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Discussion Starter #1
Hi, you may have seen from earlier posts that I have a Bay Window, pop-top camper which I've now sold - purchase to complete in the coming week.

I am now thinking much more seriously about the foibles I had with the Bay and what I would like to get from a newer van. Just thought I'd do some thinking out loud to share my thinking and invite some advice/discussion.

1) The target maximum load is me, my fiancee, two dogs and my mountain bike (and any combination of the aforementioned. This drives me to a LWB vehicle for the extra space.

2) The vehicle needs to be much more of a daily driver (my missus would not drive the Bay due to dodgy gearchange/reliability). SWB is probably a little but more practical/parkable than a LWB, but not enough to overcome the need for space.

3) I would like to be able to "get in and go" places at a reasonable speed (potential 80+ rather than 55/60 in the Bay). My target market is therefore 2.5 T4s or 100BHP+ (ideally 130BHP+) T5s (174BHP would be lovely but unaffordable lol).

4) I am 6'4", and also envisage the odd biking trip with my mate. Requirement in the long-term for a pop top with bed.

5) A feature I really appreciated from the bay was walkthrough especially with dogs in the back. Requirement - non-bulkhead van ideally and 1 + 1 seat in the front - see also 7).

6) Envisage travelling Europe with fiancee and dogs in the van as early as next summer. Requirement for reliability and official campervan status (Eurotunnel/insurance issues with unoffical conversions??).

7) I will need to transport passengers in the back safely occasionally (and this would be a bonus feature for longer trips - to be able to chill on the back seat. At the moment (need to search more) I am a little confused about what constitutes passenger-safe approved rear seating.

8) On day-biking or for other load transportation I would like the rear to be somewhat modular - ability to move the seat forward/back and possibly remove units (also cooking in the awning). Requirement for Variotech rail system and kind of rules out standard Reimo type fixed conversions)?

9) I want to be able to use the van comfortably overnight in the winter. Eberspacher/propex heating required.

10 ) Camping kit - leisure battery, electric hookup, cooker, fridge, not convinced on sink.

11) Space maximisation - like the designs with twin front swivel seats where the van becomes a lounge area and maximises the use of the cab space. This then has an impact on what conversion kit I have to ensure the driver's seat is useable.

12) In-van entertainment. Would love a nice sound system to cruise in comfort. Don't have a real need for tv/LCD screen as I usually take the laptop away with me.

13) Tailgate - to hide/change under in the rain and for ease of loading large bike/dog cages.

14) To sort most/all of the above the van has to be worth doing it to....so looking at newer vans with non-sky high mileage (can't quite get my head round a van with 190k having plenty of life left in it.)

15) Aircon - nice-to-have. Lived without it for enough years not to absolutely need it now.

16) T4 or T5? I like the style of both, T4s seem to have better reliability reputation but it almost seems like you can get at least as much newer T5, lower mileage for the money sometimes.

17) Transporter or Caravelle base? I don't need all the seating in a Caravelle or the windows (indeed prefer the look/privacy of a window-van). Caravelles have more toys but cost much more than vans....do I really need what I get for the extra money? Is better quality body panels on the caravelle an urban myth? Then again are after-fitted windows as good/flush as OEM if I was to buy a total panel van with no glazing in the side or the rear?

So there you go..where do I start. Do I accept life is not perfect and buy someone elses ready conversion that ticks most of the important boxes? Or do I hunt for the right base vehicle and gradually add the above bit by bit - as long as I stay in work I can afford to spend a bit over six months? Must say the un-thrashed T4 LWB 2.5TDi seems to be an elusive beast.

Sorry, just previewed the above and it's a bit of an essay!
 

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what is your budget? that is your baseline T4 or T5 makes no difference, both have their own qualities and strengths:ILU:

you can go for a van only shell, untouched and do to it what you want or get others to convert based on your needs, others doin it is expensive but takes the headwork out of the equasion, or do it yourself and enjoy if you have the time, patience or money?

or buy a converted van and use straight away, there are pros and cons to both, whichever you choose, good luck with your projectT:

l have a 2ltr 95 petrol with 72,000 miles, hightop fully converted from new to sleep my family of four, it was used to camp the day we bought which met our needs having 2 youngsters

personally, lf l had no worries about time, money or kids, l would do it myself, and only contract to others when my skills were lacking eg hightop instilation LOL:
 

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Discussion Starter #3
Immediate budget - I could do £10k but for the full £10k I'd want something 80-90% there (maybe just the pop top and night heater to add?).

Over the next six months I could afford to spend say another £5/6k - so about £15k in total to get to 100%!

What I learned from the Bay is that I have the interest but not the time to do it myself, so it would be mostly a convert bit by bit by professionals job.
 

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10 ) Camping kit - leisure battery, electric hookup, cooker, fridge, not convinced on sink.
Smev do some lovely combo units, small sink, couple of rings. You need a sink for a quick sploosh of a cup or a plate, a wash of your hands, wouldnt be without one myself. Even a quick brush of teeth...

9) I want to be able to use the van comfortably overnight in the winter. Eberspacher/propex heating required.
Absolutely agree. I dont use mine really at night but on cold days being able to have heat either to defrost the van, or to make it a haven after you have been out, or even parked up they are great. Ebers fit well if you run diesel. I have a propex and like it very much, plumbs into my gas system.

13) Tailgate - to hide/change under in the rain and for ease of loading large bike/dog cages.
My preference. I addded lights there, and put the bed system a foot further forward so I can still sit on the rear sill. It will be a meeting point! Jolly useful. I added two lights to the door inside panel.

11) Space maximisation - like the designs with twin front swivel seats where the van becomes a lounge area and maximises the use of the cab space. This then has an impact on what conversion kit I have to ensure the driver's seat is useable.
twin front rotating seats allow for a great lounge area. With clever choice of cabinet behind drivers side you should be able to work out a great layout. The handbrake may get in the way slightly, but once parked up you will have a great place to sit.

17) Transporter or Caravelle base? I don't need all the seating in a Caravelle or the windows (indeed prefer the look/privacy of a window-van). Caravelles have more toys but cost much more than vans....do I really need what I get for the extra money? Is better quality body panels on the caravelle an urban myth? Then again are after-fitted windows as good/flush as OEM if I was to buy a total panel van with no glazing in the side or the rear?
To my mind a good base van with windows added can look very OEM. Jimbos black van with limo windows is so subtle you really have to look hard to see the windows at all. Good fitters will do a very professional job, and cost is reasonable. I like vans with one extra side winndow each side, I have windows all round...there are some good value caravelle style vans around if you are lucky. I saw a MINT black LWB T4 today, no dings...but it was a 'private ambulance' ie body carrier...

6) Envisage travelling Europe with fiancee and dogs in the van as early as next summer. Requirement for reliability and official campervan status (Eurotunnel/insurance issues with unoffical conversions??).
'official' campervan status, your mods should make a change from van to motorcaravan designation a doddle... dont forget to include a table.... Only prob with Eurotunnel is if you are driving petrol with LPG....gas tanks are fine if switched off. You do not actually need to be designated on the V5 as a motorcaravan to get insurance as a camper....
 

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Discussion Starter #5
Cheers Stridey, lots of useful info there, good to understand that my thinking isn't completely outlandish.

As for the body-carrier.....shudder.... :eek:
 

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Discussion Starter #6
Forgot these requirements

18) Not a hightop - don't like the look or practicality.
19) Blue/black/silver in colour ideally.....definitely not white or yellow.
 

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1) The target maximum load is me, my fiancee, two dogs and my mountain bike (and any combination of the aforementioned. This drives me to a LWB vehicle for the extra space.

2) The vehicle needs to be much more of a daily driver (my missus would not drive the Bay due to dodgy gearchange/reliability). SWB is probably a little but more practical/parkable than a LWB, but not enough to overcome the need for space.
Does the bike have to be in the van? Fiamma bike rack or similar? If not then a LWB maynot be needed.
3) I would like to be able to "get in and go" places at a reasonable speed (potential 80+ rather than 55/60 in the Bay). My target market is therefore 2.5 T4s or 100BHP+ (ideally 130BHP+) T5s (174BHP would be lovely but unaffordable lol).
Don't forget the petrol alternatives. I run a 2.0 petrol with LPG which would easily achieve the above.
4) I am 6'4", and also envisage the odd biking trip with my mate. Requirement in the long-term for a pop top with bed.
Shouldn't be a problem, but checkout the cost involved they may make your eyes water!
5) A feature I really appreciated from the bay was walkthrough especially with dogs in the back. Requirement - non-bulkhead van ideally and 1 + 1 seat in the front - see also 7).
Bulkheads can be removed and seating can be converted to 1 +1 if it isn't already.
7) I will need to transport passengers in the back safely occasionally (and this would be a bonus feature for longer trips - to be able to chill on the back seat. At the moment (need to search more) I am a little confused about what constitutes passenger-safe approved rear seating.

8) On day-biking or for other load transportation I would like the rear to be somewhat modular - ability to move the seat forward/back and possibly remove units (also cooking in the awning). Requirement for Variotech rail system and kind of rules out standard Reimo type fixed conversions)?
Reimo variotech is highly regarded and can be moved and removed. Other systems are available (Unwin?) and indeed VW can offer such. Units can be purchased to fit onto the rails for removal and re-positioning, and some can be removed and used in an awning.
9) I want to be able to use the van comfortably overnight in the winter. Eberspacher/propex heating required.
Oh yes! I have a Webasto in mine Toasty!!
10 ) Camping kit - leisure battery, electric hookup, cooker, fridge, not convinced on sink.
Lots of self or company fit alternatives available.
11) Space maximisation - like the designs with twin front swivel seats where the van becomes a lounge area and maximises the use of the cab space. This then has an impact on what conversion kit I have to ensure the driver's seat is useable.
At 6'4" you may need to get a lower seat base before fitting a swivel as some swivels do raise the seating potion. Not a problem for me TBH.
13) Tailgate - to hide/change under in the rain and for ease of loading large bike/dog cages.
No problem, even barn door models can be converted to tailgate
15) Aircon - nice-to-have. Lived without it for enough years not to absolutely need it now.
You should be able to find one with A/C if you look hard enough. I did, Cool!

Hope this helps, good luck with the search. {Plenty of help on here when you need it :ILU:
 

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Discussion Starter #8
Cheers Ahay, very useful again!

The bike does have to be able to be kept in the van as it's too expensive to be left on a rack even for short periods of parking.

Have seen LWB poptops priced at about £3k...hence a long-term desire but not necessarily immediately affordable.....
 

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Yiman

Allow me to think aloud also!

Glad you typed this lot out as I am in a similar quandry myself although my requirements are for two adults and two kids under 3 years. I want safety for the kids in transit as well as a sensible sleeping option for them.
But the van has to be a sensible daily user for the wife as well with occasional others to carry.

I like the idea of two swivel seats up front, a three seat rear fold out bed and a removeable cooker / fridge option. Not too fussed about the rest of the traditional camper set up cupboards etc. I guess my only option is to get a base van (Caravelle probably) and do the tweaks myself. The seating options in the Caravelle give the best base to start from as the seat belts etc are already in. Then install swivel bases for driver and passenger with a fold up/down table. Then all I need is a removeable cabinet with the fridge cooker which I guess I could cobble myself. Sounds doable methinks? Anyone seen or done this?

I would always have the middle set of seats for occasional addition passenger use when needed as a bus.

I think I want a T4 Caravelle! Not sure if an LWB will be too large for the Mrs to park - although I do like the idea of a rear mounted camera and a screen built into the rear view mirror. I saw this somewhere for about £90!

My budget is about £4k!

Answers on a postcard please?
 

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Discussion Starter #11
Yiman

Allow me to think aloud also!

Glad you typed this lot out as I am in a similar quandry myself although my requirements are for two adults and two kids under 3 years. I want safety for the kids in transit as well as a sensible sleeping option for them.
But the van has to be a sensible daily user for the wife as well with occasional others to carry.

I like the idea of two swivel seats up front, a three seat rear fold out bed and a removeable cooker / fridge option. Not too fussed about the rest of the traditional camper set up cupboards etc. I guess my only option is to get a base van (Caravelle probably) and do the tweaks myself. The seating options in the Caravelle give the best base to start from as the seat belts etc are already in. Then install swivel bases for driver and passenger with a fold up/down table. Then all I need is a removeable cabinet with the fridge cooker which I guess I could cobble myself. Sounds doable methinks? Anyone seen or done this?

I would always have the middle set of seats for occasional addition passenger use when needed as a bus.

I think I want a T4 Caravelle! Not sure if an LWB will be too large for the Mrs to park - although I do like the idea of a rear mounted camera and a screen built into the rear view mirror. I saw this somewhere for about £90!

My budget is about £4k!

Answers on a postcard please?
Similar ideas.....but you need more safe seats than I do and I also like the look and rear security of the window-van, so it's probably not worth me paying the premium for a Caravelle where it is for you.
 

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Discussion Starter #12
Latest thinking.....it almost seems worth getting a 2005/2006 T5 for £7 or £8k than it does getting a 2002/2003 T4 at £5-6k.

Also read that the T5 SWB is 250ish mm longer than a T4 SWB....so more than halfway to a LWB T4. I am wondering if with the benefit of dual-swivel front seats, I could maximise the space of a T5 SWB and have almost as much space as a T4 LWB.

1.9 engine on the T5 has almost the same power as the T4 2.5Tdi.

An interesting obsession!!!
 
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