BRITISH MOTORHOME MANUFACTURING isn’t just about coachbuilt motorhomes. The UK has a wide selection of van converters too.
While the pandemic and associated lockdown seems to have limited the number of new models such companies are bringing out, that hasn’t stopped exciting development happening within the sector.
First and foremost is the new converter recognition scheme launched by Volkswagen, the name behind perhaps the most popular base vehicle among campervan manufacturers.
Volkswagen Commercial Vehicles’ converter recognition scheme aims to set up a kind of benchmark within the industry and promote well established van converters.
In order to qualify, converters need to have been trading for at least three years, meet national or European type approval, have their vehicles NCC-approved, be registered on the Body Builder Database, and be able to provide at least £5m in liability insurance cover. They also need to provide a warranty on the conversion that matches the warranty on the base vehicle.
So far Derby-based Hillside Leisure, which produces the popular Birchover model among others, Shrewsbury based Rolling Homes, and Jerba Campervans, based in North Berwick, have made it onto the scheme. So has CoTrim, a Salisbury-based converter that mainly specialises in day vans but does produce the Flexivan range of campervans.
At least one other converter is known to be close to getting such recognition. Meanwhile, you’ll find converters such as WildAx who doesn’t specialise in any one particular base vehicle, but utilises Ford, Citroën and Mercedes according to the layout requirements and spec of the van conversion.
With more and more attention currently being given to electric and hybrid cars, it’s hardly surprising that van converters are pulling out all stops to produce electric campervans too.
LEVC, the company behind London’s electric taxi, has teamed up with Wellhouse Leisure (formerly in Huddersfield, now relocated to Barnsley) to produce an electric campervan. Based on its existing VN5 electric van, the four-berth vehicle does include a 1.5-litre petrol engine, but this is only used to recharge the battery and so increase range from 60 miles, which it can achieve under electric power alone, to 304 miles.
The two companies are planning to make first deliveries of the vehicle, which comes with a pop-up roof and foldaway table, by the end of this year. It should have an OTR Price, excluding VAT, of £62,250.
The vehicle will be a competitor to the electric campervan which Sussex Campervans has now been producing for a year.
Big name base vehicle manufacturers have also been pushing out new models during the pandemic.
This year saw the launch of Volkswagen’s Caddy California campervan, although thanks to problems in the supply chain the vehicle’s on sale date has been pushed back to the start of next year.
Based on the Caddy, the smallest commercial vehicle Volkswagen produces, the new camper should complete a trio of VW California models that already include the California, based on the Transporter, and the Grand California, based on the Crafter. The company says that with this launch it can provide a campervan for “every budget, every journey and every adventure”.
With no toilet or sink and just a one-burner pull-out hob, the Caddy California is possibly more likely to appeal to daytrippers and overnighters rather than long-term tourers. But it still manages to include a bed that you fold down completely independently of the rear seats that is 1.98m long, as well as clever storage bags you can fit in the window to double up as blinds. A starting price of around £30,000 should prove tempting too.
Ford, meanwhile, having already launched its new Nugget campervan, has now put on sale the Nugget Plus, although individual models, built like the Nugget by Wesfalia, are still not yet on UK dealer forecourts. Based on the longer 5.34m-long Transit Custom, the Nugget Plus includes a washroom and toilet at the back. That should prove a good complement to the large L-shape rear kitchen the Nugget already boasts.
Don’t miss the New ‘Van Launch of the Ford Nugget in the Event Theatre, Hall 6, on Saturday 23rd October at 3pm.
You’re in Hall 1 British Manufacturers at Van Live! See who else is exhibiting in this hall, including campervan converter WildAx, or take me to the Show Guide.
With more and more attention currently being given to electric and hybrid cars, it’s hardly surprising that van converters are pulling out all stops to produce electric campervans too