In addition to my trip to the moon (which is in Cornwall by the way), I had another grand day out last week but I wasn’t paid for this other one. My wife and I ventured forth to the Motorhome & Caravan Show at the National Exhibition Centre, Birmingham. Still nostalgic about the two motor caravans we owned over a period of twelve years (but not so fussed about exploding toilets), we are beginning to yearn for another motorised home on wheels. So off to the NEC we went to see what we couldn’t afford (just about everything there!). What an amazing sea of wheeled white boxes confronted us in the NEC’s massive halls. White boxes (with some colourful exceptions) of every size and price – every price, that is, above about £40,000! It’s a fairly safe bet we won’t buy brand new but it was good going to the show to see how things have moved on since we bought our last van in 2004. Also, it was just plain good fun jumping into, and having a nose around, all the different motor caravans on offer. A bit like going to a show home on a new housing development, even if you have no intention of buying. Admit it, I bet many of you have done that … or been tempted at least.
In addition to all the shiny new white stuff, there was a corner dedicated to shiny old Volkswagen campers. Thought they would provide a more interesting pictorial enhancement to this post than the modern vans. The white and green VW (above) was of particular interest. Externally, it was identical to the split windscreen camper my family had when I was a kid – it was even the same year (1967). However, ours had an elevating roof and the cooker was attached to the inside of one of the side doors. Compared to a modern day motor caravan, our old “splittie” was primitive; no fridge, heater, toilet or shower, just the cooker, a tiny sink with hand-pumped cold water and four beds (two of those in the rising roof). Our van had a party trick though. A fan mounted on the ceiling of the cab blew air into the rear of the van when travelling – together with clouds of small black flies. It was years before I realised that baguettes were not the French equivalent of currant buns. Yet this trundling tin can (1500cc and about 50hp) supported a family of four on a two week adventure through France to Spain and back, not once but twice in the early seventies. One of those summer escapades included a trip over the Pyrenees via the little principality of Andorra. Quite scary. The van had many other practical uses too, like transporting half the Cub Scout football team. Had we had two vans my Cub team would have beaten the Brownies more often; five of us against eleven of the little brown devils just wasn’t fair. There were other holidays in the UK too and numerous weekends away until the arrival of a little brother prompted the sale of the camper van (we called it a camping car back then) and the purchase of a large frame tent. Not quite the same.
And what sort of motor caravan are we interested in now? One thing we have decided is that any new purchase will be bigger than our two old vans (both four berth vans less than 4.9m in length) because we need extra comfort now we are the wrong side of fifty. But we would still want something relatively compact (less than 6m). Beyond that, things get a bit uncertain. Do we want a coachbuilt (original van cab with bigger fibreglass body grafted on the back, more space) or another van conversion (a van with its original metal body, narrower than a coachbuilt which would aid manoeuvring and driving, particularly on narrow country roads)? How many belted travel seats would we want? How many berths do we need (our son is beyond family holidays now, not too sure about our daughter)? Would we feel obliged to give a naff, cutesy name? Could we keep it on our driveway or would it be more sensible to store it at the local farm when not in use? Could we marry off our daughter? All these questions and more….. At the end of our trip to the enormous NEC show, one white box began to look much like another but we came away with a few ideas. Any purchase is not likely to occur until next year but you will be sure to hear about it if we do take the plunge!