Category Archives: Camper Conversion News

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.

Camper Van Trimming

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One of the most basic elements of a conversion is the actual trim out. This involves removing any panelling that may be in the rear of the van, installing insulation within the bodywork and doors, fitting replacement ply panelling and then applying a final surface.

On the majority of the surfaces this is a speciality flexible carpet which has excellent soundproofing and thermal insulation properties; and of course it looks good too. On the door cards we use Santos Faux Suede which is manufactured for what they class as ‘severe contract use’, incorporating a stain repel finish. It looks great, is easy to clean and it’s very hard wearing; giving a tough but extremely up-market feeling to the panels. This material is continued on the roof lining (if there is no elevating roof) and on the underside of the upper bed (if a pop top is fitted).

When finished, the effect is great and not only do the vans look fantastic, they are also a lot quieter and warmer too.
Of course attention to detail is paramount when trimming out a van and we take time to ensure that great care and effort is taken to ensure a perfect fit. This week seems to have been ‘trim out week’, with 3 bookings being taken to trim out day vans in the near future. This seems to be a popular option with Kombi van owners in particular, who want to keep their second row of seats but have the added luxury and cosiness of a trimmed out rear cabin.

Powering Your Camper Van

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The hire van has been out on its first trip of the season with one of our regular customers. He races catamarans in various locations throughout the UK and he needs somewhere to stay that’s near his boat…in fact if his accommodation could actually tow the boat so much the better: hence the van has a towbar fitted!

camper van electrics

At the present time the snow seems to be falling even though it’s almost May and Colin is busy sorting out sets of electrical installation materials ready for the next 3 conversions.

The ability to have power in your camper must surely be one of the most important features of its conversion. It provides light and keeps the beer cool, it can charge your phone and power your laptop. And if you have an auxiliary heater fitted, it will run that too!

All our standard conversions come with a comprehensive mains and 12 volt system to give you the best of both worlds.

When you arrive at the campsite your high capacity leisure battery is likely to be fully charged from your journey. It’s a separate battery to that of the van, so even if you manage to completely flatten it (which is difficult), the van will still start and the engine will charge the leisure battery back up again.

So wherever you end up, you will be able to benefit from the vehicle’s on board electrical system. The gel battery has a massive capacity. I know this for certain, having accidentally left all the lights and electrics turned on last Saturday morning….and only realising in the early hours of Monday. The lights were still shining brightly and the fridge was lovely and cold.

If on the other hand you arrive at a more upmarket campsite there will be an electrical hook-up point. All our conversions include a mains hook-up, usually discreetly hidden under the rear bumper. This facilitates 240 volt 10 Amp mains electrics inside the van through standard UK sockets, so that you can use your hair-drier for example. At the same time the Sargent electrical unit silently maintains the charge status of the leisure battery that’s running your fridge, lights and auxiliary heater. So you can relax in the lap of luxury in your little home from home.

Hydro Dipping

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The joy of having a campervan made to order is that you can customise it to your own tastes. And this makes it special.

Some people who come to us choose a safe option and have their van built in fairly neutral colours. Certainly this will appeal to a broader range of potential customers when it comes time to sell it on; but perhaps you want something a little more ‘you’.

We certainly get customers who want their van to be a bold statement saying something about them and over the last few years we have undertaken some fairly bold conversions. From bright pink and purple, through electric blues to black with lime green, we have produced a rainbow of interiors. The owners have loved them and they can be certain that their vans are unique.

There is no doubt that whatever the interior, when it comes time to sell their 8 Ball Camper Conversions T5 or T6, they will have no trouble achieving a great resale price. However those with extremely distinctive interiors will have to accept that the number of people sharing their tastes exactly will be small, but once they find the right customer, they may well pay extra to possess such a vehicle.
So what if you want the best of both worlds; a funky van that at the same time can still appeal to a mass market?

How about a conversion that uses mainstream cupboards and flooring, but which has very distinctive cab trims? After all, if a new owner doesn’t like your style it’s a lot cheaper to replace the trims when you change your vehicle. And you could even swap them over to a new van if it’s the same model.

8 Ball Camper Conversions can make the cab of your van look as individual as you want, thanks to a process known as hydro dipping.
This is where a printed image is created on a special film that can be applied to almost any plastic surface. Once applied, it is then lacquered for longevity. To give you some idea of what can be done, here are some examples to get your imagination going.

Pack the wellies, here comes summer

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Summer is here. No honestly, it must be, as Colin has turned the garage heater off! The result is that it’s a bit chilly in there, so I’ve taken to sitting in a nice warm van out in the sunshine.

Mr Buchanan, I hope you love your van; from where I’m sitting it is lovely and as I look around as it nears completion, it looks and feels great.

The joy of a camper conversion is that you can be snuggly and warm whatever the weather and that’s a very good thing, as the British weather is somewhat unpredictable. Yesterday the weather forecast was for it to be warm and sunny, so I took the day off to do some work outside. It rained all day and I got nothing done. Today it was forecast for rain all day and I’m sitting at work in the sunshine.

People who own campers tend to love the outdoors, as do all of us who work at 8 Ball. The problem of course is that when it rains, people in tents get wet. My own tent seems to have a brilliant groundsheet, but a useless flysheet. So it leaks but then holds the water on top of the groundsheet, making a very effective but shallow swimming pool. You don’t get that in a camper van!

The pop top roof sleeps two in what amounts to a hard top tent. It’s light and airy, private and extremely weather proof, so no matter what the heavens are doing, you remain warm and dry but still feeling connected with the outdoors. If you have children, that’s where they will be and I’m afraid you may have to ‘suffer’ sleeping on the incredibly comfortable RIB bed instead. It’s a car seat, a reclining chair and a bed all in one. And even when it is set up as a bed, thanks to the careful design of our interiors you can still open the fridge to get the milk out for an early morning brew.

So whether we have a glorious summer of sunshine, or a dreary damp 3 months, you can be sure that an 8 Ball Campers Conversion will see you staying in the lap of luxury.