It's a teensy bit orange
The Dream Realised.
After months - no years - of dreaming about owning our own camper, we'd finally decided what we we were going for! Back at the end of 2014 or so, we visited the factory of a demountable camper maker in the north of The Netherlands. If you don't know what a demountable camper is, here's someone who does.
If you don't know where The Netherlands is, well... just understand that it looks nothing like this:
Glad I could clear that up.
Anyway. We had a look at a demountable camper, and liked a lot of things about it - the autonomy, mobility, relatively small size, the build quality, the coolness. Here's a similar camper to the one we looked at, employed as a demo in the summer of 2015 (thanks to the Vagabond Baker for the photo - good blog too!).
But back in 2014, for various reasons, the manufacturer in The Netherlands- Lelycampers - was not in a position to sell anything. Literally. They went out of business a short time later.
In the meantime, we went on to look very seriously at an old Airstream motorhome (Model 345). Beautiful, but 11 m long, and in need of about 30k spent on it. To say it was damp, is a bit like saying the same about the Titanic.
Thoughts turned again to a demountable. Having the ability to separate car and camper unit meant that when not travelling, we still had sensible transport. One which could also be used domestically for ferrying our piles of rubbish to the tip, rather than having to risk the 15 km drive in Rosie, which was just about her mechanical range limit by this stage.
Doing a little more research, I discovered a demountable dealer [ed: the dealer was demountable? Interesting] in the UK - SBS Adventure Campers. By the way, SBS is an acronym of 'Simply Brilliant Stuff', rather than - I assume - an indication that owner Gary Warr is/was Special Forces. But who knows? If you ask, he could tell you, but then...
Through SBS we discovered that our original demountable manufacturer in the Netherlands was reborn under the new name 'Dutch Campers'. And there just happened to be a demo version of the DC220 model that Gary could sell us. Tempting?
Sure enough, we went searching for a suitable base vehicle. See my advice earlier. Plus all the expert advice on demountables universally recommended a Toyota Hilux, Extra Cab version. Unfortunately they're as rare as hen's teeth second hand. The main alternative was a Land Rover - but yeah, I don't think Flemming and others would have forgiven me for that!
I tried finding a decent Hilux in the UK, but eventually came across a nice one in the Netherlands. This had the advantage of being a 'left hooker' (no Lewis, that's not what you think). Good spec, full manufacturer's service history, reasonable mileage. Only one problem. It was orange. Bright orange. It had been repainted for use as a maintenance vehicle - it even had the flashing lights on the roof. Who can resist flashing lights?
Sure enough, we bought it. We now owned a one-tonne pick-up. Or did we? More on that as we go.
We confirmed with SBS Adventure Campers that we wanted the ex-demo, and we were committed!
While we waited for the demo to be delivered, we upgraded the Hilux - sadly getting rid of the pretty flashing lights - and instead fitting an Australian 4x4 suspension kit, which added strength and about 5 cm to the ride height. We also arranged for a VB Air kit to be fitted, which gives both an adaptable ride (no, Lewis), plus some ability to level the vehicle on a sloping site.
My local garage - who by the way are far and away the best garage I have ever known - rallied around for a standing ovation when I appeared in the Hilux and informed them that Rosie was being retired. They'd kept that old car on the road for the last five years - somehow! If you ever need a 100% fair and honest mechanic - which is even rarer than hen's teeth - try these folks. On some occasions when they've repaired Rosie, they haven't even charged me. Either sympathy or they're just excellent people; else perhaps both!
The week before the scheduled collection, we headed up to the factory to see our camper in the flesh for the first time - feeling very nervous! But all looked good:
Then we fired off a few remaining questions. And discovered a bit of a problem!
"So, it's actually quite big. How heavy will it be? The Hilux will be able to carry it okay, right?"
"Well, to be honest - fully loaded - you might be overweight."
Only that last week had I discovered that Toyota Hilux are 'downplated' (reduced in weight capacity) when imported into The Netherlands and other countries. The LHD model - although otherwise identical - has 300 kg less carrying capacity than the RHD in the UK/South Africa/Australia. How much did I wish over the next week that I'd bought a UK registered Hilux? A lot.