Those of you who are currently searching for a ‘new-to-you’ motorhome might be surprised by the limited range that’s available at some retail outlets.
The latter have been a victim of their own success, with many more people than usual deciding to take up the touring lifestyle during the pandemic.
To address this, we’ve researched the matter and handpicked a dozen doozies – specially selected pre-owned lovelies that are easier to find than most.
We kick off the series with Bessie’s E400 models. Bessacarr was formerly a rival of Swift, but throughout this era, they were a strong brand within the Swift Group. E400 models sold well during their 11-year production run, and it’s very easy to see why.
Originally available at an entry-level price, they were surprisingly well equipped, offering cracking value for money, style and practicality.
Over the years, the line-up morphed into a luxury upper-mid-range offer, with Escape and Edge models coming below them in the pecking order.
Launch of ‘our’ era of 400s coincided with that of the all-new FIat Ducato X/250 base vehicle. All are overcab coachbuilts, with the initial offer consisting of three high-line (Luton) models and two low-line variants.
Most compact is the 5.78m/18’10” two-berth E410, with forward lounge, rear kitchen and rear corner washroom. The E460 is longer, at 6.32m/20’9″, with a palatial U-shaped rear lounge.
High-lines at the same length included the E425, with a L-shaped rear lounge and family-friendly (five berths/four travel seats) layout, and E435, which had a forward double Pullman dinette and an inward-facing settee opposite, a rear kitchen and a rear corner washroom.
The range-topping E495 stretches the tape to 7.34m/24’1″ and boasts no less than six sleeping berths, six travel seats, a forward double Pullman dinette and a spacious rear lounge. To accommodate all this, a 4005kg chassis was specified, allowing for a generous payload but requiring Group C1 on driving licences.
The 2010 model year witnessed the first push upmarket, with improved furniture and finishes plus LED lighting inside, as well as a new moulded GRP end panel and roof-to-wall mappings. The E450, with a fixed low-level rear corner double bed, replaced the E425.
The first model with a full-size garage under a permanent high-level transverse bed – the E480 – completed the line-up, but was short lived, lasting little more than a year.
The next significant revisions came the year after. Renumbering resulted in the last digit now indicating the number of travel seats (including the driver). So 412 replaced 410, 434 replaced 435, 450 replaced 452, and 460 was superseded by 462/464.
All replacements were slightly longer than their outgoing counterparts, but broadly similar in layout and spec, although with one important upgrade. Equine count increased, with the 130bhp unit now standard and with the 150bhp unit linked to the Comfortmatic automated gearbox offered as an extra-cost option.
Lastly, the new E444 became an instant hit, no doubt due to its USP: a low-level European-style permanent corner bed just ahead of a palatial full-width washroom/changing room.
Final changes to the range took place for the 2016 model year. All-new rooflines, a switch to Aralie Sen wood finish, Duvalay Duvalite mattresses for permanent beds, and many more extras fitted as standard, confirmed its promotion to a more rarefied market sector. Sole newbie was the E494, the first model to feature a low-level island double bed at the rear.
WHAT TO LOOK OUT FOR
There were some recalls on early Ducato X/250 models, although all should have been sorted by now. They mostly concerned the transmission; in particular to address reports that some examples would judder when reversing up an incline.
Personally, I would replace the engine mounts on any X/250 models, they aren’t expensive and have been useful upgraded.
The X/290 facelifts variant (2015 model year onwards) enjoyed a launch free from teething troubles. Standard motor for early 3500kg variants was the 100bhp turbodiesel with five-speed manual gearbox. It is possible to boost the engine power via a mild remap, but be careful.
Look for FSH, a new MoT set and proof that the engine drive belts have been replaced at time not mileage intervals. Check age of tyres.
As with any coach built of this age, insist on a damp check. If buying privately, do this yourself, using a damp meter with a percentage read-out rather than an audible warning. Later models benefit from Swift’s Smart and Smart+ build, which substantially improved body integrity. Budget for a full overhaul of the gas appliances (not just a safety check) on X/250 models, and replace the smoke alarm and fire extinguisher. Note there is a mismatch of berths and travel seats in some models, so lounge families should check that all the kids can ‘belt up’!
Most compact for couples/solo: E410/412; for families: E435. Otherwise, most flexible layouts are in E495/496. That said, there isn’t a lemon in the series: all have easy-to-live-in layouts. It’s really a question of priorities and your driving licence entitlement.
WHAT TO PAY
Early examples available privately from £24,000 or via trade (with a warranty) from £26,000.
Online, practicalmotorhome/com/forsale is advertising a 2012 E435, 12,700 miles, for £33,999 (Chris Fisher) and a 2018 E444 at £46,995 (Somerset Motorhome Centre). A private seller on eBay has a 2008 E410 at an asking price of £25,000. Still too much? Look at the previous generation E400 series on the X/44 Ducato 1995-2006. Some mint examples available at under £20k!
OR YOU COULD TRY…
Swift Sundance; Ace Capri/Siena/Napoli/Milano/Roma/Firenze; Ace Airstream.
- Besscarr E400 series on Fiat Ducato X/250 and X/290 chassis-cab
- Built 2006 to 2017 by Swift Group, Cottingham, East Yorkshire
- Low-profile and Luton overcab coachbuilts
- Overall length: E410 5.75m/18’10” to E494/496 7.75m/25’5″
- Wide choice of affordable models
- Well specified for the price point
- Practical layouts
- Appealing soft furnishing fabrics
- Automatic transmission not available until 2015
- Mismatched number of travel seats/sleeping berths on some early models
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Over the years, the line-up morphed into a luxury upper-mid-range offer