Now that staying at home is the new norm, here are some of the best vehicles for this summers staycation!
A few years ago, while getting my Beetle repaired at my trusty classic VW repair shop, I chatted to the owner about a business like his surviving in a world where leaded petrol was starting to be phased out and the economy was struggling. He was initially concerned, he said, but out of the blue had come an increase in Brits having staycation holidays with the knock-on effect of a rise in Volkswagen Campervan sales. Move on a decade or so, and I could arguably ask my mechanic the exact same question and receive a similar reply.
While leaded petrol is no longer so much of a concern to the classic veedub owner, the current pandemic crisis has possibly changed the short-term attitudes of many who might normally go abroad for a holiday. Add to this the seemingly warmer summers we are currently experiencing here in the UK and we just might be about to experience another surge in the popularity of vehicles appropriate to the camping holiday.
Let’s stay with the VW classics. If forking out for an expensive camper van or motorhome is not on the agenda, then consider hire. T2 Campervan hire is no new thing, but the advent of social media has helped to make such businesses more viable; whereas before it was something you needed to have the idea for before searching out a suitable company, now such things as social media ads can provide you with ideas you probably haven’t had yet. I know of a couple within a few miles of where I live and one just around the corner – I’d probably have no idea of their existence a few years ago.
There is a mind-boggling and ingenious array of interior design configurations for the VW Camper, a vehicle that is deceptively capable of sleeping 4 adults quite snugly. While VW didn’t make a T2 ‘camper van’ as such, it’s the coachbuilding companies that have made the ‘VW Campervan’ a viable genre. Westfalia are probably the most well known coachbuilder known for their T2 conversions dating back to the early 1950s. The company made good use of the now very popular ‘rock and roll’ bed, where a seat by day would become a bed by night, utilising a small space to the max.
Westfalia also provided various tent add-ons to fit over the side entrance and an elevating roof that could provide much needed extra headroom and even be used as another bedding area.
Bringing the idea up-to-date, you can now buy a roof tent for your Land Rover Defender 110 as we reported here. It’s not quite the same as the Westfalia-style integrated elevation, but it certainly keeps the same tradition of ingenious design afloat.
Such a thing as a vehicle roof tent is not a new idea of course, and there is a multitude of companies out there offering designs for all sorts of small vehicles. Just make sure your car is up to it…
Mobilvetta Kea P67
So when does a camper van become a motorhome? When you emigrate to a country large enough to remove the stress of driving one if you ask me, but even in my own road, there are now two families with motorhomes (though they never seem to leave their respective driveways). Yet there’s no doubt about it, a motorhome gives you the luxury and space that a smaller camper van cannot. Practical Motorhome voted the Mobilvetta Kea P67 as the winner in their most recent Motorhome of the Year awards, and at just under £70,000 you can purchase a more compact low-profile family motorhome for less than you would pay for a Porsche 911. The P67 is smaller than the P65 and includes a toilet, spacious living area for when it rains, with ambient LED lighting and a full sofa. Being the UK, you also get a Truma Combi 6 heater thrown in for good measure should you buy in the UK. At 2.35m wide and 6.99m long, the P67 may be a bit more practical for UK roads without sacrificing space, thanks to some clever layout ideas.
Volkswagen Grand California
Last year Top Gear suggested that the Volkswagen Grand California just might be the best camper van you could buy. This is the manufacturer’s largest ever camper, and while marginally smaller than a traditional motorhome, it does still boast a toilet. In the past VW has suggested that as they believe that most people – especially in the British Isles, where the nearest thing to a ‘wide-open space’ is often a supermarket car park – tend to use these vehicles for camping at registered campsites, certain things were not necessary. Yet by adding a toilet, the Grand California opens itself up to those clever enough to find a genuine wide-open space of somewhere in Britain.
VW says that luxury yachts inspired the interior, featuring teak-look decking for the floor area – rather like an Omega Seamaster watch you might say. The Grand California comes in 2 sizes with the smaller 6-metre long Grand California 600 having a higher roof allowing it to sleep up to 4. The other version is the 6.8-metre long Grand California 680.
In many ways things have moved on a whole lot since Westfalia came up with the idea of adding a tent to a T2, with surfaces and materials designed to be easily kept clean, USB sockets everywhere that you look and solar power… Yet the ingenious ability to provide storage in the most unexpected places remains the same. As does the most important part of your decision to buy a camper van or motorhome – the desire for a good view.
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