Had a great time at the NEC looking at equipment for outr new van.
To get ready for the arrival of our new VW Crafter that we are going to convert over the winter we took ourselves and our credit cards to the NEC Motorhome Show. We booked a hotel the nights before and after to give ourselves a whole day and what a good day we had. The show wasn’t too busy on a Thursday and we were there from open to close. So what did we see and and buy.
Well we started with a look around some of the big panel vans on offer. Most were on Fiat Ducato chases with just a few on Sprinter and Crafter chassis. To be honest we didn’t see anything we hadn’t seen before and if the did one thing it confirmed for us why our fit out ideas are better than the market norms. There were only a couple on VW chassis, Westfalia and Hillside, but these just followed the others so nothing inspiring although we did learn a couple of useful points.
So off to start spending. Talking to some of the companies there we ended up identifying a few “deals” and a couple of decisions to make. As well as finding out who to go to when the time came. The idea though was to buy as much big kit as we could now to hedge against the pound crashing further after brexit and to make sure we had the kit ready to do the job.
Trying to understand the difference between makes and models we spoke to both Fiamma and Thule about wind out awnings. It always amazes me how little some of the people on stands know about the product, often companies seem to take anyone along regardless of their ability to present and sell the product. Anyway rant over. So after deliberating we were minded to go for Thule but when we tried to place the order the price we were told just went up and up so in the end we went back to Fiamma, who incidentally were being represented by our local dealer, Johns Cross. From them we ordered a 4 meter long F65S in black with a grey fabric. The painful thing wasn’t the several hundred pounds for the awning but the £180 for the fixing kit! Still it was on order and by the time we got home the following afternoon it had been delivered direct from the distributor.
We had been going to look at a Thetford fridge that is designed for a panel van. Campervan fridges are ridiculously expensive for what they are and this was certainly no exception. On the way to look at at it we stopped by Vitrifrigo whom we had bought our last fridge from only to be presented with a new slightly larger, cleverer and even more expensive fridge. These both had us in a quandary for the day. The head man from the Vitifrigo made us a show special and returning customer off that in the end we could not resist.
The 150L compressor fridge layout is the best we have seen in a compact package and with a remote compressor. It has a large -18C 3* freezer compartment and brilliant cool drawer. It can be set to night mode to keep it quiet and turbo mode for freezing. The fridge is a useful height that will sit in a cabinet over one of the rear wheel arches. Yes it was very expensive but it will be a boon to be able to shop and store for more than a day at a time.
Next on the list was our Wallas XC Duo diesel hob / heater – the same as we had in Van Blanc. Actually we already knew we were going to buy one so this was just a placing the order exercise. Sue loved cooking on ours and although we rarely used it for heating we are sure that in a well insulated van it will have no problem keeping us warm. Anyway we wanted to say high to Darren the tech sales guy from Wallas and had fun helping him make a couple of sales.
For all sorts of configuration reasons we had to order the van without swivel seats and use aftermarket swivel bases. I found that no one yet seemed to make specific units and that converters were using those for other models and adapting them. So at the NEC I had a look at a Westfalia “Sven Heiden” that is based on a crafter and found they had used some from a company called Aguti that I had not seen before. Later in the day we came across a trade distributor who had Aguti in their range and who told me that they had recently got the bases but as no one yet had them for sale they would sell direct. Again they are expensive but they are the right thing and seemed to work well.
And really that is all we bought and paid for at the show although we looked at a lot of other products that we have since come home and ordered that I will detail my next posts.
Ordinarily would have liked another white van but really – a long wheel base Crafter doesn’t do it. Too much white and looks like a DPD delivery.
Oh and it cost £8 just to hose the dirt off Van Blanc after the tunnel cleaning in Norway. So this time we decided on metallic Iridium Grey in the hope that it won’t show the dirt so easily.
So we needed a name that would lead to a decent graphic. We started with VW which gave us Van W From there we got Van Wolfsburg (Wolfsburg is the historic home of VW) which then got shorted to Van Wolf. Wolf is good because we can get some nice frontal and silhouette graphics and some decent gothic fonts.
Travelling in a VW Camper with a lively dog sometimes presents its challenges
Travelling in a VW Camper with a lively dog sometimes presents its challenges not least of which is getting him to go to bed and stay there until we want to get up. We have long since given up the notion of a lie in but it would at least be nice not to be woken or get up with the sunrise.
Fred has gone through several sleeping travelling arrangements since we got him. Like all dogs he likes an enclosed sleeping space overnight and indeed at home he has an indoor kennel built in to a utility cupboard. He also has a nice folding travel kennel that still comes with us if we go to stay in other peoples houses. At one time we did try travelling with him in this but it wasn’t popular so now he travels on the back seat with a view out of the window and he is happy to do that all day long. At first we had a large drive away awning with a bedroom section so we put his travel kennel in there but it could be cold and we fretted about him being outside the van. Then, because we hadn’t put the awning we tried using it in the van but it left zero space for us to get in and out of bed. Anyway we got rid of the large awning because it simply didn’t suit our style of travelling.
So for the past couple of years we have tried various versions of sleeping Fred in the passenger footwell with a soft basket and blankets. At first we had to restrain him to persuade him to say in there. Then we tried a mesh curtain to divide the cab area but he found his way through that. However for the last year or more he has pretty good and simply gone to bed there and stayed until 6 or 7 in the morning. That is until Le Mans this year when he took fright at the noise of campsite revelry outside and slept on our bed! We have sort of decided that it is OK if he goes to bed and stays there until 06:00 and then he can get on our bed but not into our sleeping bags. Something else we had to do with his bed arrangements was to drape blankets over his bed area as draughts or light will wake him.
Before we set of for 5 weeks in Norway we are determined to have a good go at making a secure bed area in the footwell that he will look upon as his own and stay in. We decided to make a foam base to make the most of the space, iron out the irregularities and provide some insulation with a tent like top that would provide the draft and light protection. And finally that would fold flat for travel and not require too much effort to put up.
We started with some 20mm dense foam floor mat cut into a main base with 2 pieces that would take up the shape of the seat base. On to this we stuck some foil backed form van insulation. This provides a stable base without lumps and bumps and that will retain warmth. Sue covered this with some of the left over material from the seat back and door cards and also made some sides with a bit of stiffening to form the base basket.
We had thought to make a tent frame structure but in the end we opted for a much simpler upside down bag supported by a tent frame rod that clips to the head rest. It means the the tend isn’t held rigid but it leaves plenty of room for Fred to move around, stand up and have a shake. Once he is in the tent his weight holds it down fine and tends to push the side out to maintain the space.
The whole thing folds flat into a 600mm2 bag along with his mat that goes on the seat when we are parked up and in his bed overnight. It will take a matter of seconds to put up and take down and takes no more space than his soft basket did once it is packed for travelling.
Having specified everything we could think of when we ordered the van from VW our first trip away highlighted a glaring omission.
I don’t know why this hadn’t bothered us more with our T5.1 but almost the first evening we realised that shutting the sliding door from inside needed a big shove that resulted in things falling about. Bad enough when we are up and about but a real pain if one of us has to go out in the middle of the night!
Power latching is available as an option to the sliding doors and the tailgate on Transporters but it is only the sliding door that gives us a problem. It would have been a no brainier at £95 + VAT had we thought about it. I got in touch with Paul who owns the T6 forum because I had seen him offering a kit, it came to £430 for the motor, control module and wiring loom which sounds like a lot but the parts alone come to about £350 and then there is the loom and plugs. So a deal was done and Paul met us at Vanwest with the parts.
Now I had thought about waiting until July when we got back from our 6 week trip but I knew that having the parts back home heaving the door closed would annoy the hell out of us so I waded in. Removing the lower rear quarter panel was not easy because Andy @ Coastal Cussions had used military grade trim panel fixings but I got it off and only broke 2 of them. Perhaps the worst thing was that we had got Andy to cover the access panel in the C post over – we wouldn’t need to get in there again would we – with the vinyl trim. I started by cutting a half panel for the top half and then marking and cutting out the vinyl slightly smaller and then breaking out and cleaning away the ply panel I had bonded over the access. With that done I could fit the control module and I had intended to make a hole to pass the wiring loom out of the bottom of the C post behind the step to the connections under the passenger seat. The problem was that the C post is closed at the bottom and does not go right down. In the end we decided to take out the whole access panel and feed the loom behind the trim all of which worked fine.
Fitting the motor is a bit fiddly as it needs feeding into the space but to be honest that was about the easiest part of the whole job. Once connected and everything back in place the power latch works great. Just slide the door across into the lock and the motor powers it home the last bit – lovely. Replacing the 2 broken trim fixings was easy enough and we made a new ply access panel for the C post but covered in our frantic rather than vinyl which actually looks a bit smarter than the original vinyl.
The whole job took a couple of days and was a bit of a “mission”as Mirko would say but the end result definitely seems worth it.
We have been considering either updating our current van or starting a new one while we can. A key criteria for Sue is the ease of which we can get the roof up and down as we get older. There is no after market option for this and a VW California does not float our boat. However it is possible to retrofit a California roof. Earlier ing the month we had a trip to Cornwall and paid a visit to Kernow Transporters and Premium Camper who buy in salvaged California roofs and fit them to vans. We have given this option a lot of thought and have decided we are happy to go with it.
So to get the ball rolling and to beat a 1st June VW price hike we have placed an order for a new T6. It is a SWB T30 Kombi in white (as if it could be anything else) and the spec is much the same as our current van except that it will come as a Euro 6 Blue Motion so 150PS DSG with LED lights,
I never did like the silver wheels so now they have been refinished Dark Anthracite by Lepsons in in Gillingham. They are a high gloss finish and not quite black. Very smart.
It came about because I went to our local tyre dealer who managed to gouge a rime when fitting new tyres so they offered to get it refinished. So while they did that I paid for the other 3 to be done. I had to borrow an old set of steels for a week while ours were being done.
This is the last tax disc the we will very have to buy. As from 1 June 2015 we can have a clear windscreen. What it does tell you is that authorities believe that they have ANPR (Automatic Number Plate Recognition) cracked.
Oh yes and from June2015 they will be making an extra months tax each time a vehicle changes hands, i.e. the seller gets a refund from the end of the month and the buyer pays from the start of the month.