When Mike Sweeney went searching for a campervan to replace his old Renault Traffic, he had some pretty specific requirements. A keen skier, hillwalker and windsurfer, Mike likes to go off-grid as much as possible and that meant his campervan had to be both self-sustaining, comfortable and would help him go off the beaten track as much as possible.
Fortunately for Mike, the new Ford Trail model had just become available at Wellhouse Leisure which, along with leather interior and coloured coded bumpers, comes with a mechanical limited slip differential for traction on the most slick and uneven ground.
But Mike also had some specific requirements that would bring new challenges and the best out of the Wellhouse team.
“I was the customer from hell!” joked Mike. “I had very specific ideas about what I wanted. Wellhouse have a very efficient way of doing things and even though they tend not to do specialist builds, David – the owner – was very patient with me,” said Mike, who helps runs a ski club in Cumbria.
“I had a Renault before. I added a solar panel and diesel heating to it and, because I’d lived with a campervan for many years, I knew exactly what I needed my next one to do. I looked around and agonised for ages and was very impressed with the Ford Transit.
“This was the first Ford Trail built by Wellhouse and I think David saw the opportunity. The conversion became a sort of prototype and he believed more people in my position – with active outdoor lifestyles – would have similar requirements on the Trail.
“There were two deciding factors to go with Wellhouse: David’s knowledge on what I needed and his ability to accommodate me, and the new model with the limited slip differential.
“The ski-club I help run is up a steep gravel track often covered in snow and it should make a big difference. I also go to the Alps or Pyrenees in the winter, so the van being able to perform there was important to me.
“I went for caravan-style windows rather than bonded. Caravan style can open from the top and have a thermal screen built in and the insulation was a big aspect for me. Rather than loose-fill insulation, I opted for sound-deadening panels with high-density foam, stick on insulation with silverized lining which will keep the van cool in summer and warmer in winter.
“It’s also very quiet, even when I’m driving the noise in the driver’s cabin is minimal.
“The other factor was the seat / bed system. It’s clearly better than the California. I did consider a VW Transport vehicle but the Ford is slightly wider, more practical and I found the VW a bit crude and costly compared with a Transit.”
So where does Mike like to go in his new Ford Trail?
“In Europe, I tend not to like the bigger resorts, but look for the more off-beat ones. I also do a lot of skiing in Scotland because the van gives me flexibility to make decisions at the last minute. If there’s a good dump of snow I can head up and kip in the van and be on the slopes first thing.
“My partner Ali lives in Cambridge and she’s taking early retirement next summer so we’ll have more time to do these things. We’ve also been a few festivals and the van will transform that experience into one of comparative luxury!
“I’ve only had it a few weeks, so I can’t wait to get out there, try new things and really put it to the test.”
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