Apache 700 SE Long Term review

Discussion in 'Auto-Trail' started by grumps147, Jul 27, 2010.

  1. grumps147

    grumps147 Funster

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    Hi folks,

    after deliberation on both the change from tugging, what layout and what features were essential for our future needs we went for the Autotrail Apache 700SE which was collected on 8 July.

    I have decided to try and keep up with a long term review, so here are the first comments.

    The handover was comprehensive. I even managed to remember most things, apart from the media centre that is. Still, we hopefully have a long time to play with that.

    The first thing was to get use to the size. Many years ago now I had my class 1 HGV through the need for occasional emergency use, and have driven a variety of large vehicles but never regularly. I did drive a Movano 3 litre and a big mercedes van regularly over a 3 year period, but they were not as long or as wide as this.

    I have to say that the drive home (once I had reversed on the petrol station as I parked the wrong side for the filler) was extremely pleasant. The door mirrors, with a large upper and smaller lower mirror provided excellent visibility to the rear. At slow speed reversing the camera allows enough visibility to see if anyone walks behind - but in low light you have to concentrate to see clearly even with the infra red lighting provided.

    Another couple of runs out to get used to the size, and also the gearbox/speed and I then felt fairly confident that I had adjusted to the length/width. Don't expect Mercedes quality gear changing, its clunky at times. We will see in the long term if that is me or if it is clunky at times. However speed wise I think its brilliant. We can cruise all day at 60 (wind permitting). This gives rise to 2 issues.

    Firstly, at over 3500kg then on single carriageway roads the speed limit is 50mph when the national limit applies - jus the same as the caravan but something I will have to be careful of. Secondly, we largely travel on motorways on lane 1 (the nearside), and I noticed on one heavily rutted section some movement that required correction. It was not windy, but I had to reduce speed to 50 to control it. Once out of the rutted section away we went again at 55-60 with no problems.

    I tried everything out at home, and last week we went for a week away, as quite a few have said site based so any problems could be addressed quickly.

    That week away is another post.:Smile:
     
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  2. grumps147

    grumps147 Funster

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    Apache 700SE long term review

    So, our first week away.

    Just the two of us while we test things for the first time - not the time for small grandchildren.

    We had filled with water before leaving home, and on site I could get at one tap with my hose to refill. However, one thing I cannot understand is why on a van of this size and quality there is not an electric pump/connection to allow filling from a separate container. I am sure there are going to be places I cannot position such a large vehicle to get my hose hooked up. Seems I may need an even longer hose.

    The fridge door came open despite being in the locked position. It was wedged till we got on site where i found the metal locking plate did not appear to be set right. A quick 3 minutes with a screwdriver sorted that and its now fine.

    Day 2 night arrived and suddenly the water pump started coming on when there was no tap on. We could not see why, and during the night it was a nuisance so we turned the pump off, turning it on as needed during the night. In the morning we noticed water on the floor between the wardrobe and the sink area. Not a lot, but it should not have been there.

    Investigation showed that we had water on the floor of the wardrobe area under where the water heater is. Search for the torch (we had forgotten it), but we had some mini lanterns which gave enough light to show a leak where the cold water pipe going into the heater entered the connector attached to the inlet pipe. Now we could have managed carrying water, but we decided to call the dealers. The dealer said there were no local agents, they were the nearest, and they would fix it if we could get to them. Several hours drive later we did and they had fixed it. It seams these new pressurised systems we were not used to in a tugger have an 'o' ring seal that had not seated properly and had started to leak. When the service manager realised how far we had travelled and we did not have a torch he provided us with an excellent re-chargeable for goodwill.

    So, first problem over and the dealer very helpful indeed. We joined their club also while we were there (free).

    The rest of the week was uneventful. The oven and grill remain unused, but the hob cooked several full evening meals no problem. We definitely have to get used to the reduced worktop space, which will be a challenge.

    I know there is seat belt mounting bracketry in both the front dinette lockers, but why cannot these lockers have opening hatches - its a nuisance taking the cushions off to access anything stored in these lockers.

    The access to the spare wheel area at the rear to give more storage is a bonus (I kept my waste water container in there - the site had no drive over discharge point). However this is awkward to use as it does not have any struts to keep it open, and i think i am going to have to watch pushing it open too far by hand as i think it would be easy to crack. More on this in the future.

    On the plus side, the rear side external access locker doors are brilliant.

    Back home and hoping to visit a friend at a C&CC meet at Corbridge over this weekend, try it without a hookup. I have been reading a lot of threads on this site about solar panels and extra batteries, so this weekend may show a need.

    The saga will continue.:BigGrin:
     
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  3. Mikemoss

    Mikemoss Read Only Funster

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    Hi there Grumps 147

    Thanks for two really interesting posts - reminded me strongly of the time, not so very long agao, when Sue and I swapped many years of tenting and tugging for our first motorhome (with identical layout to yours, incidentally).

    Like you, we found the water and waste water situation strange after the good old Aquaroll and Wastemaster days. So here are a couple of tips that we found out about on here, and have found to be a good solution:

    Fresh water: don't bother with an even longer hose, just buy a watering can which will be perfect for topping-up between main visits to the tap. Much easier to store than anything larger, and you won't miss the lack of an electric pump for transfer to the main tank.

    Waste water: try a collapsable bucket, they take up virtually no space and are handy for between trips to the motorhome dumping point if there is one. On a typical CL/CS, the bucket is just fine for watering the hedges which is the method preferred by many site owners.

    Please keep the stories coming, and here's wishing you many years of happy motorhoming.
     
  4. jg147

    jg147 Read Only Funster

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    We had a water pump fitted to our Swift motorhome and it is really good. The dealer fit it as part of the deal to buy the motorhome but he did quote around £100 for parts and labour. I have mentioned on other posts that we still take our water hog and waste from our caravan. It helps to top up and empty. I know it might seem daft but it works for us and saves moving the motorhome, we do get through a lot of water daily.

    Enjoyed reading your post as yours was our alternative option. We went for a second hand 2 year old/3000 mile Swift as cheaper than the new 3l auto we would have had with the Apache 700.

    It may be worth having the pump fitted in the future, I think from memory a second hand scout we looked at had it fitted as standard. We liked the scout but the previous owner had drilled holes everywhere and at 45k for a 4 year old it put us off.
     
  5. grumps147

    grumps147 Funster

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    2nd outing

    Well, many thanks to Mikemoss and jg147 for their inputs, strangely this weekend we saw someone using a watering can for topping up the fresh water.:thumb::thumb::thumb:

    This weekend was the first without hookup, 3 nights and the single 85amp hour battery lasted well and some to spare. I don't think it will last beginning/end of season with more lights and heater fan in use, and as for winter when frosts affect battery condition then definitely not. So winter and other heavy power use times it is either hook ups or get solar panels and an extra battery. I must cost this out, but I am thinking that if I want to camp in some places there will be no power and irrespective of cost it may be time to seriously consider solar panels to get the maximum long term value out of them. I wonder how long they last, as everything like this seems to have a 'life' of x years? Must ask that in a solar panel thread.

    Value for money the weekend certainly was, a C&CC holiday site at the rugby club at Corbridge nr Hexham. £6 per night, brilliant.

    Vehicle wise, we have now used the grill, and it is typical of all these grills. Has anyone ever had one that really worked and could cook two pieces of toast side by side evenly, without swopping sides?

    The hot water heater via gas worked as well as via the electric did, but our water pump is noisy, I wonder if this is common on the Autotrail's?

    Also, having used the sites showers/washroom on our first outing this second one was vehicle washroom. M says she manages without getting water on the window blind, but I cannot. For me this is a problem, as it not only wets the new style concertina blind you have to have closed because of the non-frosted window if you want privacy, but water seems to run into the bottom of the cassette and what damage it is causing I have no idea. I wonder if anyone else has experienced this? We are looking at installing our own mini curtain system made with a velcro attachment, and that may also mean we do not have to attach some privacy masking tape we have to the window - you never know how plastics will react to other chemical based products being attached to them.

    Still to test the shower, may do that at home on the power as 2 weeks of different grandchildren sitting forces home stays (and the need to do some jobs at home), and I want to get any problems sorted early in its life.

    Also Fiat, which of your design team was responsible for the position and size of the windscreen washer bottle filler? Do not give them their bonus. Send them on a course to the VW Passat factory instead. I have never known such a small filler in such an awkward position.:restmycase:

    One thing for us to address is transport to places from site. So far we have had friends with cars at each visit - well thats why we went to those sites. We have to be more adventurous now and choose sites where there is nearby public transport, amenities are close enough to walk and sites where we have to drive off. I am guessing because of the size we will need to do a lot of planning for drive off visits, but friends have already supplied us with details of a few city sites where we can use public transport, so i think its a couple of those next.

    Mistakes wise, I must remember not to empty my fresh water tanks till i get home, the toilet does not flush without some water in the tank.:Blush:

    Now its due for a wash - that will be interesting - tips needed especially as we have a hosepipe ban.

    Bye for now.
     
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  6. Mikemoss

    Mikemoss Read Only Funster

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    Thanks Grumps for another interesting update, and you see I wasn't joking about those watering cans, was I?

    Another excellent idea I got off here is the use of biological washing liquid (for clothes, not dishes) instead of the proverbial blue stuff in your loo. It works better, costs less and is an all-round Good Idea.

    Like you, when we transferred from tugging we worried about how we were going to visit towns, villages and places of interest without having a car. In practice it hasn't proved to be a problem so long as a little lateral thinking is applied to the art of parking. Coach and lorry parks are our usual first port of call in larger towns and cities, car parks in supermarkets, sports centres and the like often have spaces for a motorhome (ours is about the same length as yours) and we've been able to park along the roadside far more often than we expected. In fact, in five years there's only been one single occasion where we haven't been able to park somewhere we wanted to visit. That was in Boscastle after the floods and it served us right as we only wanted to rubber-kneck at the place (which is what everyone else who got there earlier was already doing).

    Happy days, and please keep those reports coming.
     
  7. robnchris

    robnchris Funster

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    solar panel

    Hi Grumps,

    Interesting reading about your new motorhome, we also have an Autotrail, though a little older than yours, ours is the Cheyenne on a merc sprinter chassis, was totally loved by her first owners lucky for us we got an almost new motorhome.

    Re your comments about batteries and solar panels, we have 2 110amp hours batteries, we had an 85 amp hr solar panel fitted, sofar it has been excellent, we would say it gives an average of 4 amps per hour per day which is more than enough to keep the batteries topped up.
    It cost about £500 but the standard of work done was 100%, we have a digital read out that tells us the state of charging, how much is going in, how much is going out.

    Understand your concerns re topping up the water tanks, some sites are a pain in that you have to move the motorhome to the water point rather than being able to top up with a hose, hence the watering can or a plastic bottle cut like a funnel used with a water container for topping up.

    Hope you continue to enjoy your new found interest.
     
  8. grumps147

    grumps147 Funster

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    Handbrake cable catching exhaust, battery charger and another leaking pipe

    Well, a few more small runs under the belt, and three more things to report, in order that they happened.

    We have had another leak, this time from the hot pipe leading to the shower. We have the four sealt belt dinette version, and under the seat that backs on to the shower right on the offside the water pipes enter from underneath and there are joints in the piping. The hot water pipe had worked loose. I pushed it in and that seemed to be it, but 2 days later discovered a leak at the opposite side of the joint from where i pushed it in. Its booked in to get sorted.

    The main electrical control unit is an EC 225, and has a built in battery charger which has stopped working. Again, its booked in.

    I needed to hook up to a battery charger to save the battery draining flat due to the tracker unit drain. Looking around underneath to route some semi permanent wiring I found the handbrake cable was touching the exhaust. Again reported and booked in. The outer heavy duty rubber had burnt slighty, though the inner metal outer sheath was ok. As a temporary fix I managed to cable tie it to ensure it clears the exhaust. Again booked in. (Must tape up where it caught to prevent water ingress).

    All niggles you can do without.

    One of our trips was a very pleasant week up as far as Ayr and back. Pick up the Cumbria grandchildren and then 2 nights at C&CC Ravenglass. Very pleasant. Then drop them off and on to a stop-over at CC Troutbeck. Next 1 night at New England Bay south of Stanraer (a walk arround Drummore harbour revealed either an old MTB or RAF rescue launch - could not make my mind up if it was being scrapped or restored). Up to C&CC at Culzean Castle - not many on here. We stayed here almost 30 years ago and though clean and tidy its looking faded - i dont think I would want to be here when it is full in peak season as there don't seem to be enough toilets/showers. The ride up to there once past the ports at Stranrear is a real pleasure. On leaving 2 days later we drove straight across to the M74 on the A70 for the last night at Moffat. Under expansion, Moffat is well worth one night, and just off the M74 is an excellent stopover point. However, the A70 is probably the worst A class road I have ever driven on, its in terrible condition - now I know why the universities in Scotland are free, its come off road spending.

    Despite the niggles, and though its still early days compared to you veteran funsters, we both really enjoy the motorhome experience and the grandchildren really like it. :thumb:
     
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  9. grumps147

    grumps147 Funster

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    Update

    Well,

    its been back to the dealer for the water leak, fixed they said. Unfortunately it was left with them before it staretd snowing mid December. Some parts did not arrive and before you know it Christmas shutdown comes. Not a problem as so much was going on motorhoming was out. We get it back after new year, and get it home.

    We had a whale pump point fitted near the water filler, and have a whale pump we can put in a container when we arenot near a tap. tested and works a treat.

    We had a solar panel and extra habitation battery fitted. During the last couple of weeks when its been sunny I have looked at the charging panel and its been putting something in. When i go in now and look at the LED's indicating charge state they are much higher up the charged level.

    Thats helped by a repaired EC225, and I now have my hook up on a timer coming on twice a week.

    I have also bought a four stage charger and have that fitted to my vehicle battery, plugged in to the van electrics so that comes on twice a week as well. The charged level LED's on this show a huge improvement.

    So, what about the water leak. Well i ran the system up, got everything working and no sign of a leak. Being careful, I went back after a couple of hours. It was leaking from the same spot. This point has the old fashioned jubilee clip on and these I can manage. So re-adjusting where this sat and re-tightening I left it again for another couple of hours. No leaks. I left it several more hours and still no leaks so hopefuly thats fixed.

    So far I think one of the main differences between the caravan we formerly had and the motorhome is this pressurised water system - I really have to monitor it I think.

    The other is the spending - i think thats it for quite a while, though I just noticed a post about sun shading material for the awning, looks good.......hahahahaha.
     
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  10. grumps147

    grumps147 Funster

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    Update after 3 weeks in France

    Well, our first tour outside of the UK, 3 weeks in France just completed.

    Are there any Dutch over 60's resident in that country at all, the camp sites in France even at this low season time are full of them, well outnumbering the Brits?

    ASCI camp site guide and discount card definitely recommended, you get what it says in the book at a reasonable cost. That saved quite a few bob.

    Aires, SWMBO decided she did not really feel safe, so we only stayed at one - St Maire Eglise (where the parachutist got hooked on the church steeple). We looked at the council site there, it worked out a silly 20 something euros, so the 5 euro's for the aire was good. If we ever go with friends, then Aires would probably get used more.

    Having a sat nav was brilliant, and 'Olive' only sent us down one nightmare narrow road - which had a small pantechnicon delivering someone to their new home parked right across it. SWMBO pointing to the sat nav, then me, rolling her eyes while talking to the driver in pigeon french left him in bulk and he moved immediately so we could pass with no delay.

    Performance of the Apache - no name yet. With only two of us it was no problem. Before we left home we had discovered a leak from the window of the front dinette into the front dinette locker. Damp inside locker, damp mouldy seat slats and damp mouldy under cushion, and musty smell. SWMBO got rid of mould, and ventilating over the 3 weeks by lifting every couple of days seems to have got rid of the smell. On our way to the ferry we called at the dealers and it was arranged to go in to the dealers on our return. The roof fan stopped working while we were away, and we have forgotten to tell the dealer about that, so thats another trip down soon. They fixed the window, and a leak around the habitation door that had half filled the black tray under the door step mat on the only day we had rain in three weeks. On order are new bed slats for the front dinette seat squab, which have warped after getting damp.

    We also have on order a new moulding for near the fuel filler, we have starred cracking in the fibreglass, probably a stress fracturing.

    Some years ago we bought a portable gas barbq, like this http://www.towsure.com/product/Portable_Lava_Rock_Gas_Barbecue
    and used it for the first time (on most evenings) hooked in to the external gas point - brilliant. So we still have to use the oven!

    The rear strut on the awning also had to be fixed by the dealer. Never having used it, the warm sunny weather we had was the ideal time to test it, but after 1 week the rear strut started just letting itself down under the weight of the awning. That will be getting another test soon.

    Driving, well we have now done 4,500 miles all told, and averaged 23.7mpg for the 3 weeks. I have to say I like the Fiat to drive, and suffered no back ache or discomfort due to the driving position. The cruise control though is essential (for me), and makes the driving so much more relaxing.

    Am I happy with our decision to change from a tugger to a motorhome, definitely YES for the type of holiday we want in the main now - touring and seeing new places.

    Do we like the Apache - yes, for us its ideal, though I have to say we have had many more problems than we ever had with a tugger. It obviously pays to buy from a good dealer, who listens and fixes faults quickly and without quibling.

    Oh, and the spending continues - a small light outside table for 14 euro's from a camping shop in France, and some proper sit up seats that also recline so we an sit to the table properly, not slouched back away from it - Lafuma ones that have a separate leg rest if you want to relax reading that book. Also, a fly removal sponge with rubber blade and extending handle from a French supermarket - probably the buy of the trip as I was really having trouble getting dead flies off the windscreen.
     
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  11. Anne

    Anne Read Only Funster

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    :thumb:loved reading your travels and motorhome tales, we bought our Apache second hand in March and have had a wonderful trip through France, Germany, Belgium, Austria, Switzerland for three months, now it is on a boat to NZ, we liked it so much. Endorse the water cans, and we also had two black buckets for washing, waste etc, was really worth it, keep up the writing, enjoy it from the other side of the world.
     
  12. grumps147

    grumps147 Funster

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    Well, time for another update.

    We have now had the grandchildren with us several times, mostly two at a time, but on one occasion we had 4. Summer time we do not seem to have any problem, but in winter it's very dark without lights on in the overhead bunk and the 6 year olds do not like that.

    As a result there was some bed shifting. I now know I can get into the overcab bunk (as long as I ignore the weight restrictions). But, the dinette bed is small. So, forget about the six berth being a six berth if you have tall teenagers, but it's ok for the smaller ones. I suppose the rule of thumb will be by the time they exceed the dinette bed they will be past wanting to come with us anyway.

    No problems at all with the unit itself, but we have had two recent additions. Firstly a cat1 thatcham alarm, and today a refillable alugas cylinder. The last time I went for a calor cylinder I thought I was going deaf and hadn't heard the cost properly. Unfortunately I had, so coupled with my weighing experience http://www.motorhomefun.co.uk/motorhome-chat/53815-how-many-us-overloaded-how-much.html I decided a refillable system was needed.

    Initial problems with the alarm now sorted (sorry again to those at Malvern 2012), thanks to the prompt attention to Dave Newall LVS, who also fitted the alugas system.

    I have however seen another motorhome I really like, but which requires a lottery win, so that's a non-starter.

    Overall, after initial teething problems and some spend on extras, I think we are now there and can continue our enjoyment of visits to France and elsewhere in Europe, more fun rallies, the CL's and CS's of the two main clubs here, and the occasional visit to the quite expensive two main clubs sites (where they are convenient to public transport).

    So, where to next?
     
    Last edited: Aug 24, 2012
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  13. grumps147

    grumps147 Funster

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    Another thread has promoted this update, and more intensive use of the Motorhome in the past 12 months. We have had two further window leaks in the last 18 months, in both cases the sealant at the top of the window. No pressure washer ever used, and despite visual inspections no visible to the eye signs the sealant has failed. You never notice them in light rain for some reason I cannot logically explain, it's always when there has been a very heavy downpour.
    When it had its habitation service in July 2014 the dealer noted a higher than average damp reading from the front offside locker (it's the six berth, so the front dinette locker), at the front outer lower edge of the locker. So, after summer travels it went in for removal of the body mouldings, cleaned, inspected and resealed.
    We had three small children with us in summer, and that proved interesting as before we had always had two. It was certainly an experience having all three bed spaces occupied and one of the sites having no washroom or toilet facilities, and it confirmed that our dinette as a sleeping area is not for larger people, or older children who are larger even. So when offered a síx berth, if you thinking of six adults, then you need a large RV or 5th wheel that truly offers six adult sleeping ares, you won't get it in a European or UK standard type, unless you are small.
    The other thing we constantly battled with with four or five on board for three days or longer was weight. How do people arrive with bikes on racks and turn out a multitude of heavy items with four children aboard and keep to their weight limits? The stuff we had to jettison, after a weighbridge visit before each long and heavy loaded trip was unbelievable. So if you did see us eating inside and wondered why, our tables and chairs had been jettisoned amongst other none absolute essentials (their iPods and chargers were classed as essentials).
    Prior to our summer travels we had a valuation from our dealer, very good against a 2014 Scout, but not quite enough to tempt us. It was suggested we wait till the October NEC show which we did, using the time to visit a few dealers and see their offerings. But, there was no comparison with the manufacturer/models available to inspect at the NEC from dealer visits, virtually every model and layout available at the NEC, some of which need considerable consideration.
    Now, despite all that has been said about Autotrails we are getting another, a Scout in March 2015. Clearly Autotrail were funding dealers to extra discount at this show, and the price offered to us was one we felt we could not refuse.
    So, expect another long term review to start then. On their newer body construction solution, so let's see how that goes in time. This will be long term, there will not be another, let's hope I have no licence renewal problems when 70 comes around.
    Have I been happy with the enjoyment given by the Apache, a resounding yes. Am I happy overall with the number of repairs, hmmmm. I just think of the snagging list on our house in the late 90's, the problems and huge expense we had with a Merc C class estate when we were tugging, and the fact this is a van, going off-road not in a 4x4 sense, but subject to a lot of twisting, stress and strain. Not all overnight stays are on the smooth tarmac of CC sites and their level hard standing. Also, talking to others it seems that other marques, including once totally reliable European ones, are not without their issues.
    I am, however, thankful for having an excellent dealer relationship and after sales service, and from an Autotrail dealer, and have been lucky enough not to have guarantee quibbles on those faults within the guarantee period from Autotrail itself. That would have turned me off also had it happened.
     
    Last edited: Nov 19, 2014
  14. irnbru

    irnbru Funster Life Member

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    Thank you for your posts. They have been helpful. Its gave me things to check as we are seriously looking at buying one of these if we get our own sold first.
     
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  15. Chris

    Chris Funster Life Member

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    We love our 2013 Scout(y)
     
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  16. SC 05 OUT

    SC 05 OUT Funster

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    2013 !! pah a young whiper snapper, :p:p mines ten years old, we still love it, it just sailed through its mot with no adviseries, a classic layout which is allways popular wih familes wether mum/dad/kids or as in our case gandparents/grandkids
     
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  17. Chris

    Chris Funster Life Member

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    Yep, the layout is perfect for us.

    I can watch the rugby up front while my daughter " owns" the lounge area with various toys and dolls occupying the whole area...
     
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