Travel Vans – The Definitive Motorhome Conversion Guide?

Travel Vans by John Speed

Disclosure: I purchased this book myself. I did not receive any payment and was not required to write a positive review. Links marked with (eBay⇒) or (Amazon⇒) are affiliate links. This means I get paid a small commission if you buy something after clicking on the links. This money helps to pay for the running of the website.

Reading about other people’s motorhome conversions and motorhome journeys is a great way to spend time (much of which should be spent actually working…).

One particularly excellent example of this is Stephen Stewart’s site, which includes well-illustrated accounts of his motorhome travels in Siberia, China, Central & South America and a few more places besides (follow the “Travel” link on the left). There is also a good account of the conversion he undertook of a Mercedes Unimog into an expedition campervan. This conversion was strongly influenced by the content of a book called Travel Vans, by John Speed.

Stephen recommends this book and having just finished reading a copy, I can see why. Travel Vans must surely be the most complete, coherent and detailed discussion of all aspects of motorhome conversion and construction that’s available. It’s excellent.

The book uses as its focus the conversion undertaken by John Speed of a Mercedes 814D (more recently known as the Vario, but as of 2016 no longer for sale in the UK). The conversion was undertaken to a very high standard and was intended for use on poor and unsurfaced roads, not just tarmaced western European roads (a 4×4 version of the Vario was available).

John Speed discusses the logic behind all of his design decisions, material choices and construction techniques. Whether you want something similar or are only interested in a vehicle you will use on UK campsites, reading the book will give you a thorough understanding of everything that should be considered when taking the self-build route. It also makes a good primer for understanding the quality and durability (or lack thereof) of professional conversions.

At this point I would like to make a couple of points clear. I am not being paid for this review and I did buy my own copy of Travel Vans. This review is positive simply because it is an excellent book. Although the book was written in the mid-1990s, the vast majority of it is still relevant, current and accurate. The only bit that is glaringly out of date is the list of likely base vehicles for a conversion (unless you will be converting a 10+ year old van). In the scheme of things, this doesn’t really matter.

Travel Vans is now available from Amazon (click here to buy this book on Amazon (Amazon⇒)). It costs £16.99 plus postage and is A5-size, colour and 238 pages long. A perfect, motorhome-related Christmas present!

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