The Herald Magazine - - CONTENTS -

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

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