Gentleman Jack

See other Advice articles filed in ‘Used motorhome buying guides’ written by Gentleman Jack
   
Used motorhomes can mean great value for money and so it is with this great British brand – our expert checks out the 1997-2002 Auto-Sleeper Medallion

Auto-Sleepers is the UK’s oldest volume motorhome manufacturer. Its longevity hasn’t just been a matter of luck.

The Auto-Sleepers name has endured because the company has produced motorhomes that people actually want to buy – both new and pre-owned – for decades.

The range uses tried-and-tested layouts, traditional construction methods and quality materials: reliable rather than cutting-edge. There’s nothing wrong in that, and it probably explains the marque’s high level of brand loyalty.

Medallion was the flagship ‘monocoque’ model, launching in autumn 1996. Monocoque refers to the way the GRP body was moulded, providing a strong, leak-resistant and good-looking ’van.

A close look at the coachwork reveals just how fluid and integrated it is – there’s not a sharp corner or flat panel on it. All of the interior furniture was built by joiners.

You immediately step into the kitchen area, with the rear offside corner washroom opposite. The forward lounge is a single Pullman dinette with a long, inward-facing sofa, all ahead of a central wardrobe. The full-width overcab cupboard opens up into a generous single or a slim double bed.

There was only one layout, but a choice of two base vehicles: the Volkswagen LT or the Mercedes-Benz Sprinter. They had different badges, but were quite closely related.

The Merc had an agricultural 2.3-litre 79bhp naturally-aspirated diesel as an entry-power unit, with a 2.9-litre five-cylinder 122bhp turbodiesel as an optional extra.

VW kicked off with a silky-smooth five-cylinder 2.5-litre 102/109bhp turbodiesel – a 2.8-litre four-cylinder 122bhp upgrade was available.

An automated gearbox was available on the Mercedes. Called Sprintshift, opinion on it back then (and since) has been divided. Don’t buy a model so equipped without a long test drive to make sure that you’re happy with it. Our Owner Satisfaction Survey has shown it to be very reliable, so no worries there.

The Auto-Sleeper Medallion never achieved the sales figures reached by cheaper Auto-Sleeper Boxer-based Executive and Talisman monocoques, and production ceased in the mid-1990s.

All images we're using here are from my own archive and are of a 1998 VW-based example I used to own. It was a very classy carriage – I regret selling it.

The essentials

  • Auto-Sleeper Medallion on long-wheelbase VW LT or Mercedes-Benz Sprinter chassis cab
  • Built from 1996 until 2002 in Broadway, UK
  • Luton overcab GRP monocoque coachbuilt
  • Overall length 6.1m (20’5”)

What to look for

If you're looking at used motorhomes for sale and fancy a 1997-2002 Auto-Sleeper Medallion, here's what to check for before buying.

Base vehicle

It is essential that VW LTs are filled with the correct coolant. If it ain’t pink, walk away.

Early LTs and Sprinters had very soft springing; this, coupled with a relatively narrow track, resulted in excessive body roll on corners. Budget for fitting Air-ride spring assistors. Other than that, they are fine.

Conversion

As close to perfect as is possible. Worn and stained hardwood edges to locker and cupboard doors can be easily revived with a rub-down and a coat of quality varnish. ‘Doll’s house’-style taps in early washrooms are di…fficult to use by those su†ffering from arthritis in their hands.

Auto-Sleepers operates an industry-leading direct-to-the-customer spares service, and the company also has its own dedicated workshop.

Likes

  • Gorgeously fluid coachwork
  • GRP monocoque construction
  • Traditional Auto-Sleeper cabinetwork
  • Rear-wheel drive
       

Dislikes

  • Excessive roll on corners
  • Some mechanical spares are expensive
      

What to pay

Examples for sale privately are occasionally available from £16,000.

At the time of writing, Motorlands (Preston) had a 1998€‚ example for sale with a sensible asking price of £16,995 and a recorded mileage of 59,000 miles.

Later models usually fetch more – some to the tune of a good £20,000.

Almost all were bought by empty-nesters so they should have led a cossetted life. Avoid any with the naturally-aspirated Mercedes-Benz engine and – as always – look for a full service history, both mechanical and residential. Buy based on condition, not age or the make of the base vehicle.

Other options? Quite a few UK conversions were offered on the LT and Sprinter, but they were sluggish sellers because they carried a hefty price premium compared with similar Sevel-based offerings. The most popular were the Auto-Trail Cherokee, Auto-Trail Cheyenne and Compass Commodore.

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