These flagship (Frontier-class) models were originally built on the Bremen Mercedes-Benz. The marriage of a tag-axle AL-KO Kober chassis with the SEVEL cab opened up new possibilities, and in 1991 Auto-Trail became the first British manufacturer to build on this chassis.
[tl:gallery index=1 size=170×150]The Arapaho and Chieftain models transferred to the base in 1996, and the marriage has been so successful that it continues to this day and has remained a strong seller. The Chieftain features a permanent transverse bed at the rear (latterly available over a garage), a central galley and comfort station, and a luxurious lounge.
The Arapaho copies the three-room layout of the Scout. The extra length turns a good layout into a fantastic one. All of the rear space is home to the lounge, originally either L- or U-shaped, but now just U-shaped.
This can be used as a lounge, or left made up as two single beds or as one giant double. The Arapaho has a forward seating area in the shape of a double Pullman dinette. Four standard travel seats (six optional) make the Arapaho more family-friendly than the Chieftain, which is popular with couples.
• Auto-Trail Arapaho/Chieftain on AL-KO Kober tag-axle Fiat Ducato/Peugeot Boxer. Built in UK from 1996-2006 j Overcab/ low-line coachbuilt: 8.37m/27’ 5’’
Tips to help you buy better…
Pre-2002 models had a habit of losing fifth gear, a straightforward repair that doesn’t involve removing the gearbox. Failures after repair are extremely rare. The handbrake is a bit weak. Top handling for a ’van of this size and plenty of payload. Post-2002 models have a strengthened gearbox and revised cab: useful improvements worth aiming for.
Overall build quality was good. However, the carpet wasn’t removable, so check carefully for staining. Lift any ‘handily placed’ rugs. As with all coachbuilts, examine the insides of cupboards and lockers and the overcab area for signs of water ingress. A low mileage might not mean that it has been lightly used. Check cushions; if they’re tired or unsupportive, bargain accordingly.
■ Great road-holding and stability
■ Generous payload
■ Comprehensively equipped
■ Very strong residuals
■ No automatic transmission option on RHD chassis
■ It does have a London
bus-sized turning circle
From 2003 onwards with
SE accessory pack. Definitely has wow factor
What to pay
Buttons definitely won’t buy one of these. Examples over 15 years old still comfortably fetch over £20,000. Run-out models from 2005–06 fetch £34,000–£40,000
Or you could try…
A Hobby 750 series or the slightly shorter Auto-Trail Scout and Mohican.