This week I thought I’d take a look at some of the Japanese import motorhomes that are available in the UK. Many of these come into the UK as people carriers or small minibuses and are converted. Some companies, such as Wellhouse Leisure, specialise in these conversions.
The vehicles themselves vary but tend to have one thing in common – they’re small! Coming from the Japanese market, they also tend to be highly specified, low mileage and free of corrosion – the Japanese don’t use salt on their roads in winter.
If you’re looking for a campervan/motorhome that you can use as a car too, then a Japanese import might be the solution. Various alterations are required when they are imported into the UK and they may need to be re-registered when they are converted to campers – but any reputable converter/dealer should have taken care of this when the vehicle was originally imported.
The other consideration with an import is servicing and spare parts. UK main dealers are not always able/willing to help much with imports (which tend to be models that were never sold in the UK) but there are parts suppliers for these vehicles and support for more popular imports like the Mazda Bongo is now quite good. You’ll also find that the engines are often engines that were also used in European-spec vehicles, making parts and servicing easier to arrange.
Let’s have a look at a few of these diminuitive campers that are currently for sale on eBay.
First up, the classic Mazda Bongo conversion. Mazda Bongos are one of the more popular Japanese imports – both as campervans and as people carriers. Most are automatic with either a 2.5l petrol or 2.5l diesel engine. They are pretty small – smaller than a VW T4, for example – but make a good compact camper, especially when fitted with a pop-up roof.
Van-based alternatives offering more internal space are available, too. The Toyota Hiace sold in Asia and Africa was different to the UK model – it is a ‘cab over’ design where the driver sits at the very front of the vehicle, above the engine. This provides more internal length for the same external length and makes a good base for a campervan conversion. See here, for an example and here for an example of its smaller cousin, the Toyota Space Cruiser – plus a really old Hiace in need of TLC.
The Nissan Urvan was Nissan’s equivalent to the Hiace – much the same story applies.
Finally, this isn’t Japanese and probably isn’t very practical – but it is unusual. A six-wheeler, Ford Cortina based Starcraft motorhome conversion. It’s definitely a restoration project but would certainly be a head turner when finished. Fancy a challenge?