Category Archives: Camper Conversion News

Maximising the space in your VW Transporter

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Great campervans make great use of the space available. Some T5 and T6 conversions we come across look great at first sight, but their owners complain that they are completely impractical to live with. It’s one of the reasons we have a hire van, so our potential customers can actually live with one of our vans for a short while, to see how carefully thought it is.

I was watching TV recently where it said that scientists believe there are over 400,000,000,000 solar systems in our galaxy and possibly 100,000,000,000 galaxies in the universe. That’s an awful lot of space. When you think that each solar system has a number of planets in it, even if there are only 5 planets per solar system, that would make over two thousand million million planets.

To me it seems obvious that somewhere in amongst all that, there must be at least one planet that has intelligent life on it (whether there is intelligent life on earth is a debatable point as far as I’m concerned).

So…. ‘somewhere in a galaxy far far away……’ there may well be someone or something writing a blog about camper van conversions as well as me. Weird.

Space is something we all seem to crave. When people use one of our vans they almost always comment on how much space there is in it. And I guess that’s down to careful design, so that maximum use is made of the space available. Over the years we’ve modified our designs as we’ve learnt more and more about what works well and what does not, and we make sure that as much ‘gubbins’ as possible is located in what would be otherwise wasted space.

Take something as simple as a double swivel seat. There is actually more storage space under the seat once we’ve installed the double swivel than there was before we started.

Want a leisure battery? They are fairly big and very heavy, not the easiest things to hide. Some conversion companies make a habit of putting their leisure batteries in a cupboard, taking up valuable space. We don’t do that if we can help it and we usually locate the leisure battery under the driver’s seat in a space that’s usually wasted.

What about an auxiliary heater? We usually put them under the passenger seat. Yes it will take up a small amount of room, but it’s a really effective place to locate it. This is fine if it’s a single seat, but what if the customer wants a double swivel passenger seat at the same time? This is a problem at first glance as the wiring and supply pipes can’t be installed in a rotating double seat base. However, as with almost every problem, we have a solution. We’ll put the heater under the driver’s seat and then put the leisure battery under the vehicle in a space that is otherwise wasted. It’s a bit more work, but the end result is maximum benefit for the customer.

Now what about a water tank? We could just put it in a cupboard, but that reduces usable storage again. So instead we put it in an area that is almost useless as a cupboard.

Of course the problem with hiding things away is that if any maintenance is required, the last thing you want to do is to have to dismantle the entire vehicle just to gain access. So although it’s unlikely to be needed, our careful design ensures that various panels can be removed if necessary to gain access to everything from solar charging units to water tank pumps. It’s little things like this that make all the difference in the end. Such attention to detail may not be visible at first glance, but it’s something we pride ourselves in and something that sets 8 Ball Camper Conversions apart from many others.

The end result? A camper that’s easy to maintain and that has loads and loads of usable space…..OK maybe not quite a galaxy of space, but at times our conversions can feel a bit like a Tardis when it comes to usable space.

Here’s a van we are working on at the moment…about to have some ‘gubbins’ installed.

vw-camper-van-conversion

Scouting for a T5

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Last week saw 8 Ball Camper Conversions helping out the local scouts and Neil finally discovered the benefits of a VW campervan. He used the T5 hire van as he went up to North Yorkshire to sit around in the middle of nowhere.

Once upon a time…

Colin was a scout, Mike was a scout and Neil was a scout. And scouts sleep in tents; everyone knows that. Then they grew up, got their driving licences and soon they had lots of hobbies between them; from skiing and snowboarding, to motocross, off road driving, wakeboarding, sailing and generally having fun in the great outdoors.

Almost every weekend they would be away. Colin and Mike had cars and used static caravans (Colin being the one who was most fashion conscious called his an ’American Trailer’). And Neil, apparently unaware of discomfort had an old Landrover and a tent.

Then Colin and Mike discovered the versatility of VW Transporter campervans. They found them to be so good that before long they started a business building them. And Neil stuck with tents, as by then he was living far far away where the sun shone and the sky was blue.

Then one day Neil decided to come home to the UK. Being the oldest of the three, he was a stubborn chap and he insisted on sticking with using his tent, whilst Colin and Mike smiled a wry smile and continued using their T5 camper vans.

Then it got cold and wet and Neil didn’t much like tents any more. Secretly he wanted a nice soft bed, a comfy seat to sit on whilst he made a cup of tea and room to stand up. But he was too stubborn to admit it and for months he crashed and banged around the countryside in his old Landrover with his leaky tent and worn out sleeping bag. Then, when he could take the misery no more, he would book into a hotel, before going back to the tent when he saw the bill!

Then he started working with his friends at 8 Ball Camper Conversions. Every day he saw campervans and he met lots of people who loved them. In fact some of them loved their vans so much they gave them names. He thought this was very odd (even though he’d named some of his own Landrovers over the years…that was different).

Then the local scouts needed some help getting their kit up to a walking competition. Neil was going anyway as he’d volunteered to help out and he was bracing himself for sitting in his little tent for hours on end on a windswept hillside manning a checkpoint.

“Why don’t you take the hire van Neil?” said Colin and Mike together.

Neil frowned. Secretly he loved the idea, but could he admit it? Then he looked at the weather forecast; ‘cool wind, rain and cloudy’. Brrrr he thought. His tent leaked and if he sat for hours in his Landrover (which leaked almost as much as the tent), he’d never be able to walk again.

And so last weekend, filled to the roof with the scout’s kit, he set off for North Yorkshire in an 8 Ball Campervan. His first proper trip out in one.

Over the 2 day event he spent many hours sitting at checkpoints. He made cups of tea, cooked bacon sandwiches, slept on a comfy bed under a snuggly duvet and generally had a very comfy time. He was joined at the checkpoints by various other people during the event and no matter what they drove; they all seemed to end up in the campervan eventually.

So maybe, just maybe, Neil has softened. As you’ll see from the pictures, a VW campervan makes a big difference.

Neil having a civilised breakfast with the 8 Ball hire van

Whilst Amanda lives like a savage without one

Campervan Heaters

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Well the weather has turned, the leaves are falling and people are suddenly thinking about the cold. At the moment we seem to be snowed under (no pun intended) with campervan enquiries. One thing that’s noticeable is how many enquiries we’ve received from customers who want a Webasto diesel heater fitted. In the last 7 months we have only fitted a couple; now almost all of our winter conversions have one specified.

There are a number of options when it comes to heating your VW T5 or T6 and a lot depends on when and where you plan to use it.

If you only plan to use the van during the summer, you don’t really need a heater at all, unless you’re very unlucky of course.

If you plan to use the van a little bit during the autumn or spring and you’re certain that you’ll only use sites with an electrical hook-up, then you can probably get away with a small fan heater.

But what if you want to be able to use the van in any place and at any time of year? If this is the case you need an auxiliary heater. Unless of course you plan to run the engine all night!

The range of auxiliary heaters is quite extensive and a lot of the options relate to where the unit is to be fitted. It is possible to locate some auxiliary heaters externally, but we choose not to. This is because in extremely cold weather a lot of heat is lost to the atmosphere and at best you end up with luke warm air being blown into your van at the very time you most need it to be warmer.

Hence we fit heaters internally that offer a compact and reliable design which maximises efficiency and ease of use. The electrical supply is powered through the auxiliary power circuit on our conversions, making use of the high capacity leisure battery. The fuel supply comes from the vehicle’s standard diesel tank, so there is no need for an additional fuel cell.

The majority of the ‘gubbins’ (wiring, fuses and pipe work) is located out of sight. Inside the van the only really visible element is the heater vent itself, which we usually locate under one of the front seats.

The thermostat is pretty similar to the one you have at home for your central heating and we locate this either at the rear of the vehicle’s B pillar or on the dashboard. So you can set the thermostat to the desired setting and the heater will warm the interior of the camper to the desired temperature and then keep it there. Homeostasis for the VW Transporter.

So you may be in the wilds of Scotland in February with the sleet lashing down but you are as snug as a bug in your little home from home.

Central heating for vans. A brilliant option.

2016 Motorhome Show Van For Sale

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Each year we build only 2 vans for ourselves, all the rest of our conversions being for customers. One of the reasons we build 2 of our own is that we need a couple of vans to show at the Lincolnshire Camper van show at the end of the season. If we can, we like to contrast one that is brand new with one that’s been in use for a while. This gives people the chance to see not only the quality of our design, but also how well our conversions stand up to sustained everyday use. After all, lots of companies will show you their conversions when they are brand new, but how many are brave enough to show you the same vans after their interiors have been kicked by the kids, had luggage scraped against them and been generally abused during thousands of miles of touring use?

This year the ‘used’ one is our hire van, which over the course of the season has travelled thousands of miles around Britain and Europe taking families on sunshine and beach holidays, couples on walking trips in the Western Isles of Scotland and rockers wading through the mud at Glastonbury. The problem we have this year is that we don’t want to sell the hire van. In fact we may build it a brother or sister for next year, so it’s not for sale.

So we just have one 8 Ball Camper Conversions van for sale this year and it’s our 2016 LWB T6; the photo-shoot star of our 2017 brochure.

The van itself is a VW T6 LWB Bluemotion finished in Reflex silver with contrasting Simora upholstery. It has the Highline specification with cruise control, climate control, Bluetooth connectivity with usb port, electric windows, heated windscreen, electric mirrors, reverse parking sensors, auto lights and upgraded 17” alloy wheels.

At the time of writing this the van has covered just 1,734 miles.

The conversion includes an Austops elevating roof that sleeps 2 (the only British roof to achieve TUV approval), with the interior finished in ‘smoke’ grey and Santos ‘steel’ faux suede.

The cupboard system, our first to include a wine rack, is finished in ‘Grey Zebrano’ and the conversion includes the following additional features:

  • Scopema sliding RIB rear seat/bed (sleeps 2) with integrated head rests, finished in matching Simora trim.
  • Smev 2 burner combi hob/sink with powered cold water connected to a custom built 23 litre tank.
  • Waeco CRX50 50 litre compressor operated fridge with removable freezer section.
  • 240v Mains hookup linked to Sargent EC155 power supply/charger unit
  • Complete 12 volt split charge system operated through a 140 amp Durite relay to a high capacity marine gel battery
  • Low voltage led lighting
  • Swivel double passenger seat
  • Folding stow away table
  • Rear speakers.

(To see a comprehensive list of what is included in our conversions see www.8ballcamperconversions.co.uk)

Priced at £39,500 inclusive of vat, it represents a high specification van at a great price.

Please just give us a call if you’d like more details or better still, come and see the van at the Lincolnshire showground 23rd to 25th September.

We’re going to the show

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It’s coming up to the season finale Motor Home Show at the Lincolnshire Showground, running from the 23rd to 25th September. It’s the only show we go to each year and we look forward to it immensely.
For us the timing is right. It’s the end of the season and in years gone by we would go to the show with a view to taking bookings for future conversions over the winter period and also to sellthis year’s hire van.
This year is a bit different though as we don’t want to sell our hire van. It will still be at the show though, as it acts as our mobile showroom. Plus it’s a place for us to sleep; after all how can we make camper vans and then opt to stay in a hotel? It’s nothing to do with Colin saving money apparently.
The Lincolnshire show is a varied one. It has camper vans ranging in size from tiny car based conversions, through VW T5 and T6 size, right up to the leviathans that look like detached bungalows on wheels.
For us, the key to the show is that we often meet people who have previously hired a camper van during the summer and having found they liked it, they want to get a van for themselves.
The show offers them an opportunity to compare many different sizes and styles of van so that they can work out exactly what they want. Inevitably the most basic question is size. Do people opt for a large van conversion or do they go for something more compact. There are pros and cons of each and being able to wander from one stand to another looking at the size, design and quality of workmanship can really help people clarify exactly what they want.
Of course we pride ourselves on quality and clever design, so we enjoy the opportunity to show people what we do in the hope that they go and compare our work to others. And as our conversions are bespoke, our customers can get the van they want. rather than just the van that is available.

Being Certified

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It’s often said that we need to get Colin certified (well it’s said by me anyway). Getting him certified would mean we’d have official recognition that he’s mad. No doubt we could then apply for a grant to care for him in the community.
Joking aside, gaining official certification is a long winded and expensive process, but one that is vital. If something is officially certified we can have confidence that it is fit for purpose.
vw camper conversions

At 8 Ball Camper Conversions we only fit Austops roofs and over the years we have worked very closely with Austops during the continuous development of their roof design. Working closely together has benefited us both; Austops have received invaluable feedback and ideas from us and we’ve been able to ensure that we receive a top quality product that we can fit with confidence.

This working relationship continues and recently Colin from 8 Ball Camper Conversions and John from Austops took a brand new VW T6 to begin the process of achieving full TÜV certification for the roof.
The process is simple, if rather costly and time consuming. Colin and John drove the new van to Germany to be met by a team of engineers at TÜV in Cologne. Over the course of a week or so the engineers undertake a series of precise measurements and tests to create a baseline on which to compare the vehicle after installation of the Austops roof.
The van is then brought back to the UK for the Austops roof to be fitted in the standard manner, before a return trip to Cologne for the TÜV engineers to undertake exactly the same tests again. With the new data they then compare the results to those of the original tests to see if things remain within acceptable parameters. Based on the results, TÜV certification is then granted or not.
Obviously we have confidence in both the design and the fitting of the Austops roof and all being well we’ll be able to share some great news soon. Which will make Austops the only UK manufacturer to produce a T5 and T6 pop top with full TÜV certification.
And that’s great for us and great for our customers too.

 

A festival for Britain

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Apparently almost 14 million UK adults will go to a festival this summer. From T in the park up in Scotland, to the numerous festivals down south, there seems to be a festival to suit every taste. Reggae, Scar, Jazz, Folk, Classical; you name it, there must be at least one that appeals.

Camper vans seem to go hand in hand with festivals and our own hire van spent a week down in Glastonbury last month, somehow it came back very clean and tidy, despite the knee deep mud that we all saw on TV.

Upon it’s return, the customer mentioned 2 things that stood out with regards to VW campers.

Firstly its size. It took almost 13 hours to get from Hull onto the site, most of the time spent queuing at Glastonbury waiting to get on the site. It seems the delay was mostly caused by all the larger mobile home-type vans having to be dragged to their location through the mud, by a team of 12 tractors! When it came to our hire van, being smaller and more nimble, it managed to drive to its pitch with no problems. Sometimes smaller is better (I can’t believe I’m saying that…as I’m 6’4”!).

Of course, the size of a van is a major issue when deciding what type of camper to go for. Certainly large vans with wide caravan bodies have lots of space inside. But they are also lumbering great things that don’t fit in parking spaces and you’ll struggle to find a supermarket without a height restriction bar too. So your relaxing holiday ends up being a stressful string of anxious parking moments interspersed with long walks to the shops. And if you plan to drive across a muddy field, expect to get stuck!

VW T5s and T6s may be smaller, but through careful design, you’d be amazed at how much useful space our conversions possess. So you get to spend more time relaxing on your holiday, which after all is the whole point.

The other thing our customer said was how economical the van was. He left here with a quarter of a tank, filled it up in Hull and drove down to Glastonbury. Then he drove it back again and returned it with more fuel in the tank than when he left us. Being a Yorkshireman I understand how much this must have hurt.

Unlike large mobile homes that have the aerodynamic qualities of an industrial chest freezer, VW campers have almost the same drag coefficient as when they were originally designed by VW. This means that their engines are not over stressed, the gears are exactly right and they use far less fuel than a struggling great leviathan. It also means they are so much nicer to drive.

So you arrive at your destination earlier than perhaps you’d expect and less tired too. Then with the saving you’ve made on fuel, you can afford to buy an extra special bottle of wine and relax watching the sunset. Whilst you wait for the lumbering giants to arrive.

Getting under your feet

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There’s something we all take for granted, all day every day: what we stand on. In a van the floor serves a few purposes. It makes the van look good, adding to the ambience of the interior. It acts as both sound and heat insulation. And just as a building is only as good as its foundations, so too is a camper conversion very much dependent on what is below it; the floor.
vw camper van conversions
I love the new Kombi rubber floors. They are warm and so squidgy that kneeling on them is a real pleasure (and trimming a van out is a killer on the knees). If you are having a Kombi van trimmed out as a day van, we’d always recommend keeping the standard rubber flooring. However, if you are having almost any other conversion undertaken, that’s exactly what we’d advise against.
If anything is to be bolted to the floor, then the soft squidgy rear mat becomes a nightmare. It will deform and create hollows in which water and mud will sit, so that you’ll never get things clean and the standing water will rot the cupboards and corrode fittings.
To safely fit a RIB rear seat/bed or our cupboard system, we need a structurally strong base on which to work, which is why we remove and replace all flooring when undertaking a full conversion. Even if it is already boarded out, the ply is likely to be too thin anyway.
So it’s best to start from scratch when it comes to floors. We start by installing a number of carefully cut spacers that ensure that the overall floor will be level, given that the metal floor underneath is ribbed and is therefore at 2 different heights. Then we install a thin foil backed styrene insulation layer onto which we fit a ply base layer. This is then topped off with a covering to the customer’s own specifications.
We’ve used a range of floor coverings in the past, from heavy duty one piece vinyls to individual vinyl floor tiles.
Through experience we have found that the best possible flooring is manufactured by Altro and we use Altro Xpress Lay, Altro Contrax and Altro Walkway. These are high quality safety floorings that offer slip resistance, great colours and an extremely hard wearing finish that stays looking good for years. This flooring has also achieved an A+  BRE Generic Green Guide Rating for Safety Flooring.
So whatever your chosen interior, we can make sure that it’s fit for purpose on a sound floor that looks great too.
The picture above shows a T5 which we’ve just completed. Work involved stripping the original paneling out, insulating and re-paneling the walls and trimming the vehicle out. The work included installation of a new floor covered in  blue Altro. We also installed a couple of side windows with curtains, a leisure battery, LED lighting and 3 additional 12 volt sockets. Then after the photo was taken, we  installed a triple RIB seat/bed. So  it’s now a versatile van that will seat six, sleep two and carry a pile of gear on a tough and great looking floor.

Decoding the badge

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VW T5 and T6s are all the same as each other in many ways, but slightly different at the same time. They are the same in looks and the basics of their engines. They are different in engine power output and their suspension.
So lets start at the back and try to decode what all the badges mean. On the rear door you will often see something like T32 140 TDI Blue Motion. Here’s what it means.
T32 refers to the van’s maximum gross vehicle weight . In this case the 32 means that it has a maximum gross weight of 3.2 tonnes (T26 means 2.6 tonnes, T28 2.8 tonnes etc). With our full conversions, we take off some weight by removing part of the roof, but then we add weight with the pop top and interior fittings. Roughly speaking we add about 200kg to the initial unladen weight of the van (which is around 1.8 tonnes regardless of the exact model). By the time we finish the conversion it will weigh about 2.0 tonnes, so even a T26 will be rated to be able to carry an additional 600Kg load. And that’s a lot of luggage.
The 140 TDI means that it’s a 140PS Turbocharged Direct Injection diesel engine. I can’t in all honesty tell you what PS stands for, but it seems to be almost the same as horsepower. The smallest engines are 84 PS and the most powerful is a twin turbo rated at 179PS. All the diesel engines are 2 litres in capacity nowadays and even the lowest powered vans seem to go well,as well as being very fuel efficient.
So what other badges might you see on a VW van?
Blue Motion refers to VWs reduced emissions technology which includes stop start along with lots of other things behind the scenes, from tyres with a low rolling resistance to improved airflow dynamics.
DSG means Direct Shift Gearbox. It’s almost like driving an automatic but it is in fact a manual gearbox with a clever twin clutch arrangement, much favoured by sports car manufacturers.
Sportline means a high specification van which goes like the clappers (the old Top Gear referred to them as the fastest vans in Britain).
Highline means a top spec van which is likely to have just about every conceivable extra, from climate control and rain sensors to auto dimming drivers mirror.
And 4 motion means that the vehicle is fitted with permanent four wheel drive.
Even the most basic VW vans seem to come with cruise control nowadays and to drive them they are nothing like vans of the past; much better in every way.
So no matter on the exact model you choose, rest assured it will make a fine camper with the capacity to carry lots of additional luggage and it will drive very well whilst doing it.

Pirates in a Camper Van

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“I want a camper van but I’m not sure how to begin”. This is one of the most common phrases we hear and something we can help with.
We can offer a number of options depending on personal taste and budget constraints.
Most of our customers already have their own van and they know it really well. Now they want to upgrade it to be a full camper and they come to us to discuss colour and trim combinations.
However some of our customers don’t yet have a van and they ask for help in finding one. Of course we can’t guarentee that we can find the perfect base van for you, but with our contacts in the industry, we may be able to point you towards possibilities.
vw camper conversions
Then we have those who are looking for the ultimate. They plan to buy a brand new vehicle and seek our advice on the specifications they should opt for when they place their order with VW. They then have their new van delivered directly to us for conversion.
Whichever you choose, the idea is the same; we take a van and turn it into your dream camper.
But what is your dream camper?
Our standard conversion makes your van into a small ‘home from home’ to sleep 4 people. You get an Austops raising roof that we fit at their factory. This gives excellent headroom in its day mode and sleeps 2 at night in a cozy and weathertight area. The pop top comes with inbuilt mesh fly screens and a window, both of which can be zipped up for extra cozyness and privacy.
Downstairs the standard conversion includes the 8 Ball cupboard system with secure soft close doors and cleverly thought through design features. Then you have a proper compressor fridge, double burner hob and sink with powered tap operating from an in-built 22 litre tank. The walls are insulated and finished in a warm but hard wearing material and the hardwood ply floor is covered in hard wearing Altro.
With LED lighting and a leisure battery/mains system installed, there is plenty of power to keep things running for days on end and optional solar charging is available for those looking for wild camping away from the masses.
The RIB seat/bed folds down to make a fully flat and comfy bed at night and during the day it joins the swivel passenger seat to make a comfy place to sit and relax.
After that, the rest is up to you. Our conversions are bespoke, so please let us know what you are thinking of and we will see what we can do to help.
Of course there are those who want something quite different and a couple of weeks ago we worked on a van for a chap who loves surfing. He didn’t want a full conversion, but rather a day van in which he could keep his boards and perhaps rest for a while. He had the van fully trimmed out as is fairly usual and then we installed an internal surf board mounting and a couple of points from which to hang his hammock. So if you happen to see any pirates at the sea side this summer, at least one of them can find a place to sleep. But he may have to fight a duel with the owner first.
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