Like many successful ventures Michael and Wendy Hackett didn’t start out with a particular goal in mind but twenty years down the track they are at the helm of a thriving business in their hometown of Moruya on the NSW south coast.
In the early 90s they were living on the opposite side of the country enjoying an idyllic lifestyle on the WA coast with Wendy working as a teacher and Michael as a boat builder and PADI diving instructor, taking tourists out to Ningaloo Reef. They needed a trailer to transport all the equipment as well as their camping gear so Michael put his skills to use to make his fi trailer.
This led to him experimenting with various camper designs, including a front fold version, before settling on the now famous side-fold. By this time, with children on the way, the couple moved to back to NSW and before long, friends were asking him to make them a camper like his design.
They decided that building campers could turn into an ongoing business opportunity and, without the internet to help, Michael started researching products and materials that would be compatible with his designs. He even managed to teach himself the computer design programme AutoCad.
Combining his boat building skills and theories of suspension and, he drew up his first Ultimate using the principles of the Sugarglider independent suspension but with modified spring rates and trailing arm angles. With Wendy supporting the family as a teacher, they rented a factory in Batemans Bay to build two prototypes from fibreglass moulds and chassis jigs Michael made himself.
The first camper was put through thousands of miles of tortuous testing to the point of destroying it to see what sort of punishment it could take. (A lot by the sound of it). The second one went to the Rosehill Caravan and Camping Show where it was such a success, orders started flowing in. As an aside, Michael told me that the original camper is still on the road, having been through four owners who have clocked up over 200,000 km with it.