Yay, We Have a New Campervan (well almost)!

Glyn and I are just back from the Isle of Wight where we ordered our new Toyota Alphard campervan from Northstar Conversions. This time we are not going to convert it ourselves as we did with Big Red, our Vivaro, (don’t think our relationship would survive it!). This time we are having a bespoke design based on Northstar’s new mobile office/weekend camper concept which is totally brilliant and is what really works for our current style of camping. Let me tell you more…

Recent events mean that many people are now working from home and will probably continue to do so into the future. As a writer, I have worked from home (or coffee shops) most of the time anyway but Glyn, who works in data analysis, used to work in an office. Now he works from home on a desk in our small second bedroom which has its advantages but can get a bit much. So, I have been thinking more and more that it would be great to have a campervan that we could work in as well as go camping in.

Suits our Camping Style

As I say in my book ‘I Want a Campervan’, it is important to really think about what your particular camping style is before you choose a campervan. So, I thought I had better take my own advice. I realised that our camping style had changed and now what was important to us is that we have somewhere else to work, which lets us get out of the house for a while, as well as a van that we can sleep in for trips. As we only tend to go away camping for a few days at a time, we are able to keep the interior simple because we can manage with the basics. So long as I have a comfortable bed I am happy!

As you can imagine, I have been doing a lot of research and we have visited several car/van dealers to look at various vehicles that might work. We decided that we wanted something small-ish and something that was really comfortable. Funnily enough, we really loved our first campervan the best – a Toyota Previa (Trev-the-Prev) converted by Bumble Campers. It was a basic set up but it suited us and we decided that a micro, or near-micro camper, was best for us.

Our Dream Vehicle

To start with I was looking at Berlingos, Kangoos, Caddy Maxis, Expert Tepees which are micro but have a lot more room than you think once you get inside. These are all great vehicles but I didn’t fall in love with any of them. Then I came across the Toyota Alphard. I am a great fan of Toyotas as I have owned several of their cars and as they say “You can’t kill a Toyota!”. They are very reliable and do seem to go on forever. The newer Alphards are silly money but, at the moment, a lot of people are having the 2002-2008 version converted into luxurious campers. They are imported from Japan where they are kept immaculate and have very low mileage. These vehicles often have 40,000 to 60,000 on the clock of genuine miles. It is not unusual for Alphards to do well over 200,000 miles in their lifetime.

We visited a Japanese import dealer and tried the Alphard and it was love at first drive for both of us. They are automatics and don’t do an awful lot to the gallon so if you are going to do lots of long journeys this is probably not the camper for you, but for our purposes it was perfect. They are also very high spec inside (electric side doors – oooh weak at the knees!).

Finding Our Converters

I had also been looking for professional converters who could do the sort of design we wanted. Many of them only offered the standard side-kitchen design or something that didn’t lend itself to being an office, too. Then I found Northstar Conversions online who have an amazing workshop on the Isle of Wight. They specialise in Alphards/Elgrands but also convert other vans and are really open to bespoke designs which was important to us.

So, we popped over to the island to visit them (love going on the ferry) and talk about our conversion. The company is run by husband and wife, Adam and Carol, and they were kind enough to spend a lot of time with us working through our quirky requirements. As fate would have it, Carol had already created a prototype conversion with the office-thing in mind that could even let people social distance inside for a meeting.

They even had our perfect base vehicle there – a white Alphard with twin sunroofs.

Our conversion is going to be a version of this interior with a cooker drawer that pulls out from the back and fits under the rock and roll bed. Our camper will have one of their 48″ deluxe rock and roll beds which they have made to their specific design and look gorgeous with their Northstar logo stitched into them. The colour theme for our camper will be black with blue floor/cabinets and pecan gloss tables that will be cut ergonomically to fit us for when we are sitting and working on our laptops. It will also have a solar panel on the roof as we want to be able to work off-grid. I’ll post more blogs on the camper when we have it which won’t be until June as Northstar are very busy at the moment as you can imagine.

Working in Beautiful Places

This feels like a very important evolution for our campervan life and our lives in general. Not only will we be able to work in beautiful places but Glyn might also be able to meet with his colleagues in person occasionally rather that just a face on Zoom. The world is changing and hopefully, our camper will help us make the best of that and maybe even create something better.

Check out the book ‘I Want a Campervan: Things You Need to Know Before Buying (or Converting) a Campervan’ https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B07VDGWTV3/ref=dp-kindle-redirect?_encoding=UTF8&btkr=1

I Want a Campervan: Things you need to know before buying (or converting) a campervan by [Summer Bourne]

Check out Northstar Conversions Ltd https://www.northstarconversions.com/

Check out Bumble Campers https://www.bumblecampers.com/


3 thoughts on “Yay, We Have a New Campervan (well almost)!

  1. Excellent choice of base vehicle, Summer. Our last camper was a 2002 reg Nissan Elgrand really beautifully converted by Campers Scotland. Luxurious, comfortable and incredibly powerful, it even had a DVD built into the roof and I still miss it.
    However, anyone who is contemplating buying a Japanese import Elgrand or Alphard, check before you take delivery that the catalytic converters have been attended to. Japanese vehicles (imported from Japan) have four of them to comply with strict emissions regulations in Japan and they have to be changed regularly over there. They have a tendency to disintegrate over time if this is not done. It is not an automatic thing for British converters to do as these big Toyotas and Nissans are so incredibly reliable. The front ones on ours blew back and blocked the back ones, leading to the engine overheating. (At the top of the Hardknott Pass in the Lake District!)
    The engine management light kept coming on with a consequent loss of power as it went into ‘limp mode’, we made it home slowly but our local garage could not find out what was wrong. It was off the road for weeks. We only just avoided the engine blowing up. I looked online and there I found that it is a well known thing amongst British owners . All the relevant information is on YouTube, I showed it to our garage and they removed the front catalytic converters for us, after which we had no further trouble .
    Nb you may already have been told about this or had it done, in which case it just goes to show how naive we were.

    1. Hi Carol. Yes, they are gorgeous vehicles and thank you for your advice. I will check it out with our converters. Hardnott pass – OMG that must have been terrifying!

      1. It was our fault for trying to go up it at all, but at least we found out why the engine light kept coming on! Thanks for all your lovely, helpful and enthusiastic writing and I can’t wait till Friday to get away to Cornwall in OUR new camper, a VW Vivante by Leisuredrive. (It has a built in cassette loo 😉 )

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