but if you leave it aiming outwards and close the hatch door, it might sustain damage that will render it useless. Heinz assured me he would rectify this. Because the units are customisable, drawers, slide-out components and additional shelving (some are supplied with the basic trailer) can be added or adapted to suit customers’ needs. A Dometic flush-fitting gas stove was fitted to our test unit, right there on the stainless steel worktop, which is revealed when you open the side hatch.
The Metalian door hatch mechanisms are simple to operate, and you don’t need much strength to operate them. And even if they’re plastered with dust after 500 km on Botswana back roads, they’re still going to work as they should. From a practical perspective, the tow coupling is adjustable, which is a fantastic feature. Shock absorbers are standard, as is a 1.6-ton braked beam axle and leaf springs. A little bird told me an independent trailing arm axle will be introduced later this year, with enormous off-road benefits. To further augment your loading capacity, several nose cone options are available, some of which can swallow up an 80-litre fridge-freezer, a gas-electric geyser or a portable toilet unit. This is where the true value of customisation kicks in. What client wants, client gets.
So when making a decision to buy a Metalian trailer, you’re effectively starting out with one helluva capable ‘starter-box’, to which as few or as many extras as you like can be fitted, in the form of structural augmentation (shelving, slide-out drawers, brackets, etc) or accessories. Ultimately you’ll end up with a comprehensive off-roader, which eliminates the need to ‘upgrade’ to a completely different model as your needs, and/or budget, change. You can stick with one trailer and go from there. All Metalian parts are compatible; if you’re tired of your nose cone, or no longer have a need for it, you can sell it on to another Metalian owner, who can have it fitted quickly and easily to his unit. The versatility of this trailer is immense, all within the same basic trailer design.
This brand is sensitive to your hard-earned rand. Space is cleverly apportioned and utilised, and can pretty much opt for as much or as little as you need. And if you want more details, Heinz is highly active on the Metalian Facebook page, so don’t hesitate to get in touch with him there.