Coachbuilt Build Quality?

Merle Collins

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Hi all,

OK, as most on here know already we are looking to buy an 'older' model...

We have now pretty much narrowed our layout preference down to two formats - U shape rear lounge or the half a U shape lounge (not sure of its technical term!) and note that there are a few manufacturers that used to manufacture these layouts.

Rather than make a fundamental mistake when choosing manufacturer, are there some that are (were) better than others?

Swift Kontiki seems readily available in these layouts but have come across Burstner, Compass and Frankia as well..

Is there one that is considered a better build quality?
 

Snowbird

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Hymer 534 on the Fiat chassis. Hymer 550 on the Mercedes chassis. Both have U shaped lounges and a drop down over the cab. both are better build quality than any older UK built vans.
 

scotjimland

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Dave has suggested two of my favorite vans..

given the choice between them it would be the Hymer 550, as it has (correct me if I am wrong Dave) a fiberglass body with a double floor .. with a bullet proof Merc engine..

From your list.. I would place them in this order of desirability

1. Frankia
2. Burstner
Swift and Compass in third place

Old Kontiki vans were nicknamed (some would say unfairly) leaky Kontikies .. but for any second hand van, old or not.. watch out for damp.. it is a killer.. invest in a damp meter and walk away from anything that has even a hint of damp.
 
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Merle Collins

Merle Collins

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Hymer 534 on the Fiat chassis. Hymer 550 on the Mercedes chassis. Both have U shaped lounges and a drop down over the cab. both are better build quality than any older UK built vans.
Dave has suggested two of my favorite vans..

given the choice between them it would be the Hymer 550, as it has (correct me if I am wrong Dave) a fiberglass body with a double floor .. with a bullet proof Merc engine..

From your list.. I would place them in this order of desirability

1. Frankia
2. Burstner
Swift and Compass in third place

Old Kontiki vans were nicknamed (some would say unfairly) leaky Kontikies .. but for any second hand van, old or not.. watch out for damp.. it is a killer.. invest in a damp meter and walk away from anything that has even a hint of damp.
Cheers guys..(y)

I am struggling to find a Hymer in my price bracket, and it is now apparent why... pay for what you get I suppose.

I've only come across 2 Frankia and both sold quite quickly, again, I now understand why...

I have been in contact with a Burstner seller today and all seems fine with the van except a small leak above a window that was repaired immediately it seems and has not caused any fatal problems.

There are a lot of Kontiki's kicking about and they look great for what we want but I don't want to inherit a problem vehicle, although I appreciate it's inevitable I'll have one or two problems along the way with any manufacturer of that age.

Is Burstner German?
 
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Merle Collins

Merle Collins

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Sad to say I would always choose a German built van over British

Better build quality, insulation and tank capacity - personal view
My view also. That's why they hold their price and are never for sale for very long.
Not just motorhomes really though is it...:rolleyes: Zee Jermans certainly do know how to manufacture.
 

hilldweller

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Zee Jermans certainly do know how to manufacture.
You could ask our member who forked out £11k for a new Merc engine, "No Sir, we do not supply replacement pistons you buy a new engine. Yes we know they fail a lot.". Or the BMW riders declared off the road last month for an indefinite period until BMW find how to make their suspension safe on their £14k luxury bikes. Or BMW riders a couple of years ago whose brand new bike would not start when hot, took 3 months and a load of denials for that one to get fixed.

Or some FUN Burstner owners who now know Burstner do not know how to engineer a side-skirt.

I think the facts on this forum say Germans are better than Swift but that's not saying a whole lot.
 
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Once you have an idea of suitable vans you should just check ebay 'newly listed' in Campervans & Motorhomes every chance you get - any good vans going cheap will sell quickly - watch out for the too cheap scams though
 

DuxDeluxe

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Once you have an idea of suitable vans you should just check ebay 'newly listed' in Campervans & Motorhomes every chance you get - any good vans going cheap will sell quickly - watch out for the too cheap scams though
You can always check on here if it is a bit cheap. Many Funsters keep an eye out for these things and have a good knowledge of what something is worth. you will always get a quick reply as it is busy on here........

Frankia is a really good brand - part of the Pilote group which has a generally good reputation and I believe wood free construction . We are biased - traded our (excellent) Auto-Sleeper for a Pilote earlier this year
 

haganap

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I would hate to offer advice on buying a van- I sort of go down this road. Choose the layout that you like and love, get a good and thorough examination done by an independent caravan repair person and then make up your mind on what follows.

I've owned all sorts of makes and known all sorts of makes and to be honest, I love my bessaccar (same as kon tiki) and swear by it and at it. I've known plenty of German vans that have leaked or had several problems and to be honest, this german thing is a hangover from the 80s the German hymer of the 80 and early 90s is far superior build quality to the mass produced of the 2000s. Friend of mine just PXd his beloved German for a slovenian and the German was riddled with damp. Friend of mine just got rid of his Swift built and the same reason. At the Bring and Buy a guy in a Autotrail had Terry on his roof fixing a leak and a guy in a Burstner (nearly new) was seeking advice on how to deal with damp under his window from a poorly fitted window.

So here's my view, There all s**t wherever they are from, Some are more S**t than others granted but you part with your bucks and get whatever S**t you adopt. The only ever exception to this rule seems to be our snowbird who can sniff a great deal out on a great motor from 2000 miles away and then goes and picks it up.!!!

Wouldn't want to put anyone off from buying anything, but just make sure your toolbox is in good shape and has some sealant in it (n)

we the consumer are readily treaded on in this wonderful pursuit of ours:cry:, but, do you know what?

It's bloody worth it:D
 

haganap

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You can always check on here if it is a bit cheap. Many Funsters keep an eye out for these things and have a good knowledge of what something is worth. you will always get a quick reply as it is busy on here........

Frankia is a really good brand - part of the Pilote group which has a generally good reputation and I believe wood free construction . We are biased - traded our (excellent) Auto-Sleeper for a Pilote earlier this year
see this is where we are all misled and Im glad you highlighted this. I love french vans, I think the Pilote is an excellent choice, yet dig deeper.

They own
Mooveo which are clearly shocking in every department.
RMB which Snowbird swears by and are ace
Frankia as you point out, who we all believe are a prestige German brand
and of course Pilote itself.


So which one of these is German in our motorhome fun tradition? filled with German engineering as we are to believe, built to such a high quality finish?

Well with 660 workers in France, and 140 in Germany, poor Dave snowbirds RMB and you Frankia lovers are going to have to put up with loads of stuff being made in France and then shipped to Germany for construction.

Face the facts people, our industry is going just like the car industry with the punter having absolute no idea what they are actually buying.

Great in it
 

DuxDeluxe

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All good points, Paul - I had forgotten all about Mooveo. Do they still import them? I know they were used as hire vans by some companies who anticipated them being trashed and didn't really care about them.

I thought that Frankia were German built in entirety apart from the usual purchased bits from the normal suppliers but completely take your point about components being constructed elsewhere. I wonder how many British vans really are British? Autotrail are a part of the Trigano group, aren't they............
 

DuxDeluxe

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I may be bias, but Auto Sleepers are well built Motorhomes and Vans
Not without their issues either - they had a dip in quality when owned by SEA and also there are some duff ones around, but mostly good. We very much liked ours
 

haganap

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this is what makes me laugh when we talk build quality... here we go here's the link for Truma
http://www.truma.com/int/en/home/references-partner-truma.php


Seen it? that's the German version, practically every single motorhome manufacture is in partenrship with them. Therefore the same parts fitted on Dave's RMB are the same I had on my CI or even on the Mooveo. Switch to the UK version and I have the same parts on my Van as an Autotrail from the Trigano group.

Look at your windows? who are they made by? quite probably Seitz who owns them? Dometic, who are Dometics partners? Yes you guessed it, the same as those above..

Want a wee? Look at your loo? who's it made by? Thetford no doubt, who are Thetford partners too? you guessed it.

The only consideration is therefore in the Design and manufacture of the product itself. No doubt in my mind that some are better than others in this department and in honesty Ive lost cound of the times Ive come accross something wrong on my van and thought "why have they done it that way?" and changed and improved it, yet Im not an engineer merely a nurse.

All countries have spotty oikes working minimum wage appying sealant no doubt, it's just some spotty Oikes are better than others, Oh, but if we believe the press and Shiftz then our Swift built vans are being built here in the UK by Polish and Eastern Europeans and the German's by the Turks,
You can't win I tell ya, you cant win!!! he he.
 

Forestboy

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Totally agree with Haggers choose the layout that suits you as that is the single most important thing. If you can get your personal choice of engine & chassis after that then that's a bonus but not as important as layout.
As for quality I think on anything after 2004/5 unless your spending mega bucks on a Concorde or Carthargo or vans of that type it makes very little difference. Some swear by German vans others by French or even British. Fact is the newer vans are all made pretty much the same with the same components and the same inherent faults, quality control went out the window 10 years ago when price became more important.
We went from a year old van in 2010 back to a then 8 year old, now 12 year old van and have to say no comparison in the build quality. Having said that I spend hours pottering around fixing things checking things its a endless job and you need to be half handy with the tools or it'll cost a fortune or fall apart.

Hope we haven't put you off but that's the reality.(y)
 

Snowbird

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I do have to agree with Haggers that most or even dare I say all of the internal appliances are made by the same company, whether you pay 30K or 200K for a motorhome. The difference becomes apparent when you start to use the thing for what it was intended. Its not long before you realise that the insulation is good enough for the UK in July, but not much use in Scotland in December. If stored outside during winter months its not long before the joints require re sealing and you start getting that strange musty smell and cant figure out where its coming from. The fridge does not work well on 12 volt, nothing to do with the fridge, its because they cut corners with the wiring and did not put thick enough wire in there. The upholstery starts to look shabby, as its now becoming threadbare. The taps leak and break because they were made from recycled plastic bottles in China. The floor starts to go spongy because its made from old cardboard boxes. Most motorhomes are made to be used for the odd weekend and perhaps 4 weeks holiday each year. They will stand up to that for a few years, but start using them for 10 months of the year and see how long the cupboards and drawers hold together. The OP is asking about an older van, and therefore I can only recommend something from the early 90s that would have been a quality built van in its day and not an entry level weekend motorhome.
 

Tootles

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Cheers guys..(y)

I am struggling to find a Hymer in my price bracket, and it is now apparent why... pay for what you get I suppose.

I've only come across 2 Frankia and both sold quite quickly, again, I now understand why...

I have been in contact with a Burstner seller today and all seems fine with the van except a small leak above a window that was repaired immediately it seems and has not caused any fatal problems.

There are a lot of Kontiki's kicking about and they look great for what we want but I don't want to inherit a problem vehicle, although I appreciate it's inevitable I'll have one or two problems along the way with any manufacturer of that age.

Is Burstner German?
You could always go for a Hymer Coachbuilt if you want the quality at a lesser price. Dependent on year and model, you can pick up say a Hymer Camp 64 for around 7 K, on either a Fiat or Merc base vehicle.
 

Bertie Bassett

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Can't but agree with most of whats being said on here about foreign (German) build quality, but do not, in any circumstance, buy a Laika. We had a Kreos, it cost more in diesel getting it back and forth to the dealership for warranty work than it did to buy............... new! Swifts from the early 2000's have lots of problems which were never ironed out so beware and take someone who already has a van to check any prospective purchase. When you are happy buy and enjooooooooooooooooooooy!
 

vwalan

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truck conversions are the way. use household gear built to last. far better than most factory builds .
 
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Just to give an opposing view. I had a 1991 Swift Kontiki 650 (7 berth) in the 90s for several years and it was excellent. The roof in particular in solid appearing GRP (like a boats deck) could be used as a viewing platform/sunbathing spot and on occasions had 5 people on it. No leaks apart from a split pipe junction on the water heater.

It is still going as I sometimes see it about, it was bought by a local.

I agree with the points about it's insulation and the size of tanks (water tank was outside too) but it had its good points.

My current MH is about the same size and only accommodates four, in greater comfort but I wouldn't trust the roof with that weight of people. (Mercedes Rapido A-class)
 
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