One of this blog’s readers asked if I could go into more detail about our campervan and, while I promise all my posts from now on won’t be about our van, here we go.
We’d been tempted to get a motorhome of some sort for years and in fact rented a four berth one a couple of years ago and took it to the south of France. But it was too big. Too big to park anywhere we wanted, too big to go up all the roads we wanted to, and too big to park on our front drive. So we started looking at campervans, modifications of commercial vans with a pop up top. The most iconic of these is the VW California and we were initially seduced by the branding and image. They are very expensive and buying one was going to really stretch our finances but we decided to go ahead. The night before we were about to commit I realised that I hadn’t actually sat in the front of one with the top down. It’s just as well, because at the eleventh hour, when I turned up at the dealers for this final check, I discovered that I don’t fit! My height is in my back and there is no way I can sit in the front seat of a VW California!
So, this took us down the route of looking at other campervan conversions and led us to Sussex Campervans and the Nissan NV200 which we now proudly own. It is very small, smaller than many SUVs, and Sussex call it a “camper car”. This means that we can park it anywhere we like, even a multi story car parks, we can drive it down the smallest of lanes, and it fits easily on our front drive. As Nissan no longer import the diesel manual NV200 on which the conversion was originally based ours is a petrol automatic imported directly from Japan with about 4000 miles on the clock. Sussex Campervans have been doing the conversions for about nine years and have got it down to a fine art.
The van has a rotatable passenger front seat and a rear seat with two seatbelts which really quickly and easily converts into a comfortable double bed. There is also a 50l fridge, a cooker with two gas hobs, a sink, more cupboard space than we know what to do with, and a pop-up roof where we could sleep another couple of people at a push. There is a plumbed LPG gas tank which fuels the cooker and a very effective climate controlled heater. There is also a large leisure battery and a solar panel on the roof so we can apparently survive “off grid” and without moving (which would normally charge both batteries) for up to three days.
What the van gives us is complete flexibility. We can use it as the family car with an option to stop wherever and whenever we choose, but it is also easily up to the job of longer trips. I’ve already used it for a week in Scotland and a weekend in Wales and Penny and I have had overnight stays in The New Forest and Dorset. Even in winter with cold wet weather it has been really comfortable. Once the weather gets warmer, if COVID regulations allow, I’ll head south with it, park it somewhere nice, in The South of France, or Spain, or maybe Italy and Croatia, and Penny can fly down and join me for a long weekend or longer holiday.
The fit and finish of the van is superb (a friend who recently rented a VW says ours was much better fitted out) and Sussex Campervans have been a delight to deal with. Despite COVID restrictions, the van getting stuck on a boat in The Suez Canal, and Brexit changes slowing down the supply of parts, they bust a gut to get the van to us with as little delay as possible and have been incredibly supportive and helpful as we discover the joys of this new toy.