Bristol-based Bailey was started by former Bristol Aeroplane craftsman Martin Bailey in 1948 and subsequently became a hugely popular producer of touring caravans.
In 2011 the firm (who you can find out more about in our best motorhome manufacturer guide) decided to produce a range of coachbuilt motorhomes, monikered the Approach SE. This was changed to Approach Autograph as it moved from its only range to become the flagship line-up, with Advance and Alliance joining as value-for-money and mid-market offerings.
Autographs are all wide-bodied (2.41m/7’ 11”) and built on the X290 incarnation of the SEVEL cab, in our case in Graphite Black and Peugeot Boxer guise. Al-Ko provides low-line fully galvanised chassis extensions and independent torsion rear suspension.
Autograph kicked off with a choice of six motorhome layouts, all featuring Bailey’s famous Alu-Tech construction, which had the additional benefit of offering the original purchaser a motorhome body-integrity warranty of up to 10 years.
Baby of the range was the 3500kg 540 (5.99m/19’ 8”). This features a half-dinette forward, centrally located kitchen and full-width rear washroom, shower and changing area.
Next up is the 6.64m/21’ 9” 625, with a U-shaped rear lounge.
The 740 models (7.45m/24’ 5”) were the only ones at 3500kg to provide a permanent double bed – in this case, a nearside low-level rear corner one, with the washroom and the walk-in shower alongside. Both will sleep four adults, but the 740 only has two travel seats, whereas the 745 adds another two by changing an inward-facing lounge settee into a half-dinette.
The family favourite six-berth/six travel seat 765 is the same length as the 740, but on the heavier 3850kg chassis. If you fancy a permanent low-level island double bed, the 7.62m/25’ 0” Autograph 730 fits the bill.
The 2017 season saw a change to a white cab and super-low-line Al-Ko chassis. The engine was upgraded, from Ford’s Puma Euro 5 unit to Pug’s designed and built in-house 2.0-litre Euro 6 160bhp unit.
The 540 and 625 were rested, and the 740 models grew to become 75-2 or 4, depending on numbers of travel seats.
Next up sizewise are the 7.99m/26’ 3” 794 models. The 794 has a rear island double bed, while the 794T satisfied fans of permanent single beds.
Approach Autograph became simply Autograph the following year, although the range remained unchanged. Then 2019 saw a decision to revert to a black cab and a refresh for the graphics.
The most significant changes arrived for 2020, with a very thorough revision of just about everything. This turned a good-but-traditional flagship range into a truly contemporary pacesetter.
A more streamlined overcab profile, a change to dove-grey sides with white skirts and roof cappings, together with a remodelled rear panel featuring LED light towers, plus diamond-cut 16” alloys, transformed the exterior.
The upgrades didn’t end there – new (scratch-resistant) slate-grey worktops and tabletops complemented the latest (more luxurious) soft furnishings and appealing dual-finish locker doors. ‘Bigger or better’ pretty much sums up the kit and white goods uplifts.
Consumer demand eventually led to the reinstatement of the compact U-shaped rear-lounge model, now longer and numbered 69-2.
Another ‘grower’ was the six-berth biggie (now 8.12m/26’ 8”), which was monikered the 81-6.
The rear U-shaped lounge in the 69-2 and 81-6 benefited from the extra body length, as it was now possible to sleep as two singles as well as in a regal-sized all-over double.
Bailey’s Autograph is a superbly well-equipped flagship range, for a mid-market price. What’s not to like?
What to look out for on a used Bailey Autograph
As always, check for a full service history, including evidence of engine drivebelt replacement at the correct time (not mileage) interval. And check the age of the tyres.
The Boxer is a brilliant base vehicle and Ford’s Puma engine is a reliable and spirited unit. Peugeot’s in-house Euro 6 engines are in a different league, though… one of these powers our own coachbuilt and we find it amazingly economical on fuel and equally at home pootling down country lanes or autobahn storming.
Something that is often overlooked – but should be part of the mechanical service – is greasing the Al-Ko chassis.
Autograph is built using Bailey’s own Alu-Tech system, which means that it has a well-engineered, structural, interlocking, extruded-aluminium framework, clad in heavy-duty GRP bonded sandwich panels, using no wooden battens.
This makes for a rigid and (usually) completely watertight body. However, the floor has a timber core, so do check it for high moisture levels.
Warranties are transferable to second owners, but the usual caveats apply: yearly habitation services, including a written damp report, must be carried out on time, and don’t forget to let Bailey know the change of ownership.
In common with many other ’van makers, Bailey uses 5p-coin-sized printed veneer self-adhesive screw covers, which can be rather prone to peeling off. Don’t fret, replacements are available from Prima Leisure.
There really isn’t a lemon among them, so your choice is going to depend on your priorities when you’re considering a used Bailey Autograph. We’ve picked out the 69-2 for solo/couples and the 81-6 as a particularly impressive family motorhome. Note that a Group C1 driving licence will be required for the 81-6.
What to pay for a used Bailey Autograph
Post-Covid, the market is softening and prices of pre-owned stock are returning to ‘normal’ levels. Autograph models were and are strong sellers when new, so there are plenty of used Bailey Autographs around. I found a couple of dozen in under half an hour. Private sales start with asking prices of £42,000-£44,000.
Kimberley Caravans had a low-mileage 2016 Autograph 625 for sale at a sharp £46,000. Equivalent brand-new today is £68,995. Those on a tighter budget are advised to look at earlier Approach SE models, occasionally available from just over £30,000, more commonly at between £32,000 and £35,000.
Or you could try…
Auto-Trail Frontier, Bessacarr 480/490 series, Elddis Encore, Swift Kon-Tiki single rear-axle models.
What we like
- Wide choice of layouts
- Brilliantly well-equipped at this price-point
- Alu-Tech construction
- The Boxer beat
What we don’t like
- Some single beds are short
- No automatic transmission option
- Bailey Autograph on Peugeot Boxer Al-Ko chassis-cab
- Built 2015–present at South Liberty Lane, Bristol, UK
- Low-profile overcab coachbuilt
- Overall length: Autograph 540, 5.99m (19’ 8”); Autograph 81-6, 8.12m (26’ 8”)
You can also take a look at our guide to the best used motorhomes for more pre-owned ‘van inspiration.
If you enjoyed reading this, take a look at these:
- Gentleman Jack takes a look at the Elddis Autoquest & Compass Avantgarde CV Ranges (2018-present)
- The Auto-Trail Scout (1995-2006) is a ‘van that has has the same layout since its inception
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