Camping and Caravanning

Cost Conscious Camper: A Master Makeover

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Web01Have you ever been told not to pick at something? “Leave it alone”, “don’t touch that” – it’s the kind of advice dished out in a stern voice by your mother.

Well we picked at the Cost Conscious Camper. It started innocently enough with a little bit of rust in the passenger’s side sill. We poked at it, gently, with a screwdriver. It went straight through. As anyone who’s spent any time around older cars will tell you; wherever you find a little bit of rust, there’s more lurking nearby. It soon became obvious that the passenger side sill wasn’t actually attached to the bottom of the van in any meaningful fashion. Moving to the driver’s side, the same thing happened, only a little bit higher – the Master features plastic cladding that runs down the side of the van and it seems to do a brilliant job of trapping dirt and moisture, and an even better one of encouraging rust.

With the cladding removed, the van began to quickly resemble a cheese grater and it was obvious it was going to need significant work to the body. Thankfully, colleagues who work in classic car restoration were collecting an old Rover from a neighbour’s unit and popped in to see us. After a quick assessment, they offered to dig us out of the hole we found ourselves in. A deal was struck: We would prepare the camper, and they would paint it. After a few hours with the sander, the paintwork had been flatted and it was time to take it down to the workshop.

As if the Swiss Cheese bodywork wasn’t bad enough, the Renault decided to add to its woes by blowing a nice big hole in its radiator – just half a mile from the workshop, with a large plume of steam emanating from the grille. Thankfully we were able to nurse it long enough to get it to its destination.

Our shopping list included paint, a sill and a radiator. Suddenly our camper wasn’t looking quite so cost-conscious. We opted for an MG shade, used on the recently launched MG3, called “Stuck on Blue”. Armed with a shopping list and a paint code, we headed to LKQ Coatings near Exeter. Trevor, the manager was on hand to advise us on the necessary quantities to paint such a big vehicle, and after a good chat, we had ordered everything we needed. The total cost for the materials came to £400. Next up was a sill and a radiator. Our restorer was confident that the driver’s sill and holes could be repaired, but the passenger side sill was in need of replacement.

Our local Renault dealer, Harts of Honiton, run a spares counter and thanks to parts wizard Nick, a new sill was ordered and winging its way across the channel. We were then left to chase around after a radiator, with Renault themselves coming up trumps. A new radiator was ordered for a shade over £170, hopefully solving the van’s inability to retain water.

With the bodywork repaired and the paint delivered, it was time for our restorer to break out the paint gun and layer on some fresh new metallic paint. The deadline was tight, the camper had to be ready for the end of May. A date with Sooty and a holiday at Brean Sands had been booked and we couldn’t afford to disappoint the children. The van was ready for collection a full week before our trip – he even installed the new radiator for us.

The paint looks superb and really moves the van to another level, now looking like a proper camper, rather than a repurposed panel van. The final touch – a set of decals, will be added in the coming weeks, and then it might finally be time for us to start enjoying ourselves with it.

Inside, the kid’s bunks have now been completed and a set of genuine Renault seat covers sourced and fitted, meaning the seats are no longer mismatched. At £60, the covers were significantly cheaper than the £175 they would have cost direct from Renault. That brings the running total on the van to around £4,000 – a significant sum yes, but still a very reasonable cost for a camper van like ours.

Adam Sloman

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