Base vehicle: VW Transporter Price from: Conversion-only £18,000 Berths: 4 Travel seats: 4 Length: 5.30m Width: 1.90m Height: 2.00m Gross weight: 3,200kg Payload: 805kg
Words: Peter Vaughan
Photos courtesy of Big Blue Sky Campers
We met Jon Willars at the Motorhome & Campervan Show Season Finale at the Lincolnshire Showground, where his company, Big Blue Sky Campers, was exhibiting at a show for only the third time in 14 years of trading. But then this isn’t a big business looking for volume sales, rather a small converter offering bespoke conversions on a variety of base vehicles. The pair of Volkswagen T6- based campers on show were from a set of three built for Nottingham rental company, Teds Campervan Hire, but these are just examples of what’s available from the converter.
In fact, Jon says that Big Blue Sky has never built the same conversion twice! He specialises in Volkswagen Transporters and Ford Transit Customs, but these are not the only options (the bigger Transit and the VW Crafter have been previous projects) – and vans can be supplied by customers or sourced for them, although nothing over three years old is converted. Ex-demo panel vans are the preferred option.
The VW shown here is equipped to an unusually high spec for a rental vehicle, being based on a long-wheelbase T6 with the ultimate 204PS engine, DSG automatic transmission and cab air- conditioning. It features a Reimo pop-top, which is Jon’s favoured roof because of the warranty backing that it comes with, and there’s a solar panel on top because, increasingly, Big Blue Sky’s customers are demanding campervans that are suitable for off-grid camping. The panel is discreetly installed, too, with no visible wiring and that theme continues with the mains hook-up point being concealed under the bonnet.
Another well-proven aspect here is the RIB rear seat, for which Big Blue Sky is an approved fitter. The company also uses Reimo Variotech sliding seat systems as an alternative but always sticks with top-quality branded components in its conversions.
Side kitchen layouts aren’t the company’s sole offering but, whatever the floorplan, the furniture is CNC cut from high-pressure laminated board.
In this camper, the cabinets have a sleek handleless design featuring push-to-open cupboard doors. Jon admits that it’s not the most practical style for those with kids or dogs (who may knock against the doors and accidentally open them), but it’s not hard to see the visual appeal. And that is enhanced by the real oak worktop, finished off with Osmo oil. As for the furniture colour, the pale blue here is just one of a huge array of options – “too much choice?” asks Jon’s wife, Nicola, showing us samples.
The kitchen also features a Dometic compressor fridge and, more unusually, a diesel-powered Wallas hob, which can also double up as a space heater. Teds Campervan Hire wanted to avoid any gas installations, to keep things safe and easy for its rental customers – and to avoid the need to carry out annual gas safety checks.
Because this is a long-wheelbase camper, the extra 400mm of bodywork means there’s plenty of kitchen storage, as well as a good acreage of worktop towards the rear corner of the vehicle. A large drawer alongside the rear bench is a useful feature, while more of a gimmick are the illuminated cup holders on the other side of the RIB seat.
More importantly, Jon is very aware that tall drivers cannot always get a comfortable driving position in side galley layouts like this. So, before any such conversion is undertaken, he gets the owner to make themselves comfy at the wheel – only then is the position of the galley’s forward end decided.
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