Gentleman JackSee other Advice articles filed in ‘Used motorhome buying guides’ written by Gentleman Jack
The Swift Group is our largest UK-based volume manufacturer of motorhomes.
Without doubt, its most iconic model was – and still is – the Kon-Tiki. Since its introduction in the mid-1980s it has been a firm favourite with buyers.
Targeting the luxury end of the market, the Swift Kon-Tiki has always been based on the independently sprung low-line Al-Ko Kober chassis for the ultimate in roadholding.
The range is named after Norwegian explorer Thor Heyerdahl’s balsa-wood raft on which he crossed the Pacific Ocean in 1947, thus proving his theories about the travel capabilities of early civilisations.
Swift’s Kon-Tiki has earned its place in history, achieving the longest uninterrupted production run of any British coachbuilt motorhome.
For this buying guide, we are looking at 1995-2006 models, and only the Luton overcab coachbuilts.
When Sevel launched the X/44 generation of Fiat Ducato, the Kon-Tiki range consisted of two 640 models and one 650.
The 640s featured a front offside double Pullman dinette, opposite which was a linear kitchen. Both were ahead of a centrally located wardrobe and washroom with a rear lounge, which comprised parallel sofas with a chest of drawers between, or with ‘U’-shaped seating in lieu of the chest.
The 640L had (unsurprisingly) an ‘L’-shaped lounge towards the rear. Both could sleep six in three double beds.
The 650 also had the double Pullman dinette, but with an inward-facing sofa opposite. Amidships was a split kitchen and at the rear, a full-width washroom with a wardrobe, a shower cubicle, a sink and a toilet.
By 1999, all had adopted a lower profile – so there was room for just one occupant in the overcab bed – and the 640s (later renumbered 645) had grown to 7.25m (23’9”). As a result, two single beds were available as an option at the rear.
The 650 became the Kon-Tiki ‘S’ with a new ‘L’-shaped offside settee replacing the Pullman dinette.
Coinciding with Fiat’s cab facelift in late 2002, these models reverted to a high-line and again could accommodate two adults in the overcab bed.
Two final changes in the line-up saw some renumbering: 650 became 655 and 640 became 645.
Three new models were débuted, the shorter 615, the 635 with a transverse double-bed over the garage replacing the rear lounge, and what became their biggest seller, the 665 with a fixed rear corner double-bed with the washroom alongside.
- Swift Kon-Tiki Luton overcab coachbuilt range on Fiat Ducato Al-Ko Kober chassis-cab
- Built in Cottingham from 1995-2006
- Overall length: 7.48m/24’ 6.5” (2002 models)
What to look for
If you're looking for these used Swift ’vans in the motorhomes for sale pages, read our top tips to help you buy better.
Early 2.5-litre TDs had a habit of dropping fifth gear, which isn’t a difficult or expensive repair, because it can be completed with the gearbox in situ. Otherwise they are pretty reliable.
The ride should be firm and there should be no rear-end sag. If there is, replacement torsion bar springs are expensive. Think in terms of £4000 for both sides.
Unfortunately, early models gained the unflattering and undeserved nickname ‘Leaky-Tikis’. Water ingress was sometimes a problem, but no more so than on many rivals’ coachbuilts constructed in the same way.
Further, Swift was very good at putting things right, often collecting the faulty ’vans and returning them to its factory for a major free repair. So be aware of this, but don’t be put off by it.
- Classic ‘look’ that doesn’t date
- Great on the road
- Comfortable on site
- Practical layouts
- Limited payload on some 3400/3500kg models
- No automatic transmission option on right-hand drive ’vans
What to pay
This generation of Swift Kon-Tiki is available from £13,500 privately. Wellsbridge Motorhomes in Huntingdon had several motorhomes for sale, at the time of writing, including a 1995 example at £14,995, which looked very smart in the photographs on its website. Facelift models, from 2002 onwards, cost from £23,000 trade.
Our pick would be the 640L/645 on a 3850kg chassis.
Or you could try an Auto-Trail Scout or an Elddis Autostratus EB (both are similar to the 640), or an Auto-Trail Mohican (similar to the 650). All are based on SEVEL Al-Ko chassis with turbodiesel power.