Meet Bill & Jill – 23 Years of RV's

By: Jill Malcolm, Photography by: Jill Malcolm


Regular contributors Jill Malcolm and her husband Bill Savidan are seasoned motorhomers. In this issue, Jill shares their RV ownership journey, from their 1970s Anglo caravan to their most recent purchase, a 2003 motorhome made in New Zealand.

2021 And now we are six - Jill and Bill take possession of the Coastal motorhome_.jpg
Bill and Jill with their latest RV, a Coastal motorhome

Motorhome or caravan travel begins the moment you start working out what sort of RV you want, what you are going to use it for and what you can afford. In 23 years, the RVs we have owned have been as much a journey as the places we took them. We cut our RV teeth in a caravan that cost us $10,000 and as of 19 February 2021, we’d owned five very different motorhomes and caravans. A day later that became six. 

1997: ANGLO ASTRAL 5.5METRE CARAVAN – ECONOMICAL AND SIMPLE

The Anglo was built in the 1970s and in need of a bit of care. It was shaped like a loaf of bread and not a thing of great beauty. Inside was a small table dinette, a skinny wardrobe and against the back window, a double bed. You could hardly dunk a doughnut in the sink. The carpet was a ghastly chocolate brown and the decorative touches a kind of nipple pink. It had a two-burner cooker, no insulation, no ablutions and water arrived at the sink by way of a foot pump. For the next 18 months, we toured the South Island with this unbecoming caravan in tow and had a marvellous time. If we were inconvenienced or uncomfortable, I can’t remember it.

1997 -Start of the RV journey - the Anglo Astral caravan.jpg
The start of our RV journey in the Anglo Astral caravan

2002: RAINBOW HINO NARROW-BODIED BUS – A BIT OF DIY EXPERIMENTATION

Bill wanted to challenge his skills by fitting out a motorhome himself. He stripped the bus, which had been imported second hand from Japan (complete with seats, two umbrellas, a bar of chocolate, and cloth hat). Before we even hit the road we had a lengthy journey just outfitting the bus. It was a huge learning curve but Bill made a stunning job of it. Not only was it roomy and comfortable, but the aesthetics and various functions became a talking point with other wannabe DIYers. Sadly we had to sell it when we moved overseas.

2002 Rainbow Hino bus.jpg
Our Rainbow Hino bus

2006: FIAT DUCATO CAMPERVAN – TIME TO DOWNSIZE AND ECONOMISE

When we returned to New Zealand in 2006, we bought a Fiat Ducato that had been used as a carpet delivery van. Bill started from scratch and again the fit-out was masterfully executed. But the vehicle was too small for long excursions, and eventually became a threat to matrimonial harmony. The Fiat’s engine also let us down several times, costing us a fortune in towage fees. We became disillusioned and rather grumpy about the choice we had made.

The Fiat Ducato en route through Molesworth Station Road
The Fiat Ducato en route through Molesworth Station Road

2008: JAYCO CONQUEST FORD TRANSIT MOTORHOME – COMFORT, STORAGE AND SPACE

Bill recovered from his DIY phase and we bought a ready-made Jayco motorhome, which turned out to be an excellent touring vehicle. We enjoyed it for six years before we decided to return to the dark side and buy a caravan.

2008 The practical  Jayco Jayco P1010547.jpg
The practical Jayco

2014: GEIST CARAVAN 535 LV – A CHANGE IN TRAVELLING STYLE

Our motives for this change were two-fold: firstly we had economic considerations and a car and caravan worked out to be cheaper to buy and to run than a motorhome; and then, after all the years of touring, we decided to alter the way we moved around the country, setting up base camp in one place for a week or so and exploring by car. The Geist was also very spacious and comfortable. We imported it from England. There was little cost advantage in doing this but this particular model had exactly the layout and the features we wanted (by now we had become very picky). Importing an RV off your own bat is not for people of nervous disposition. Bill did many hours of research to make it happen. By a stroke of luck, we were able to have the Geist checked out by the director of Burstner, England, who lived near the dealer’s yard. He gave it a clean bill of health. I wouldn’t buy anything sight unseen.

2014 Our Geist caravan arrives after its long trip cross the world.jpg
Our Geist caravan arrives after its long trip across the world

The Geist lived on a designated pad on our smallish, sloping urban section. It was always a nerve-wracking exercise to get it in and out of its resting place, even using motor-movers – the hassle was too much for us to consider going away for just a couple of days. Nonetheless we enjoyed five years of on-and-off caravanning until we agreed we missed the ease of travelling by motorhome. Then came 2020 with all its challenges. We lolled about during lockdown and contemplated how we would spend what we had left of our RV future.

2021: COASTAL MOTORHOME – EASY TO MOVE, EASY TO TRAVEL IN

We had always liked Coastal motorhomes, which are manufactured in Whakatane. Budget constraints meant we never thought we’d own one. However, we bought an early model – which lacks the chic interiors of the more modern ones – because it was within our price range and the layout ticked most of the boxes. In the motorhome sales boom in this post-COVID age, we had to make a quick decision. It was a private sale. Bill saw it on Trade Me and drove from Auckland to Tairua the next morning, saw it, liked it and bought it. Its exterior paintwork and decals are a bit tired and the interior decor slightly retro. It has two bench seats which become single beds at the back, a long kitchen bench, a full oven that has possibly never been used, and a good-sized fridge. There is also a comfortable bed in the Luton, a feature that can be useful if one of us has a restless or noisy night.

The combined bathroom is space-compromised with a pull-down basin and a shower that sprays water on everything around it, but we decided we could live with that. The vehicle is a manual with only 90,000km on the clock. It drives comfortably and the cab is in excellent condition.

The seller took us through the workings and its idiosyncrasies, and we set a course for home – all going smoothly until the car suddenly went into ‘limp mode’ and had to be towed back to Auckland. Well, what undertaking doesn’t have its little ups and downs? And there were more to come.

We sold the Geist within 24 hours of listing it. The new owner drove from Kerikeri to pick it up. All went well until during Bill’s painstaking handover it was discovered that the new owner’s electrics plug did not accommodate the caravan’s. None of us had thought to check. An auto-electrician was called in.

It all worked out in the end. Rather sadly we waved the caravan off to the next phase of its life, and the Coastal has taken its place in our yard. At the moment it looks like an imposter.


 

A FEW TIPS:

  • When buying and selling a caravan, check the compatibility of the electrics, and that the tow ball on the pulling vehicle is the correct size.
  • Make sure you have comprehensive roadside assistance insurance for your motorhome or car and caravan.
  • Check that all certificates are up to date.
  • Allow plenty of time for a handover.

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