Daniel Mavin’s long-held passion for off-road vehicles seems to have universal appeal. His enthusiasm led him to create Unidan Engineering, a Gold Coast–based niche business specialising in the restoration and modification of heavy-duty off-roaders, specifically the mighty Mercedes-Benz Unimog. Paul Matthei reports.
From childhood, Daniel Mavin has fostered a fascination for all things off-road and 4WD.
“Since I could drive I’ve had lots of 4WDs, everything from Jeep to Hilux, Patrol and Navara, and modifying them for improved performance was always my thing,” says Daniel. “My wife Rosina and I started a travelling journey in 1999. We took off for a couple of years in a Nissan Patrol and did a lap around Australia. On the way we built a camper trailer in Melbourne and then headed over to Perth where our first child was born.
“We stopped in Perth for a while, sold the Patrol and camper trailer and bought a Mitsubishi Canter 4WD, which we converted to a mobile home and then did the Top End before returning to the Gold Coast.”
Coming back to a fixed address after more than two years of being footloose and fancy free wasn’t the easiest thing, but the Mavins took on a real-estate business and before too long children numbers two and three had arrived, to complete the family. However, bubbling away in the background, Daniel’s dream to be a master of 4WD conversions continued to gain momentum.
“We needed to accommodate the kids so we converted another Canter, this time a dual-cab, into a motor home and played around with that for a few years before buying our first Unimog in 2007,” says Daniel. “We restored it as a hobby over the next few years and then decided to buy a second unit and converted that one into a dual-cab, again so the kids didn’t have to ride in the camper. However, before it was completed a mate of mine put some photos up on the web and a guy in the US saw them and reckoned he needed it more than we did, so we finished it off for him.”
From this point, it seemed the die was cast, and it was inevitable that the hobby was destined to become a full-blown business for the Mavins. And that is exactly what happened in 2012, when Unidan Engineering commenced operations at Burleigh Heads.
Daniel’s previous work experience, including a fitting and turning apprenticeship and various stints with V8 Supercar racing teams, stood him in good stead for establishing Unidan.
“I’m a fitter and turner by trade and spent a lot of time building V8 Supercars and working in the racing industry, and obviously working on all the 4WDs I’ve owned over the years,” Dan explains. “I worked with Ontrack Engineering on the Gold Coast, building nine AU Falcons, and with Gibson Motorsport when we were in Melbourne. Then we drove across to Perth and I’d arranged to work for Cat Racing, but unfortunately they went belly up so I returned to my trade operating CNC-controlled lathes and mills over there.
“When we got back to the Goldie, my Dad wanted help with his real-estate company so we did that for about six months before we bought it from him so he could go travelling. If it weren’t for the real estate company, we wouldn’t have got into Unimogs because that funded a lot of the start-up expenses.”