Monthly Archives: September 2008

The Buggy – Experience so far!

A Toad for Sunny Seasons

A Toad for Sunny Seasons

    FAQs

Everywhere we go we seem to get asked lots of questions. This ranges from motorhomers on campsite; small boys in the street and drivers pulled up at traffic lights.
I have decided that a hand-out is the best way of dealing with this and here is the text of it:

It is a Quadzilla RL300.
It is made in China.
It weighs just under 300Kg
It has a 300cc single cylinder 4-stroke petrol engine.
It has a top speed of 45mph/70Kmh.
It is technically a “quadracycle” and is road legal in Europe.
The gearbox is an elastic band automatic.
We use it to tow behind a campingcar.
It is towed using a conventional tow coupling lifting the front wheels off the ground so that it can be reversed.
If it were a trailer, it would not need to be braked but because it is a car and has brakes, they must work mechanically or hydraulically when towed.
We have fitted a link from the over-run tow coupling brake to the foot brake.
Insurance is £495/E620 Third Party, Fire and Theft.
It can be driven on a motorcycle licence but a car licence is OK too.
The drive is fixed diff so tends to “scrub” on corners.
Because the speedo is electronic, it doesn’t register towed miles.
It cost about £3000/E3750 new but without windscreen and towing equipment so about £3500/E4375 as it is.
We have a quick-release steering wheel and wheel clamp for security.
The nose weight is around 80Kg.
It does about 35mpg/12.5Km/Litre.

    Fun to drive…

No that we have got the basic questions out of the way, I can ramble on a bit more easily.
We love it. It makes each journey to the supermarket an adventure and gets us lots of fresh air…
When being towed you hardly know it is there. So much so that Liz insists we keep the rear view camera trained on it just to make sure it is there! Given that we weigh nearly three and half tons and we only have a 1.9 litre petrol engine, it is surprising how little it drags. We are a bit slower on the uphill climbs but nothing that would cause a drop in gear.
The other big plus for us is that it is not a problem to reverse it. With my navigational skills, we have had plenty of occasions to do so.

    Tow hitch

Getting ready to tow it is a little more fraught. The tow coupling is heavy at around 75Kg. This is mainly due to the modern regulations for couplings which are bound to be heavy and the fact that no-one makes one rated at less than 900Kg.

Bradley's smallest braked coupling

Bradley's smallest braked coupling


The first bit involves poking the bar under from the front to engage two hooks just between the front seats.
Hooked end ready to fit under buggy

Hooked end ready to fit under buggy

Point between seats for hook location

Point between seats for hook location


Once hooked in place. we use the jockey wheel to raise the threaded locating pin into the front hich plate on the front of the buggy – because we are wimps and can’t be bothered to lift it. The T-bar holding the nut can then be easily screwed tight to hold it in position.
Hitch plate welded to front of buggy

Hitch plate welded to front of buggy


The over-run brake is fitted with a quick release shackle that shortens as it closes.
Marine-type quick release shackle on over-run brake linkage of coupling.

Marine-type quick release shackle on over-run brake linkage of coupling.


The brake peddle has a steel cable leading to a carabiner or crab by way of a hole under the front of the floor.
Cable attached to brake peddle

Cable attached to brake peddle

The shackle links to the caribiner to make the brake linkage.
Cable from brake peddle terminated by carabiner

Cable from brake peddle terminated by carabiner

Although we have never had to do so, if you were reversing up a steep incline, the over-run brake could apply the buggy brake. It is a simple matter to release the shackle and thereby diasable the brake for reversing.

    The lifting on bit for wimps

The most difficult bit is lifting the buggy coupling unto the tow hitch of the van. Since we are not into weight lifting, we start by using the jockey wheel to raise the front of the buggy off the ground. Sadly, this does not give enough height to take it over the tow hitch and so we use a bit of wood to prop it while we drop the jockey wheel for a second lift.
Because we have a large back box there is a little problem with raising the tow hitch handle at the appropriate time. We have overcome this by using a small block & tackle which goes between the back box and the van to a ring and another carabiner. This does the job nicely.
Disconnecting the tow is just a matter of reversing the process…

    Lighting

We have fitted lighting sockets on both back and front of the buggy. This enables a short cable to connect the van to the buggy and gets all the buggy lights working.
Because we haven’t yet got a van number plate for the buggy, we also use a towing board on the back of the buggy. This plugs into the back socket.
The towing board is also useful without the buggy. The back box could be said to, if not obscure, make the number plate of the van less easy to read. Especially if you are as tall as those wretched speed cameras! The towboard bolts on to the back of the back box and we have yet another lighting socket fitted on the lid of the box. This may seem odd but the effort and crouching to take the board lead all the way round the lid of the back box to the tow hitch socket just got to be a nuisance. This way the towboard only needs about 2ft of lead and no crouching is required.

    What boot?

We quickly found that trips to the supermarket and days out required some storage space. This wheeled box cost 14 Euros in a Casino supermarket and is almost made-for-purpose.

What other car has a detachable wheeled boot that takes your shopping right into the kitchen?

What other car has a detachable wheeled boot that takes your shopping right into the kitchen?

Since taking the photo, I have abandoned the strap and fitted one throgh the floor of the box. Much easier to use…

    My Take on the Law

My understanding is that a trailer weighing (MAM) of less than 750Kg does not need to be braked UNLESS it is a vehicle fitted with brakes. In which case those brakes must be used when towing. Further, the means of activating the brakes must be either mechanically or hydraulically operated. The principle, as I understand it, is that you should not be at risk of the brakes failing through a battery going flat or an air tank becoming exhausted. In other words, the brake system must be indefinitely sustainable.
Again in my reading, the vehicle trailor must be reversable. There has been some suggestion that this must be possible without the driver haing to leave the cab of the towing vehicle. I cannot find any evidence in support of this theory – but, of course, I stand to be corrected.
If my understanding is correct, an A-frame, whilst not illegal in itself, cannot by configured in such a way to make it conform to the law with regard to the braking and reversing issues.
Hence the buggy!

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Patrick’s Confessions

I have Liz’s permission not to tell you these stories but since I cannot keep a secret…
Last Friday we went to visit Julyan and Georgia in the Rue L’Orrillion in Paris. For those of you not familiar with this area of Paris, let us say that, as we were to discover, the taxi drivers won’t go there to pick up a fare – even at the request of the police – and security guards assured us that it was the most dangerous place in Paris to be.
We parked the buggy outside the police station and council gym. We left it there for about 4 hours. Then Julyan & Georgia went off to the Louvre because young people were being let in for free. It was then about 6pm. The buggy would not start. I checked the petrol. I had no means of checking the spark.
The security guards, all five of them from the gym, came and offered advice. We still hadn’t joined the RAC and at that time of night there seemed little prospect of calling out a mechanic.
One of the security guards went to the police station and invited us in for a conference on what to do. The police woman in charge made a phone call and told us that it would cost about 175 Euros to be taken back to the Bois de Boulogne campsite.
I decided that it would be cheaper for me to go back to the campsite in a taxi and fetch the van to recover the buggy. Much conversation by the senior policewoman and we were told that the taxi drivers refused to come to that part of town. They then offered to take me to the Place de la Republique for a taxi. We thanked them and, while Liz was escorted to the gym by the security guards and settled in a nice conference room overlooking the basket ball court, I was taken by police van by all three of the police staff at the station to the Place de la Republique. Once there, they asked a taxi driver to take me to the Allee Au Bord De L’Eau where the campsite is. He refused. As we were driving round the square a Merc cut us up fairly badly so we gave chase and he was cornered, spoken to severely but let go. At this point the policewoman tried to call a taxi from the taxi rank post. Eventually she told me to keep trying and they left me there.
Ten minutes of trying and I decided to flag one down on the street. The first one also refused because he said he didn’t know where it was! The second one was also about to refuse on the same basis but I forestalled him by getting in the taxi for the discussion. When I asked for Port Maillott he agreed and I tried to find the Allee Au Bord De L’Eau on first his map and then mine. Failed. Then I realised that I had my GPS (“Emily”) with me. I dialled the campsite, told her to speak and write in French and handed her to the driver.
He seemed much impressed with Emily, so much so that he spent more time looking at her on the passenger seat than looking at where he was going. Much to my amazement, when Emily warned him of speed restrictions, which she does very sweetly, he actually slowed down letting all the other traffic speed past us!!!
Once I had answered my taxi drivers questions about Emily’s make, model and price, he duly dropped me at the campsite and I was able to drive back to Liz.
The security guards seemed impressed with our tow bar and very shortly we were on our way with the non-running buggy.
We decided that it would be better to go on to Troyes before trying to get the buggy repaired and once there we went to Beltramelli’s garage with it. They examined her and tried various things before telling us to come back when they had fixed it – tomorrow.
Next day at 4pm we were duly asked to come and collect the working buggy. I had asked them to also fix the handbrake and improve the tow bar hitch so a bill for 300 Euros was not a great surprise. I paid and asked to be told what the problem was. The Chef de Mecanicien agreed willingly and pointed to a red button on the dash. “That button switches off the ignition, if you press it again, it will start. It wouldn’t start because the ignition was switched off!!!”
But there is more – and worse!
Now that I had the buggy, I wanted to go shopping and Liz wanted to stay home and read. Off I went, ably guided by Emily to my destination.
Sadly, on the way back, I think I was too intent on Emily’s display and I went through a red light. They are much smaller than English ones, you know. Bang! A car hit me sideways and I was thrown out of the buggy.
Police, ambulance and firemen all appeared in moments. I was ushered into the ambulance and asked what had happened. At this point I realised that I couldn’t remember anything. I knew my name and Liz’s name and even that we were staying at the municipal camp site. I even knew my birth date. I did not know which town I was in. I didn’t know where I had come from. In fact the last thing I could remember was living at Sowood. Nothing since.
At this point they took me off to the hospital.
The police contacted Liz and said that I had had an accident and was in hospital but that I was alright except for the memory.
The two policemen and two firemen left me at the hospital and a little while later Liz arrived. She was very good and didn’t seem cross but a little exasperated. I was duly examined by a doctor but by this time I had managed to bring back to mind most of the missing 6 weeks. He declared me fit to go and we went to pay the bill (our EH2 form still had not come). It came to just 22 Euros!
We then went to the police station where thay were very kind. Since I had had to send my licence in to the DVLA just before we left, I didn’t have it with me and we didn’t have the insurance documents either. They were at the campsite. I could see that we could be there for several days, if not weeks, for the case to be dealt with in court. How much would the fine be?
The policeman explained that because no-one was injured they did not need to make a report and we could go. He gave us the name and address of the lady who had been driving the car that hit me and said that it was for me to deal with her direct. We were free to go and collect the buggy. That’s it!
The buggy had some damage to the front wheel steering mechanism and a stud had fractured on the gear shift. We collected it this morning and returned to Betramelli’s. He greeted me like an old friend and promised to have the parts repaired by 11am tomorrow.
The other driver came to see us this afternoon with an estimate for the repairs to her car. We think it will be easier and better just to pay for her repairs rather than go through all the hassle of an insurance claim. To be honest, I am too ashamed to make the claim; they might decide that I am too senile to be allowed to drive anymore…
Comments about how unlike me this all is are welcome! Liz is being very understanding and has been quite abstemious on the jokes too. My count is no more that 10 so far but there is time…

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Troyes – Camping Municipales

A very mature wooded campsite at Pont St Marie about 2 miles from Troyes itself. The site is split into little hedged orchards so a good deal of privacy is achievable unless it is very busy. The book says the cost is 6 Euros but a motorhome with 2 people and electrics and taxes comes to 18 Euros in high season and 17 Euros in low. This year it will close on 15th October for the Winter.
The shower block is very good with plenty of hot water. At the mid September time when we visited, you became aware that the nights are very cold and the shower block is open and unheated. Have your shower in the warmer afternoons!
Fresh bread and croissants are available by adding you name and order to a list each day. A very helpful and friendly staff most of whom have some English. One has almost perfect English but he does come from Huddersfield…
The ground is all grass except for a small row of tarmaced standings. The grass can be dodgy with some mud patches. Mud mats would be very useful.
Most of the staff have a small amount of English except one is is near perfect – but then he does come from Huddersfield!

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Bois de Boulogne

As far as I know, this is the only campsite in Paris. Actually, it is just outside the boundary of most maps of Paris and is on the Allee au bord de l’eau. One problem we had with the position is that three out of three taxi drivers we used had no idea where it was and one refused to take us because he didn’t know where it was. Another agreed to take me to Port Maillott which is about three miles away but when I gave him my GPS for directions he was delighted and even adhered to the speed limits when “Emily” (our Garmin Nuvi 350) told him about them!!!
The site is well maintained with each pitch having ample hedged in space. For 30 Euros, we had a “Grand Comfort” pitch with electric, water and drainage. Each pitch is equipped with a cain and lock for additional security.
There is a small shop, restaurant and bar as well as showers, loo and external washing up sinks. Beware the plumbing – if you turn the tap to hot water and get cold, turn it to cold and you will get hot but neighbouring sinks are not the same way round!
A 15 minut walk along the Seine to Suresnes Bridge and cross over gets you to a small shopping centre with a rudimentary supermarket called Champion. Food in Sept 2008 was very expensive indeed. There are none of the big hypermarkets in Paris and most shops are independents. Even in the poorest suburbs you will not get the sort of prices that you might get in a Carrefour or Auchan.
The ground is mostly gravel and very hard to put up windbreaks but the hedges make this unnecessary.
There is a shuttle bus to Port Maillott every half hour where there is a Metro station. Fare 1.80 Euros single, 3.20 return. Seems to start in the afternoon and go through till nearly midnight. A taxi to the centre of Paris will cost about 25 Euros.
Can be noisy, mostly from helicopters, but not offensively so.

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Leaving England at last

    Skype

Whilst at Bexhill, we set up our Skype account (phillips.ingleton) complete with a Leeds telephone number (01138151518) so friends and family can call us without spending vast amounts of call charges. We also set up a Europe free call facility for £3.38 for 3 months. This allows us to call any landline in Europe for free! It works well but, because it is satellite based, you have to get used to the delays. You feel more like a radio call than a telephone call and we keep wanting to say “over” after each sentence. At this cost, we will cope!

    Ferry across the Channel

We duly arrived at Newhaven ferry terminal in plenty of time for the advertised 1400 hr sailing. Sadly there isn’t one. The next sailing was 2230 hrs. We paid our single fare of £130 and went off to explore. Late afternoon we came back to the terminal and were very happy to have somewhere to park up in the loading lines and get a few repairs done.

This included the towing electrics. The buggy lights worked fine except the right indicators. The tow board (brand new from Halfords) didn’t work at all. There was some light on the rear lights but only when the left indicator was used. Nothing at all otherwise. Still haven’t really bottomed this but fairly sure it is the tow bar electrics on the van. Guess there is a high-resistance joint which is causing the problem.

The trip to Dieppe was very sparsly attended. It appeared that the car decks were only half full and there seemed to be very few passengers. The ship is good and clean with plenty of facilities including 4 cinemas with reclining seats.

    What a welcome!

At Dieppe, we came off feeling rather tired so were just looking for somewher to park and sleep. I missed the first car park which was full of motorhomes and we decided to acrry on through the town at 0330 hrs in the morning. We spotted a little row of motorhomes parked up and decided to join them.

On waking in the morning, we became aware that we were almost on the beach. Across a grass field there were even more motorhomes parked up. Fine, we are obviously OK here – breakfast! Then coach loads of primary school kids started to arrive. Six or seven within half an hour. Where were they all going? The we saw it… Kites! Hundreds of kites.

Kites over Dieppe

Kites over Dieppe

More kites over Dieppe

More kites over Dieppe


It seems that there is a world kite flyers gathering every two years and this year it was Dieppe’s turn to play host. We had arrived on day two of a five day festival. Further, we were right on the edge of the festival site with a grand-stand view of it all.
Even this one got off the ground - mostly...

Even this one got off the ground - mostly...

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Getting away – or not!

    Escaping is not that easy…

The expect feeling of sorrow at leaving the family home at Sowood for the last time didn’t really materialise for either of us! What we actually felt was relief that all the care and maintenance was no longer our concern or expense. Beyond that, we just wanted to settle somewhere and rest.
We actually didn’t go so far. Just 20 miles or so to Bardsey, North Leeds. This was partly because we still had stuff to take to Leeds & Bradford. Mostly it was because it became apparent that we had been the victims of the SOS-Ticketmaster scam by buying tickets for the kids to go to Leeds Festival. It was clear that we were not going see the tickets from that source. Bardsey is a very nice clean site just two miles from the festival site at Bramhall Park.
This enabled us to do a reccy and discover that there would be a box office from midday on Wednesday where we might be able to buy tickets.
We made a trip to a pub car park in Derby to have the dish put on the roof. This turned out to be a long but efficient job performed ably by Brian of CarFi. It required us to stay a second night to give the glue a chance to set properly since that is all that keeps the dish in place!
It was interesting to discover that we now have access to six satellites. Five deliver about 2,000 tv channels. Some are in English. Some are not shopping or porn. Actually, Astra2 seems to have all the familiar UK stations. Liz was very interested in Russia Today’s version of events as they invaded/rescued Georgia.
The all important broadband access is via Hellasat over Greece. We eventually sorted out why the modem went off when we turned a tap on and the Zendher digibox reset when we turned on the bathroom light. Initially, we had a lot of difficulty in getting locked on to the satellite and got a number of “Bad Gateway” error messages. These were resolved when Mark from Roadpro got IPCopter (the German IP) to tweek their end so that we are treated as a Marine installation.
Since then the signal has been good and solid even in quite high winds. Talking of which, we decided to pay an extra £250 to have a wind speed anonometer fitted so that the dish will automatically fold itself away if the wind reaches threatening levels. Seemed expensive but the peace of mind is certainly worth it! They give you 40 days free usage when you start. This may or may not be long enough to sort out the very wide choice of usage contracts which are not currently understood by either us or, it seems, Roadpro… We are now officially a mobile “Earth Station”.

The dish is big but not that big...

The dish is big but not that big...


Liz at work in her "connected" office

Liz at work in her connected office

    Essential Computing for Motorhomers

We also took delivery of our new desktop computer after Liz’s managed to fall out with its boot disk. The decision to go with a desktop was because we wanted a good fast machine with lots of RAM for picture rendering. A laptop could have done the job with less power but the difficulty in finding one with the same sort of power proved very, very expensive. For £1250 we now have a machine with quad processors running at 2.8MHz, 8Gb of Ram; all the ports you could wish for and a top of the range video card and sound card. It is awsome. Sadly, it meant the move to Vista 64 and that has left me lost when it comes to getting the Wireless-N access point running for two machines since both the modem and the access point want to be in charge. Hopefully, the nice man at PC Warehouse will sort that out for me on Wednesday.

Handy for mobile use with Autoroute, my eBooks and bedtime listening to the BBC

Handy for mobile use with Autoroute, my eBooks and bedtime listening to the BBC


My laptop has been dying for some years so bearing in mind that I want to use it for controlling a camera in the field, we have bought a Sony Vaio UX1 Ultra Mobile PC from eBay. It is about the size of a large PDA but runs a standard XP operating system with a 30Gb hard disk and 512Mb of RAM.
This has allowed me to achieve a long standing ambition. When I go to bed, I can buy and read ebooks and also listen to anything I want from the last seven days of BBC Radio 4. Now that is what I call modern luxury!
Banks & ?ankers
We have been trying to open a Euro account with HSBC for about three weeks. Apparently, we need to open a current account in the Isle of Man or Jersey and then they will open another account in Malta or France that will give us a debit card that we can use in Europe without paying either ATM or currency exchange charges. Sounded just what we needed and they are the only bank offering such a service. Well actually Citibank do but they have only one branch in the UK and very few in Europe.
Sadly, they have lost our application forms, decided they were the wrong forms, forgotten to send us yet other forms and generally speaking have shown themselves incapable of running a bank. After hours and hours of calls to the Isle of Man, we have decided to think it all out again. Any ideas, anyone?

    The Buggy


Our buggy is expected to be ready for collection on Wednesday so we are looking forward to getting it. I went and visited Great Northern Cars in Keighley on Thursday to see what was to be done. There is some concern about the size of the coupling to hitch it on to the tow ball. Current legislation has meant that they have become very large and heavy but we don’t have much choice. They are fitting a quick release boss so that we can take the steering wheel off when we park. A windscreen seemed a nice optional extra to have and we are putting a tow ball on the back so that we can use it to launch a boat when we have one… The all-up weight when towed still comes in at less than 300Kg albeit with a nose weight of around 80Kg. However, we believe that it will be 100% legal. It seems that although it is light enough to be classed as an unbraked trailer, because it is a car with brakes, they must be operational by mechanical means when towed. This is where towing the Smart car on an A-frame would have been illegal despite the number of people who do it and the alternative of putting the Smart on a trailer would have added 1200Kg to our train weight. Legal but a bit much for the 1.9 litre engine. Even without the towing, we struggle to get above 55mph!

    Ok, lets get going…


One thing we have learned already is that moving on from wherever we happen to be is a matter of determination. It is so easy just to stay put. We expected to move about 50 miles per week. On present showing, we would be unlikely to do more than 50 miles in three weeks. At that rate we won’t be in Sicily for Christmas – unless it is 2010! Never mind, we are very happy not to have a house with all that maintenance and cleaning to do. We could clean this van outside and in thoroughly in less than three hours. Not that we have done any such thing, yet.

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First campsites – Leeds, Aldeburgh & Bexhill

    Bardsey Glenfield – North Leeds

This campsite is run by Vick with much assistance from Geoff. They really are a rather special set up here. The site is small with only about 20 pitches split between people permanently parked as a getaway from places like Leeds & Bradford, mostly elder citizens; some who work in the area and stay there for the week time and go home weekends and some who come for a few days, mostly with tents. 2 adults in motorhome with extra car and EHU – £15 per night. Discount of 1 night in seven.

It is very quiet and peaceful. It is also very, very well maintained and clean. They provide hand towels and soap in the loos. They even provide washing up luid and wasing up sponges in the kitchen. Decent laundry. As long as you ignore the strange fascination with notices telling you what is acceptable behaviour in rather strange terms, I don’t think we have ever found a more comfortable and pleasant site.

    Sizewell near Aldeburgh, Suffolk

Finally we departed for Aldeburgh, calling in for an overnight stop in Newark and including a visit to Brownhills (of course). The place seemed to be in better order than previously. We asked a lass in the shop how the new management buy-out had affected the staff. She said that nothing much had changed as far as the non-management was concerned. Business as usual.

We stayed for three nights at the Cliff House Caravan Park at Sizewell. This site is really as close to the beach as it is possible to get. On arrival, we paid for our stay at £18 per night and were invited to take a numbered peg, stick where we elected to park. The site is virtually a large field surrounded on three sides with trees. Very pleasant atmosphere and has a large “clubhouse” where you could eat and drink if you wished. The facilities were adequate but a little tired. Showers are an extra coin-in-slot affair. Could do with tarting up considerably.

A couple of hundred yards walk along the beach to the hamlet of Sizewell brought us to a very pleasant beach cafe for hot chocolate and bacon sandwiches. Although the place is dominated by the Heavy Water Nuclear power plants, the area offers great walking and cycling opportunities from Dunwich in the North to Thorpeness and Aldeburgh in the South across the common and along the beach road.

    Bexhill-on-Sea – Kloofs

Again a premium site. This one is run by a family and is well established. We chose it as a suitable last contact with England before catching a ferry at Newhaven.
A very well managed and laid out site with all pitches having EHU, water and drains. Each pitch on this steeply sloping but terraced site has a high degree of privacy from the neighbours. It lies in a small village which is reached via sme very pretty but alarmingly narrow lanes yet is only 3 miles from Bexhill. The site is a family-run affair and is currently undergoing some great improvements. But even now it is well served and very clean with a small shop for the essentials in the reception office. We found it a good friendly place which made our few days there a pleasure which we could have continued but for our determination to go sun-seeking. £18 per night but well worth it.

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The Refit

Take one 19 year old Pilote R470 and strip out everything but the loo and wardrobe. Now start again! The job took much of three months to do but at least we have what we wanted…
Looking forward. We replaced the front seats with swivel arm chairs (Toyota HiAce) and made the steering wheel removable so the drivers seat can turn all the way. The salon seats are also HiAce donations. All re-upholstered.

The old Pilote with dinette

The old Pilote with dinette


The front section became
Toyota HiAce seats with removable steering wheel makes more room

Toyota HiAce seats with removable steering wheel makes more room

3 burners, small fridge, no oven and no worktop...

3 burners, small fridge, no oven and no worktop...

New full cooker with the essential “proper oven”; new larger fridge;
New automatic fridge, self-lighting cooker with two ovens and worktop

New automatic fridge, self-lighting cooker with two ovens and worktop


Pity I didn’t have the guts to move the bulkhead really…
This was the fifth (single) bed with mini-dinette

This was the fifth (single) bed with mini-dinette


This became the “office” with the drivers seat from an MR2!
Desktop PC under the desk which can be expanded

Desktop PC under the desk which can be expanded


In fact the only thing left inside was the wardrobe and the lavatory!

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How we came to leave home

    Eureka moment

In August 2006, Liz & I were sitting down to work out what we were going to do with our futures. It was clear that we were spending about half our time and about the same proportion of our income in just maintaining our home at Sowood, Halifax.

Sowood Croft - houses & part of garden

Sowood Croft - houses & part of garden


We had lived in the house with a three-quarter acre Pennine mountain garden for 26 and 37 years respectively. The clothes dryer had broken quickly followed by the washing machine; the dishwasher was beginning to crumble; the gas fires all needed a major overhaul; the mowing machines were in for repair yet again…

Liz suddenly pointed at the 19 year old motorhome sitting outside the house, resting as it did much of the time between annual holidays, and said “Why don’t we sell up and go travelling instead?”

Pilote R470 based on Talbot Express. 2 litre petrol.

Pilote R470 based on Talbot Express. 2 litre petrol.

We did the sums. We read the magazines and the blogs. We ogled the big American RVs; visited a lot of motorhome dealers and even got on a plane to visit the Duseldorf Motorhome Show. Clearly we needed a big 25 foot Frankia. But there were so many things that would need to be done to it to match the changes we had made to our 19 year-old, 18 foot Pilote R470… We gave a German dealer a list. He looked at it and got confused. He gave his calculator a good bashing. It would take three months and well over £100,000 to build.
Then we looked at the risks. What if we didn’t like being permanent Gypsies? Would we get a good price for it if we sold it after 6 months on the road? We heard stories about restrictions on access for big motorhomes in some towns.
While we were worrying about all these details about our future home, we became aware that a good deal of tidying up of our deeds would need to be done before we could sell in one piece the house and land that we had bought bit by bit over the years. Seven bits, to be exact. Quite a few of these deals had been moneyless swaps and in at least two cases had not had the blessing of a lawyer.
And, of course, it would sell better with planning permission. All in all, the process was going to take time.
Around about the 12 month mark, Liz had another idea.

    Build, Buy or Renovate?

Why don’t we start off with the motorhome we have got and see what we really need before buying a new one?
The result of this notion was a complete DIY refit.
See post on The Refit in Technical Matters

    Smart Toads

As solicitors and estate agents ploughed on, we considered the matter of the “Toad”. That is a small run-about to tow behind the motorhome, for the unitiated!
We already had a Smart car. Clearly that was the answer… Simple.
Then we started to do our homework on that topic and quickly discovered that it would be anything but simple.
To the best of our understanding, Smart don’t like Smarts to become Toads. Only the British think it is legal on an A-frame and even we are not that sure. By the time we looked at a purpose-built trailer for it to sit on, the weight for our poor little 1.9 litre petrol engine seemed a little excessive at around 1.25 tons.
I looked at Qpods and Quadzillas. After all, if the sun were not shining we would be moving to wherever it was. We even went for a drive in the rather strange Qpod. “Fun”, Liz said but too cramped, uncomfortable and embarrassing to be seen in.

Then, as we were driving back after a few days away visiting Delphin Designs to talk about fitting a larger diesel engine, Liz had another left field thought; perhaps a quadzilla might be a good alternative.” I kept my mouth tight shut at this point and within 50 miles, she suggested we go and have a look at one at Great Northern Cars in Keighley. And so we did.
At a mere 300Kg including the bar fitted on the front to hitch it on to the motorhome, we decided that this would be our Toad.

Road Legal 300cc 300Kg No body to scratch - or clean

Road Legal 300cc 300Kg No body to scratch - or clean

    Weight Watchers Unanimous

Weight had definitely become the principle issue. After making the mods to the van, it weighed in at 2,860Kg with only me in it and no water. The plated gross vehicle weight plate under the bonnet said 2,900Kg. This was not going to work!
Someone on the Motorhomefacts.com forum mentioned SVTech in Leyland. They asked for details of the van and told me that they could “re-plate” it to 3,300Kg without even needing to see the vehicle – just fill in the form, pay £235 and the job is done!

    Now we’ve done it!!!

Great relief as the house was sold in March and so we were committed to the scheme by this point. In reality, it took till the end of July to get completion. Considering that the bottom dropped out of the housing market in April, we didn’t complain too much but there were a number of things which we would need the house sale money before buying, the buggy, the satellite broadband dish and the new quad-processor computer being the main ones.
Finally, on Saturday August 2nd, we drove away from our home for the last time and became travelling folk!

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