Mike Le Caplain

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Camper UK has, literally, risen from the ashes of the catastrophe that befell it last year – our Test Editor Mike Le Caplain was there for the re-opening

The 25th of January 2014 is one date that the owners and staff of Lincoln-based motorhome dealership, Camper UK, are unlikely to forget in a hurry. For reasons that remain unexplained even now, more than a year later, the company’s former premises on Station Road went up in flames on that fateful Saturday evening, destroying everything inside the main building, including new and used motorhomes.

The blaze was so severe that nine fire appliances, two hydraulic platforms and some 65 firefighters were called to the scene, with the operation only being scaled down at noon the following day. Luckily, most of the stock parked outdoors survived, but precious records were lost, along with the actual building itself.

Speaking as a frequent visitor to Station Road over the years in the pursuit of motorhome testing, I must admit this news came as a huge shock to me, and I’m sure I wasn’t alone in thinking that it might have marked the end of this large and prestigious concern.

But it turns out that Camper UK is made of sterner stuff. Just days after the fire, Managing Director, Dean Hyde, posted a message to its customers on Swift Group’s website, suggesting that the fight certainly hadn’t gone out of the company. Part of it read: “We are absolutely devastated by the fire that took place at our Station Road premises recently. However, we wish to make it completely clear that whilst we are down, we are by no means out.”

They weren’t kidding. Just a year after watching its livelihood razed to the ground, Camper UK opened the doors to its new and much bigger premises, and I was among the guests to witness the ceremonial cutting of the ribbon, marking a new chapter in the company’s history. Fittingly, this took place almost exactly 10 years to the day since the company first opened its doors in 2005.

Speaking to the assembled group, which included guest of honour and Lincoln MP, Karl McCartney, a visibly emotional Dean Hyde said: “Our staff have been superb and worked their socks off under often difficult circumstances. Having to come into work into a new building with diggers inside, no phones and no heat is testament to the quality of Camper UK’s staff.”

He went on: “Our new showroom represents an investment of some £600,000, and the new workshop is very much the core of the business. Our aim is to create an atmosphere much like a mini-NEC show. And while the building may look huge, we don’t want to be the biggest. But we do want to be the best.”

Certainly, the new indoor showroom is big enough to almost get lost in, with serried ranks of new and used motorhomes almost as far as the eye can see. Formerly an electrical distribution warehouse, the building needed considerable work to convert into a motorhome showroom – including fitment of new windows and a proper reception area – but the results are self-evident. Certainly, this is a place in which you could envisage comfortably browsing all manner of makes and models, whatever the weather.

The new workshop is similarly impressive, with more than 20 motorhomes in evidence during our visit, and the accessories shop looks particularly well-stocked too.

Certainly, it’s encouraging that we’re able to conclude what was initially something of a horror story on a thoroughly positive note.

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