Monday, December 19, 2011

Great Wall Campervan

Most campervan on the market are the results of custom made bodies built on bare chassis from vehicle manufacturers. However Great Wall Motors of China took a different path, they produced a complete campervan as one of their product line. One that is ready to be driven away for road trip from the showroom. It is based on Great Wall's dual cab LWB pickup truck with a fully equipped interior. It comes with roof mounted site aircon, a bathroom/toilet, a kitchen stove and sink, a full time double bed  over the passengers cab and 2 bunks at the back for a total of 4 sleeping berths. It even comes standard with a LCD TV, fridge and microwave oven. The export models runs on a Mitsubishi 2.4 Litre petrol engine delivering 100KW of power and 200Nm of torque, turbo diesel engine is also available as an option. It is almost 6m long and 2m wide with a 3.9m wheel base, the height is 2.9m. The Hiluxs, Rangers and Tritons on road will be made to feel like Kancils when faced with this behemoth on the road.

I am not sure how much it cost, but I sure hope that a local distributor will consider importing it to Malaysia.

The factory made body is well integrated to the chassis.
This side view gives us an idea of the length of the camper. Take a look at the wheel base, I have never seen any pickup truck in Malaysia with that kind of dimension. Maneuvering this camper will be challenging.

19" LCD TV is standard

Bunks at the back

Thursday, December 1, 2011

A VW splitty camper with the reliability of a Toyota HiAce?

a rare westfalia vw campervan in malaysia

A VW type 2 splitty van commands a premium price in Malaysia these days. It's main draw is it iconic look, which has deeply ingrained into the collective pop culture consciousness. In nine of out ten references to vans in any comics or commercial graphics, you will find the unmistakable image of the VW type 1 van with its friendly "smiling face". However, the splitty van is also a very old model and it is not easy to keep it on the road. Some critical parts can be hard to get and not every enthusiasts has the budget or time to keep it in road worthy condition. Wouldn't it be great if the type 2 van is as reliable as a Toyota HiAce van, as easy to find parts? This is exactly what a Japanese did with a HiAce van, with some body modification, he made a garden variety HiAce van into a smart Type 2 van lookalike. While it won't fool any VW van enthusiasts who worth their salt, it is a surprisingly effective conversion. Now, if the owner will just put an artifical center pillar to the windscreen, it would give it that split screen look.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Fordson E86W campervan

The Fordson E86W, also known as Thames in some markets, was a light commercial vehicle from Ford UK between 1938 and 1957. At one time it was a ubiquitous van in Malaysia, available in various forms from pickups to vans. I am not sure how many of its type survives here today, but this campervan variant must be one of the rarest type, probably the only one of its kind in Malaysia today.The body looks like it is factory built with full standing room and full length rear door. The rear bumper is clearly made for camper, with a nice stepping plate incorporated. I would love to know the full history of this camper. Who brought it into this country? Who owned it and travelled with it? What are the places it has visited?

Although campervan is not a common sight on Malaysian roads, the registration plate of this particular unit shows that campervan existed here long time ago, albeit in very small numbers.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Standard van conversion with extensible sleeping berth

Campervan converted from a standard mid-engined van will usually face the challenge of internal space. Most of the conversion forces owner to choose between day configuration where you have place to sit and do other things or night configuration where all of the interior space is taken up by sleeping berth. It would be nice if one can have both, sleeping berth and sitting/living space. Unless you have a full size long wheel base van, you just can't have it both way at the same time.

However there is one ingenious design from a DIY project that shows that you can have your cake and eat it too with a standard mid-engined van, in this example it is Mitsubishi L300 4WD. The design creates extra space by having a slide-out sleeping berth to provide extra length to accommodate the sleeper while freeing room for the sitter, stove and sink for use. The slide out sleeping berth is constructed as a box so that when it is fully deployed it remains as fully enclose space for security and privacy.

The basic layout plan of the camper.

The van with it's stripped out interior

Supports for the slider.

The slider support need to be anchored to the van body structure for strength
The slide out box taking shape

Heavy duty sliders attached to the slide out box

Rear view of the slide out box. The heavy duty sliders may be hard to get here in Malaysia, but I think 2 sets of sliders from racked mounted computer should be a viable option.

How the slider box look from inside out

Note how the rearward facing bench seat is usable regardless of the position of the sleeping berth deployment

Since the sleep berth slides out, it does not take up any internal space

The slide-out box with its own windows

In fully deployed position

Another view of the fully deployed slide out sleeping berth

The bottom of the slide-out box is lockable so that it is secure even when the tail gate ti opened for deploying the sleeping berth.

The living space with bench seat

The sleeping berth fully deployed, ready to be used.

Monday, October 31, 2011

Campervan outing at Cameron Highland

Cameron highland is one my favourite retreat destination. Although the place has been suffered over commercialisation, there are still places where I can get away from the maddening crowd. My destination this time is at the Malaysia's Nature Society chalet at Ringlets. The place is currently under renovation and it is closed, so it is perfect for parking my campervan there as I will not be taking up the limited parking space that would otherwise be used by the lodgers at the chalets.

The morning mist give the quiet and isolated place a surreal ambiance.

The view of the valley when the morning mist started to clear
The trail leading to the campsite, the extra width and height of my camper was bit of a concern. In fact I got offside rear wheel stuck in the soft soil at the shoulder. Thanks to the help of the plantation workers who helped to push my camper, I managed get my camper back on the hard surface. Note to self: next time bring some recovery equipment.

You will never get tired of looking at the tea plantation.
There are small nooks and crannies that reminds me of the hobbits shire
The grand vista of the valley when the morning mist was cleared

The following day I decided to visit Tanah Rata, this is the municipal council's car park. For those who prefer to camp closer to town, this is a good place to park your camper

Another good place is the forest park at Brinchang. Tucked away between Kampung Sedia and Tanah Rata, it is quiet and spacious, with public toilets. It's location is such that both Brinchang town and Tanah Rata town are within walking distance.

We met a Belgian couple who shipped their campervan to Malaysia. Frank and Alice have been travelling around the world for 6 years in their campervan.

Frank and Alice's campervan, it has been their home on the road.One day I would like to see the world in my campervan like them.

Frank's camper has a handy platform at the rear for carrying their bikes.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Moulded fiber glass shell caravan

I stumbled upon a class of caravan called moulded fiber glass shell caravan. As the name suggest, it is constructed of moulded fiber glass instead of aluminium frame and panels seen in the more traditional type of caravan. The advantage of this material is lightweight but being a moulded construction, there must be some limit to how big it can be. However that is not necessarily a problem because the whole point of fiber glass shell caravan is to be light and compact so that it can be towed by smaller cars. Although small on the outside, the interior is surprisingly complete in terms of amenities, some even have sleeping berth for up to 4 adults.

In Malaysia, a trailer type caravan need to have a JPJ registration like a motor vehicle, except that you only pay RM50 per year, I am not sure if insurance is required. But once your caravan trailer is registered and issued with a trailer license plate, any car with a suitable tow hook can tow it on the street legally. The permission to tow lies in the trailer's registration and not the car. I can't help but think how perfectly suitable those fiber glass shell caravan is in Malaysia. Most of the cars here are of small engine variety, a typical fiber glass shell caravan weighs no more than 1000Kg, which a 1.5 Litre family car should be able to handle comfortably.

A model designed and built in the 70's

It has bunk beds for 2 adults at one end. The top bunk can be folded away to the make lower bed a sitting bench for day use

Microwave oven and a fridge

The table top can be lowered to create a sleeping berth for two adults
A more recent model probably year 2008. From this picture, it is easy to see how the caravan is constructed with top shell and bottom shell joining together. This particular unit is equipped with an aircon, this will make caravaning in a tropical country like Malaysia a much more comfortable proposition.

There's no bunk in this model, but the interior looks more welcoming than the first model. With some modification, a bunk can be easily added.
Dinner for four?

Another type of moulded fiber glass camper from EggCamper, this type features vertical seam with left and right half of the shell joining together. This model is not as compact as the other two, but it has full standing room.
The interior layout and furniture are all pre-moulded in monocoque fashion. It has compartment for storage and also a shower/toilet.