Founded and run by David and Moira Latham, Bilbo’s has been producing quality VW campervans since 1977. VW’s T4 was the first front-engine/front-wheel-drive Transporter and the heavily revised T5 model was launched in 2003. The following year, Bilbo’s launched the Lezan: a VW factory-fitted, high-top campervan which included full-height side and rear doors.
Bilbo’s Lezan features
The campervan layout consists of a forward lounge with two swivelling captain’s cab seats. These sit ahead of two crash-tested, fully approved face-forward rear seats.
These could be turned into two (flat and comfortable) longitudinal single beds in a jiffy, and maintained a clear central aisle for easy access.
A double bed was also possible, and a child’s foldaway berth was available in the high-top, as a cost option.
Behind the nearside rear seat is the kitchen and at the far rear, a wardrobe. Across the aisle and behind the offside rear seat is the fridge, then the toilet and handbasin. The latter two are made private by deployment of a full-height concertina door as a room divider.
Bilbo’s was the first British VW converter to abandon furniture made from hand-finished plywood and use lightweight laminated board, precisely cut using computer-aided design and manufacture. Thus, their furniture has always been contemporary and, combined with automotive soft furnishing fabrics, ensured the interior vibe of a modern leisure vehicle.
The equipment included mains hook-up, heavy-duty leisure battery, compressor fridge, grill/warming oven, plus fresh- and waste-water tanks. Blown-air space and water heating have always been standard, with the change from LPG to diesel-fired heating made for the 2010 model year.
The driving experience in VW’s Transporter T4 represented warp factor improvement over the rear-engine/rear-wheel-drive T3 model that it replaced. The T5 addressed the few shortcomings of the T4, but continued with the engaging drive.
All engines were turbodiesel and were 102bhp/130bhp/140bhp as standard, or a 174bhp/180bhp upgrade was available as an extra-cost option, as was VW’s (vastly improved) automatic gearbox.
The main advantages of choosing a VW conversion specialist such as Bilbo’s are their depth of knowledge of the base vehicle and the fact that, if it’s on the VW options list, you can have it, including any available exterior colour.
Customers who go for one of Bilbo’s SWB campervan conversions can choose between a tin-top, two types of elevating-roof or their own high-top. No such luck with the Lezan, which has only been available with Vee Dub’s own high-top.
What to look out for
VWs are definitely reliable, but perhaps not 100% so, as the advertising hype might suggest. The ones with the biggest potential for expensive repairs are the most powerful.
The problem with them has been with the turbocharger’s (larger) intercooler, which has been reported by some owners as allowing aluminium particles to contaminate the oil, requiring a costly engine rebuild.
Look out for tell-tale oil on the outside and bottom of the engine, and be suspicious of any recently steam-cleaned example.
In addition, check for a full service history and a receipt for a recent replacement of engine drive belts and ancillaries – or budget for commissioning the work asap!
These vehicles were very well screwed together using proven fixtures and fittings; thus be wary of any that look ‘worn’. A recent habitation service is a must. Fit a solar panel for off-grid camping, because the fridge is electrical operation only. As with any motorcaravan purchase, try converting the seats to beds and vice-versa.
Finally, although PVCs are less prone to water ingress than coachbuilts, you should undertake (or ask for evidence of) a thorough damp test, particularly if kit such as a wind-out awning has been fitted after the vehicle left Bilbo’s.
You can find out more about Bilbo’s in our guide to the best campervan converters.
There’s only one layout, which remains virtually unchanged from the Lezan’s inception to current models. (If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it!) We would go for a 140bhp Tiptronic.
What to pay
Pre-pandemic, some were available privately from £23,000 and at dealers from £26,000. Currently, they are rarely seen for less than £30,000. Yorkshire Motorhome Sales has a 2006 auto at £29,995 (116,000 miles). Campers4sale has just sold a very low-mileage 2009 example for £33,995. Pukka VWs never hang about for long, so be quick off the mark when going to view.
Or you could try…
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