Kate TaylorSee other Advice articles filed in ‘Used motorhome buying guides’ written by Kate Taylor
Digital Content Manager
The six-berth Swift Kon-Tiki 640 offers a great layout for families with its U-shaped rear lounge and four-seat forward dinette. There are three double beds but, when the kids retire for the night, you don’t have to. That’s because there are plenty of seats for a sundowner or two.
The Kon-Tiki’s forward kitchen had the best equipment of any comparable motorhome at the time. It didn’t have much worktop but you can use the dining table for preparing meals – it’s behind you! The washroom has a loo, basin, shower and storage cupboards. The beige colour used in the early comfort stations were gloomy but, by 1991, Swift had switched to brighter white finishes.
The Talbot Express base vehicle was introduced in the early 1980s and older models are showing their age. The 2.0-litre petrol and 2.5-litre diesel versions bumble along well enough but are asthmatic on motorway inclines. The 2.5TD models have 25 per cent more power but the Garrett blower suffered from turbo lag. We’d be more bothered about getting power-assisted steering than any particular engine. They were all rock-solid units but they look pedestrian by today’s standards.
The cruising speed for the 2.0P and 2.5D is 55mph, while for the 2.5TD it’s 65mph.
Essentials • Swift Kon-Tiki 640 on Talbot Express on AL-KO chassis made in Britain between 1987 and 1994. • Overcab coachbuilt under 7m (23’) long
Tips to help you buy better
Look for oil leaks underneath. Less than wonderful gearchange should be passable if adjusted correctly. If gears crunch on downward changes, the synchro is weak or the clutch is lazy.
Inspect the wipers – the linkage pivots tend to fail. Most importantly, check for rust on the forward bulkhead (under bonnet, beneath the windscreen), the windscreen pillars and cab steps.
They didn’t earn the soubriquet ‘Leaky Kon-Tiki’ for nothing. In truth they were no worse for water ingress than most of their contemporaries. Check for damp and do so again. Be wary if it is stored undercover. Slight colour difference between cab/sides/mouldings is acceptable because they were of different materials that discoloured at different rates.
■ They sold in their thousands so plenty of cared-for examples are about.
■ AL-KO chassis uses independent suspension for better road-holding.
■ These luxury flagships cost big bucks when new, so they have usually had caring owners.
■ This British icon is still in demand. It shouldn’t be a problem to resell when you wish to update.
■ Power-assisted steering was a cost option so few have it (but you can retrofit it). If it has 16” wheels but not turbodiesel you’ll need Popeye’s muscles to park it.
■ Some Talbot Express spares such as headlights can be difficult to find.
Post-1991 face-lifted TD Vogue models with PAS. All the goodies and an easier drive. Condition is everything!
What to pay
‘Fixer-uppers’ available privately from £3000. Among ‘turnkey minters’ advertised now: 1988 2.0P, costing £6995. 1990 2.5D, 51,000 miles, £10,000. 1993 2.5TD PAS Vogue fully loaded, with chassis upgrade and more, 32,000 miles, one owner, £16,995
Or you could try…
Auto-Trail Scout or Elddis Autostratus.