The Fiat Ducato and its line-up of stablemates has been the most popular motorhome base vehicle for more years than its rivals will care to remember.
This must be the most significant example of collaboration between LCV manufacturers in recent RV history. They have been ubiquitous for so long, it is hard to remember their direct predecessors.
They were the Citroën H van, the Commer PB, which later morphed into the Dodge Spacevan, the Fiat 242, in collaboration with Citroën, and the Peugeot J7/J9. There have now been three generations of Fiat Ducato.
Autohomes Camelot was also available as the Citroën C25, Peugeot J5 (Talbot Express in the UK), and the Alfa Romeo AR6… and who wouldn’t want that badge on the bonnet of their motorhome?
All were offered with petrol, diesel or turbodiesel engines and in short- or long-wheelbase variants, such as the Murvi Morello S+ by Nomadic Wheels. Later, an ultra-short-wheelbase version, badged as the Talento, and a medium-wheelbase version were both launched as chassis-cabs.
All derivatives bound for the UK (so that excludes the Alfa) were manufactured at the SEVEL Sud plant in Atessa, Italy. SEVEL is an acronym for Società Europea Veicolo Leggen (European Light Vehicle Company).
Models were designated X280 up to 1989 and X290 from 1990-1993. The facelift included a revised grille and improved cab window design and exterior door mirrors.
The fascia was updated and the gearbox linkage received an (overdue) upgrade. The latter was only on UK RHD models, which arrived with a floor-mounted gear lever. LHDs had a (much slicker) steering column gearchange.
First-generation Ducato and chums pioneered using Al-Ko Kober’s independently spring galvanised chassis extensions in any number. This enabled much longer and heavier motorhomes to be built that had been possible with this class of LCV cab. Both single-rear-axles, such as the Swift Kon-Tiki, and twin-rear-axles, such as the Auto-Trail Seminole, were produced.
X2/30 and X2/44 saw a new design, which included a fascia-mounted gear lever, the first since the Renault 4 camionette. The gear lever’s location was roundly condemned as a gimmick by the competition, who then all went on to copy it, presumably because it left the cab floor walk-through uncluttered.
This generation ran from 1994 to 2006 and was available as the Citroën Jumper (Relay in the UK), Peugeot Boxer and Fiat Ducato.
Three lengths of panel van were available, and all bar the shortest were offered with a factory-fitted all-steel high-top, with full-height sliding side door and full-height hinged rear doors.
These features, along with the commendably straight sidewalls, made them the ‘go-to’ marques for panel van converters, such as this Adria Win, later the Twin.
The X/250 Auto-Trail V-Line and X/290 Auto-Sleeper Warwick XL began production in 2006 and are still being made today. The X/250 and X/290 are by far the most popular base vehicle for high-top and coachbuilt motorhomes.
Fiat is flat-out developing technology for its all-electric Ducatos. Although the recently launched E-Ducato was described as their ‘first-ever’ Zero Emission Ducato, they actually built a few as long ago as 1992.
Footnote: Below is an image of an early (1964) Commer Auto-Sleeper, reg ABL 293B, part of the collection at the National Motor Museum, Beaulieu. For those readers not as ancient as the author, the adjustable spot lamp high on the offside between the driver’s cab window and the windscreen was used for reading signposts at night!
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The location of the gear lever was roundly condemned as a gimmick by the competition, who then all went on to copy it, presumably because it left the vehicle's cab floor walk-through uncluttered