Andy Jenkinson

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The names Eccles and Amethyst have earned a special place in caravan history – Andy Jenkinson traces the pedigree in our 2006 Sterling Eccles buyer's guide

The Eccles name is the oldest in the industry, and by 2006 it was applied to a well-specified line of Sterling tourers with stylish interiors that were very Continental in feel. The range numbered eight models, all with smooth, two-piece aluminium sidewalls and moulded GRP front and rear panels. New for 2006 was the addition of fresh silver-and-blue graphics, along with alloy wheels, an AKS 3004 hitch stabiliser, an alarm and an Al-Ko Secure wheel lock.

Other goodies included external access to the lockers, a gas barbecue point and exterior mains socket, heavy-duty corner steadies, a spare wheel and carrier, plus a Status TV aerial and a solar-panel connector.

There were further upgrades to be found in the 2006 Sterling Eccles’ contemporary interior, such as the 93-litre Thetford fridge, the new spaceframe seat bases developed by Swift, a radio/CD player, plus a DVD socket and wiring. The heating was by Truma’s blown- air system, and a Stoves full oven with separate grill was topped by a dual-fuel hob. A touch of luxury was provided by details such as the poled curtain rails.

The 2006 Sterling Eccles Amethyst featured here offered an L-shaped front lounge, a central kitchen with a wardrobe and washroom opposite, and a double-dinette rear lounge with a fold-away bunk for the fifth berth. With its generous spec, it made for an ideal family tourer.

Sterling Eccles buyer's checklist

When you go to see used caravans for sale, whether from dealers or private sellers, it's worth having a checklist of potential problem areas to check. If you are viewing a used used Sterling Eccles caravan for sale, watch out for faded or peeling graphics. If there are exterior retrofits, such as a TV aerial bracket, look around the screws for any signs of water ingress. Check the age of the tyres and watch out for cracking. 

Test the battery charger, because faults have been reported by owners in the past. Inspect the cabinet work for peeling wood-effect facing and edging. Look around the hob for rust and make sure that you test the hob’s electric hotplate. 

Don't forget to read our general advice on buying used caravans before your first purchase, and if you're considering buying a van to do up, read our guide to sourcing spare caravan parts

Model history

The Eccles brand has been associated with caravanning for more than 97 years, and the Amethyst name arrived in 1970 for a new model that boasted vacuum-formed panels and styling by Ogle Design. By that time Eccles was under the CI umbrella, which became the Sprite Leisure Group and was later swallowed up by the Swift empire.

Swift decided that Sprite Eccles didn’t sound right, so the Sterling name was quickly dreamed up and Eccles became a line within the Sterling brand, now an established alternative to its traditional Swift siblings.

The Sterling Eccles Amethyst was launched for 1999 and ran until the 2006 model year, only to re-emerge in 2009 as a six-berth.

What to pay

The five-berth 2006 Sterling Eccles Amethyst we've used as our example, was in good condition and priced at £7995, but we found another with a retrofitted mover for £6995. That seems to be the entry level price point for the Amethyst, Topaz, Emerald and Moonstone, while top examples of the desirable Sapphire could cost as much as £8295.

Verdict

Now a decade old, the 2006 Sterling Eccles still looks modern, especially inside where it feels much younger in style. The central washroom of the Amethyst is spacious enough to host a circular shower — all part of an overall specification that you can’t grumble about, and that makes the Eccles an appealing pre-owned buy. Ensure you get a decent one by looking for signs of ageing.

What you need to know

The 2006 Sterling Eccles Amethyst shown here has five berths. We viewed it at Preston Caravans & Motorhomes in Clifton, Preston, Lancashire. Here are some quick, at-a-glance figures for it.

  • Price 7995
  • Berths 5
  • MiRO 1254kg
  • Payload 213kg
  • MTPLM 1467kg
  • Internal length
  • 5.39m
  • Width 2.24m

Alternatives

Consider a used Elddis Odyssey 505 as a possible alternative option. We saw a 2003 Elddis Odyssey 505 with the same layout except with a parallel lounge. It’s well-specified and priced at £5995.

Or, how about a used Swift Challenger 490/5? Boasting a similar level of kit, the 2006 Challenger 490/5 has double dinettes at each end and a traditional interior — all for £7995.

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