Before describing the range in detail, a quick primer on classes of Hymer. This type of integral coachbuilt is known as an A-class in the UK, although the range is named Hymer B-Class by the manufacturer.
Unlike on low-profile and Luton overcab coachbuilts, with integrals, the base vehicle’s cab is not retained.The converter builds all of the body, from nose to tail. It is best described as looking similar to a small coach.
There are other Hymer B-Class models, not described here – only the big sellers are detailed in this ‘Dozen Doozies’ mini-series of easy-to-find pre-loved ‘vans. The B-Class Classic (cheaper, lower-spec versions) and B-Class Starline (on Mercedes Sprinter) are not included. Nearly all B-Class are on Fiat Ducato, but there are some (originally) for the French market built on Citroën Jumper (Relay in the UK).
Broadly speaking, B-Class models can be divided into three sub-groups, according to length.
The more compact 500 series is 6.06m (19’ 10.5″); the biggest seller back in the day was the B544, featuring a forward lounge, consisting of a long inward facing nearside settee, and a double Pullman dinette on the offside.The kitchen is along the rear wall, with a rear-corner washroom opposite the entrance door.
The B534 features a rear U-shaped lounge, and the 574, a European-style field low-level rear corner longitudinal double bed, with shower room alongside, plus a forward half-dinette.
Next up size-wise is the 6.86m (22’6″) 600 series The B644 features a transverse permanent double bed, while the B654 is a longer version of the B574. The extra length facilitates the inclusion of a bigger kitchen and a double Pullman dinette.
Finally, the biggies – the six-berth 7.26m (23’10”) B684 with rear bunks, plus six rear travel seats arranged as a forward double and single Pullman dinettes. The range-topping B694 (7.7m) is an extended version of the B644, but adds a sideboard/bar and a third captains’ chair. Only the longest B-Class makes use of Al-Ko’s tandem rear-axle chassis – offering genuine ‘six appeal’, the extra rear wheels boost payload, improve roadholding and enable shorter stopping distances.
The 2004 season’s models received a general facelift, including a slight increase in the 500 series’ overall length, smart new blue-grey sides, new cabinetwork, and soft furnishing fabrics, plus high-spec pocket-sprung mattresses on permanent beds.
Significantly, a new flagship, the B744, was unveiled. This replaced the 694’s rear corner bed with two permanent low-level easy-access longitudinal single beds.
Finally, to satisfy growing customer demand, a shorter (6.99m) single-axle version of the B774 was announced. Cabinetwork gained yet another new look for the 2005 model year.
Original motive power was courtesy of Fiat’s (Sofim) 2.5-litre turbodiesel motor, which in 1998 increased in capacity to 2.8 litres. A five-speed manual gearbox and front-wheel drive were standard. There was an (extra-cost) automatic transmission option, but it was only available on left-hand drive examples.
Hymers have always been sturdily constructed, but reached new heights with the featured vehicles, because they all were built using a new(ish) method of construction, called PUAL.
Put simply, this uses an immensely strong aluminium cage superstructure with bonded sandwich panels of polyurethane closed-cell insulation, put together in a way that avoided any thermal bridges and offered an industry-leading standard of insulation, equivalent to a 60cm-thick domestic brick wall, according to the company.
WHAT TO LOOK OUT FOR
There were few problems with any commonality. The Sofim engine is a reliable unit. The only matter of note was failure of the fifth gear on pre-2000 examples – there is usually little warning of imminent failure. However, it is a cheap and easy repair, which doesn’t require the gearbox to be removed.
Check for FSH and make sure that any drive belts have been replaced at the correct time interval. Budget for replacing all hydraulic fluids and check the date of manufacture on all of the tyres. Hymer’s lowerable motorcycle rack is very heavy and combined with a weighty bike, could overload the rear axle, so check for rear-end sag.
Hymers are very good, but they’re not perfect, so as with any coachbuilt of this age, check carefully for evidence of water ingress, and also that a full habitation service has been recently completed. On some early models, the windscreen wipers were not handed for right-hand drive examples, leaving an unswept blind spot. Fitting longer blades help to ameliorate this. Budget for a new smoke alarm and CO detector.
- 3500kg or less: B544 or B654
- Over 3500kg: B774 (Group C1 driving licence required)
WHAT TO PAY
Buttons won’t buy one, although windscreen prices on early models are now very approachable.
Cheapest I could find was a private sale on eBay classifieds, a 1995 B544 at £13,500.
AJM Leisure has a 1997 (R reg) LHD B654 with an asking price of £17,995.
For auction with no reserve on eBay is what appears to be an executor’s sale of a fully loaded, year-2000 B574. Just over 50,000 miles, one owner from new. The ‘buy it now’ price is £23,500; I reckon it will go for less. Equivalent brand new today and to the same spec would be over £80,000.
Note that UK-reg LHD models were in high demand among those spending the winter on the Iberian Peninsula pre-Covid, thus there was little price difference between LHD and RHD pre-owned examples.
OR YOU COULD TRY…
B-Class Classic or the previous generation B-Class 1986-1994. Pilote and Rapido also offer alternatives. Want a Hymer and these layouts, but not an integral? Try the Camp, Swing and Tramp, low-profile and Luton overcab coachbuilts.
- Hymer B-Class on Fiat Ducato and Fiat Ducato Al-Ko chassis-cowl.
- Built from 1995-2006 n Bad Waldsee, Germany.
- Integral coachbuilt (referred to as an A-class in the UK).
- Overall length: 6.06m (19′ 10.5″) to7.74m (25′ 4.75″)
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Hymers have always been sturdily constructed, but reached new heights with the featured vehicles