I imagine that motorhome salesmen from all over the land were rubbing their hands with glee as the fine weather continued last weekend, providing a warm and mud-free setting for The National Motorhome Show at Peterborough’s East of England Showground.
We visited the show on the Saturday and were struck by the number of motorhomes with Sold signs in their windscreens. There definitely seemed to be more of the display vehicles sold than usual, right across the price range from around £15k to two £100k+ Niesmann & Bischoff motorhomes which were both marked as sold.
The show had a good range of motorhomes and a surprising range of other businesses. The only exception was motorhome conversion and repair parts, which were conspicuously absent. If you wanted a new satellite TV system – no problem. If you wanted a new tap, you were out of luck…
On the van conversion front, we saw several panel van conversions that caught our eye, including an new model from one of our favourite van converters, Vantage Motorhomes. The Vantage Zen is based on a LWB, high-roof Vauxhall Vivaro (a.k.a. Renault Trafic) and looked like an ideal replacement for our ageing SWB Transit.
The layout and base vehicle of the Zen are exactly what I was considering for my next self-build conversion, while the Zen’s £40k price tag explains why I probably won’t be able to save myself the work and just buy one from Vantage.
In browsing Vantage’s website for more details on the Zen, I noticed a link to a company called Smart Campers, which appears to be the more affordable arm of the Vantage operation, producing conversions priced between £25k and £35k. This is achieved by offering Vantage conversions on secondhand Ford Transit base vehicles. The idea seems very sound, especially as the website lists RWD Transits as the standard specification base vehicle, much more desirable when fully loaded than a FWD van!
Back to the show, we also saw a completely new van from a new converter – Mandale Bodyshop Ltd.. The concept behind the Mandale Compact is for a camper-style side conversion with a full bathroom. The way they’ve achieved this is to remove the rear wardrobe/cupboard, and slide the kitchen/fridge backwards. In the gap thus created at the front (behind the driver’s seat) they have fitted a proper bathroom. The conversion uses the Toyota Hi-ace 300 base vehicle and had a really good specification for a small van – 60l fresh water, BBQ point, hot water and blown air heating, 60l fridge, and so on.
The upsides are obvious – a real bathroom – the downside appeared to be a serious lack of storage. Interesting concept, though, and it seemed nicely finished. You can find out more about the Mandale Compact on the company’s website.
Other show highlights included the first look I’ve had at the Renault Trafic-based models from new company Bentley Motorhomes. At first glance, they lived up to their premium billing and looked pretty good, with interiors aimed at the fairly traditional end of the British market. Prices appear to start at around £45k for a small but well laid out Trafic-based coachbuilt.
All in all, Peterborough was worth a visit, albeit not for shopping (although we did get some really cheap gas canisters for our stove).