Cheap and cheerful?
Camper vans and motorhomes have traditionally appealed to the older generation but younger couples and families are also beginning to like the freedom and low cost holidays these vehicles provide. A decent starter model like the Ace Capri will set you back by about £23,000.00 new, but you can pick up something drivable for a small family for as little as £9,000.00.
Ace Capri: entry level two-berth van. Source: http://www.motorhomes.co.uk/
Large and lavish
If you thought mainstream camper vans were all damp clothing, flimsy construction and uncomfortable beds assembled like some bizarre transformer from a chair leg, a table top, a dog basket and a tea tray, think again. Most camper vans today are stylish, comfortable and often more luxurious and better equipped some people’s houses! New technology and materials has made a huge difference, not just to the fittings and extras, but in how they are put together too.
Not a hotel lobby, but the interior of the Monaco Dynasty Motor coach.
The more adventurous get their shot at RV glory too. 4×4 camper van conversions abound, including quaintly bonkers and British Heath Robinson affairs for battered old Land Rovers.
A more sophisticated off road look is obtained in the US with some interesting conversions based on the Jeep Wrangler – which some might say (like most American RVs or trucks) is roomy enough in its standard form.
The increased use of high technology has made an impact on everything from the humble camper van to the most lavish RV. Even the most conventional of camper vans uses all sorts of high tech materials in their constriction nowadays, from Glass Reinforced Polyester (GRP) or carbon fibre body shells to amorphous technology solar panels incorporated in the roof. The Verdier Westfalia takes being green to extremes with body panels made from wood to give a truly eco feel.
Hybrid engine, solar panels and genuine wood bodywork: the Verdier Westfalia VW-style conversion. Source: http://www.motorhomeplanet.co.uk
Other conversions based on hybrid or all-electric engine technology are also becoming popular in the USA, where the Toyota Prius is the conscience-salving planet-killer of choice for pretty well most of celebrity California. The overall effect is a bit like driving a Trimphone though.
RVs for the Rich & Famous
Part I looked at high tech camping vans for ordinary mortals. Celebs have different and surprisingly varied tastes, but share a love of gadgetry. Jamie Oliver is probably the highest profile home grown UK media favourite who used a camper for his book tour launch, but his fame and vehicle can’t compete with some of the more extravagant American celebrity adherents. Vin Diesel has what can only be described as a mansion on wheels with a sunroof that automatically changes to suit the light levels. Colin Farrell has a classic Airstream that he uses when he’s filming in the USA and Pamela Anderson had her motorhome fitted out with a vibrating bed and stripper pole.
High- tech goes bananas when you enter the realms of mobile palaces for the super rich. Here it’s gizmos and gadgetry that dominate. Aside from the obvious gold plated fittings, flat screen satellite TVs the size of the IMAX, lightning fast broadband, living, sleeping and dining accommodations that would make the Ritz seem like a tawdry Travelodge as standard, you can also get an extra set of wheels. The VARIOmobil 1200 Platinum comes complete with three axles to handle its 25 tons gross weight thrown down the road by the equivalent of 420 horsepower and gives you an integrated garage for a Mini Cabriolet to boot – or rather where the boot would normally be!
The VARIOmobil 1200 Platinum complete with ragtop Mini for those little excursions. Source: http://www.vario-mobil.com
For the oligarch who’s got everything (including the Champions League trophy) and is therefore convinced he can walk on water, there’s even a camper van that allows him to at least drive on it. Depending on the specs, the bus-sized Terra Wind Amphibious RV will sink about $1.2 million of your ill gotten gains (that’s about one Yossi Benayoun – but he doesn’t float so well). It’s a snip – or rather a ship! Obviously, it has all the features you’d expect like an eight-jet whirlpool spa, marble floors, wood panelling, leather furnishings and a fully equipped home theatre system. In the cockpit you’ll find the instruments standard in any vehicle: steering wheel, gear change, rudder controls, bilge pump, ashtray.
Luxury travel in the sea or on the road is common of course and if you want a virtual mansion that defies convention and is a touch futuristic, look no further than the Marchi Mobile luxury camper. The chassis can change geometry to suit your needs and the tables and furniture retract into the walls like some bizarre but lavish full size Thunderbirds set. International Rescue could do with the integrated communication/location system, satellite television with 40-inch screens and of course full on internet access as well as six business class type lounge chairs with auto massaging functions.
Ugly? Yes! Conventional? Definitely not! The Marchi Mobile luxury camper. Source: http://www.bornrich.com/gallery/marchi-mobile-camper/
The umm – well “Flight Deck in the Tellytubbies House” seems to be the only fair way to describe the view forward from The Marchi Mobile luxury camper. Source: http://www.bornrich.com/gallery/marchi-mobile-camper/
It’s not until you enter unexplored country of the future that high-tec really takes a hold of some frankly weird, wonderful and often bold or outrageous design concepts that turn the idea of the camper van on its head. Most campervans are usually bulky beasts based on existing commercial chassis and drive trains. The Compact Camper Van designed by John Bridge changes the ground rules and the scale but still provides all the essential facilities. Based on a hydrogen power train with computer controlled drive-by-wire steering, this cut-down hot rod clam –shells an extending canvas roof to create space to sprawl.
Designed for a beach break for two: John Bridge’s Compact Camper Van. Source: http://www.tuvie.com/compact-camper-van-by-john-bridge/
The designers at Nau Architects who developed a sustainable “living pod” have paid homage to camper design classics like the Airstream or VW Microbus but brought the concept right up to date with a pod-shaped vehicle that transforms from an all-electric car into to a fully blown caravan. Built-in photovoltaic panels generate power wherever you park and the ECCO can be recharged at a standard 240V station. The pod opens up like a lopsided concertina to provide living space, sleeping loft and bathroom facilities for two people.
Nau that’s what I call a camper van! Source: http://www.bornrich.com/gallery/ecco-camper-concept-by-nau/
What sparked interest in the camper van in the 1940s and 1950s is still why more people are turning to them now: they are a cheaper alternative for a family holiday! Post WWII GIs wanted cheap ways to vacation. The growing interstate highway system offered a way to achieve that and cheap motorised RVs like the Winnebago offered them a way to get there. As we’re immersed in more and more technology at home, so it seems logical that the camper vans and RVs we buy in the future will reflect that immersion in the modern high tech gadgets and gizmos we take for granted. Why? Because the reason people choose to buy camper vans remains as it always was: you can stop right where you are but still be at home.
Allan typically writes for blogs about family holiday accommodation in Devon, Scotland and Wales.