We only kept our first motorhome for 4 months. By then we knew we loved the concept of motorhoming. Our first trip was in winter when most campgrounds in France were closed so we discovered "free" camping (also known as wild camping or boon docking). This meant that we were not going to be spending as much as anticipated on campground fees and could use some of the trip fund to upgrade the motorhome. Based on our experience in our first one we knew exactly what we wanted and had a list of essentials - a fixed bed at the back, a standard European model and one that got at least 20 miles per gallon.
So how many of those things did we get? None! Steve is over 6' tall and most of the fixed rear beds in the European models were too short. A very helpful dealer was trying to pursuade us to buy a Hymer costing over £50,000. When we pointed out the bed problem he suggested we made a box to put at the end for Steve rest his feet on - we didn't buy it.
In the end we decided to have a look at American motorhomes. They are beautiful inside, well made and the fixtures and fittings seem more substantial. We were swayed by the layout of an American 1995 Gulfstream Ultra "C" class, 23' long with an overcab bed and fuel consumption of 15 miles per gallon. The rear bathroom was huge and even had a sitz bath. In front of this was a beautiful kitchen with double sinks, microwave, 4 burner hob, oven and grill with full sized fridge and separate freezer opposite. Forward of this was a sofa bed opposite a dinette, both of which made small double beds. Above the cab was an enormous king sized bed.
Although it met none of our criteria we were extremely happy with it and kept it for 8 years. During that time we travelled all over Europe and Scandinavia and shipped it to the Canary Islands, Morocco, Crete and Cyprus, more about that later. We also used it as a trade to exchange with people who had motorhomes in Australia, New Zealand and USA and that I will explain more about that in a future posting.
It was marketed by Travelworld for £38,000 and in the end they agreed to take our Solifer in part exchange and we paid £20,000. We sold it privately in 2005 for £19500. Overall this was our most expensive motorhome for purchase price and repairs and the one we lost most money on but we loved it !
Many people give names to their motorhomes and intially we were reluctant to do this but found it was a bit of a mouthfull to keep refering to it as "the motorhome". Steve suggested we call ours "Charlie" and we found 3 very good reasons for this name. We treated it like royalty, we often looked like "proper Charlies" when trying to manouvre and after a shopping trip the fridge resembled "Charlie and the chocolate factory" as I am a chocoholic! Over the years having a name for each motorhome has proved a good idea as we know exactly which one we are referring to.
We now had two different motorhomes to compare and this is what we thought of the American "C" class
Substantial fittings inside the vehicle
Large holding and fresh water tanks
A strong engine for steep mountain climbs
Large fridge and deep freeze
Wider than the European motorhomes and at times this caused far more problems than the length
When things went wrong with it in Europe there were very few dealers that knew the vehicle.
Obtaining spare parts was difficult although today with the Internet many can be sourced on line.
Updating this blog in 2014 I know that parts are much more widely available through the internet and there are many more dealers than when we bought "Charlie" in 1997 so this should make life much easier.
You can save money by buying a motorhome in the USA and shipping it back to England. They are considerably cheaper there and you have more choice. If you keep it and use it in the States before exporting you can even save on the tax and VAT as well.
Autoshippers Internations shipping company