Gentleman Jack

See other Advice articles filed in ‘Used motorhome buying guides’ written by Gentleman Jack
   
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Let’s go myth busting.

Myth number 1: all Hymer integrals are the length of Hadrian’s Wall.

Myth number 2: you need at least £30,000 to buy one.

Both are oft repeated but are completely wrong.

Take the Hymer motorhomes we’re looking at here, the B500 series, built between 1986 and 1995.

They are compact, at 5.66m long (under 19 feet), and they can be bought for less than £10,000. And, rather confusingly, what everyone else calls an A-class (integral), Hymer calls a B-class.

Hymer started building integrals around 1974, although they didn’t arrive in the UK in any number until 1977.

After the demise of the Opel Blitz base vehicle (Bedford CF in the UK), Hymer turned to the first of the SEVEL collaborative builds – variously badged as Fiat, Citroën, Peugeot, Talbot (UK only) and Alfa Romeo.

The 500 series carried on as the 524 and Hymer introduced an important ‘all-new’ layout.

All have a single entrance door on the UK offside. Standard spec didn’t include a cab door – and if you wanted one, it would have to be on our nearside whether it was LHD or RHD.

The main advantage of an integral is that it dispenses with base vehicle cab bodywork, so the coachwork is full-width to its nose. This makes the interior feel far more spacious than in the equivalent Luton or low-profile overcab model.

It also enables a made-up large transverse double-bed to hinge down from the cab ceiling.

There were many different 500 series models but the 524 (previously 520 on Opel/Bedford) sold particularly well in the UK.

The 524 had a forward entrance vestibule with a kitchen adjacent and a wardrobe, plus a washroom directly opposite across the central aisle.

The rear featured a large triple-aspect ‘U’-shaped lounge that converted into a huge double-bed or two short-ish singles.

New for 1986 – and the best-selling layout of all time in Britain in this size of ’van – was the B544. It’s still popular 30 years later, which says it all really.

The 544’s entrance door is towards the rear. Step aboard and you’ll find the kitchen along the back wall and the washroom in the rear nearside corner.

Ahead of the washroom is the wardrobe and the forward lounge – which consists of an offside double Pullman dinette with a long, inward-facing settee opposite. And you get luxurious high-back captains’ chairs with twin armrests and swivelling bases in the cab.

The essentials

  • Hymer B500 Series on Fiat Ducato/Peugeot J9 and Citroën C25
  • Built in Bad Waldsee, Germany 1986-1995
  • ‘A’-class integral coachbuilt body on SWB chassis-cowl
  • Overall length: 5.66m
      

What to look for

If you are checking out one of these used motorhomes for sale, here’s what to look out for.

Mechanicals

Look for a full service history. It doesn’t really matter whether the engine is petrol or diesel, they were both pretty bomb-proof, if rather pedestrian by today’s standards.

The 2.5TD is highly desirable, but the deal maker will be power steering – rare back then. Check the ‘magic wand’ gearshift on RHD examples.

Inside and out

The youngest is going to be 23 years old, the eldest 31. Be extra vigilant, checking for water ingress, and examine the condition of the dimpled aluminium outer skin. Any white powder or sores indicate aluminium canker.

Budget for a full habitation service including a thorough overhaul of the gas appliances.

Keep money in reserve for a new 230V consumer unit, LPG, CO and smoke alarms, plus a fire blanket and extinguisher. The upholstery is unlikely to be flame retardant.

Likes

  • After all these years it’s still an aspirational purchase
  • Sub-6m overall length
  • High standard of insulation
  • Practical layouts
      

Dislikes

  • No automatic transmission is available
  • You may have to look at a lot of frogs before you find a prince
      

What to pay

Well, probably anything between £3500 and £15,000. The cheapest examples are likely to be stolen/recovered, although we found a 1989 B544, with just two owners from new and 65,000 miles on the clock for £4100 on eBay.

A later model at an independent dealer (a 1994 TD with PAS, new upholstery and a meaningful warranty) was up for £12,000.

Take a look at the Netherlands’ eBay, too. Many Dutch own them from new and only use them to drive down to Spain to spend the winter in, so they’re low-mileage.

Our pick would be the 520 for couples, or the 544 for couples or families. We’d be quite happy with a left-hooker. The engine isn’t important, but PAS is a big plus. Condition is more important than age.

Or you could try a Pilote Galaxy, or Hymer Luton overcabs, variously called ‘C’-class, Camp and Camp Swing.

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