Nigel DonnellySee other Blog articles filed in ‘Welcome to Practical Caravan’ written by Nigel Donnelly
WHAT A SUPER show this year's Motorhome and Caravan Show turned out to be! Lots of stuff to look at and it also gave me a chance to blow my own trumpet!
I'd say its been the best show since the first in 2006, where I was parted from my hard-earned and ended up buying a Bailey Pageant Series 6 Bretagne. So what took my eye this time around? Here are my abridged show highlights.
One of the highlights of the show for me was the Sprite, but I'm biased. If you visited the stand, you may have noticed the curved wall 'time line' of the Sprite brand. I provided around 90% of the content from my archives (and new Sprite book) so I was pleased with the results! All the Sprites looked good but I particularly liked the Musketeer EB with twin front singles, offside washroom and rear single dinette. This was a layout used by many manufacturers up till the end of the 90s when it slipped out of favour. Could a comeback be on the cards? I loved the Sprite Lites too. It sounds like a drink, but it's actually a 'back to basics' tourer which a lot of dealers will stock shortly.
I couldn’t wait to get a look at IH's new Monopod. As soon as I saw a picture it, I knew I'd seem a very close sibling before. But more of that in a moment.
Inside the swish £45k twin-axled GRP tourer, I knew it was high quality. Crafted wood finish and a high spec had me wondering just which caravanner might buy a Monopod? Possibly not your average caravanner but the IH team seemed to be very enthused to the reception it had. If I had a gripe I wasn’t keen on the chrome hinges on the furniture and the front dinette seemed to stretch out to infinity.
I saw the Monopod first in 2005 when Barrons (later Discover Leisure) tried to sell it as the Voyager Vector. Looked good, but it was stark inside, thanks in part to having no front windows. Vanmaster also had a try but time and money saw that venture scrapped too. Third time lucky for IH? I hope so.
On the level
Just breaking with caravans at the present I was impressed with a new levelling device by E&P Hydraulics. This Blackburn based company have developed a system which self levels your caravan using sensors. Not only that but you can raise the caravans wheels off the ground which is great for winter storage. Originally an idea for the motorhome market, it is now available for tourers where it can be transferred to another caravan. At £2,500 however, I can see it taking a while to take off.
Elddis launched its Aspire motorhomes at last October's NEC show and everyone was wooed by the interiors. Modern dark wood and white furniture looked great and my first question was why not do this to one of the touring ranges? The new Diamond Jubilee models do exactly that but they are a limited edition, so don't hang about.
New Car-light through old windows
A name which I haven’t seen at the NEC for many years is Carlight. Boasting an 80 year heritage, the company is building hand built tourers for special order. The ones on show were unfortunately still prototypes and they were not up to the usual standard in fit and finish. These very traditional tourers wont appeal to everyone but they will certainly appeal to a niche market place where customers demand the best finish rather than the latest interior designs.
Nice, in a roundabout way...
Gobur Carousels are the only UK folding caravans, but now they have a competitor in the name of Pennine. Better known for folding campers they have entered the market place with a folding caravan named Artemis which also boasts a fixed bed! Its £14k plus price tag may be off putting for some but it certainly generated loads of interest.
Everyone needs a Hobby
I was blown away by Hobby Caravan's UK Premium range. They have a superb front end in their 8ft wide range and a rear profile other manufacturers would die for. Oh and it has a boot in the rear too though. Nothing new here. Vanroyce were doing that in 1988...
One of the big five UK manufacturers has always rallied against building specially modified models for individual retailers. The 'no dealer special' strategy from Bailey appears to have been relaxed however. The Olympus CS from Chipping Sodbury and Olympus Plus from Wandahome South Cave are basically Olympus IIs with all the option boxes ticked and with an attractive price tag.