Category Archives: Camper Conversion News
I’m not sure why, but this year’s order book has a lot more LWB T6 conversions than we’ve ever seen before. Historically SWB VW T5s and T6s have been the most popular, but change is afoot. In fact I’ve just checked and out of the next 12 conversions, 7 are LWB and only 5 are SWB. That’s weird.
I’ve written before about the pros and cons of LWB vs SWB camper vans and having slept in both during the same weekend last year, I was able to really compare them. I’m now a convert to LWB vans. Yes they are a bit longer, so people unused to driving larger vehicles find it a bit odd at first: some cut the corners and scuff the back wheel on the kerb, whereas others take corners so wide, they seem to think that they are at the helm of the QE2!
The reality is that LWB vans are only a bit longer than a SWB, but the extra length is really useful if you use the van as a camper. In fact I’ve just been and measured the difference it makes and by choosing a LWB conversion you get 26% more length in the living area. And that feels like a lot.
I have to agree that SWB vans look cooler and yes they are a tiny bit easier to manoeuvre. But as a camper, LWB vans make a lot of sense. They still fit under supermarket car park barriers and so long as you park nose in first, they fit in parking bays and you can still open the backs. They have almost identical fuel economy as their shorter brothers and the performance seems to be the same too.
But you get extra cupboard space, more floor space and you can even have a longer RIB bed as an option too.
So, if you’ll pardon the pun, I’m converted.
Whichever wheelbase you choose, we’ll do all we can to give you as much usable space as we can and it’s amazing the nooks and crannies that can be used to store something.
So as the days get longer and our thoughts turn towards heading out on the open road in our campers, spare a thought for the others. You know them; those unlucky souls squashed into an overloaded estate car. Or at the other extreme the people manoeuvring what looks like a wheeled bungalow down a country lane as they meet a herd of cows. I know it’s mean, but I do feel a bit smug when that happens.
It seems that interest in camper conversions continues unabated. Certainly the number of enquiries we are currently receiving about T5 and T6 work suggests that people are seeing the benefit of a bespoke conversion; whether as an everyday vehicle or the special holiday wagon.
I woke up last week to hear a chap on Radio 2 talking about camper vans. If I’d not known better, I’d have thought he worked for us. Mike and Colin swear blind that they are too young to listen to Radio 2, so they missed it.
The man did a great job of explaining the pros and cons of large motor homes versus small campervans. He talked about the fact that he had a friend with a 6 tonne mobile home which they loved, but that there were parts of the country they simply couldn’t visit, as it didn’t fit down the roads. They got round this by having 2 motorbikes onboard!
Next he talked about small campervans such as his own and how much easier they are to live with on a day to day basis. The fact that you can access almost anywhere a car can go came first. Then he went on to talk about the fact that you didn’t need to plan where you were going next. He hardly ever stays at ‘proper’ campsites apparently; by the sounds of it he just sets off and follows the best weather forecast. That sounds brilliant to me.
Finally he talked about the fact that good camper conversion specialists are in high demand, with the best being booked up until at least next spring. Certainly this is something we are keenly aware of, as our order book is very healthy and we’re trying to work out how to reduce our waiting list at the same time as maintaining the highest possible quality. All too often you hear of conversion companies suddenly expanding at an unsustainable rate. We won’t be doing that, but rest assured we are quietly working away behind the scenes to see what we can do, as our next available build slot is months away at the movement.
The best thing for me though was his praise of small conversion companies such as ours. He noted that there are some very good conversion companies out there (that’s us) and some of them offer a hire van (that’s us too) with some offering prospective customers the chance to hire a van for a weekend and if they subsequently buy a conversion, the cost of the hire will be deducted from the cost of the work (and that’s us as well).
I mentioned the broadcast to Mike later that day. “That’s really odd” he said. “I had a chap phone up only yesterday who asked all those questions in exactly that order. Do you think he was someone doing research because he was booked to appear on the BBC?”
Who knows? All I know for certain is that what he said is very much in line with our own thoughts. And with that I’d better get back to work. There are 2 vans on the ramps at the moment and the phone is ringing….
You’d be amazed what VW T5 and T6 enthusiasts ask Santa for at Christmas. Perhaps against expected stereotypes, it seems that ladies often want to embellish their VW vans more than men.
I’ve been a very good girl and I’d really like a full conversion by 8 Ball Camper Conversions please. Their work looks great and I’m told they will make me a van just the way I want it.
In fact, I’ve been so good can I have some extras too please?
I wonder if they could make all the seats leather and with VW embossed in them? Do you think I could choose the colour of the stitching too, as I really like red?
Some under worktop lighting would be good. Is it possible to have something that makes it look cosy and romantic for us grownups but at the same time the kids can have it multicoloured as though it was their own private disco?
A nice warm Webasto diesel heater would be great, so that we can be snugly and warm even in the depths of winter when we’re in the Scottish Highlands.
I think a Loc8 Table System would be a handy option so that we can have picnic lunches outside the van when it’s warm again and have a place to store the table when we’re not using it.
Some speakers in the back connected to a Bluetooth receiver would be fantastic. Then I can play my Steps and Boyzone albums from my phone when the boys are out walking.
I guess solar panels on the roof would be good to help keep the leisure battery topped up if we don’t use the van for a while.
A Reimo rail on the side would be helpful too; then we could attach a tent or an awning (and maybe get the kids to sleep in there some nights )
Thinking ahead, I think a safe would be handy so that we can lock things away out of sight if we leave the van unattended.
Oh and knowing how clumsy the kids are, I think a rear bumper protector would be a good idea too. That way they won’t end up scratching the paintwork when they put all their gear in the back.
And finally some pretty coloured scatter cushions would make it feel like home from home.
Lots of love
(aged 37 and a quarter)
Please can you give my wife whatever she wants, so long as I can choose the van in the first place?
(The long suffering husband)
From all of us at 8 Ball Camper Conversions (Colin, Mike, Neil and Pud), we hope you have a great Christmas and a fantastic 2017 full of exciting adventures made possible by your campervan.
The Loc8 Table System: A solution for everyone with a VW T5 or T6 who wants a table without the hassle of finding a place to store it.
People the world over seem to have one question when it comes to campervans. “What about a table?”
Some conversions have really obtrusive permanent tables on swing away brackets that always seem to be in the way. Some conversions do away with a table altogether and others (like ourselves) use a fold up table that can be removed when not in use.
I hate to admit it, but none of the solutions seem to be perfect. We think ours is the best approach of course, but it does have its drawbacks; most notably what to do with the table when it’s not in use? We store it in the rear section of the RIB seat when travelling, but when you make the bed, you can be left with the table and limited options as to where to put it overnight.
What is needed is an innovative camper solution. You know the sort of thing, a logical and useful way to solve the problem.
At last it looks like a solution is at hand.
How about a standalone table that can be used in or out of your VW T5 or T6 and which is stored neatly out of the way in a space that is simply wasted?
The Loc8 Table System seems to be the answer. This ingenious system has 2 parts to it; a sliding door panel (the Loc8Trim) that acts as the storage unit and the table itself (the Loc8Table). We’ve been using a pre production version for the last few weeks and it works really well (if you look back to a blog entitled ‘Scouting for a T5’ you’ll see the Neil making good use of the table at in the North Yorkshire Moors.
The prototype trim panel supplied to us was in bare form, but the production version will be finished more closely to match existing VW panels in both colour and texture.
Fitting the Loc8Trim panel into the door is a doddle, using the standard VW clips. The door itself needs no modification and it takes only a few minutes to have the new trim in place. From experience it seems to take longer removing the standard hardboard VW trim than it does to fit the new ABS plastic trim; which requires little more than using your thumbs to push the clips back in again.
One major positive is that once secured in place the panel looks like it belongs there, rather than being an obtrusive add on, so common with many aftermarket products.
The table itself stands on 4 aluminium legs, each with adjusters at the end, should the table be placed on a slightly uneven surface. The legs fold down and lock in place easily and the whole thing works well.
But the cleverest part comes when you fold the table up and want to put it away. It simply slots into the door panel and that’s it. No clumsy locking tabs, no complicated mechanisms to go wrong and nothing to rattle.
It’s the answer to a campervan builder’s dream and the fact that it will fit any right hand drive T5 or T6 means that it will work for everyone. So whether you’re a builder who needs a table on which to lay out plans, a day van user who wants a picnic table or full-on campervan enthusiast who wants a table to use both inside and out, it will work for you.
And the company who makes the Loc8Table System? Innovative Camper Solutions Ltd; an apt name if ever there was one.
A pre-production Loc8Table System in our van
A production version now fitted in our hire van
We were out of pretty pictures of VW T5 and T6 campervans and we urgently needed some specific photos related to Transporters. The main problem; it’s November.
For a while we toyed with the idea of Astroturf in the workshop, the heater on full and megawatts of extra lighting to replicate a bright sunny day. But the idea was quickly rejected on the grounds that no matter what we tried, it would look awful. So instead we went old school.
Have you ever tried to take photos which suggest it’s a nice warm summer’s day, when in actual fact its icy cold and almost winter? For a brief while I almost felt sympathy for super models who seem to do nothing but complain how cold they get on photo shoots. My gut reaction though is that they should eat more.
The first issue was waiting for the sun to come out. It took almost a week and we almost missed it. I was in a windowless office, Mike was in the depths of a van in the workshop and Colin was at home doing DIY.
The phone rang; it was Colin. “So are you taking photos then, the sun is out and the sky’s blue?”
Mike looked out of the window “Oh yes so it is”
Like a finely oiled machine we sprang into action and within minutes the van was loaded and we were heading out of the car park. But where to?
The first stop was the village post office, to buy some props, most notably a bottle of wine. After all we wanted to create the image of a relaxing holiday.
“White or red” said Mike.
“In summer people drink white” I replied “which of these 2 bottles looks the most summery?”
“The one with a picture of a vine on the label” suggested the post master.
“Good choice” I replied, noting that bottle he suggested was a pound more expensive than the other.
When the post master realised what we wanted it for, he suggested a great location. Beverley Westwood was a very good choice as it has lots of green pasture, expansive views and interesting landmarks in the distance. It also has areas given over to the playing of golf, which means manicured green grass.
So with the heater on full blast and our hearts full of summer joy, we set off.
Ten minutes later we were set up, but it became clear that the leaves on the ground and piles of cow poo didn’t exactly lend themselves to the image of summer fun we were looking for. What we needed was some nice green grass with no poo and no leaves. “Aha” said Mike, as someone looking remarkably like Rupert The Bear walked past…”over there”.
So for the next hour or so, much to the amusement of the golfers, we set up a camping table on the edge of the fairway and took lots of pictures. To aid the summer feel, I contemplated getting Mike to strip off to his shorts, but thought better of it. He hates having his photo taken at the best of times and to be honest seeing him half naked and covered in goose bumps may be amusing, but hardly helpful in this instance.
So what were we doing all this for? Hopefully we will be able to announce something soon. But in the meantime I’ll leave you with a couple of pretty pictures that have a lot to do with it.
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.
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
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.
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.