Cartwright Chronicles

Sahara Challenge update and introducing sweet ‘Vanny Adams’

Dan Cartwright has over 12 years of experience in the caravan and motorhome industry. He is a judge for a number of prestigious leisure vehicle awards and regularly heads off in his motorhome with his family. Every week, Dan shares his insights with the community. Here’s what he has to say this week.

For all of the readers following the Sahara Challenge, I just wanted to give a quick update. Things are going well and, at the time of writing this, the crew is currently on a ferry heading back from Africa to Europe. The weather has been great and they were successful with wild camping in the desert.

Apparently, the caravans and motorhomes have been performing much better than the vehicles, although I suspect they’ve only been let down by the squishy bits in control of them!

Internet connections have been slightly turbulent, so we’re a bit behind on footage compared to where we wanted to be. 

The first leg video is out now and you can watch it below. It looks like the adventure has been a blast, but there are still challenges to come. Stay posted for regular updates.

Introducing ‘Vanny Adams’

Vanny Adams is CaravanTimes’ new, full-time test vehicle. As you might have noticed, it’s a Volkswagen T25. Manufactured in 1982, its 1.6L engine has since been replaced by a 1.9L at some stage before us owning it. It’s also got what I believe to be an Autohome roof from the same year, making it a semi-high-top with a luggage rack on the rear.

This is in no way a resto classic. It’s a modified vehicle and we have no intention to revert it back to its original form. The striking green paint is RAPTOR, which for those who didn’t know, is a military-grade paint used to protect the bodywork from the harshest conditions. Additionally, the chassis has been repaired, waxed and oiled.

Why do we have it?

Well, we’re often asked to review parts and accessories. Unfortunately, some of them require fitting, which we don’t always want to do to our personal leisure vehicles and certainly not to press fleet caravans and motorhomes.

This means we’re often unable to test vital gear. Sweet Vanny Adams, on the other hand, is primed and ready for long-term accessory testing.

We decided on a classic – and it really is a classic – so that we’re not inadvertently favouring any of the modern manufacturers. We don’t want to be in a position where we’re giving undue exposure to any business or its vehicles.

So, we’ll be providing regular updates on what it’s like living with a classic leisure vehicle, using it regularly – if not every day – to accelerate mileage and accessory tests. As we’re not taking it for restoration, we’ve got the freedom to play around with the interior and exterior, installing whatever we want for however long we fancy.

The journey of sweet Vanny Adams so far

Since we bought it, we’ve done some body and paint work to be noticed. I think we’ve done a good job in that regard and if you do see us out and about, come and say hello.

Next, we’re going to make sure the engine won’t let us down. It seems to be ok, with no major leaks and good compressions. The first stage will be a full belt, fluids and filters. Depending on time, we might replace fuel lines or any rubbery bits that may have corroded – it doesn’t look like they’re leaking, but better to be safe than sorry.

The old dog-leg first gear is a bit of a nightmare, so we’ll take a look at both end-gear linkages. It has to travel 3m, which means we’ll be replacing them at the engine and selector side to protect the vehicle and hopefully make it a bit more enjoyable to use.

In total, the parts required for all of this have come to about £160. There’ll be a fair amount of labour involved, which would be expensive at a garage, but we’ll do it ourselves. Hopefully, by this time next week, we’ll have much more confidence in the engine to survive long journeys. Currently, though, it’s doing around 10 miles a day on the school run.

Luckily, we’ve acquired two new testers for the team – Phoenix Esmerelda Cartwright and Wolfric Richard George Cartwright. Yes, they might be seven and five-year-old children, but I consider them to be accelerator testers who will poke, chew, bite and drag anything to destruction!

We don’t know where this will end up going. Some members of the team think it would be nice to upgrade Vanny Adams, whilst others want to keep it semi-original and focus more on the interior. One slightly crazy individual even suggested ripping the entire engine out and replacing it with batteries.

So, stay tuned for updates on classic campervans, maintenance and accessories. Please leave any comments about what you’d like to see us try or test, as well as any other ideas you have for sweet Vanny Adams.