As adventurous young newlyweds, we lived in a campervan in the USA for much of our first year of marriage – fast forward 30 years, we’ve just stopped corporate work, we’re starting our Second Half, and we’ve identified that we will spend a few years living in Malta. Somewhere along the way, the idea of campervan “Two Point Oh” was born, and now we’re in the process of finding a modern version of our beloved Kombi campervan.
We briefly considered other derivatives of a home on wheels, like a caravan or a Recreational Vehicle (RV) or a bus, but this time around this will not be our long-term home. We want to live in a bricks-and-mortar home in Malta, and we want to have only one vehicle. We want something small enough to use every day, and something equally suited to day trips as it is to several weeks long European adventures, and so we quickly zoomed into campervan territory. And so our research began.
Google quickly showed us that there is a vast campervan universe in Europe, with VW Transporters/Kombis (or VW Californias) still firmly entrenched in the middle of that world. Not to say that there are no other options, but the VW campervan so outnumbers the alternatives, that it represents a diverse market of vehicles and conversion options.
This market is large enough to allow Volkswagen themselves to make their very own campervan, the California. The range enjoys a cult following and excellent resale value, but the layout and options are pretty “cookie cutter”, like most factory vehicles. At the other end of the spectrum, there is a vast number of individual DIY artists and craftsmen for whom a campervan conversion is a labour of love. They produce a most diverse and eclectic range of unique creations, but as much as I wish I had the skills (I have 10 thumbs), and as much as Jen wishes she had the energy (she is a master craftsman but with health limitations), we know that it’s time to pick a simple design that suits us; a blank canvas which Jen can turn into a masterpiece in time.
We spent a few months falling in and out of love with various offerings (looking only in the UK) and finally landed on Vanscape, in North Devon, because we were impressed with their designs, credentials, and highly effective website.
This 4-minute video gives a fascinating perspective of what they do to a VW van, from start to finish:
We were delighted to get the assistance of Colin (from Vanscape) in the finding and buying process. A couple of weeks ago, he helped us to find and buy this beauty:
We were looking for Auto (Jen can’t push a clutch with her injured left foot), Long Wheel Base (we believe that the extra space will be most valuable), and a Tailgate rather than barn doors (we have our reasons). After some simple admin, our new van was delivered to Vanscape a few days ago, and now we get down to the serious business of choosing optional extras, colours and finishes.
We chose the Ben Nevis Deluxe design. This layout accommodates a regular sized double bed, and we want to be able to get a quality mattress to sleep on, for Jen’s health’s sake.
This is a pretty classic layout, as far as I know. You can see that the daytime layout has the rear set up as a kitchen and sitting area. The kitchen has a gas stove, fridge and sink with running water. The passenger seat rotates to face the rear, and the roof can be elevated when the vehicle is stationary, which means that one can stand at full height. At night the rear seats turn into a double bed. The diagram on the left is for a Short Wheel Base, the extra length of our LWB will allow a larger kitchen area and more space in front of the bed.
I won’t bore you with all of the specs that we’ve chosen, although I want to highlight a couple of options to illustrate how far the technology has come.
We will have a 150W solar panel on the roof, which together with a leisure battery should allow us to be unplugged and stationary for 5 days or more. Note that the leisure (extra) battery recharges when the Kombi is moving, like with all cars. Also, this means that our 12V power will be renewable, and “free”.
The bike rack on the back and the roof rails for my surfski are of course considered essentials, so no further mention is necessary.
We are aiming to take delivery of our newly converted Kombi in the first week of October; July and August will be spent in Australia, visiting our children, and September will be spent in Malta, finding a home.
I trust that this whets your appetite, and we’ll be sharing more details as the van is converted. Of course, we’ll have to have a major press release when we go to Devon to fetch “Dub 2.0” in early October, God willing.