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AUTO-SLEEPER GATCOMBE on swb 2.4D Volkswagen Transporter if you think the new Auto-Sleeper Gatcombe bears more than a passing resemblance to the  ...

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# AUTO-SLEEPER GATCOMBE » ELDDIS AUTOKING 300S # LETTERS • CI CARIOCA10 • LONG-TERM TEST RIO BEST OF BOTH WORLDS SIDMOUTH # FRANCE f CANARY ISLANDS # POLAND % SITES • llO00T8^PROJ€a>^DiV] FITTING A FAN-TASTIC FAN • NICE 'OUSE! BEST-SELLING MOTORCARAVAN MAGAZINE FOR 34 YEARS www.vwT4camper.info - a useful website for owners and enthusiasts of VW T4 Campervans

AUTO-SLEEPER GATCOMBE on swb 2.4D Volkswagen Transporter if you think the new Auto-Sleeper Gatcombe bears more than a passing resemblance to the Clubman, you're right But there's a lot more to it than that. Nick Harding's convinced it is a better proposition than its stablemate - a superb vehicle in its own right Don't expect a totally unbiased report here. A u t o - S l e e p e r s may never nave let me - or indeed, any other M M M journalist - test any of their Clubman models, but I've always rated it as one of the best motorhomes ever made - as a two berth. S o , I made damn sure I'd be the first to get my hands on the G a t c o m b e . This report may appear a while after the vehicle launch (see M M M Nov '99) but, believe me, I was the first to be let loose with the 'van. Congratulations Volkswagen. Y o u ' v e finally seen the light and offered an upgraded Transporter c h a s s i s . Upping the maximum gross vehicle weight for the c h a s s i s c a b from 2785kg to 3300kg paves the way, in theory at least, for a number of interesting larger motorhome designs. And guess w h o ' s leading the way? Auto-Sleepers, whose previous only other T r a n s p o r t e r - b a s e d coachbuilt offering w a s the aforementioned Clubman, now give us the G a t c o m b e and Sherbourne (report to follow later in the year). The latter is obviously the eye-catcher, but it's around £2000 more expensive. G a t c o m b e fits into the middle of what is now a range, and I reckon it will prove itself as the bestseller of all three. But, as I told you, I'm biased.

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Gatcombe versus Clubman They always play things tight to their chest at Auto-Sleepers, but surely the G a t c o m b e is the C l u b m a n ' s ultimate s u c c e s s o r , despite their insistences to the contrary. The two sit side by side for now, hence comparisons are inevitable. The new model is s o m e four inches longer, but in standard form shares exactly the same floor plan, albeit equipment levels in the G a t c o m b e see lots of upgrades. A n d there's a different seating option, as tested here. Normally, the layout comprises that favourite for two-berth motorhomes - twin settees aft of the c a b ; end kitchen; offside corner w a s h r o o m ; wardrobe aft of the offside settee; fridge and c u p b o a r d unit aft of the nearside settee. In this alternative version of the G a t c o m b e (a £289 extra at the time of manufacture) the offside settee also converts to a forwardfacing single seat complete with head restraint and three-point seat belt. Admittedly, early buyers of the G a t c o m b e were opting for the standard twin settee arrangement. But then, the first people to see it were Auto-Sleeper owners, and the majority of these 'early birds' were looking for an upgrade to their current C l u b m a n . I couldn't resist asking A u t o - S l e e p e r s about the possibility of t w o

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Over the top? Neat GRP work puts wind-deflecting sections ahead of any rooflights, including the large Heki unit over the lounge.

Viewed from the rear, the waste tank is across the back of the Gatcombe, leaving the spare wheel in an area which is not easy of access.

Rear corner steadies are standard. That rear bumper not only looks good but it This portable step is relatively bulky and heavy, This simple plastic insert means the but at present it's the only way Auto-Sleepers caravan door doesn't fold back across thecould save a few embarrassing scuffs and scratches to the main bodywork. fridge vents. have of improving access at the caravan door.

forward-facing seats (ironically, as used in the original Bedford-based Clubman) but apparently not without major structural changes.

Tried and tested (and that's before M M M got it)

I used the Gatcombe for a week. That was after this newcomer to the Auto-Sleeper GRP coachbuilt ranks had undergone some of the most thorough pre-production testing a motorhome has ever faced. I can hardly claim to have matched the demands put on it by Auto-Sleepers' own intensive analyses, as witnessed by MMM's Jon Lloyd (see the December 1999 issue), but certainly our use was more typical of what a normal Gatcombe can expect. Steve Riley, now Auto-Sleepers' Managing Director, was involved in similar testing when the company was developing the Trophy high top conversion, and carries a back injury to this day as a result of sitting in the vehicle while it tackled all sorts of road surfaces. "It means I still can't ride a horse," he told me. But, in my test week I managed the following: two nights' camping; two 100-mile-plus trips including motorways and A-roads; a couple of town centre shopping trips; four local nursery runs; and a few other small excursions. Our overall miles per gallon for this lot came to around 29mpg. Typical use? You tell me. It's certainly typical of how we use our motorhomes. Take into account also the 'in-'van' time taken to compile test notes, take photos etc, and you can see why MMM tests are so exhaustive.

Auto-Sleepers - the innovators

Quite wrongly, in my opinion, Auto-Sleepers are tarnished with a reputation for being behind the times, and sticking rigidly to older designs. The truth is, this company is at the forefront of any changes in legislation regarding the building of motorhomes. Their conservatism lies in their adherence to tried and trusted products and materials rather than leaping aboard any new bandwagon that comes along. Also, if other manufacturers are involved in as stringent a pre-production testing programme as Auto-Sleepers then they keep mysteriously quiet about it.

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I'll give you further examples. Not so long ago, a lot of manufacturers were touting the benefits of interior-sprung seating, as opposed tc traditional foam. It became the thing to have, but it wasn't withou: problems - cushions had a tendency to 'bottom out' with regular use; worse, the springs often seemed to collapse altogether. Customs' demand led to Auto-Sleepers putting interior-sprung seating in some o their more expensive coachbuilts, but they suffered the same problem; as everyone else (although they were a bit more willing than others tc replace the offending items). So, what do we get in the Gatcombe? Good old tried and trustee reflex foam. The cushions, too, are free of the rolls and curves whicr always look good in the showrooms but play havoc when it comes tc making a comfortably flat bed. There are a couple of other neat ideas on the Gatcombe which wil surely translate to other Auto-Sleepers. A simple plastic strap is suppliec to keep the caravan door from opening out fully and coming across the fridge vents; in hotter weather, without the strap, the fully open d o c could impede the fridge's performance. I wasn't able to put to the test the efficacy of this item, but I bet it does make a difference in realh, hot climes. More importantly, and just as innovative, is the ease of access tc the underseat storage. The settee squab is on a proper hinge, it simph. lifts up and you've got access to the whole of the storage area. Simple but it's the best I've ever come across. The way the seat squabs simph, pull out when it comes to bed-making is equally easy. That Heki rooflight overhead doesn't just let in lots of lovely light anc (when opened) fresh air. It also has been known to be the source o rattles. Auto-Sleepers' solution was to take the rooflight apart and fit a different spring to the integral roller blind. It seems to have been 100 pecent successful. The all-GRP caravan bodyshell should also be mentioned under this innovation heading. Why? Because nobody else has yet come close tc producing such a unit on a medium-sized or larger coachbuilt. On the Gatcombe, it looks even better than Clubman, thanks mainly to a integrated rear bumper panel. ;

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The forward-facing single seat option allows for a three-point seat belt for an extra passenger. The seat squab may be too deep for some.

Watching figures •_st A u t o - S l e e p e r s t o b e b a n g u p - t o - d a t e w i t h t h e l a t e s t t e r m i n o l o g y -:arding weights. M T P L M and M R O are two terms w h i c h are only fca-ting to c r e e p into t h e m o t o r c a r a v a n n i n g v o c a b u l a r y . T h e y s t a n d : - M a x i m u m T e c h n i c a l P e r m i s s i b l e L a d e n M a s s a n d M a s s in R u n n i n g I'der - or what were gross vehicle weight and ex-works weight I=oectively. T a k i n g t h e M R O f r o m t h e M T P L M g i v e s y o u t h e p a y l o a d c a p a c i t y . It's m p r e s s i v e n e a r - 8 0 0 k g in t h i s i n s t a n c e , w h i c h o p e n s u p p o s s i b i l i t i e s oikes, top b o x e s etc.

What's it made of? '.as a b o u t t o s t e p i n s i d e , b u t w h a t ' s t h i s ? A s e c o n d , p o r t a b l e s t e p in a c d i t i o n t o t h e i n s e t s t e p in t h e c a r a v a n d o o r w a y . A g a i n , t h i s is s u p p l i e d he k e e p u p w i t h l a t e s t r e g u l a t i o n s . B u t , i t ' s a h e f t y unit a n d l o o k s t o m e ay m u c h l i k e a n a f t e r t h o u g h t . It's g r e y , w h i l e t h e c a r a v a n s t e p - w e l l i s \ a c k . I h a d t o a s k A u t o - S l e e p e r s w h e r e it s h o u l d b e s t o r e d w h e n n o t - u s e ; t h e y s a i d the u n d e r s e a t l o c k e r , but I u s e d the w a s h r o o m floor. V . ' h e r e v e r I p u t it, it j u s t s e e m e d t o g e t in t h e w a y . U n f o r t u n a t e l y , t h e r e i r o e a r s to b e no w a y a n electric s t e p (surely the ideal solution) c a n b e = ; d e d b e l o w the c a r a v a n d o o r b e c a u s e of the b o d y curvature. G o i n s i d e t h e G a t c o m b e , h o w e v e r , a n d t h e initial a p p e a r a n c e i s s o m e w h a t u n - A u t o - S l e e p e r . G o n e is t h e t r a d i t i o n a l h a l l m a r k w o o d w o r k , ' s o l a c e d b y Italian f u r n i t u r e w i t h a r a t h e r n a t t y c h e v r o n - p a t t e r n e d v e n e e r the l o c k e r d o o r s a n d p a n e l s . T h e r e ' s a l s o an attractive c u r v e t o the ocker units. T h e s t u r d i n e s s that m a r k s out an A u t o - S l e e p e r c o n v e r s i o n -emains, a l t h o u g h I n o t i c e d a slight flexing of the s e a t b a s e s i d e s u n d e r -and pressure. T h e r e ' s e v e n a c h o i c e o f u p h o l s t e r y , a l t h o u g h I f i n d t h e r e d a bit t o o o-ight e v e n in t h e d a y , let a l o n e t o w a k e u p t o . T h e s t a n d a r d u p h o l s t e r y , tailed D r e s d e n , isa p o l y e s t e r / v i s c o s e / c o t t o n mix. Curtains a n d carpet are in a b l u e w h i c h I f o u n d n o t entirely c o m p l e m e n t a r y t o t h e s e a t o o v e r s (it s e e m e d m o r e g r e e n t o m y e y e s t h a n t h e p h o t o g r a p h s h a v e - e p r o d u c e d ) , but that's purely p e r s o n a l .

v i e w t o g e t t h e d e f i n i t i v e v e r d i c t , s u f f i c e t o s a y I'd p r o b a b l y b e l o o k i n g t o a d d s o m e t h i n g t o try a n d d a m p e n d o w n t h e c o n s i d e r a b l e w a l l o w i n g I felt u s i n g t h i s G a t c o m b e s e m i - l a d e n . I c a l l it m o r e f l e x i b l e , m y p a r t n e r r e f e r r e d t o it a s ' b o u n c y b o u n c y ' . It s h o u l d a l s o b e b o r n e in m i n d t h e c o n s i d e r a b l e t e s t i n g u n d e r g o n e b y t h i s e x a m p l e , w a y in e x t r e m e o f w h a t t y p i c a l o w n e r s w o u l d d o t o t h e i r pride a n d joy. V W f a n s will b e w e l l a w a r e of the e r g o n o m i c s u p r e m a c y of t h e Transporter c a b . Like other manufacturers, A u t o - S l e e p e r s have been unable t o resist the temptation t o a d d s o m e m o c k w o o d veneer trim. Y o u ' l l h a v e n o t e d a l s o the n e w s t e e r i n g w h e e l (paving the w a y for the c u r r e n t l y o p t i o n a l a i r b a g t o b e s t a n d a r d in f u t u r e ? ) . It's g o t a b e t t e r f e e l , b e c a u s e it's s m a l l e r t h a n o n earlier m o d e l s . Y o u sit l o w e r in a T r a n s p o r t e r t h a n i n a F i a t D u c a t o / P e u g e o t B o x e r , a n d t h e f l o o r - m o u n t e d g e a r l e v e r is m o r e i n t r u s i v e t h a n t h e r i v a l s ' d a s h b o a r d affair. T h e G a t c o m b e h a n d l e s w e l l , a n d t h e r e ' s little w i n d n o i s e w h e n d r i v i n g (in b o t h c a s e s s u r e l y t h e c u r v e d b o d y w o r k p l a y s a p a r t ) . T h a t f i v e cylinder engine has a characteristic muted burble w h e n accelerating. At s t e a d y s p e e d s it's a b o u t the q u i e t e s t m o t o r h o m e c h a s s i s y o u ' l l get. J u s t a s i m p o r t a n t a s all t h i s is t h e w a y A u t o - S l e e p e r s h a v e d e s i g n e d the G a t c o m b e s o that fittings s u c h a s the fresh w a t e r tank, g a s l o c k e r etc are low d o w n a n d b e t w e e n the axles: the best p o s s i b l e position for handling. T h e r e ' s a c u r i o u s draught through the driver's interior d o o r h a n d l e in c e r t a i n c o n d i t i o n s , s o m e t h i n g I've n o t i c e d o n all s u c h b a s e v e h i c l e s . O h , a n d h e r e ' s a n o t h e r little g e m o t h e r s o - c a l l e d r o a d t e s t r e p o r t s p r o b a b l y w o n ' t b e a b l e t o tell y o u . A l o w s u n b e h i n d y o u a s y o u d r i v e s o m e t i m e s g l i s t e n s a s It c a t c h e s t h e s i n k f a u c e t : t h e e f f e c t is u n n e r v i n g l y a k i n t o s o m e o n e f l a s h i n g t h e i r h e a d l i g h t s in y o u r r e a r - v i e w m i r r o r .

O n a m o r e o b j e c t i v e n o t e , the s h o r t pile c a r p e t m a n a g e d t o attract a lot o f dirt d u r i n g o u r u s e , a n d I'm n o t a l t o g e t h e r c o n v i n c e d a b o u t i t s a b i l i t y t o s t a n d u p t o a lot o f f o o t f a l l . T h e f l o o r , h o w e v e r , i s a d i f f e r e n t m a t t e r a l t o g e t h e r . Its d o u b l e s k i n a n d h e a v y - d u t y i n s u l a t i o n d o g i v e it a g e n u i n e l y w a r m f e e l i n g w h e n y o u t o u c h it b a r e f o o t f i r s t t h i n g i n t h e norning.

Gatcombe flyer - or a power struggle? D o n ' t g e t m e w r o n g , V W s s t r a i g h t d i e s e l i s a s u p e r e n g i n e . It a l w a y s •'eels l i k e i t ' s h o l d i n g b a c k a n d t h e r e a r e r e s e r v o i r s o f u n p l u m b e d p o w e r . S o , w h i l e a r o u n d 6 0 m p h w a s g e n e r a l l y a c o m f o r t a b l e c r u i s e , it w a s o c c a s i o n a l l y b e a t e n d o w n by hills, a n d getting to that 6 0 m a r k w a s a t a d l a b o r i o u s . In all h o n e s t y , p e r f o r m a n c e - w i s e it d o e s n ' t q u i t e a d d u p f o r t h e G a t c o m b e , w h i c h is w h y I've a b e t w i t h t h e A u t o - S l e e p e r s ' d i r e c t o r s that y o u , the c u s t o m e r s , will b e s p e c i f y i n g y o u r G a t c o m b e s with the o p t i o n a l t u r b o - d i e s e l p o w e r p l a n t a n d t o hell w i t h t h e a d d i t i o n a l c o s t . If I w a s b e i n g r e a l l y u n k i n d I'd s a y V o l k s w a g e n h a v e u p r a t e d t h e c h a s s i s b u t n o t t h e s u s p e n s i o n . I'd l o v e t o h e a r a n e x - C l u b m a n o w n e r ' s

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An alternative is to set up a dinette, shown here with the larger of the tables. Scatter Looking rearwards from the cab. Funny how the camera can play tricks upholstery appears more green than this in real life. cushions are being used as backrest support.

Lounging around A u t o - S l e e p e r s continue to improve upon the inward-facing settee/ forward-facing single seat concept you can find in a whole host of their other coachbuilt and high top models. Obviously, the benefit of twin settees is the extra underseat storage. If you want to take an additional passenger (complete with the safety of a fixed head restraint and inertia reel seat belt) go for the option featured here, but check the seat squab isn't too long for your passenger. I even created a dinette, using the bed flap on the rear of the driver's seat and s o m e of the c u s h i o n s . G a t c o m b e c o m e s with two island leg tables - one large, one small - which c a n also be p l a c e d together to make the most of mealtimes. The smaller top c a n be used with the forward-facing seat/dinette; if you want to use the larger you'll need to remove the backrest cushion running along the side wall here. Storing the table legs in the wardrobe, especially at the back as here, is not the best of ideas. With a full set of clothes on board, they can be tricky to a c c e s s . Surely better if they could clip s o m e w h e r e in the area behind the c a b seats.

Gatcombe in the park W e used The Caravan C l u b ' s superbly s p o t l e s s M o r e t o n - i n - M a r s h , Gloucestershire, site. It was fairly busy for the time of year a n d , despite being on the main A44 road, was peaceful at night. That gave us time to appreciate the ease of use which is a strong point of the G a t c o m b e . T h a n k s to simple to operate, large c a t c h e s in e a c h seat b a s e , the bed was easy to construct as well as return to seating. There's a c h o i c e of a transverse double or twin lengthways single beds. The double is easier to make, simply needing the nearside settee base to slide a c r o s s and cushions to fill the g a p s , and it means no re-adjusting of the cab seats. For the singles, both c a b seats do c o m e into play. First they need to be pushed to their furthest forward position and the backrests adjusted to fully upright. This just leaves s p a c e for the false b a c k s to each seat to fold down flat. A couple of cushions apiece see both singles sorted. Whichever way you s l e e p , there's a reading lamp c l o s e to hand, while general lighting is provided by fluorescent units, one of which is mains-only. The cab curtains were fairly easy to draw, and other windows (except the caravan door) benefited from both blinds and lined curtains.

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Thorough c o s i n e s s is ensured by the Carver heater with blov.-air facility. Production m o d e l s will have the powerful 5500 moce which operates from both gas and mains electricity; this d e m o n s t r a : : ' had the gas-only 4000, w h o s e output proved more than adequate P r e - p r o d u c t i o n testing in C a r v e r ' s C o l d C h a m b e r confirms th s Nevertheless, I felt an additional blown-air vent further forward in the lounge would be of benefit.

Kitchen sink (non-) drama In my league table of sinks, I still prefer those of the stainless stee variety, especially s o m e of the modern brushed metal finishes Enamelled units, as here, c o m e in s e c o n d best (they look better t_ can chip), with polycarbonate affairs a poor third - these simply pick L : scratches and aren't of a durable quality (ask the editor). I do like the Spinflo cooker. U s e during the test w a s admittec minimal, but it remained rattle-free. It takes up a degree of s p a c e , : sure, but we always like to do most of our own cooking on tour, and h a . ; always found a decent oven a real bonus. Of course, the main criticism of this type of end kitchen layout • always going to be the lack of work surface. That's despite the f o l d r : worktop for the sink/drainer and the surface nearby just the other sice of the door. Kitchen storage, however, is pretty g o o d . There's a d e c e " variety of lockers and a cutlery tray. The drinks locker is nearby, but the glasses in here seemed a bit small. Crockery is supplied as standard (this is an A u t o - S l e e p e r , after a but, production m o d e l s will get mugs instead of the usual c u p s a r : saucers. Customer feedback d e m a n d e d it, I'm told. They're right. A m I allowed a personal criticism? I mean criticism in its true; meaning. Right, I reckon something more creative can be done w i l l the caravan door. The interior lower panel should be easy to a d a p t : : incorporate a waste bin facility. ;

Big steps with storage My biggest criticism of the C l u b m a n (although I stress I was never IUCK enough to test one fully) was the poor storage. G a t c o m b e has mace huge efforts to address this. Over the c a b , there are still three lockers but the central one is a decently big size now. Extra bed cushions sto in here, but I'm sure owners will either leave these at home or f i r : suitable alternative lockers (the base of the wardrobe?).

Mf.*,

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LIVE-IN TEST REPORT

yansverse double, more ridge-free ~ f -lattress is truly supportive.

Irian II looks here and {thanks to reflex foam)

The end kitchen suffers from the usual downfall of such locations - precious little work surface. The double-hinged cover for the sink and drainer can be a help.

Main locker in the kitchen unit is shelved and includes a cutlery tray.

I single beds using extra cushions at the foot end.

}RP caravan door is simply the best in re business. But is the lack of a waste • attachment an opportunity missed?

Cracked it! After what seems like years of trying with doors, drawers, removable sections, wire baskets etc, Auto-Sleepers have come up with this hinged seat section for access to the under-settee storage area.

Surely every -otorhome should have one. An exterior locker is a boon for stowing the mains lead and corner steadies handle and there's room for dirty footwear too.

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Drinks locker is over the fridge, with another good sized locker over that.

MOTORCARAVAN M0T0RH0ME MONTHLY

Decent sized lockers over the cab (this is the main one in the centre) go a long way towards addressing storage criticisms voiced by owners of Clubman.

The offside seat base houses the water heater, water pump and auxiliary battery - all sensibly 'get-at-able'.

And hurrah, there's an exterior access locker suitable for the mains hook-up lead as well as wet shoes, wellies etc. A complement to this would be somewhere inside the 'van to put wet clothing (even a couple of coat hooks would be a start), but I'm afraid there's nothing to report here. That sinking feeling Auto-Sleepers washroom designers, I sentence you to a week's use of the Gatcombe, in which you will shave and shower every day. The washroom is, I guess, designed for small emergencies only rather than everyday use. In that respect, its compact dimensions can be excused. But I remain unhappy about fold-down washbasins. Indeed, the unit fitted here typifies everything I dislike about the genre - it takes barely a JUNE 2000

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AUTO-SLEEPER GATCOMBE

Wardrobe is a decent size, but the table legs at the back Half-length mirror and towel rail opposite the toilet can be irksome to retrieve when there's a full demonstrate that some thought has gone into the complement of clothes in here. washroom.

puddle of water, it's far too flimsy, and it flexes alarmingly. True, it can be removed easily, so there's no excuse for blockages. There are plenty of pluses, though. The shower has a trigger action and separate temperature controls, so water wastage is minimal. The curtain isn't too clingy. There's a small towel rail. And thank goodness Auto-Sleepers don't completely fill the wall opposite the toilet with a mirror - such fittings may do wonders for creating illusions of space, but having a full frontal view of yourself on the throne does nothing for your self-esteem.

This fold-down sink is easy to remove, so it should be easy to clean away debris where it drains away. Apart from that, its shallowness and the way it flexes make /': only partially useful at best.

Competition? What competition?

Nobody else comes close to producing anything like this - a complete GRP caravan body married to a Volkswagen Transporter chassis. Gatcombe is longer than the Clubman, but comparisons between the two are inevitable. Of the other official Volkswagen converters in the UK, only Compass now produce a coachbuilt - but the Calypso is a far more conventional looking design all round, and certainly doesn't boast an all-GRP caravan body which is surely one of the Gatcombe's key cards. Comparison with the Clubman is therefore inescapable, and I've deliberately drawn your attention to aspects where the two differ. AutoSleepers insist both models have a place in their line-up, but I'm afraid I can see the Clubman - as I say, a super, probably classic, vehicle in its own right - counting the rest of its life in months rather than years. Oh OK then, I'll give it another season - re-badged as the Clubman Classic or something similar.

Gotta get a Gatcombe?

So, there's two of you, you want to invest - and I mean invest - in a motorhome that's excellent to drive, superbly made in line with - and often ahead of - all the latest legislation, and you're not necessarily concerned about an extensive list of standard equipment. But, you want genuine motorhome facilities, and compact overall dimensions. You want it to look good, and to continue looking good throughout your term of ownership. (Surprisingly, Auto-Sleepers offer just a one-year warranty when most of their rivals offer three or more. That said, the biggest single coachbuilt problem, that of water ingress, shouldn't be an issue with the all-GRP shell.) Perhaps more importantly, you want the kind of motorhome a dealer will positively bite your hand off to take in partexchange when (if?) it comes to your next buy. Consider the case for Gatcombe closed.

126

JUNE 2000

On site - making the most of Moreton-in-Marsh's facilities.

We liked:

Comfortable to drive (and the turbo-diesel would have been even better!) Highest quality bodywork Modern interior, especially the woodwork Waste water tank directly below facilities Exterior access locker

* Somewhere to hang wet coats * Single key operation for all caravan fittings

We would have liked:

* Auto-Sleepers are considering the above in view of our post-test comments

* Blown-air to the forward lounge area

MMM.

We disliked:

* Inaccessible spare wheel * Additional step for caravan door * Pathetic washroom sink

MOTORCARAVAN MOTORHOME MONTH.

www.vwT4camper.info - a useful website for owners and enthusiasts of VW T4 Campervans

LIVE-IN TEST REPORT e sent a copy of Nick's test report to Auto-Sleepers for their r-ormation. Charles Trevelyan commented as follows: ever, we found Nick's review of the Gatcombe to be most ceptive, detailed and searching and I commend him - and indeed jr magazine - for its thoroughness. Understandably, he has raised certain matters to which I would wish 'espond. By my so doing, I hope your readers will appreciate that • s note all such comments and where possible endeavour to improve, • a: further, the design of our models. On the demonstrator, the torsion bar spring that is fitted to the Heki of ventilator is an improved item, modified by Seitz. All current Heki •^tilators are thus fitted. A comment was made regarding the slight flexing of the seat base : zes under hand pressure. We will shortly be increasing the timber zkness which will overcome this. The draught that was reported through the driver's interior door -indie is a point that we have addressed to Volkswagen. Whilst we fa mot give a positive response, I would ask your readers to be assured at Volkswagen take all such matters seriously, and I am sure they will ; their best to find a solution to this problem. The proposed relocation of the table legs is most sensible. Rather —an reposition in the area behind the cab seats, we have moved them : oser to the wardrobe door for better accessibility. ' The proposal that an additional blown-air vent be fitted further zward in the lounge area also seems sensible. Interestingly, we have azeived no previous comments from Gatcombe owners regarding this, z^t through our design department we shall investigate the fitting of 'ditional trunking to the forward part of the living area. It was noted that the glasses in the cocktail cabinet were a little small. Zjrrently we are investigating providing larger glasses, both in the Zatcombe and in other coachbuilt models.

door panel, there is always the danger of an approved emergency escape route being partially blocked. Furthermore, the cupboard doors under the sink, particularly the outer door, would be in danger of opening onto the waste bin, instead of fully. Again, this idea is currently being investigated by our design department. • We now fit, as standard, two coat hooks in all our showers. Our demonstrator has been modified accordingly. • Single key operation to all caravan fittings is indeed very desirable this is yet another point being considered by our design department. • Nick thought the spare wheel inaccessible. It is fitted on the standard Volkswagen brackets forward of the waste tank. In the design of the Gatcombe, it was found best to position the waste tank at the rear of the vehicle (to make it accessible for emptying and, more importantly, through being adjacent to the sink and shower it allows the pipework to be relatively short giving the best possible drainage). However, we very much take note of this relevant comment, and always try to make the spare wheel as accessible as possible. • On the Gatcombe, and indeed the Clubman, there is insufficient room behind the footwell to fit a pull-out rear step to the caravan door - the silencer occupies this space. In order to conform with the appropriate legislation we are obliged to supply a free-standing step. However, we will attempt to source one that is more user-friendly particularly one that is lighter in weight and can be more easily stored. • The point regarding the washroom sink is noted. We have recently re-designed the drop-down hand basin to be much more user friendly. It now holds a greater volume of water and the tap recess is improved, making the whole unit much more pleasant in which to wash. This improvement will shortly be incorporated into all our models that feature drop-down hand basins.

We liked the idea of the lower section of the caravan door being used -ore effectively. Whilst, of course, a waste bin can be hooked onto the

LMAA MOTORCARAVAN M0T0RH0ME MONTHLY

JUNE 2000 127

www.vwT4camper.info - a useful website for owners and enthusiasts of VW T4 Campervans

AUTO-SLEEPER G A T C O M B i

LIVE-IN T E S T R E P O R

SPECIFICATION The vehicle Base vehicle & engine type: Volkswagen Transporter short wheelbase chassis cab. 5-cylinder, in-line, 2.4-litre normally-aspirated diesel engine. Engine mounted transversely. Output: 55kW (75bhp) @ 3700 rpm Max torque: 160Nm (118 lb ft) @ 1900-2900 rpm A c h i e v e d 3 0 - 5 0 m p h a c c e l e r a t i o n time: 10 sees average (3rd gear) C o m p r e s s i o n ratio: 22.5:1 Gearbox & drive: 5-speed all-synchromesh gearbox driving the front wheels. Floor-mounted gear lever. B r a k e s : Dual-circuit, diagonally split hydraulic system with asbestosfree linings. Front discs, rear drums, with brake pressure regulator. Steering: Power-assisted maintenance-free rack and pinion with universal collapsible struts. 3.5 turns lock to lock. S u s p e n s i o n : Front - independent transverse arms with torsion bars and hydraulic telescopic dampers. Rear - semi-trailing diagonal arms with coil springs, hydraulic telescopic dampers. Tyres fitted: Kleber CT200 195 70 R15C Spare wheel position: Underfloor, forward of waste water tank. Fuel tank capacity/type of fuel: 80 litres (17.6 gallons) diesel Fuel c o n s u m p t i o n during test: 9.74 litres/100km (29mpg) Instruments: Speedometer, odometer, trip meter, engine coolant temperature, fuel level, clock. Warning lamps: Ignition/low charge, low oil pressure, low fuel level, handbrake on/brake failure/low brake fluid, main beam, rear fog light, direction indicators. W i n d s c r e e n wiper controls: Stalk on right side of steering wheel. Intermittent plus 2-speed wipe. Pull stalk towards steering wheel for electric screen wash. Immobiliser/alarm: Immobiliser operated by ignition key. Alarm not fitted. Warranty: One year/unlimited mileage from VW. Other features: Multi-vent heating/demisting/ventilation system with 4-speed fan and choice of fresh or recirculated air; analogue clock; cigar lighter and ashtray; dipping rear-view mirror; large door bins; lockable glove box; 'walnut-style' fascia and door inserts; Sony stereo radio/cassette; fixed cab carpet; twin grab handles at passenger's door, single at driver's.

The caravan Body type & c o n s t r u c t i o n : A l l - G R P (glass reinforced plastic) caravan shell. Bonded floor - comprising exterior grade ply outer and soft wood and polyfoam core, bonded with polyurethane adhesive. Insulation: Walls and roof glass fibre wool 50mm (2in); floor 40mm (1'Ain). C o n v e r s i o n N C C a p p r o v e d : Badged as compliant with EN 1646. Warranty: One year from Auto-Sleepers. Number of keys: Four (cab, petrol cap and ignition; caravan door; water filler cap; toilet hatch, exterior locker, gas locker). W i n d o w s & d o o r s : One-piece burst-proof caravan door with curtain and double-glazed window. Para Press double-glazed windows. Additional ventilation: Heki rooflight over lounge. Normal sized rooflights over kitchen and washroom. B l i n d s / c u r t a i n s : Cassette blinds/insect screens to side windows. Roller blind and flyscreen to kitchen window. Lined curtains with matching press stud tie-backs to all windows (except kitchen) and cab. 230V A C s y s t e m : Mains hook-up, R C B with three M C B s . C E C charger/ transformer. Two switched single 13amp sockets. Mains supply to water heater and fridge. 12V D C s y s t e m : Leisure battery housed in rear offside seat base. Six switches for lighting, water pump, fridge/cooker/Fanmaster/water heater, 12V socket, and two spares. 12V management system with single gauge for battery condition and fresh water level. Waste tank full indicator light. Single 12V socket. C a p a c i t y of c a r a v a n battery: 80 amp hr. Lighting: 12V - four 16W tungsten bulb reading lights; four twin-tube fluorescent strip lights. 230V - single twin-tube fluorescent strip light. Low-level courtesy light in caravan doorway. C a b courtesy light. C o o k i n g facilities: Spinflo Caprice four-burner hob, grill and thermostatically-controlled oven with lower pan storage. Spark ignition to all areas. Extractor f a n / c o o k e r h o o d : None fitted. Refrigerator: 70-litre Electrolux RM4233 3-way fridge with electronic ignition and 5-litre frozen food compartment. Fridge supplied with external winter covers. Clip-on door stay for improved fridge performance/air flow to exterior vents in warm weather. Sink & drainer: Beige-coloured enamel sink and drainer, 'polished brass' faucet and plastic hot and cold easy-grip taps. Water s y s t e m : Shurflo pressurised water system pumps hot and cold water to kitchen and toilet/shower compartment. Hot water: Carver Cascade Rapide 230V/gas water heater, capacity 11 litres. Supplied with heater bypass. Fresh water tank: 69-litre (15.2 gallons) underfloor tank. Fresh water level gauge: On control panel. W a s t e water tank: 67-litre (14.8 gallons) underfloor tank. W a s t e water level gauge: Visible warning on control panel. S p a c e heating: Carver 4000 Fanmaster (3.25 kW output gas) with Fanmaster (1 kW & 2 kW settings). Blown-air ducting with outlets in

128 JUNE 2000

offside seat base, washroom and heater unit base. Note: Carver 5500A fitted to production models. G a s locker: Nearside compartment with exterior access. Space for twe 6kg/7kg propane/butane cylinders. S h o w e r compartment: Washroom in rear offside corner incorporates Thetford Cassette electric flush toilet and fold-down, removable sink. Hand-held shower with trigger operation. Vanity unit with mirrored sliding doors. Mirror with small open shelf and towel rail. Seating: Forward lounge. Nearside settee converts to one single bed; nearside forward-facing seat/inward-facing settee converts to single bed. Table(s)/storage: Two pedestal-leg tables, dedicated storage slots adjacent to nearside seating. Legs store in wardrobe. Berths: Two. Choice of twin singles or double bed. Overcab bed optional. Rear restraints: Three-point inertia reel belt for forward-facing seat. Wardrobe: Offside forward of washroom, features single door. Flooring: Fitted carpet throughout. Additional features: Fire extinguisher, fold-down false backs to both cab seats, additional step for caravan door, rear corner steadies, two scatter cushions, internal wiring for TV aerial and booster.

Dimensions (" denotes figure supplied by base vehicle manufacturer or converter) Overall length: *5.53m (18ft 2in) Overall width (exel mirrors): '2.17m (7ft 2in) Overall width (incl mirrors): *2.42m (7ft 11 in) Overall height: -2.73m (8ft 11 'Ain) Length of w h e e l b a s e : 2.92m (9ft 7in) Length of rear overhang: 1.62m (5ft 4in) = 55.5 per cent of wheelbase Turning circle (kerb to kerb): 13.7m (44ft 11 in) estimated Driver's max leg length: 540mm (21 in) S t e p - u p height to c a r a v a n : 250mm (1 Oin) to portable step, then 230mm (9in) inset step, then 180mm (7in) Door aperture: 1800mm x 510mm (5ft 11 in x 1ft 8in) Interior length from d a s h : 4.07m (13ft 4in) Interior length behind c a b : 3.07m (10ft 1 in) Interior width at waist level: 1.91m (6ft 3in) Interior height: 1.85-1.95m (6ft 1 in—6ft 4in) Work surface height: 870mm (34in) Table d i m e n s i o n s : 750mm x 480mm x height 680mm (29'Ain x 19in x height 27in); 180mm x 430mm x height 680mm (19in x 17in x 27in) Bed dimensions: (1) Double mattress length: 1800mm (5ft 11 in) mattress width: 1330mm (4ft 4in) mattress depth: 130mm (5in) (or) Offside single mattress length: 1850mm (6ft'Ain) mattress width: 710mm (2ft 4in) mattress depth: 130mm (5in) (and) Nearside single mattress length: 1870mm (6ft VAin) mattress width: 680mm (2ft 2in) mattress depth: 130mm (5in) Dimensions of s h o w e r compartment: Main area - 550-630mm x 940mm x height 1840mm (1ft 11 Vain-Zft 1 in x 3ft 1 in x height 6ft Vain); shower - 550-630mm x 550mm x height 1850mm (1 ft 11 V in-2ft 1 in x 1ft 9'Ain x height 6ft 1 in) Wardrobe: 530mm hanging width x 500mm max depth x 1080mm height from rail (1ft 9in x 1ft 8in x 3ft 6'Airrt G a s locker: W 530mm x D 350mm x H 580mm (21 in x 13 /