Gentleman Jack

See other Advice articles filed in ‘Used motorhome buying guides’ written by Gentleman Jack
   
These hand-built ’vans are hugely desirable as used motorhomes, so while you may have to dig deep, you won't regret it – here's how to buy the best

IH Motor Campers, IH Leisure, IH Motorhomes… See the pattern?

Throughout various rebranding exercises over the decades, the initials ‘IH’ – derived from the name of the company’s founder and CEO, Ian Hartley – have remained.

We’ve long admired Ian’s design-and-build skills, ever since he used to convert Nissan Vanettes and similar for a hire fleet.

Since then, his company has won a host of awards, and has become a byword for a unique combination of ‘contemporary’ and ‘traditional’ style signatures.

It also represents thoughtful designs undertaken by a highly skilled workforce team using quality materials.

We say ‘team’, because IH ’vans aren’t built on a production line but in bays, each with a dedicated group of crafts-people.

You get what you pay for!

So the products are obviously desirable, but what’s the downside?

There’s only one: the price.

Such a pukka product doesn’t come cheap – and you wouldn’t expect it to.

It may be well-known for its conversions on the Fiat Ducato, but you’ll also find some IH models on alternative base vehicles.

Ignoring low-volume models such as the camper van conversion on the Mercedes-Benz Vito, there have really only been two popular alternative bases, each with two possible conversions.

The low-down on the ’vans

One was the previous incarnation of the long-wheelbase Renault Master, and the other was the extra-long Mercedes-Benz Sprinter.

Each was available with either the Tio or Oregon layout, sold between 2004 and 2012.

If you’re looking at new models before going on the hunt for a pre-owned example, you need to know that the Oregon is now the FL, and the Tio is the RL.

Logical, really, because the Oregon has a forward lounge consisting of swivelling cab seats, plus a long, inward-facing settee, and a central kitchen ahead of a full-facility changing room at the rear.

The Tio, meanwhile, has a rear lounge, either as two inward-facing settees with a TV cabinet/chest between, or as a huge U-shaped seating area.

It also has the kitchen and washroom amidships, and further seating in the cab.

IH developed the concept of replacing the rear doors with a moulded GRP one-piece panel, with access to a rear boot.

Others had tried before, but IH was first to fully integrate it and make it look as though it had left the base-vehicle factory like that.

The essentials

  • IH Motorhomes Tio and Oregon on Renault Master LWB and Mercedes-Benz Sprinter XL
  • Converted 2004–2012 in Knottingley, UK
  • Steel high-top panel van conversion with optional one-piece GRP rear moulding
  • Overall length: Renault Master – 6.2m/20’4”; Mercedes-Benz Sprinter – 6.94m/22’9”
      

What to look for

Like the sound of these ’vans? Here’s what to look for when checking out examples of these used motorhomes for sale.

Base vehicle

Both the Mercedes-Benz and the Renault are highly regarded as base vehicles, although neither is perfect.

The Sprinter has a relatively narrow track, so tends to roll more in corners than the Fiat, and the Renault has a near-horizontal steering wheel that gives it a ‘bus-like’ driving position. Neither aspect bothers us one iota, but you should be aware of these characteristics.

Also, look for a full service history, a current MoT, and check the body for signs of badly repaired accident damage.

Corrosion protection was good on both, but look for tin worm underneath and in the door footwells.

If buying privately, walk away from any example with the engine-management light on and the reversing lights not working: this can be indicative of throttle body/engine-management problems and/or automated gearbox malfunction.

Conversion

If it isn’t ‘as new’, it probably isn’t a bona fide IH, but an attempt at a copy.

Check the operation of bought-in components such as blinds and so on, and insist on evidence of a recent habitation service by qualified personnel.

Likes

  • The company philosophy
  • The unique interior vibe of these ’vans
  • That one-piece rear panel (often copied, rarely equalled)
  • Luxury motorcaravanning in a manoeuvrable size
      

Dislikes

  • Strong residuals mean they are beyond the reach of many
      

What to pay

You’ll need to think in terms of £25,000 for an ‘experienced’ Renault-based model sold privately.

At the time of writing, ES Hartley had a gorgeous, fully loaded 2011 Mercedes Tio, with 14,000 miles and an automatic transmission, at an asking price of £45,995.

Our pick? Both layouts have been built on each base vehicle, but most pre-owned non-Fiat Oregons are on the Master, and most non-Fiat Tio models are on the Mercedes.

Those who need single beds will want the Tio. A Master-based Tio with a Quickshift automatic gearbox would be hard to resist.

Or you could try the Lunar Landstar if you like the look of the Mercedes-Benz Sprinter.

If the Renault Traffic appeals, there are various options from Devon Conversions.

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