THAT cheeky chappie Peter Kay may have brought Bolton to the attention of the public at large, but in the motorhome trade, that accolade would apply to Derek Andrews, owner and founder of the Leisuredrive motorhomes.
Forty years have passed since Derek converted an old ambulance for his parents back in the late 1960s. After a year they sold it to eager customers and both father and son suddenly realised that here was a definite market opportunity. Through the winter of 1968 they converted five more vans.
In 1969 they formed Carahome, but they later changed this to The Manchester Motor Caravan Company and in the early 1980s it became Leisuredrive, as it remains today.
Derek sees 2009 as a major milestone in his career and with over 40 years of experience he has plenty to offer the motorhome owner who wants to have his conversion built on a VWT5 or T4.
Derek has an excellent source of used Volkswagens, from which customers are assured of having a quality vehicle on which to add their new conversion.
Times may be hard for some, but Derek has proved that providing quality workmanship at affordable prices is the key to a thriving business. Derek has a small but dedicated team, both in the office and also, of course, in the factory itself.
Many members of Derek’s workforce have been with him for many years, so they know the product inside out and share Derek’s expectations regarding customer satisfaction.
On the day of my visit there was a constant downpour. Typical - the following week was a heat wave. This put an end to our plans of taking a motorhome out for some scenic photographs in the great outdoors, but we didn’t let it dampen our enthusiasm.
You could tell that Derek was extremely proud of his Vivante - and rightly so to.
Before being invited to examine the motorhome in great detail, I was allowed a quick look around the factory.
It is here where a skilled workforce gets down to producing moulded GRP roofs for high tops and building the furniture, custom made for each unit. The hard working team has their routing organised like clockwork and all know exactly the part they play in the organisation.
Even though they were busy, they were all keen to explain to me the various jobs that go towards making a Leisuredrive motorhome the quality product it is.
So what about the Vivante? This layout is based on the a previous model, the Crusader, and is plan B in the company’s line up.
Based on a T5 VW it can be ordered in either high top or elevating roof versions. The 40th anniversary special comes with latest Smev combination hob/grill and oven, a 60 litre 3-way fridge, full mains electrics, a swivel cassette loo, two x new “lay flat luxury cab seats plus a passenger one with safe. This all-in one offer comes at an earth shattering price of ten pounds short of £11,000.
So what’s the layout? Well the centre of the motorhome has a central dinette which comes with a swivel table.
This section of the Vivante then makes into either twin single beds or a double, this being done with relative ease. The thick cushions used should provide good sleeping comfort as well as for daytime use.
The upholstery used in the Vivante is modern yet remains perfectly practical in every way, while the light finish of the woodwork adds a further feeling of space in what is really quite a compact area.
The kitchen is placed on the nearside. Here the kitchen is designed in such away that some usable worktop space is provided, especially with the glass lids placed down.
The Smev sink and hob look good with the kitchen unit, which also comes with some very useful kitchen cupboard storage. The oven and grill are welcome additions too. Above the kitchen worktop there is more storage available in the roof lockers, while lighting comes in the way of a strip light.
Opposite the kitchen is the wardrobe; sure it’s not oversized but it should prove useful for two on a long weekend break. Below that, the 60-litre Electrolux fridge should hold enough to keep two people going between trips to the shops. At the rear of the Vivante is a large roof locker, adding still further to the storage facilities.
But it’s at the rear end that the Leisuredrive team have come up err trumps, the cupboard at the side of the wardrobe and fridge actually houses a loo! A Thetford swivel cassette toilet (manual flush) is placed here and privacy can be achieved by using a divider that partitions the rear of the van. It’s a clever idea, but then that’s what you come to expect with Leisuredrive.
No wonder then that the Leisuredrive team have won numerous awards in recognition of the quality of their work and the ingenuity that goes into it. Leisuredrive’s Vivante is truly a master stroke from Derek and complements the Crusader by offering two alternative, original designs.
The Vivante is a class act and for around £25,950 offers you very good value for money.
Don’t think that Leisuredrive only build on VWs, as they also offer other conversions built on Citroen, Ford, Peugeot and Fiat.
They can convert your own vehicle or find you a new or good used base vehicle – they will even supply materials for self-builders.
With business going flat out, the factory is busy keeping up with demand as ever more motorhome users find that the Leisuredrive product is more affordable and comes with build quality and design flair gained over 40 years in the trade.
Leisuredrive Vivante £24,950
Base vehicle: VW T5 1.9TD
Height: 2.00m (elevating roof) 2.60m (hi-top)
Leisuredrive (FG) Ltd
Fishbrook Ind Estate
Bolton BL4 8EL.
Tel: 01204 574498.
Web: www.leisuredrive.co.uk (link will open in new window)
- This profile is taken from the Summer Special, produced by Caravan Motorhome & Camping Mart. To find out more about the magazine, click here.