30 May 2023
Our market guru, Tom Barnard, confesses to a longing for a camper – a Land Rover camper, that is
I’m not a great believer in star signs, superstition or religion, but sometimes it does feel like fate is trying to steer you in a certain direction. And if that direction is to make an inadvisable Land Rover purchase, then I can convince myself that I need to buy an old Range Rover or risk a locust plague.
In my case, fate was telling me to buy a camper van. It started when the Winter 2023 edition of LRM plopped through the letterbox and I saw the amazing Duckworth Overland Aurochs. This £350,000 conversion looks as though someone has carefully reversed a Defender into an Airstream caravan and is a work of craftsmanship. However, the only things I spend £350k on have a postcode rather than a registration number.
I had put campers to the back of my mind when a neighbour suggested we go for a pint and packet of pork scratchings to celebrate reaching the middle of the week. He has recently seen the last of his three children graduate from university, leave home and enter gainful employment. This has left him and his wife with less financial burden, so they decided to treat themselves with a new campervan. It’s got a lot of stripes down the side and has a name like Maidmarion Musket Mover IV, but as far as I could tell it is the same van which is used by the TNT delivery man. I looked a little wide-eyed when he told me that it cost £70,000 and that there was a waiting list for them.
When I questioned the wisdom of the purchase, he told me how they used it most weekends, going to catch up with friends who they hadn’t seen in years, knowing that they could have a few beers and then stumble back into the van without having to impose on their hosts or worry about a B&B. They have also been to various beauty spots, and he showed me pictures of the Lake District taken through the open back doors of the van with a coffee and bacon sandwich in the foreground. All in all, it seemed like quite a nice idea.
I mentioned it to Mrs B and rather than give me the usual withering look, she wholeheartedly supported the idea. This was enough for me to start researching in earnest. My camper would have to be Land Rover-based, of course, because it would make every trip an adventure. Googling ‘Land Rover camper conversion’ brings up all sorts of interesting machines.
The first was easily the silliest. On top it looked like a 1937 Citroën truck with a log cabin on the back, complete with a chimney and guttering. At some point in the vehicle’s life it had been upgraded and now had the chassis and running gear of a 1974 Series III. With old bikes, window boxes and barrels attached to the outside, it looked like the sort of prop you’d find at a theme park to keep you entertained while queuing for a Wild West-themed ride. At £24,500 it seemed quite reasonable for a camper but would undoubtedly be miserable to drive.
Series III Carawagon. Tom calls this sensible?
Next in line was far more sensible but took a sinister turn. Carawagon is the company which has converted more Land Rover products to campers than any other, and its offering varied from a full pop-top roof on the LWB Series IIA, to a cooker and table bolted to the back door of a Ninety. There is currently one of the latter for sale at a dealer for £29,995, which seems a big price increase on a standard Ninety’s value just for a camping stove.
The most famous Carawagon was a 1975 Range Rover bought new by Jimmy Savile. A dealer scooped it up in 2012 just after the shady celebrity had died and tried to sell it on for a significant markup. After Savile’s horrendous crimes were revealed, the poor trader received death threats and said he was going to convert it back to standard and shred the history. I’d be too worried about accidentally ending up with this horror show to risk buying one.
Next down the wormhole was a Discovery 3 which claimed to be a factory-approved conversion for the Danish market. It was created purely to avoid the local tax on luxury cars, and would have saved the buyer around £55,000 on the list price of a regular D3. For that, the kids would have to cope with sharing space with a sink on the school run. It rather appealed but the only example I could find had just been sold and was in Japan.
Which leads me to the same conclusion as most other Land Rover-loving campers – it’s easier to just convert an ex-MoD Defender ambulance. There are two currently for sale. One is fresh from the auction and still covered in its sale stickers and ready for conversion. It’s £35k. The other is fully fitted out and ready to go at £60k. That £25k would buy a lot of kit to do it yourself but, in my case, it would be time to retire by the time it was finished.
So for now I’ve closed the browsers and given up on the idea. If fate wants me to buy a camper, my horoscope will tell me about meeting a tall, dark Defender and starting a long-distance relationship.
You can read some of Tom's other market news columns in our Buying Guides section here.
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