Mike Le CaplainSee other Blog articles filed in ‘Motorhomes’ written by Mike Le Caplain
As I write, we’re in the no-man’s land of motorhome production that occurs every year – particularly when the industry is doing well. The manufacturers have pretty much forgotten their 2015 line-ups; most closed their order books early in the year. Instead, most have been concentrating on their 2016 portfolios for the better part of six months, but none has shown its hand.
As always, there are plenty of rumours, Chinese whispers and nudge-nudge-wink-wink hints as to what is beyond the horizon in mainland Europe and here. Until recently, we’d not yet seen any in the metal.
Then, within days of each other, two of the UK’s most successful independent converters got in touch to let us know about new models that they’re about to launch. Each points to an emerging trend in the motorhome world – good news for buyers.
First up is Wellhouse Leisure. Famous for its Mazda Bongo/Ford Freda conversions, Wellhouse has since carved out a niche converting commercial base vehicles from the new Ford Transit (the Terrier, for example) to pre-owned Toyota Alphards.
Interestingly, Wellhouse’s latest is based on the new, long-wheelbase Mercedes-Benz Vito. It’s called the Moselle, and is the latest in a growing line of converters looking to tap into the genuine multipurpose vehicle market.
The standard specification list reads like that of a Mercedes-Benz car. The base vehicle comes fitted with a Euro 6-compliant 136bhp BlueTec engine allied to a six-speed manual gearbox; a seven-speed auto will be available as an option. Driver aids include hill-start assist, electronic skid prevention, ‘Speedtronic’ cruise control and a speed limiter.
Also on tap are a tyre-pressure monitoring system and the new crosswind-alert system I sampled at the factory. Then factor in the reversing camera, the 14.7cm stereo display (which incorporates Bluetooth phone connectivity and USB/aux-in sockets), and you’re left with one seriously luxurious base vehicle.
We’ve yet to see photos of the actual conversion, but Wellhouse is promising an SCA elevating roof with optional roof bed, a fully crash-tested three-seater rock ’n’ roll bed, a side kitchen comprising a Dometic fridge, SMEV hob and sink (and an optional grill) and Eberspächer heating. Expect LED lighting and a 95W solar panel, too.
Impressively, the new Moselle ducks beneath the 2m height mark with the roof down, and will come priced at a competitive £48,500 on the road. That’s slightly less than a new Horizon MCV, which kicks off at £49,995.
The other converter to break its silence is County Durham-based Devon. It has added the new Mayflower model to add to its burgeoning ranks. Devon produces ’vans built on the Renault Trafic and Master, Volkswagen T5 and Mercedes Sprinter. However, in a move away from its core Renault and Fiat base vehicles, the company has chosen the long-wheelbase Ford Transit for its new jumbo-sized rear-wheel-drive model.
This stretches the tape measure to a full 22ft in length and 9ft 5in in height, giving ample space for the large U-shaped rear lounge, central washroom and kitchen, and forward dinette.
Power comes from Ford’s 2.2-litre TDCi engine and six-speed manual gearbox. There’s no auto option yet, but spec levels are high, including cab air conditioning, twin airbags, alloy wheels, cruise control, parking distance sensors, a reversing camera, a heated windscreen and automatic headlights and wipers. Bed sizes are similarly generous, with the 6ft 3in rear singles particularly impressive; they can also be converted into a double bed. Prices are set to start from £49,995 ex-works.
Neither Devon nor Wellhouse is unique in offering these base vehicles, but they represent additions to a growing generation of motorhomes that don’t automatically revert to the default Fiat Ducato/Peugeot Boxer. Ford in particular is making strong inroads into the market, thanks to Danbury, Auto Campers, Murvi and other converters, while Mercedes has already found favour among camper converters such as Auto-Sleepers (with the Wave), quite apart from the aforementioned Horizon.
And to keep track of all the 2016 launch news as the covers are pulled off new motorhomes across the UK and Europe, keep checking our dedicated news story, which will be updated as the Practical Motorhome team reports from manufacturers' events.