Nick’s News – Nick Harding is an expert in all things motorhomes, caravans and camping. Each week, Nick explores products, locations, holiday ideas and essential community information on our behalf – It’s a Hard-ing Life for Nick, but here is what he found this week.
Spending nearly half a day last week with Volkswagen’s latest California – the smallest, Caddy variant – left me with mixed thoughts. It’s great to drive and is a full five-seater, plus it has just about enough kit for camping.
You’re probably going to want an awning or separate tent and, depending on how you look at it pricewise, it’s either fantastic value for a California or rather expensive for a car that can do a bit of camping.
Session over, I got back into my own Transporter-based Cali, thinking how roomy it all is. Still, I’m sure folk who want the best possible drive and economy in a highly modern vehicle with just a few camping facilities are going to have their heads turned by the Caddy offering.
In the news
Convert your own VW? It’s tempting, but…
Despite a shortage of vehicles – and rocketing prices – there are still plenty of folk out there who are keen to buy a pre-owned Volkswagen Transporter van and convert it into a camper themselves.
I have to be honest and say I’ve witnessed plenty of “failed projects” and some that were downright dangerous. Nevertheless, I can see the temptation, especially if you have the DIY wherewithal.
So, here’s some very early, general advice from a good friend who’s been there and done that:
• Invest in some kind of closed cell insulation so it doesn’t absorb condensation.
• Use a high-temperature spray adhesive when gluing to the steel as it gets very hot in sunny weather.
• The best way to fix timber to interior steel is using self-drill fixings. These have a point that drills through the steel in conjunction with a self-tapping thread.
• It shouldn’t be necessary to use fancy (expensive) lightweight ply – the ordinary stuff will do, as weight is not generally that crucial in this type of conversion.
• Connect the leisure battery to the engine battery with nice chunky cables (say 16mm) to make the most of charging when on the road.
• Fit a roof fan to keep cooking condensation to a minimum and if it’s a suck/blow version it can help cool the interior as well.
• The Chinese diesel heaters you can get on eBay are suspiciously cheap (£100 or so) but actually work really well. Make sure it’s the 2kW version – you can get a 5kW for the same money, but it will be too powerful for a small van and if you run them on low power they tend to soot up.
• If you use 18 mm plywood for the floor it’s thick enough to screw all the furniture down nice and solid. Excellent sealant/glue is Sikaflex EBT. Better than silicone and cleans up with white spirit.
Carthago is the quality pick for Choose
Kent-based motorhome specialist Choose Leisure has come up trumps with Carthago. It took on the German manufacturer franchise after the most recent lockdown and immediately sold three of its first batch of four models. That’s saying something in the motorhome sector, especially as prices are not exactly cheap.
As Paul Santos, Choose’s owner and managing director told me: “We’re delighted to have paired up with the hugely-respected manufacturer Carthago. It’s a name synonymous with style and quality. The current industry-wide stock shortage meant we had just four models delivered initially and sold three straight away! However, we’ve got more coming later in the year.”
Motorhome for me?
Volkswagen Caddy California – all set for spring
Volkswagen UK has announced its latest addition to what is now the California range – and it’s based on its Caddy NPV. It’s thoroughly refined and, with a lineage you can trace to the Golf car, superb to drive.
The Caddy really is a camping car. It boasts a small slide-out kitchen, designed for use with the tailgate up, and a clever and comfortable double bed that’s a highly impressive 1.98m long. Plus there are those “Cali essentials” – two folding chairs and a free-standing table, for use outside, all with a dedicated storage bag under the rear seating. This consists of two units, both of which are removable.
There’s no elevating roof option, nor does there need to be – although when it comes to the UK early next year (the order books open this October) the plan is to offer two different awning options.
Prices start at just under £30,000 for the short-wheelbase petrol-powered version, with two diesel alternatives as well as DSG automatic transmission among the options.
My pick? The Maxi versions are that critical bit longer, and with 122PS engine with DSG it’s priced at a still reasonable £36,029.
Three good: Great to drive, full five-seater and clever camping kit
Two bad: No floorspace and limited camping gear
Perfect for… camping-plus
Also consider: Randger R535 and Wheelhome Vikenze
Heatwave? What heatwave – time to vent
I started writing this during the blistering June heatwave. There’s been a bit of a weather lull since, but if we do get a long, hot summer you might be glad you read it.
Leisure vehicle accessories specialist RoadPro sells a wide range of air conditioner and general vehicle cooling and heating products (also backing it up with excellent technical advice). The latest addition to the portfolio are Maxxfans from the USA. These roof-mounted electric cooling fans come in domed and square versions, the latter dropping exactly into the aperture of a standard rooflight. Prices start at just over £100, ie a fraction of the cost of a full air con unit.
If you do want to go the whole hog with air conditioning, start with market leader Truma. Its Aventa Compact models, which can also be used in conjunction with Truma or Alde heating systems are typically in the £1,500-£2,000 range and you can ask your local leisure vehicle dealer about fitting.
Close rival Dometic’s top Freshjet model, the 3000, can top £3,000, although its FreshWell product for underseat fitting is an interesting alternative at around half that amount.
Prices start at around £735 for a more basic but nevertheless effective air conditioner from Cool My Camper – it might just do the job in terms of keeping things chilled inside your leisure vehicle as well as taking the heat off your wallet.
Now, bring back that sun!
Photo credit: Malcolm Griffiths