Living the dream? Absolutely. Husband and wife Albert and Gladys Elphick love touring in their Concorde Centurion. It’s their latest motorhome – their eighth such vehicle – and it’s definitely the most expensive.
We caught up with them just after they’d returned from a 2500km round trip to Portugal. Believe it or not, this is not their only motorhome. We asked a few questions…
Can you give us the background about the motorhomes that you’ve owned, to date?
Albert We started over 15 years ago. One night we we’re talking about motorhomes and the next day we had to drive over to Godalming, in Surrey. On the way back we passed Michael Jordan Caravans (now Marquis Leisure), and we thought: “Why don’t we go and have a look?”
We bought an Elddis. I remember the salesperson saying to us: “When you come to buy your second motorhome, you’ll have a list of what you want and what you don’t want.” It was true.
We didn’t have the Elddis for very long before we decided that we wanted to buy a Hymer.
That was a bit of a jump up then!
Albert Yes, but it would be fair to say that our experience with that ‘van wasn’t ideal. It was the biggest one Hymer did, but there were a couple of issues with out particular ‘van, and we kept it for about nine months.
But this was just the build-up to buying your Concorde?
Albert We happened to come down here (Southdowns Motorhome Centre, in Portsmouth) to take a look around and the salesman said that he’d love us to meet his boss, Michael (Ayling, founder of the dealership).
They had a Concorde Charisma in the showroom, they told us. He invited us inside for a look, we’re all sitting there, and he sold it to me!
I was also a salesman at the time, so we sort of clicked, and he gave us a very good deal. So it all worked out nicely in the end!
How did you find the Charisma?
Albert It had space for a motorscooter. So at my old age, I had to learn how to ride a motorbike.
But, as you can imagine, driving through France, Gladys sat on the back of the motorbike – she really wasn’t very impressed by that!
The Charisma was on a MAN chassis. Michael told us Concorde was doing a Charisma that would take a Smart car.
He invited us to come down and try it. But it was on an Iveco chassis. I took it out for a drive, and I realised that I preferred to drive the MAN chassis.
So I said to Michael: “Would you write to Concorde and ask if they will do this, but with a MAN engine?”
He did write to them, but he called me after a couple of weeks to say sorry, they’d said no. If we wanted a MAN engine, we’d have to purchase a Liner. So that’s what we did.
But the next thing was, we found out we could have another Liner, which would take a bigger car.
My grandson was at university in Nottingham, so we thought we’d go up, stay on a site and visit him. And, of course, we wanted to take him out for lunch. But there are only two seats in our Smart car.
Anyway, we discovered Concorde was producing a slightly longer Liner, which would take a Fiat 500. Four seats; no worries. So that’s what we decided to do!
And what happened next?
Albert We went to Düsseldorf, to the Caravan Salon, in that ‘van. And, of course, we saw the Centurion.
This one’s got a slide-out. All of the furniture’s different.
Southdowns said carrying the Fiat 500 would be no problem, but next morning, Michael’s son Andrew (and sales manager Ben Tosspell) came to tell us, sorry, it wouldn’t take the Fiat 500, because of all the gubbins needed for the slide-out.
However, Andrew said they could let us have the new Smart car. So we settled for that. And that’s how we ended up with this one.
Now the Centurion is our further Concorde. It cost half a million euros and, of course, I’ve got all the receipts at home! It’s three years old and we have covered just over 40,000km during our time with it.
We also knew we were going to the US, so we had all sorts of things done for the trip. Big generator, split electrics (110V and 230V), gas tank and more.
Gladys But that’s our final motorhome
Albert Well, there is a new one and the lounge layout is a bit different… we’ll see. Incidentally, I’m not allowed to go to Dusseldorf any more. My wife won’t allow me. Every time I go there, I buy a new motorhome!
Gladys You’ll notice these vehicles have got progressively bigger. We’ve had our driveway altered four times.
Albert We have a big drive. Even so, I can drive in, but I can’t drive out. I have to reverse up the lane.
We don’t tow the car: it goes inside, underneath the bedroom. It winches in. The only problem is, it’s the new Smart car and it’s automatic, so I can’t switch it all off. When it’s in the garage, I have to get in there with it, squeeze up the side, lean in and switch everything off.
Where have you travelled?
Gladys Holland, the Czech Republic, Croatia, Austria and Spain (a lot). All over the UK, Canada and the US. We’ve had some great adventures. We’re just back from a wonderful holiday in Portugal.
We really like Germany, because they can cater for big motorhomes.
When we’re on site, we’re actually quite sociable. We have entertained 12 people in here.
Albert We do like the lifestyle. You get on site and you’ve got something in common with everyone. Everybody’s very helpful. There’s always some problem to solve, or somebody’s got a great idea. Or a site to recommend. We’re all still learning things.
Gladys The thing is, we are travellers. Motorcaravanners are travellers. We always have a saying that we don’t go to the same place twice. It’s not strictly true, but we do like to move on. And we like going to different places. It’s the motorhome lifestyle and we love it.
Any advice for others thinking of buying a big motorhome?
Gladys If you’re buying a vehicle like this, it’s not going to be your first.
Albert Having owned all of these motorhomes, we’ve realised how important it is to have a good dealer. We’ve known Southdowns for nearly 15 years. It’s a family business and the service they have given us is excellent.
Buying a vehicle this size, I needed to take an HGV test. I had to become a lorry driver in my old age! I learned to drive a manual, multisided gearbox.
I found that a little bit difficult. All of the instructors were convinced that I was going to fail. But I passed.
I would always say, don’t be frightened to ring your dealer when you’ve got a problem. Just ask. You can’t expect to know it all right away. Even now, I find there are things you just discover. You learn as you go along. For example, we carry two different lengths of waste pipe.
But you have a secret… tell us about your other ‘van!
Albert Yes, we actually have two motorhomes on the drive. We also have an Auto-Sleeper Bourton.
Before that – a van conversion that had a slide-out. The only downside for us with that ‘van was the bed – it took up the whole width of the vehicle. We found that a bit awkward when one of us needed to get up to use the toilet at night.
And is that all of your ‘vans?
Albert Well, my daughter has just bought a motorhome. A Carthago. Secondhand. From Southdowns!
I remember the salesperson saying to us: "When you come to buy your second motorhome, you'll have a list of what you want and what you don't want." It was true