If you're browsing used motorhomes for sale, there are plenty reasons to consider the 1994-2000 Auto-Sleeper Duetto, a high-top five-door panel-van conversion built in Willersey, Broadway.
This first-generation Duetto was popular because it was built on the long-wheelbase Ford Transit and crowned by Auto-Sleepers’ GRP high-top, with an overall length of 5.56m (18’3”).
Open the large sliding side door and one steps into the salon, with swivelled cab seats, an offside two-seater and a single rear travel seat. The nearside kitchen is to the rear of the sofa, opposite the wardrobe and a shower room, which has a foldaway basin and a cassette toilet.
The seats are converted into two longitudinal single beds accessed via the aisle. The all-over double bed is fiddly to assemble.
Traditional cabinet work was joined by good-quality fabrics. Unlike many rivals, Auto-Sleepers’ PVCs were equipped to the same level as its luxury coachbuilts. And it shows in this 'van – a full cooker, a three-way fridge and blown-air heating were fitted as standard.
A wheel in each corner and a slick gear change allow hurried progress when desired. While Ford’s motorhome-spec chassis includes more compliant suspension and cab seats with inflatable lumbar support. And if you're now buying one of these as a secondhand 'van, you'll no doubt be pleased to learn that spares are readily and cheaply available – even for 30-year-old models.
What to look out for
Fred-Flintstone mechanics and rear-wheel drive were included in a package aimed originally at heavy-footed tradesmen – who thought that servicing meant clearing the betting slips and takeaway coffee cups from the dashboard once every five years. The result was bomb-proof mechanicals that are incredibly reliable. The only real exception is the EGR valve that, in some cases, can be taken out, washed in paraffin and refitted.
On later models, the parts can be replaced for little money. The main problem with these workhorses is rust, which is persistent. Wheel arches, cab steps and the bottoms of the doors are particularly prone – be sure to check prior to purchase.
However, these are beautifully made using high-quality materials and fittings, so if it isn’t in apple-pie order, walk away. However, we'd advise budgeting for resealing around the windows because the sealant will have lost its elasticity by now.
Likes and dislikes
So, to summarise, what do we like – and dislike – most about this Auto-Sleeper Duetto?
- You get coachbuilt luxury in a panel-van sized motorhome
- The base vehicle is easy to maintain
- These 'vans are built up to a quality – not down to a price
- There are plenty about being sold for sensible money
- They are prone to rusting
- The tumble home sides can feel slightly claustrophobic
Ford’s 75bhp DI 2.5-litre naturally aspirated diesel engine is a great standard motor and in commercial variants frequently covered 200,000 miles without serious work or major replacements. The 2.0-litre DOHC petrol unit, the 80bhp naturally aspirated diesel and the 2.5-litre 100bhp TD are all rare.
Therefore we'd aim for a naturally aspirated 75bhp with as late a plate as you can afford. Facelifted models (smiley grille) had more effective soundproofing and slightly better corrosion protection.
What should you look to pay? ’Vans needing work cost from £5000. Mint low-mileage facelift models cost from £8995 private, or £10,995 trade.
Of course, make sure you thoroughly check any motorhome before parting with your cash. And we've guides to help give you the confidence to buy, especially at auction and at a show, both of which can be intimidating situations if you're not prepared.