Wheel estate: Campro Revolution

By: Vivienne Haldane, Photography by: Vivienne Haldane

Campro Revolution The Springfords opted for beds aligned north-south Campro Revolution
Campro Revolution Campro Revolution
Campro Revolution Gail and John couldn’t be happier with their bespoke vehicle Campro Revolution
Campro Revolution No microwave meant more storage space Campro Revolution
Campro Revolution Campro Revolution

Vivienne Haldane meets a couple who decided to make the upgrade from a camping trailer to a purpose-built Campro Revolution.

Wheel estate: Campro Revolution
You say you want a Revolution?

Gail and John Springford have long enjoyed the pleasures of camping. Introduced to it by their respective parents, they continued the tradition when their son Philip was born.

The family had 26 years of happy holidaying in their Sprite Hard Top Camper Trailer and, although it was small, they made many trips to the South Island to spend Christmas with family.

"Camping is very relaxing. You meet lots of new people — you go to the kitchen to do something or you get talking to the people next door. You don't get that if you stay in a motel," says Gail.

"We often stayed for two to three weeks in a place just to chill out."

When they sold the Sprite in 2003, it fetched the same price as they bought it for in 1977. As an accountant, John appreciates what astounding value that was. But with retirement looming, the Havelock North couple wanted to continue their adventures, albeit in a more luxurious style. They decided to buy a motorhome.

But when it came to choice, there was so much variety they didn't know where to start. It helped they had some clear ideas about what they did and didn't want.

"We decided we wanted a van that could readily access more remote parts of the country with easy manoeuvrability compared to some of the bigger motorhomes," says John.

"We wanted a two-berth van and we looked at a lot of different makes, including second-hand ones."

While on holiday in Taupo, Gail spotted a Fiat Revolution van from Campro parked on the lake front. She liked the look of it.

"We got talking to the owner and he said how pleased he was with it. Then we phoned Campro Industries director, Andrew Litchfield, in Nelson and he sent us some information."

With the 6.3 Fiat difficult to obtain at the time, an automatic Mercedes Benz Sprinter was purchased to be converted to the Springford's specifications. They gave Andrew their wish list and he drew up plans and sent them for approval. One of their requirements was for the bed to be designed to a north- south position rather than east-west. At seven metres the Mercedes van could easily accommodate this.

"We can have a double or two single beds this way," say the Springfords.

Gail didn't want a microwave for the reason that "we felt it would be used infrequently." They gained extra cupboard space because of this. Other changes include a larger solar panel,120 watt as opposed to 85 watt, an extra battery as a back up and an oven in addition to the grill. Two extra seatbelts were installed at the rear so the Springfords could take extra passengers if they wanted to.

"Andrew didn't like having compartments outside the van. Many motorhomes have these for storage but he wanted to keep as much contained inside for security sake," says John.

The result is a very compact and streamlined unit. John says, "When we were looking for a motorhome it was difficult to find anything nearly as well put together as the Revolution. The joinery work is very smart and the finish excellent."

Gail is happy with the 1900mm bench space, which gives plenty of room for preparing a meal.

The Springfords were full of excitement and anticipation when they travelled to Nelson to pick up their motorhome last December. "We were very impressed when we saw it. We took it out to Ruby Bay to get the feel of it. Then we went into a supermarket in Richmond and drove around trying to find a double car park — in the end we gave up and went down the road to park."

Their first 'real' excursion was through iconic Molesworth Station in Marlborough, then on to Hamner Springs. "That was quite a challenge for a first outing. A couple of river fords were quite tricky with the longer wheelbase but, overall, the rear-wheel-drive vehicle performed well," says John. "Afterwards it was very dusty and needed a major wash down."

Following this, they did a tiki tour to Christchurch, stopping over at picturesque Akaroa along the way. Another one of their early trips, over Waitangi weekend, was to Lake Waikaremoana. "We'd never been there before and we thoroughly enjoyed it. We did a bit of tramping along the bush tracks around the lake and went up to Lake Waikareiti as well," says Gail.

The Springfords enjoyed working with the manufacturer and say they got what they asked for. "Campro build a good vehicle and have a lot of knowledge. I imagine there'd be very few people who had to take theirs back to alter anything. Andrew was attentive. He phoned to make sure everything was OK and he was quick to sort any issues," says John.

Because the manufacturer is in Nelson, how is after-sale support managed?

"There's a Mercedes dealership in Napier and Murray Church of Hawke's Bay Caravan Sales can make any adjustments that maybe required to the fit-out," John says.

The Springfords plan to get a tow bar and bike rack fitted to their van. They have biked the Otago Rail Trail and hope to do a lot more cycling as they explore New Zealand.

Despite being petite, Gail finds the motorhome easy to drive. "It's just like a car. I still need to practise my backing skills, though — the backing camera is good but it takes a bit of getting used to."

The couple enjoyed the favourable feedback they received when they took their vehicle to the Camper Care Motorhome Show in Hamilton during March.

"A number of people walked past and made positive comments, with particular interest from those wanting to downsize from their larger motorhomes," says John.

Now they've got their home away from home you will seldom find the Springfords in Havelock North. Their diary is filling up for the year with places they intend to go. When MCD spoke to them they were off to Eastwoodhill Arboretum, near Gisborne, then exploring further up the East Cape through Waioeka Gorge to Opotiki and Ohope.

Already they've pencilled in a trip to the South Island to walk the Hollyford Track early next year and will be heading off to the Rhododendron Festival in New Plymouth in November before travelling on to Auckland.

"We will also spend nights out at nearby beaches and go to Martinborough to stay with friends," says Gail, reeling off a busy itinerary. "This summer we met with our son, his wife and two grandchildren at Raumati. They think the motorhome is the bee's knees."

Have Mercedes Benz van, will travel: there's no stopping Gail and John now.

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