Some thoughts on downsizing (1 Viewer)

Don Madge

Deceased RIP
Aug 27, 2007
East Yorks
Funster No
Van Conversion
Too Long
I think there is a trend these days towards the panel van conversions. Recently I visited the Timberland factory and was amazed to see the number of late plated A Class and large coachbuilts that had been traded in for the smaller vans. It's not everybobodys cup of tea though, it can be a very expensive mistake if you get it wrong.

Four years ago due to ill health (unable to pass the dreaded 70+ medical) we had to downsize from our A class Laika Ecovip 400i (4200 kg M.A.M.).

We had had the Laika for two years and had fitted it out for winter touring. Extras we had fitted were two sixty litre LPG tanks for domestic use, a
sixty watt solar panel and a Sporty Trailers aluminium back box. As standard the Laika had a 135 litre fridge/freezer, 115 litre fresh water tank, 140 litre waste water tank and a marine toilet of 52 litre capacity. We had just got the van sorted to our satisfaction when we had to part with it.

We usually wintered away for four or five months (Jan - May) then an Autumn trip (late Aug - mid Nov) usually seven/eight months continental touring in a year. We had spent Jan - April 2002 in Turkey and returned home via Rhodes Patras and Venice. The Laika was easy to drive, very spacious to live in and the only drawbacks we found during this extensive trip were difficulties in parking and the impossibility to take it down extremely narrow difficult roads to visit isolated ancient sites.

The search then started for a replacement motorhome, two single beds with a reasonable payload. It was a lot harder than we thought it would be. It could not be above 3500kg M.A.M. and we fancied a low profile coachbuilt but on most the payloads were inadequate for our needs. Some payloads were only 250 - 300 kg and we were still looking at fairly large motorhomes.

We then started to look at LWB high top vans and after much thought and deliberation we settled for the Timberland Freedom 11 on the LWB Fiat Ducato with a payload of approx 500 kg. We were very apprehensive about laying out over £38,000 and having all our plans go pear shaped. We spent a great deal of time and thought before placing an order for the van.

Other vans we considered were the Autosleeper Dueto but this dropped out of contention when we discovered that they were now built on the MWB instead of the LWB chassis. We also considered the Murvi but as they are built in Devon and we live in Yorkshire we decided it was too far to travel if any problems arose and it's layout meant we could not have a back box. Another contender was IH Campers at Ferrybridge. They had very good product and offered to build to our specification but Timberland got the nod as they had the two single bed layout we wanted on the production line when we visited the works

The Timberland has all the same facilities that we had on the Laika. The toilet/shower area is smaller but still as good as many coachbuilts. The
cooking facilities are actually better with a small full domestic cooker. The fresh/waste water tanks are smaller but we don't find this a problem. In addition we carry four eight litre water containers for tea/coffee making. We also prefer to fill the sixty litre fresh water tank with these - no long hoses which are often inconvenient any way.

Our hobby of chasing the winter sun often means travelling through cold weather before finding the sun. Before the Laika having enough LPG for
cooking, heating and the fridge was always a major problem.

We chose to have the optional Eberspacher diesel heater fitted at Timberland and later had a MTH Autogas 13kg refillable gas bottle with an external filler installed. This solved all the heating and LPG problems. Our sixty watt solar panel was fixed on the roof, this keeps the two leisure batteries and the engine battery topped up when not on the move.

Storage is down from the Laika but we still found room for all the essentials. It wasn't easy but we got there in the end. Sporty Trailers
manufactured us a back box which hangs on the rear door which takes care of the loungers and camping equipment.

The main thing we had to come to terms with was the downsizing of the fridge/freezer from 135 litres to 60 litres (I'm allowed one cold beer at a time now) it just means you have to shop more frequently. This is not a problem these days even in Turkey/Greece /Morocco. Large supermarkets are fairly frequent and even small village shops are much better stocked than they used to be and local markets are good.

General storage had to be juggled until it was right. The main thing being not to take anything not strictly essential (no ballgown or tuxedo). One of our main concerns was the fact that we might be falling over one another all the time. With a bit of thought and cooperation it never happened. Seating is comfortable and we can both lounge with feet up. Sleeping is also comfortable with still room to visit the loo and make tea.

If you are thinking of downsizing do your homework first. Sort out your major priorities and look at all the options. If you get It wrong it can be
a very expensive mistake. It was forced upon us but now we feel it's done us a favour. It's almost halved our fuel bill, reduced our ferry crossings and we have parked and visited places we would not have thought possible in the past. So our freedom has increased.

A five month tour of Turkey, Italy, Sardinia, Corsica and Austria went quickly without a hitch and all we could say about it was - this is even
better than it used to be!!!

I hope this in some way helps.


Last edited:


Jul 19, 2007
Sutton on Sea, UK
Funster No
Adria Panel Van.
Since 1988
Hi Don, an interesting story. I do envy those panel van conversions sometimes, especially when you see them in spots that most coachbuilts wouldn't get to, let alone an RV.

That said, I think that they would have to drag me kicking and screaming from my RV right now, I'm just not ready to downsize yet. As soon as one or two of the kids do not want to come away with us any more then we might consider it, but... we have already been discussing towing a small panel van conversion, so we can enjoy the best of both worlds::bigsmile:

Now if only I could afford a 38 foot triple slide RV, that was towing a Panel van conversion (or if we were really rich maybe a split screen VW Camper)::bigsmile: with a matching paint job. Nice:Smile:


Jul 25, 2007
Funster No
A Woosh bang
Hi Don
Like Jim, I too envy people in panel van conversions for all the obvious reasons, maybe someday in the future .. who knows, I had thought of buying one for longer more adventurous trips, something like a unimog and storing George while we were away.. I just wish there was a Tardis 4x4 van, now I'm dreaming.. :frowny:

Safe travels



Free Member
Jul 29, 2007
Funster No
'A' Class RV &
:Cool: We have also been looking at LWB based Campers. The Dethleffs 462 although quite a handy size for travelling and having the overcab bed which we use as storage. Is a little too small and far too slow. We were desperate when we bought it and it does the job. Still looking. :winky:

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