Category Archives: Camper Conversion News

3 Weeks, 3 Roofs – Week 3 – SCA

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This is our third and final blog on “Which pop-top roof is the best?” and this week it’s the turn of the SCA roof.

SCA
We fitted an SCA pop-top roof to a SWB VW T6.

SCA are a German company who have been making pop top roofs since 1980.

sca-pop-top-roof

How did it arrive?

SCA roofs are available only in white, so for most owners the first job is to send the roof off for painting before it is fitted. To be really well painted the canvas needs to be removed or alternatively only the upper roof and front pod section are painted after very careful masking.

The installation

The first thing you notice about an SCA roof is its weight. The roof itself is a heavy lump and there is a fairly heavy galvanised frame that fits into the roof opening as well. Compared to the Reimo roof featured in the last blog, it’s more time consuming to install. Not difficult, just a bit more of a faff. The metal frame is fitted to the vehicle first, using rivets and bonding and then the upper frame is bonded down.

Fit and finish

The SCA roof looks to be good quality and with a very good overall finish. As with the Reimo roof, there is no extra trimming needed inside the van, although to tie it into our interior we did trim the lower section which can be seen when the roof is down. The bed itself is a very smart thing on sprung lats, making it very comfortable, although it may feel a little flimsy to some.

What does it look like?

Once installed it looks good and unlike the Reimo roof there are no obtrusive screws showing on the outside of the vehicle. It is still taller than an Austops roof though and this means that on our van the resulting overall height was over 2 metres with the SCA roof. So low barriers beware!

How does it operate?

To put the roof up you unclip a couple of safety straps and then turn two large turnbuckles. These are quite stiff to operate, so those with arthritic fingers may find it a struggle. Then, as with other roofs you simply push up and the 4 gas struts do the rest.

To pull the roof down, you grab hold of the 2 handles in the roof unless you’re short, when you need to use the 2 straps instead. You have to pull quite hard to offset the action of the 4 gas struts and this may be a problem. For me it’s easy, however a featherweight may find it more challenging and I have visions of an energetic pensioner doing pull ups rather than actually getting the roof down.

As with the Reimo roof it’s not really possible to pull the roof down in stages, making it hard to get the front window folded neatly and there isn’t much space in which to fold the window either. Dropping the roof is very quick, but then you have to turn the two fairly stiff turn buckles and clip in the safety straps too.

What’s it like to live with?

The canvas is good quality and everything looks nice. The bed is very comfortable and the lat design really helps here. Whether children would notice how good the bed is I’m not sure, but for those of us of more mature years, it’s nice. I do wonder what its maximum weight rating is however, as the lats seem very thin and then there is just a very thin layer of ply underneath before you are downstairs.

Cost

Just like the Reimo roof, it’s an expensive option and costs about £4000 plus vat once fitted.  The roof carries a 2 year manufacturer’s warranty.

Warranty

This SCA roof comes with a 2 year manufacturer’s warranty.

Pros:

You can fit a roof rack to it with a maximum weight of 70kg.
It needs very little trimming after installation.
Nice bed.

Cons:

Costly.
Relatively high profile makes the van tall when the roof is lowered.
4 gas struts make it quite demanding to lower.

So which of the three is best?

I was expecting it to be a close thing and a real struggle to find choose the best. However once I’d put them up and down a few times my decision was made for me. In all honesty I’d opt for the Austops roof. It’s less expensive, easier to pull down and it’s slimmer than the others, so you can use more car parks. The fact that it’s made in the UK is an added bonus too.

Don’t get me wrong, both the Reimo and SCA roofs are very good and perhaps on close inspection some people may see why they cost more. The fact that they cost so much more however seems unwarranted. I’d spend the difference on more options for my conversion and then buy a few crates of wine with the rest of the money I’d saved.

3 Weeks, 3 Roofs – Week 2 – Reimo

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Last week we reviewed the Austops scissor hinge pop top roof. This week is the turn of the Reimo V tech easy fit roof with open sky option, which we fitted to a brand new SWB VW T6.

Reimo are a well-known and well respected German company producing a number of items for the camping leisure market.

How did it arrive?
The roof arrived in white gel coat and our van was red. It seems Reimo roofs are available only in white, so for most owners the first job is to send it off to the paint shop before you can begin.

The installation
The Reimo roof looked to be very easy to fit, as the entire unit is pre-built and all a converter needs to do is to cut a large hole in the roof of the van and then drop the entire unit into the hole. Obviously it’s a bit more complex than that, but the installation was fairly simple. Once located, the unit is bonded and bolted into place largely using existing bolt holes usually used for roof bars.

Fit and finish
The Reimo roof seems to be very well made and the overall finish is excellent. In our example the front pod section wasn’t exactly the same profile as the van’s roof, but with a bit of care and effort the resulting look is good. The fact that the roof unit comes in one piece means that it’s almost completely finished off once fitted and there is very little, if any additional trimming required inside the van.

What does it look like?
Externally it is a little taller than some roofs and on our van the resulting overall height was over 2 metres. As some car parks have 2m height barriers, this could be a problem and many camper van owners want to garage their vehicle too, so the slimmer the better.
The front pod section is a fairly common design and it looks fine. My greatest bugbear about the look is that there are 4 large screw heads which are visible near the front of the pop-top itself, inside is pretty much free of any visible fixings though.

How does it operate?
To put the roof up you loosen and remove the two securing straps, unclip the cross elastic and then push the roof up on its gas struts. The bed pushes up in a similar manner and the roof is up in no time at all.

To pull the roof down, if you are tall you grab hold of the 2 handles in the roof and pull down. If you’re short, you use the 2 straps instead. Once it’s down you have to feed a couple of straps through securing locks, which is a bit of a faff to be honest and then pull them quite tight to ensure the roof is down fully.
It’s not really possible to pull the roof down in stages; it’s all or nothing. So if you want to carefully fold the front window neatly it’s tricky to do with the Reimo roof. Also there is very little room to neatly fold the front section of canvas, meaning that it’s easy to pull the roof down and end up with a big flap of material hanging out of the front. As with everything though, you soon get used to it and it’s possible to get a fairly neat look after a bit of practice.

What’s it like to live with?
The fact that you can fully open the canvas is a great gimmick and I guess, a real selling point. I’m not sure how much you’d actually use it in the UK though; after all how many people want to be seen by the entire campsite as they do the washing up? And given the British summer, it’s not much use in driving rain. However, if it’s July in a remote area of the Alpes Maritimes, I guess it would be great to look out on a panoramic view of the Mediterranean Sea as you dry last night’s dishes.

The bed is a flat board operating on a hinge when raised. The canvas seems good quality and everywhere inside the roof feels very well finished.

So a Reimo roof coupled with a quality conversion should give you a very pleasing van indeed.

Cost
And now the bad news; this Reimo roof is a costly option and is priced at over £4000 + vat when fitted.

Warranty
This Reimo roof comes with a 7 year warranty on the shell itself, a 1 year warranty on the canvas and a 3 year warranty on everything else (complicated eh?)

So to sum up

Pros:
Needs very little trimming after installation
Panoramic opening
Can accept a roof rack up to 60kg

Cons:
Costly
Relatively high profile makes the van tall when the roof is lowered.
A bit of a faff to lower and secure before a journey.

3 Weeks, 3 Roofs – Week 1 – Austops

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We are often asked “Which poptop roof is the best for a VW t5 or T6?” and to be honest that’s a matter of opinion. As we only fit TUV approved roofs, that narrows the field somewhat; but to be in a better position to advise customers, we decided to build 3 vans with 3 different TUV approved roofs. This has allowed us to offer an objective comparison on both how easy they are to fit and more importantly for customers, what they are actually like.
So here we go.

We will start with Austops, which is a British company based near Selby in Yorkshire.
We fitted a white SWB T6 with a standard Austops scissor hinge roof.

How did it arrive?
A key feature of an Austops roof is that non-metallic colours can be colour coded to your van in the gel coat at the production stage. This saves the time and expense of having to get your roof painted before it’s fitted. Sadly this option isn’t possible for metallic finishes, so if you want a metallic colour the roof must be painted first. However Austops will get this done for you in advance, so that when your roof arrives it is immediately ready for fitting, which is a great help in comparison to other manufacturers.

The installation
The Austops roof has a frame made up of a number of component parts. There is a well-engineered powder coated front frame that is installed above the front headlining, a powder coated rear frame and two galvanised side frames that are fitted during installation. This means that there is slightly less manhandling of heavy frames in comparison to other roofs, as you do one piece at a time rather than a whole frame assembly in one go. There is also no nose cone to fit, so that’s one less job to worry about too.

What does it look like?
In a word; slim. The roof adds very little to the overall height of the vehicle, which means that on our van it still fits under a 2 metre height barrier. I was at IKEA last week and unlike almost every other camper there, ours could use the multi-story car park rather than having to use the commercial vehicle park. Being under 2m is a massive advantage when on holiday too, as you should be able to get into most supermarket car parks rather than having to park some distance away out on the street.

How does it operate?
To raise the roof you loosen the long Austops straps and push, the gas struts do the rest. You then need to reach in and unclip a cross elastic before you push the bed up. This is easy enough, but if you have a twin front passenger seat with no seat swivel, you do need to be something of a contortionist to reach in. It’s far easier if there is only a single passenger seat, as you then have room to stand between the two front seats to turn round.

To lower the roof, you first lower the bed, replace the elastic and then pull down on the straps equally. One advantage of this roof is that you can pull it down a little at a time, allowing you to carefully fold the front window. Also, as there is no nose cone there is a lot of space in which to fold the window. This means fewer creases and ultimately a better look and longer service life I guess. Once the roof is down, there are no more clips or straps to mess about with and all you have to do is push the strap ends up out of the way.

What’s it like to live with?
The upper area around the frame comes untrimmed, so there is a bit of extra work to do here in comparison to other roofs. The upside is that once trimmed the finished roof feels like it’s a part of the conversion rather than being a large fibreglass tub which has been inserted into the van like some other roofs.
The bed board is 12mm birch ply, so it’s relatively light but it feels substantial. You don’t worry about it collapsing after eating a few too many pies.
The canvas is pretty much fully waterproof and it seems to cope well with British weather.
Cost
The Austops roof is very competitively priced and the fact that in a flat colour it can be colour coded to your van at no extra cost also saves you even more. We currently charge (for a SWB van) £2,300 + vat for a flat colour and £2,700 + vat for a metallic finish.

Warranty
The Austops roof comes with a 5 year manufacturer’s guarantee.

Pros:
It’s slim and our van fits under a 2m height barrier. The roof can be lowered a bit at a time, making folding the window much easier
It is very competitively priced

Cons:
It requires final trimming around the upper section of the frame once installed. You need to reach into roof space to attach the elastic cross strap
Not recommended for a roof rack

Next week is the turn of the Reimo V tech easy fit and finally the SCA roof will be the week after that, along with our conclusion as to which we think is the best.

Our 2018 Hire Camper Van

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This month’s blog is about our VW T6 Campervan for hire, as at last I can report seeing a yellow orb in the sky after months of grey and that means one thing: holidays.

For the last couple of years our trusty T5 hire van did sterling service, but we decided it was time to upgrade things a bit, so it’s moved on to new owners and we have just built a replacement.

The new van is a 2018 Highline T28 102PS in bright red. It meets the latest Euro 6 environmental regulations, so no worries about being banned from any city centres. Being a Highline it has all the best features you’d expect on a decent car, such as cruise control, heated front windscreen and climate control etc along with all the functionality and kudos of a quality VW campervan converted by ourselves.

2018 camper van hire

Inside we’ve chosen a modern clean look with a dual tone grey cupboard system complementing the simora seats and crash tested RIB seat (with ISOFIX fixings). This standard conversion comes with 50 litre compressor fridge, LED lighting, usb charge socket and a double burner gas and hob sink unit coupled to an integrated 23litre water tank. Taken together it’s a conversion that blends good looks with practicality.

The electrical hook-up system is able to charge the heavy duty gel leisure battery when you’re on site, so it runs all the electrics including a couple of mains sockets for those home comforts. But when wild camping the leisure battery takes on the task of running the fridge, lights and water pump, so you can be secure in the knowledge that the separate vehicle battery will remain fully charged regardless of your use of the conversion.

For a poptop roof we’ve chosen an Open Sky Reimo V Tech. This means that you can completely roll up the canvas on those blistering hot days of summer (we live in hope) using the roof as a sun shade more than anything and allowing you panoramic views whilst doing the washing up! Yet in a few seconds, the sides can be rolled down and zipped up should a sudden shower threaten.

Up in the roof itself the bed sleeps 2, with another 2 able to sleep’ downstairs’ on the RIB bed.

We’ve tried to think of everything you need on a holiday so the van comes fully kitted with crockery, cutlery, kettle, pans, cleaning materials and even salt and pepper grinders. So in theory all you need to bring is your food, some bedding and towels.

Whether you want to experience campervan life for the first time, or you just fancy a holiday where you can roam as you please, contact us and we’ll check availability for you.

We offer short breaks from Monday to Friday or Friday to Monday, as well as longer breaks from Saturday to Friday and we’ve held our rates again this year making it a great time to experience a brand new campervan.

Prices include vat, insurance, unlimited mileage and full breakdown recovery should the unthinkable happen.

For May: a short break is £360 and a long break is £550.

For June to August: a short break is £400 and a long break is £650

For full details see our website.

Our 2018 hire van features:

  • Automatic headlights
  • Daytime running lights
  • DAB radio
  • Alloy wheels
  • Leather wrapped multi function steering wheel
  • Arm rests for both the driver and front passenger
  • Automatic dimming rear view mirror
  • Rain sensors

Our 2017 hire camper van was converted in March and currently it’s somewhere in Scotland, the week before it was in Cornwall, so it’s rapidly getting to see the UK.

Planning your first camper van

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It’s amazing how good VW T5 and T6 transporters are in the snow, especially the 4 Motion of course. It’s a good job too, as the weather recently has reminded us that it’s still winter.

However spring is on its way and thoughts are turning to days away exploring, picnics on the coast and of course the big family holiday.

Recently we’ve seen a steady stream of excited customers working out the exact specifications they want for their van. Cupboard colours, trim colours, flooring colours, RIB seat options, solar panels, diesel heater, under worktop LED lighting, extra windows, USB charge points, Loc8 Table System, valuables safe, bespoke leather trimming, Reimo rail, rear speakers etc etc. The list can become daunting. So where do you start?

Here is our recommendation as to what to do and in which order. And it all starts with getting the van right first.

No matter how many times we warn against it, people sometimes buy the first van they see as they are so excited at the prospect of planning their conversion. They then spend a lot of money getting it converted and live with it day in and day out, constantly irritated because it wasn’t the right van in the first place.

  1. Size matters

Decide whether you want a SWB or LWB. SWB remains the most popular amongst customers, as these vans are easier to drive and park. But the LWB will give you 28% more usable floor area inside and allow you to have a longer bed if you need it.

2. Doors matter

Do you want a tailgate, which will give you a bit of protection from the weather when around the back of the van, or do you want barn doors which are easier to open when in a car park for example?

3. Specification matters

If you want A/C, or cruise control, or a heated windscreen etc get a base van that has it already. These are not things that can be easily added later.

And finally…

4. Some things don’t matter

If you want colour coded bumpers they can be done later, so too can you easily change the wheels or the stereo. You can add aftermarket feastures at almost any stage too, so don’t worry too much about those things.

Whatever the weight classification (T26, T28, T30 or T32) a conversion will work fine, although T28s and T30s are the most popular. Genuine VW lowering kits are available and can be fitted at any time.

Whether the van has a bulkhead or not makes little difference to the conversion and is not something you should get hung up about (although if you have the choice, no bulkhead is better for us thanks!).

And windows? We can fit them easily, so don’t pay extra for a van simply because it already has windows fitted. But if it already comes with windows, no problem.

And now the real fun can begin….planning the actual conversion!

Who wants a VW T6 campervan?

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Recently we were approached by a TV production company who were doing a piece on campervans and they were looking for ‘expert’ knowledge. Funnily enough they also wanted to sell us advertising too.
We don’t advertise very much and we try hard to target our adverts to people who are likely to be interested in one of our bespoke conversions, so we are careful.
People are bombarded with adverts for all sorts of things and I can honestly say that 99.9% of the adverts I see are of absolutely no interest. I’m over 50, but I have no interest in an over 50’s policy, I have no interest in a PPI claim, I’ll never use a product that is rich in A.H.A. fruit acids, I’ll never buy a new Peugeot or shop at Waitrose (Sainsburys is at the end of my road for goodnress sake). So just think how much time, effort and money is wasted making adverts that are of no interest and then how much of our lives we waste watching them.
So perhaps there’s something to be said for targetted advertising; it doesn’t waste the advertiser’s money and it doesn’t waste our time either. Amazon and Google are masters at it, but if you ever allow anyone else to use your computer, beware: last week I suddenly started receiving adverts for skateboards and for a while last year lots of adverts for ladies swimwear appeared (don’t ask).
The production company who approached us make programmes for a TV channel that specialises in cruise ship holidays and about 80% of the schedule is given over to reviewing floating hotels wallowing in crystal clear waters somewhere exotic.
This got the team at 8 Ball Camper Conversions thinking about who would watch such a channel and perhaps more importantly, whether they would be the type of person who would genuinely be interested in a VW T5 or T6 campervan.
So here is a list of personality traits we associate with campervan owners. It’s based on no hard evidence whatsoever, so I guess this means any data generated is suitable for making national and international policy decisions.
How many of these traits do you display?
For each one, have a think and make a mental note of the number catagories you fall into. If you reach 4 or more give us a call, as we may be able to help!
1 Do you  like exploring places?
Campervan owners tend to want a vehicle that will get them anywhere a car can go; whether it’s into city centres, down country lanes or down to the beach. They like going off the beaten track and finding places that few others have found before.
2 Do you like the outdoors?
Campervan owners enjoy feeling closer to nature than they would  if they were staying in a hotel (or on a cruise ship for that matter). The pop top roof gives us the benefits of feeling like we did when we camped in a tent, but the van conversion offers the advantages of being warm, dry and having all the comforts of home too.
3 Do you have an outgoing personality?
It sounds odd, but most campervan owners have a joy for life and are people who see the world as being a glass half full, rather than as being a glass half empty; they don’t like sitting about waiting for things to come to them. This can be a bit of a problem when we tell them the next build slot available is a few months away, but they usually accept it with grace and say something like “well at least it will give me time to research things a bit more”.
4 Are you thorough?
When people come to us with a view to a camper conversion, they fall into 2 groups: those who have spent hundreds of hours on the internet researching vans and those who are about to spend hundreds of hours on the internet researching vans. Researching vans can become addictive. But if you’re reading this then you know that already!
5  Are you slightly eccentric?
Quite a few campervan owners like to do things a bit differently. Their vans reflect their eclectic personalities and we see vans decked out out in everything from pretty pink flowers to blood splattered skulls and cross bones. They often use bold colours in their cupboard system  and they’re always on the look out for something else to make their van even more individual. These owners tend to love their vans the most; they keep them for years and almost always the van will have a name. If you have ever named one of your vehicles, you have this trait; even if you try to bury it deeply behind a sensible and grown up facade.
6  Are you cool (or secretly want to look cool, but at the same time not be too ‘showy’)?
A few campervan owners are surf dudes, or they wish they were. They see their van as a  cool means of transporting them and their boards to the next big wave. These customers often care more for their surf boards than their vans and they will ensure that their boards have something nice to travel on. If it’s not a surf board (and round here is not famed for surfing), then chances are it will be a bike; usually a mountain bike.
7 And the age of most campervanners?
Now this is a hard one, as we’ve seen campervanners from their 20s through to their 70s. However there seem to be two main groups: those in their 30’s who have young families and those whose children have flown the nest and who now have the freedom to travel where they want to go rather than keeping the kids happy.
So how did you score?
6 or more: You cannot live without a campervan. If you don’t already have one, you are missing out so badly that you may need therapy. Contact us immediately as part of the therapy process.
4-5: You should seriously consider getting a campervan. It will measurably improve your life and mean that you sometimes smile to yourself for no particular reason.
2-3: A campervan could be useful to you, but to be honest so could a vacuum cleaner or a set of emergency folding chairs.
0-1  You watch the cruise channel.
vw camper conversions

The ‘Comfort Dash’

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For years I’ve thought that the dashboard on VW T5 and T6 Transporter vans let the side down. This was partly because I banged my knees on it as a passenger in a T5 (I am very tall and my legs make most trousers look like shorts), but mostly because it seemed to be an enormous waste of space. I know VW had to hide air bags, heater controls, wiring and all sorts of gubbins behind it; but why oh why were there so few places to store stuff? I think the T6 dash is better than the T5, but even so, there had to be more space available with a bit more thought.

Perhaps they’ve now cracked it, as at last VW have decided to improve the dash on the T6 and we recently took delivery of a brand new Acapulco blue T6 Combi with the fancy new ‘comfort dash’. The van was our test bed for a new design of interior which kept the versatility of the combi van, but with an Austops roof and removable storage units. We showed the van at the Lincoln Motorhome Show last month and it gained a lot of interest, as this particular conversion offers a camper that can still be a van too…clever eh

Then a customer came along last week looking for a new or almost new van but with a full conversion with a fixed cupboard system and RIB seat. As a result it’s being re-trimmed as I write and is due for delivery to its new owners in a few weeks’ time.  So if you own a Combi van and you are looking for a bolt in camper interior, give us a call, as we have one in stock.

Anyway, back to the dashboard! It isn’t a cheap option, not least as it is only available on the California itself (RRP of over £60,000 if you go for a decent one) and as an option on the Combi van. At the present time VW won’t sell you a standard T6 transporter with the comfort dash. So if you want a conversion with one, then the only option is to pay the premium for a Combi van and then work from there. Effectively making it a £4,000 upgrade!!

However, it is brilliant. Much more storage than before, cupholders in a sensible place and it is colour coded to the van, giving it a really smart modern look. The central storage compartment is even linked into the AC, so it will chill what is in there…great for the sandwiches, but sadly not big enough for a bottle of wine…but then the van is being converted and that means it will have a large 50 litre compressor fridge anyway.

Will the ‘Comfort Dash’ become an option on all T6s? I hope so, as it really is so much more useful. I guess the painted surfaces may be susceptible to scratching if builders put their muddy feet on the dashboard, but for most of us, that shouldn’t be a problem. As you can see from the photos, there are lots of openings for a conveyor belt of maps, pens, sandwiches, sweets, first aid kit, cuddly toy, his and hers matching bath robes, fondue set…..(Sorry I’m going off track as someone mentioned that the Generation Game may be coming back on TV).

Of course the problem with selling the blue Combi is that yet again we have no van of our own to convert and we’ve found ourselves looking for a replacement. Never fear though, we’ve come up trumps with a ‘67 plate T6 Transporter 204PS 4 Motion with DSG gearbox and Highline specification in Starlight blue metallic. It looks fantastic and is likely to be converted in the near future. So if you’re in the market for a really special van then give us a call.

The Modern Generation of Camper Vans

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I love old things. VW T2s for example look brilliant, especially the early versions. Some people apparently love the look of T25’s too, although I’ve yet to meet one! To some people modern T5 and T6 vans somehow don’t compare. Well I urge you to think again.

I tend to hang on to old things in the belief they are better than the modern equivalent. A perfect example would be the window frames of my house. They were wooden and they once looked nice. The problem was that they needed painting yet again and a couple of them had become so rotten that it would take pots of wood filler to bodge them up for another year. So VERY reluctantly I bit the bullet and ordered uPVC replacements.

I’m now a convert. My new windows look better than the old ones and the difference in terms of insulation is amazing. Unlike the old ones, they need no maintenance, they won’t rot and I can throw my paint brushes away. Yippee.

This change of heart got me thinking about camper vans.

I know some people won’t be happy for me to say so, but old VW vans are like my old windows; the look nice, but modern versions are so much better. Old VW vans are noisy, slow, uncomfortable, unreliable, cramped and horrible to drive in comparison to their modern counterparts.

The T5 and T6 is as far removed from a T2 or T25 as you can get. They are smooth to drive, quiet, handle well, are economical, fast enough for any modern road and they will happily do 200,000 miles without blowing up. You can have air conditioning, heated seats, heated windscreen, cruise control, parking sensors and just about every other thing you’d expect in a modern vehicle.

Then there is the actual conversion into a campervan. In days gone by, conversions looked cheap and nasty because they were built using the materials available at the time. The result was that to be strong enough, everything needed to be heavy…which made the van handle like a lumbering walrus or to save weight, everything was made out of the flimsiest materials, which made the interior look cheap and the whole thing ended up squeaking more than an amorous rodent looking for love.

Modern technology has provided us with lightweight materials that are immensely strong, removing unnecessary weight but retaining or even increasing strength.  Design has improved too and the result is that a bespoke 8 Ball Camper Conversion is relatively lightweight, is rattle free and it’s finished in a way that exudes quality, craftsmanship and individuality.

Even electrics have improved. Gone are the days when you would sit in the dark to save the battery. Modern gel leisure batteries are many times more long lasting, and coupled to the use of LED lighting, split charge systems and solar panels, you can have the lights on for hours knowing that the van will still start in the morning.

So if like me, you’re a bit of a Luddite, who at times thinks that modern is worse, think again when it comes to camper conversions. As you can see in the picture below, I was particularly struck by this VW camper I was offered for the night 20 years ago. Oh how things have moved on….

Camper Jam 2017

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Recently I spent a day at Camper Jam 2017 and I’ve never seen so many VW Transporters and conversions in my life. There were plenty of T5 and T6s, as well as T2s, T25s and T4s as well.

The contrast in vans was astonishing. There were some that looked like they were ready for the scrap heap, lovingly held together with gaffer tape and pieces of baling twine.  And there were some that looked immaculate.

I watched a couple pull up next to a water point and fill up their water tank before proceeding to fill their buckets with water, bring out a couple of sponges and a step ladder and wash their van from top to bottom. I passed 2 hours later and they were still at it, using baby wipes to clean the door hinges! Not once did they talk to each other, not apparently because they’d fallen out, but rather they were so intently working away. I was told that there is something called’ show and shine’ and I think they were preparing for that…albeit on Friday for the judging two days later!

The vast range of vans was mirrored by a vast range of owners. Some were bohemian types who would have looked at home at Woodstock back in the 60s. Some were traditional families, dragging bored looking children around and some were rivet counters (you know the sort… they look under your bonnet and point out that the thread on your jubilee clips is incorrect). The number of dog owners was so great, I briefly wondered if there was a dog show running in parallel somewhere.

It was fascinating just watching people and soaking up the atmosphere. The one thing everyone had in common was a love for VW campervans. For some, it was clearly an obsession and the number of people who kept referring to ‘him’ or ‘her’ when apparently talking about their van made me smile. Most of the vehicles I’ve ever owned have been nameless, but one or two got named. ‘Ermintrude’ for example was an old cow of a thing and ‘Maurice’ was named after my late grandfather who left me £500 in his will which I used to buy it. 29 years on and Maurice is parked down my drive, my most treasured possession.

At Camper jam there were a number of conversion companies showing their work; some of the conversions were bizarre in my eyes. A bright orange T6 with a roof tent bolted to it, rather than a poptop for example. It had chunky off road tyres on it and looked very cool and rugged, but I’m not convinced that it was a good idea. You couldn’t stand up in it and you’d have to get out of the vehicle to go to bed in the tent.

Then there was a van that was lowered so much that I’m unsure how they even got it on to the site without ripping the front spoiler off. It was clipping the grass that had just been cut. It just looked like it had broken suspension to me, but there again spotty teenagers have pointed out that I’m notoriously uncool.

Certainly these vans made you take an interest, but practicality and longevity were not priorities to their owners.
At 8 Ball Camper Conversions we’ll try to give you the best of all worlds; a conversion that is practical and well thought through, at the same time as being stylish and elegant  (even a touch edgy if you’d like), but one that actually works as a camper should. A home away from home, useable every day as your main vehicle, but one that opens up the possibility to get off the beaten track.

We’ve just been sent this photo by one of our customers using his van in the Outer Hebrides. It says it all…….

The 8 Ball Hire Camper Van

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Summer is here and it’s campervan heaven. Over recent weeks 8 Ball Camper Conversions have seen a steady stream of happy customers collecting their bespoke VW T5 and T6 campervans all keenly planning their summer trips away.

For some people, owning a campervan is a dream; one that will take time to achieve, as they save up the pennies. But there’s a way to enjoy the campervan life this summer without the expense of actually buying. What about hiring one?

The 8 Ball hire van has a number of dates available over the coming months, so if you’re looking for a summer break option, why not consider campervaning?
Our hire van is a fully kitted out VW T5 8Ball Camper Conversion with almost everything you need on board. It sleeps up to 4, with 2 in the poptop roof and 2 more on the crash tested RIB seat/bed.
Open the cupboards and you’ll find all the pots and pans, plates and cutlery you need for everyday living. And there is a Loc8 Table System in the sliding door, so you have a camping table available that you can use both inside and outside the van too. Clever eh?
The fridge will keep your food chilled and make ice for your cocktails, whilst the double burner hob will boil the kettle for the morning cuppa and cook up the bacon and eggs.
With the mains electrical hookup connected, you will have a couple of mains sockets in the van to power your gadgets and at the same time the high capacity leisure battery will be seamlessly charged whilst you sleep.
So for a great time away, all you really need to add is fuel, your bedding, some food and a bottle or two of wine. Then relaxation is assured once you arrive at your destination.
The hire van is available for a number of dates over the summer months and we’ve frozen prices to the same level as last year too.
So whether it’s a surprise weekend away to celebrate your anniversary, a few days away with the kids at the seaside, or just the fact that you want to get off the beaten track; hiring our campervan may be the answer.
We offer 3 hire options as follows:
  1. Weekly hire (collection Saturday, returning the following Friday) during June to August is £650 inc vat.
  2. Short breaks are available with either collection on Friday with return on Monday,
  3. Or collection on Monday with return on Friday at a cost of £400 inc vat.

For more information and details of availability, contact us at info@8ballcamperconversions.co.uk or 01482 848236 and we’ll do all we can to help.

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