CAMPERVANS have been around for quite a while now but the most iconic of the lot is the Volkswagen Transporter. In one form or another it has been around for almost 70 years and has been the base for many people to enjoy their holiday without having to book an extravagant hotel every night. They are a home away from home, and conversion companies can turn the standard commercial vehicle into almost anything people want them to.
David Miller, customer support manager at one such company, Scotland-based Jerba Campervans, says: “Without a doubt, the Transporter is an iconic vehicle. Campervans are just associated with VW Transporters, so people make that connection which is a great thing for us. It is an aspirational vehicle – people want to own a Volkswagen campervan.”
Managing director of Jerba, Simon Poole, adds: “I can’t see VW being knocked off the peg – it’s the van everyone wants. The strength of the VW brand is huge and the customers don’t want anything else. Even with the emissions scandal, it hasn’t unstuck them.”
Nestled in the East Lothian countryside near North Berwick, Jerba Campervans has been altering vans to these little slices of home for over a decade. Originally they transformed any van the customer wanted, but they became solely a Transporter adaptation company and have become one of the top converters in the UK.
After being a consultant fundraiser, Poole decided to turn his passion of travelling and owning campervans into a business and at the tail-end of 2005, he and his wife, Cath, set up Jerba.
With a team of 13 working on different areas of the vehicle, each of the 50 or so conversions Jerba undertakes every year is completed within six weeks. On my visit, the factory, which looks like a farm building, was full up, with five in progress, all at different stages in their transformation from a rather normal van to a fully-fledged camper. Customers select the spec for the base van where they can opt for a leather interior, multimedia system and other comfort features, but the rest is handled by Jerba. Buyers select the interior finish for the floors and cabinets, followed by any additional features they want to add, such as solar panels, extra sleeping space and even a shower.
On arriving from Volkswagen, the vehicles are completely stripped out, the front seats are covered to protect them and the van is wrapped in protective film to avoid the paintwork from being scuffed and scratched. With five interior layouts on offer and the option to have a folding roof panel fitted for extra sleeping space, the fitters get to work on transforming the T6s.
With the panel van Transporter as the base, sections of the bodywork are cut out for the windows and optional folding roof sections and the outlines for panel sections drawn in. Depending on the options, the electrics, plumbing and gas fixtures are fitted, with the flooring and windows following. The customisable panelling is added, along with the optional extras towards the end of the process, with every vehicle then quality checked to make sure the van is in the right condition before leaving the factory.
Owning a campervan isn’t just a temporary thing – it makes a large shift in how people live. As Poole says: “They are, in effect, buying a dream, rather than a product. It is a lifestyle, customers take a package away, not just a campervan.”
The Jerba is a highend Volkswagen camper van conversion made near North Berwick