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Introducing 'Colin' our campervan.

Hi, we are Jerry and Chris and this is the story (so far), of our 1979 Bedford CF350 camper that we have christened ‘Colin the Campervan’.

We have over the past few years been into boating (and still have our 28 foot twin-engined sports cruiser) but decided quite some time ago that when Chris took early retirement in September after 30 years as an NHS mental health nurse, we would take a ‘senior gap year’ and tour the UK and Europe in a campervan. We began looking for a suitable vehicle around June and soon discovered for the amount we wanted to spend (no more than £7,000) you did not get a lot for your money.

We visited dealers, read the freeads and scanned eBay every day and travelled all over the UK looking at possible contenders, only to be disappointed time and time again – either the vans needed too much doing mechanically, the history was vague or dubious, or the bodywork or interior was in a pretty awful state – sometimes all three! Whenever we came across a campervan that we thought was up to scratch and didn’t need too much doing to it, the price went way beyond what we could afford.

In late August we went and saw what we considered to be easily the best van we had seen out of the scores we had looked at in the flesh (plus hundreds more on-line). It was, of course, a Bedford - a CF 350 coach built by Glendale with a 5-speed ZF gear box. The mileage was just 55,000 with plenty of paperwork to prove it. I had previously owned a CF van for work and had done thousands of miles all over Europe in it despite having only paid a few hundred pounds for it. (It eventually gave up the ghost in a place called Tours in France when the gearbox finally gave out! I left it there and often wondered whatever became of it!)

The campervan had been dry-stored for 18 years until 2004 and the chassis looked like the day it came out of the factory. In 2007 it was acquired by the seller, Phil, who after wax-oiling the underside began completely refurbishing the coach of the van from the ground up. This included completely renewing the frame, outer panels, insulation, inner panels and window seals of the habitation area and building, installing and upholstering the inside from scratch in a beautiful light beech wood. He also installed a brand new Propex gas-powered warm air heating unit, a brand new Propex Malaga (gas or 240v powered) hot water system and a brand new Thetford electric flush toilet. Phil also fitted an on-board water tank and a waste-water tank as well as re-installing the Zig unit topped off with two spanking new 110 amp hour leisure batteries and a proper hanging wardrobe with full length mirror.

The kitchen area was given a brand new 3-way fridge/freezer and it is also equipped with a 2 ring cooker and grill and a separate oven. All topped off with a beautiful beige carpet, new head-lining in the cab and a state-of-the-art colour reversing monitor with integral courtesy lights which doubles up as a tv/dvd player. Finally the van has great 12v lighting throughout and has a great Kenwood sound system (Radio/CD/MP3/Auxiliary/Bluetooth).

Phil had also replaced the bonnet and re-painted the van – and despite having used just a roller had achieved incredibly good results. He also a fitted Fiamma awning which had never been used. The ONLY fault we could see was a broken (missing) small window on the left hand side of the over-cab sleeping area which had been fixed by screwing on an appropriately sized and shaped piece of perspex which is wind and watertight.

We were absolutely chuffed and bought ‘Colin’ for £3,400 with a brand new MOT and six months tax. Although this might seem quite pricey for a 30 year old vehicle, it was far better appointed, had lower mileage and was far better equipped than most of the vans we had seen selling for three times the price.

If we had any misgivings at all it was to do with van’s mechanical side and particularly the electrics: On the night we collected the van some 40 miles or so from where we live, although the engine sounded great, all the lights began flickering and the journey home was pretty fraught!

We need not have worried - Since getting the van we have already covered 2,000 miles in just over a month or so – including a trip to the CF club rally in Malvern which resulted in one of the members diagnosing our electrical problem which was nothing more than having the wrong switch for the headlight. Cured for £20!

However, since we plan to be doing many fairly lengthy and extended tours, we have fitted a new timing belt, coil, plugs, HT leads, radiator and water pump. We have also had a number of brake pipes replaced and renwed the cylinders. All this cost a little under £500.
We have fitted a set of driving lamps (originally fitted because we had the electrics problem and since I already had them didn’t cost us anything!) and a set of ABS chrome wheel-trims (£39 eBay) and exhaust tail-pipe (£4.99 eBay) and for such a small amount of money really makes Colin gleamand stand out!

We also fitted a Flashlube kit (£40 eBay) saving us to have to put the lead-replacement additive in when we fill up.

Best of all, we have just had the engine converted to LPG and we couldn’t be more pleased. The engine now runs incredibly smoothly (and of course cleanly) and best of all is about half the price of petrol. We had not one but two LPG tanks fitted giving us a massive range between fill-ups. This cost us £850. Colin starts first time every time.

We have just fitted a 600 watt inverter 1200 watt surge (£39 special offer at Maplins) giving us 240v on the road without hook-up.

What next? Well not a lot really. We're still waiting for the right window to show up though it's purely a matter of cosmetics. We are thinking about having the cab professionally sprayed and maybe some 'go-faster' graphics added. The outer door seals have seen better days and I want to re-do the cabinet/shelving in the front dash area of the cab as well as re-covering the two rotating captain seats at the front in the same fabric as the rest of the van (Phil gave us enough fabric to do the job with the van), and we are looking into the possibility of changing the front brakes to discs, but apart from that we now have a van that is just about perfect for way less than our original budget.

Below are some pics of Colin as on the day we got it. We'll post some pics of before and during his refurbishment shortly as well as some with his new shiny wheels and lpg tanks etc!

We'll keep you posted about our adventures!

Jerry & Chris

. . . . and Colin the Campervan!







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Thu 15 Oct 2009 @ 12:31 Edit this messageQuote this messagePMQuote this message
Anonymous
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Hi guys. Neil here. You know £3400 for that gorgeous CF was a bargain! I want to make the bathroom in mine just like yours. Mine will be getting LPG too. I plan to clock an intergalactic milage! You have not just bought any old van, you have bought a characterful friend. Pleasure to see it kept, loved and used as it deserves
Thu 15 Oct 2009 @ 22:31 Edit this messageQuote this messagePMQuote this message
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Hi Neil. Hope you got back home to Aigburth OK! Thanks for the kind words - we certainly think we've made the right choice. Anyway as promised, here are a few more pics of Colin - as you can see he looks very different now compared to what he looked like before the rebuild! Theres also a few pics of the refurb work in progress - it just might inspire a few more enthusiasts to have a go! Will try and take some photos tomorrow to show all the latest additions.







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Thu 15 Oct 2009 @ 23:47 Edit this messageQuote this messagePMQuote this message
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An amazing job - I'm sure it will inspire

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Fri 16 Oct 2009 @ 06:23 Edit this messageQuote this messagePMQuote this message
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It looks good
Fri 16 Oct 2009 @ 06:32 Edit this messageQuote this messagePMQuote this message
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Thought I'd add a quick update as we have just completed 2000 miles since having the lpg conversion (including a trip to Belgium and back last weekend [via South Wales en route and a visit to friends in London on the way back]to top up our Xmas booze & fags supply) as the figures make quite interesting reading for those considering going LPG.

When I did my original calculations I wrongly anticipated the consumption would be much the same as on petrol (I get about 22 mpg on a run), however careful monitoring of the LPG consumtion shows it returns an average 3.5 miles a litre which is 15.75 miles a gallon. Quite a difference - though at half the price of petrol that still equates to 31.5 miles per gallon on a £ for £ basis, which we are still pleased with.

There is also a very slight drop in power which seems to be most noticable when going up long steep hills - taxi driver friends of mine who run on LPG say they often switch back to petrol for these uphill sections but to be honest, as we're not in any great rush we just accept it!

On the plus side, running on LPG is without doubt quieter and smoother and the overall feeling in the cab is much more 'car-like'. It's difficult to describe, but is quite perceivable. Since we intend to be using the van an awful lot for our 'grand adventure' we think it's been well worth the expense, but others may want to factor in the 25% or so less milage per litre on LPG when weighing up the pros and cons of converting. Also, I'm fairly sure that I can improve consumption further by being less heavy footed, as with LPG it seems the revs will get there albeit more slowly whether or not you have your foot to the floor!

Finally, we have had one or two other teething problems when we first fitted the LPG - due in large to LPG being much more unforgiving as far as the ignition system is concerned, resulting in us having to replace the condenser and points despite them having (allegedly) being renewed not long before we bought the vehicle. The only other problem we encountered was I accidentally physically broke the anti-run-on solenoid on the carburettor so had to buy another (ABC Leeds). Was gutted when the replacement didn't work, but in fairness to ABC another was sent out immediately which was fully operable and Colin the Campervan is once again running like a Swiss watch.

We've also made two more biggish purchases ready for our grand aventure: a portable satellite system for the TV, and a Honda EU10i 1kw generator. We plan on doing a few more runs in Colin over the next couple of months as 'practice' before we finally embark on our travels proper in the early part of next year, so will hopefully catch up with one or two of you before we go.

Oh, and I will get round to taking some more photos as soon as the weather gets a bit brighter.

Jerry & Chris

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Thu 12 Nov 2009 @ 00:57 Edit this messageQuote this messagePMQuote this message
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WOW!!!!!

Hi Jerry and Chris
I am a new member on this site due to purchasing my first beddi.I am amazed at the job that was done on the restoration of Collin.I purchased mine on ebay and after carefull inspection have found that alot of the wood that is supporting the outer aluminium skin is wet and rotten.This is due to the strip that joins the outside skins together being no longer water tight.Seeing those photos has definitely inspired me to gut mine and start the rebuild before summer.If at all possible I would greatly appretiate having a chat with the person that rebuilt Collin.
I wish you many happy miles and good luck with your beautifull beddi.
Regards Grant

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Sat 02 Jan 2010 @ 10:34 Edit this messageQuote this messagePMQuote this message
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Although I have not tried this myself as my CF is still on petrol, I am assured by the manufacturers of the broquet fuel catalyst that no MPG loss will be incurred when using their product with LPG instead of petrol. I have used one of their catalysts on my dads truck many years ago. With 600,000 on the clock we were told there was no hope of it getting through the emissions test for the MOT without a major overhaul. The truck not only passed but its MPG was 12% better. It passed the next year and the emissions were lower than the year before. The truck was run up to 660,000 miles and the engine was still an MOT pass when the body was not!

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Sun 03 Jan 2010 @ 22:59 Edit this messageQuote this messagePMQuote this message
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Update!

Thought we'd post a quick update since it's a while now but we have just come up to doing nearly 12,000 miles since we got the van just over six months ago - pretty good going since we never actually got the chance to do our planned extended tour of Europe (well not yet anyway) due to the unending interuptions by work related matters (and we're supposed to have taken early retirement!!) Our only gripe is that we have already worn down to the two front tyres (both gone on the insides) so we need to get the tracking looked at - at least we hope thats all it is. Oh yes, and we'd better add that it's a good job we got the LPG job done 'cos otherwise we'd be totally skint by now - it's not the greatest for fuel consumption - with a lot of motorway driving under our belts we have had to completely re-assess our 'average' mpg!

Still when all is said and done we feel it was one of the best decisions we have ever made. Looking forward to seeing some of you soon. Jerry & Chris

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Sat 19 Jun 2010 @ 14:13 Edit this messageQuote this messagePMQuote this message
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Wow! from me too.

JerryC, actually I don't likes the campervans before present ... till I saw yours one. :-) Good car! I like it so much.

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Sat 19 Jun 2010 @ 16:00 Edit this messageQuote this messagePMQuote this message
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Well it's one year on and nearly 14,000 miles later and Colin had to go in for his MOT. We were anticipating all sorts, but were pleased as punch when he failed on an inside rear tyre and a handbrake cable. Two days later with a new cable and tyre fitted, and he has a clean bill of health for another year. Phew! Looking forward to seeing some of you at Blackpool / Malvern. J & C

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Thu 09 Sep 2010 @ 16:09 Edit this messageQuote this messagePMQuote this message
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hi thats a nice van youve got,i think i will have 2 cover mine with a tarpaulin when i get to the blackpool meet lol,see you there hopefully,graham

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Fri 10 Sep 2010 @ 15:31 Edit this messageQuote this messagePMQuote this message
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Wow, good work! It's a lovely motorhome indeed! I love the color too! Is that roller painted?

The seats look absolutely lovely!

jeffo wrote:
With 600,000 on the clock we were told there was no hope of it getting through the emissions test for the MOT without a major overhaul.


Jeffo, what truck was it? The engine had 600000 miles on the clock without an overhaul, before you put anything in the tank?????????????????? I think that's even more impressive than passing emissions because of the broquet!
Sun 12 Sep 2010 @ 23:45 Edit this messageQuote this messagePMQuote this message
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Well, its quite a bit since we said we'd post updated phots, but here we are finally fetting round to it while I was uploading a few pics of a meet in Shropshire this Easter weekend.

I took these last week as we were stopped for lunch at the resevoirs just outside Brecon - about half an hour before our back axle gave up the ghost!! Still, its all fixed again now, so here is Colin in all his glory - new paintjob, gas tanks etc etc - and quite a nice backdrop!





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Mon 09 Apr 2012 @ 18:47 Edit this messageQuote this messagePMQuote this message
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Thought I'd add a few of the photos taken during the preparation for the respray. As you can see, it was a proper job with everything taken back to the bare metal - and where necessary, cut away and replaced - no filler here!!






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Tue 10 Apr 2012 @ 03:35 Edit this messageQuote this messagePMQuote this message
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Hi Jerry & Chris a real nice van you have there I also have a CF350 coachbuilt Advantura, and had mine coverted to LPG a week after I purchased it in January 2008. I tow a 1966 classic caravan with mine and we exhibit at many steam rallies, I like the LPG but find it slugish on hills I get 13.5 mpg when towing the caravan and being fully loaded as you not only loose 20% mpg you also loose 20% power would switch to petrol on hills but it dosent lik running on petrol.
Dave

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Tue 10 Apr 2012 @ 06:44 Edit this messageQuote this messagePMQuote this message
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Hiya, what a lovely, lovely van. Congrats on your retirement. I'm also in the same job but have a couple more years to go.

Happy travelling!

Ken

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Sun 15 Apr 2012 @ 18:50 Edit this messageQuote this messagePMQuote this message
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