It helps to know your terminology. All three campers this month are Volkswagen-based. They are not, however, ‘Volkswagen campervans’; a phrase that suggests they were made by VW itself and that causes so much confusion – especially among newcomers.
This is a straightforward enough process, though. The specialist campervan makers take a base vehicle, such as Volkswagen’s Transporter, and turn it into a camper.
There are different levels of converter, too. Two of this month’s three makers are among a small selection that have VW recognition – meaning that Volkswagen here in the UK has inspected and approved of their conversion work.
But that doesn’t prevent any other business from purchasing a pre-owned Transporter van and turning it into a camper. Indeed, that’s what hundreds of smaller operations around the country do – and the quality of their work is just as varied – as typified by the third vehicle this month.
All three are indicative of a huge range of choice, and that’s without even venturing beyond VW’s Transporter base.
Why the Volkswagen Transporter? Quite simply, it’s been the torchbearer for campervans for some 60 years now. Other base vehicles have come along, but none has come anywhere near it for popularity.
With luck, our preamble has set the tone for this month’s Used ’Van Challenge and sparked your interest in these conversions. And I’ll wager the three models here will attract three different types of buyer.
The small print
- Vehicles are reported on as seen. This is usually before any base vehicle and habitation servicing, including any rectification work, has been carried out before they go to their next owners.
- Dimension and payload figures refer to official measurements before the addition of any extras, unless otherwise stated.
- If you like the look of any vehicle featured here, do call ahead before making any visit. Stock shifts fast!
2014 (14) HILLSIDE BIRCHOVER ACTION
- Price now £32,995
- Price new £36,000 (est)
- Base VW TransporterT5 Highline
- Engine 2-litre turbodiesel, 102bhp
- First registered March 2014
- Mileage 55,600
- Berths/travel seats 4/5
- L/w/h 4.89/1.91/2.00m
- Extras Awning, bike rack, roof bars, Eberspächer heater, upper-level shelving
- Mtplm 2800kg
- Payload 600kg (est)
- Plus points Quality conversion fittings and work, five travel seats
- Minus points Wider seat/bed means less furniture/storage space
At five years old and looking for its third owner, this is a good, solid used buy from a company that’s really come to the fore of the campervan sector in the past decade.
Proven – and clearly upmarket – fittings such as the SCA roof and RIB rear seat hold this kind of conversion in good stead.
This is not your typical Birchover, however. It’s the now-defunct Action variant, featuring a slimmer side furniture unit that allows the fitting of a three-person rear seat which, in turn, means a wider double bed.
There’s a smaller sink than the norm, too, although the cooking facilities still allow a two-burner hob. The hinged section at the front end of the furniture unit opens to reveal the fridge and grill, as well as some handy shelving, another signature Hillside fitting.
The upper-level shelving is non-standard, probably added by a previous owner.
That SCA roof is worth checking out, too. German made, it’s heavier-duty than most. And it offers a bed that’s better than most.
As for the base vehicle, it’s the better-equipped Highline version of the T5 Transporter, coming armed with items such as cab air conditioning, alloys and rear parking sensors. Mileage? At £55,600, pretty typical for a campervan, I’d say.
2016 (66) DAYSTAR VENTURE
- Price now £33,995
- Price new N/A
- Base Volkswagen Transporter T6
- Engine 2.0-litre turbodiesel, 160bhp (see p87)
- First registered September 2016
- Mileage 38,933
- Berths/travel seats 4/4
- L/W/H 4.89/1.99/2.02m
- Extras N/A
- MTPLM 2800kg
- Payload 500kg (est)
- Plus points Looks the
- business, individualistic style
- Minus points Some buyers might consider this something of a step into the unknown
This is a bit of an unknown quantity to me. It comes from Daystar Campers of Matlock, Derbyshire.
It looks great, for sure. Items such as the paintwork, body kit, front grille enhancements and those 20in alloy wheels are all show-stopping stuff.
The orange-coloured exterior detailing continues inside, too, where there’s a standard side-furniture format with the usual two-ring gas hob and sink combination, plus Dometic three-way fridge and a rail attachment for the table.
Seating looks very nicely trimmed, but note those aren’t standard Volkswagen seats at the front. Also, the short backrest of the rear seat suggests it’s more suited to small children than full-size adults.
What’s more, the flooring seems to be of the rather slippery, domestic-style vinyl kind. But neat touches include overhead lockers.
The elevating section is of unknown provenance, but Daystar says on its website it makes its own roofs.
This vehicle started life as a rear-barn-doors panel van with (non-VW) side windows. It’s been chipped to 160bhp and has retained its original fuel-efficient BlueMotion Technology. Among its more desirable features are cab air-con and reversing sensors.
2001 (Y) AUTO-SLEEPER TOPAZ
- Price now £21,995
- Price new £32,293
- Base Volkswagen Transporter T5
- Engine 2.5-litre TD, 102bhp
- First registered September 2001
- Mileage 62,953
- Berths/travel seats 2/3
- L/W/H 5.20/1.94/2.56m
- Extras Twin-lens reversing camera, running boards, reversing sensors, solar panel, awning
- MTPLM 3500kg
- Payload 1157kg
- Plus points Superior quality conversion work, brand pedigree
- Minus points Faded upholstery, interior a bit dated in places
These days, you’ll struggle to find an automatic Topaz, like this one, from this, the era of the T4 Transporter.
This dates back to a time when Auto-Sleepers could lay claim to being the UK’s leading exponent of campers based on the VW.
Using the long-wheelbase Transporter gave the few extra inches needed to include an end washroom, complete with hand-held shower, bench toilet and drop-down basin.
It was never going to be the roomiest, but all of the facilities are provided. It’s a high-top, too, with all of the extra headroom and storage space that brings.
The rest of the floorplan isn’t conventional ’camper, either. There’s a galley kitchen – cooker with two-ring hob and grill on the nearside, fridge and sink with separate drainer offside – and a forward lounge that comprises a nearside single forward-facing seat and an inward-facing settee. The bedding can be either two singles or a double.
Lined curtains, fixed floor carpeting and wood-framed furniture are all part of this near-20-year-old package.
There’s a solid feel to it all, though. Just don’t expect luxuries such as cab air-con or electric windows in a VW of this age. Do expect quality – in both the base vehicle and the conversion.
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Why the Volkswagen Transporter? Quite simply, it’s been the torchbearer for campervans for some 60 years now.