The Auto-Trail Cree is a much sought-after motorhome. Diehard fans of VW campervans often up-size to one, while devotees of Auto-Trail’s traditional interiors at their most frilly think that they are in heaven.
The Cree’s open-plan layout was revolutionary when it was launched 24 years ago and it still cuts the mustard. The forward lounge pays homage to the hugely popular original Cherokee layout featuring a long seat, with an American RV-style (swivel base) tub armchair opposite. The freestanding dining table can be used there or taken outside for al fresco dining.
The well-equipped galley is located amidships and is split: on the nearside are the hob, grill, oven, fridge and sink. The offside has a large worktop, base-level storage and a double-door cocktail cabinet.
The full-width changing area and washroom at the rear was the first in a motorhome of this size. The shower and toilet are on the nearside, across from the well-proportioned wardrobe.
So when folk bang on about how well-designed full-width washrooms are in modern motorhomes, they should remember that Cree was the first almost a quarter of a century ago.
Although the Auto-Trail Cree has four sleeping berths (both doubles) it was designed as a luxury two-berth motorhome that offered couples the option to sleep in the roomy overcab and leave the lounge undisturbed. This is why there is one passenger seat.
Despite its modest size by today’s standards, Cree was in the upper echelons of the Auto-Trail range and would now be comparable to the Auto-Trail Frontier models of today. The long-wheelbase VW chassis-cab carried a hefty price premium over its Talbot Express rival. It was worth the extra money back then and, as a result, makes a cracking pre-owned purchase now.
Power assisted steering was standard (extra cost on Talbots and Mercedes-Benz vans) and independent suspension gave a magic carpet ride. All had the heaviest VW chassis upgrade and the standard Auto-Trail specification five-cylinder, naturally aspirated diesel engine sang sweetly.
All Cree motorhomes have the same layout and there are some used automatics about. In contrast, the Talbot was saddled with no-option ‘pudding stirrer’, long-travel manual gears.
Purchasers had a choice of colours for the side stripes. Blue was the most popular colour for the stripe, though green and maroon also sold well.
What to look out for
Well, starting with the Volkswagen T4 base vehicle, these VWs are a peach to drive but can be expensive to repair so look for a full service history.
If the coolant isn’t pink, walk away because they can suffer horrendous engine problems if non-approved antifreeze has been used.
Suspension was always soft and the ride by now will probably include a lot of body roll on corners if rear suspension assistors haven’t been fitted. Retrofit turbo chargers (usually by TB Turbo) are well-engineered and include an intercooler.
Auto-Trail is a well established manufacturer, but even so, as with any coachbuilt motorhome of this age, check carefully for water ingress into the coachbuilt body, especially around the roof-to-wall joints and the window frames. Budget for a major habitation service and safety check and fit an LPG/CO alarm, a smoke detector and a fire blanket.
Likes and dislikes
So, in a nutshell, what are the main things we like and dislike about the Auto-Trail Cree? We like the smooth 'magic-carpet' ride, the clever layout, opulent traditional interior and the high level of the standard specification.
We are less happy with the fact that Volkswagen's early T4 diesel automatics were unreliable, and that some mechanical spare parts can be expensive.
The Auto-Trail Cree was built on Volkswagen Transporter T4 long wheelbase (LWB) chassis-cab van. The Auto-Trail Cree is a coachbuilt motorhome with an overcab, built in Immingham, UK, from 1992-1996. The overall length of this Auto-Trail Cree is 6.13m (20ft 1.25in).
Which Auto-Trail Cree would we buy if we had a choice? We would recommend that you buy on condition and service history only, not on age.
So, how much should you pay for a used Auto-Trail Cree built from 1992 to 1996? Fixer-uppers are occasionally available from £5000. Two were recently sold on eBay: one with a holed piston in the engine and the other after a minor rear-end shunt.
Well-cared-for 1992 Auto-Trail Cree coachbuilts are available from £8000, but are always snapped up quickly. Recently Go European Ltd in Gailey, Staffordshire, had a 1994 (M reg) example for sale with only 73,000 miles recorded for £9995. That’s a very sharp price indeed.
Alternatively, when looking for used motorhomes for sale, consider two other coachbuilt motorhomes built on VW Transporter base vehicles: an Auto-Trail Cheyenne 584 – the VFM version with lower specification; and a Swift Royale 500, with a Pullman dinette instead of long inward-facing sofa.