I Aways had a dream that sometime I would buy a medium size van for conversion and go travelling. So when the insurance money from the pensions came through I started to look in the ads for a Van.........Shock Horror the PRICES for second hand vans was astronomical and matched the distance travelled!!
Any way while trawling through the net I discovered that in Germany (thanks to 'translate with live search' because my year of German fifty years ago wasnt up to it) the prices of second hand vehicles was a lot lower than in France.
Googleing Fiat Ducato I came across lots of already converted Camper vans for a reasonable price,
My actual dream had been an A class camper ie a caravan with an engine and no sign of the origional vehicle. The Top marque has always been Hymer so thats what went into the search engine and out popped lots from 1988 to 2010 and from €5000 to €50,000 plus.Any way to cut a long story short I shortlisted four and went to Germany by Car, trusting the Garmin GPS to get me there.
Now I've spent my life looking for defects in bits and pieces so wasn't about to fall for the first rust bucket I came across, you know how it is .'If it seems too good to be true then it is too good to be true' But after ruling one out because of the layout and the lack of a drivers door (they were considered an extra like BMC used to do with car heaters before the Japanese tought us how to build cars). I came across one that I couldn't find serious fault with.
Right, I said, I want it. Would you like a deposit?
Ya €1000 and the balance upon collection.
No problem, I said, lead me to your keyboard.
Logged into internet banking, no problem, asked the nice server to pass €1000 from Bank in Britain to some Deutcher Banke
Oh No says the not so nice server, we only talk to foreigners during our lunch break.
I'll have to come back tomorrow.
Nein Ich bin im Dusseldorf tomorrow und mein frau is at Arbeit alles day.
Back to France to transfer cash.
Usual result, cash disappears from my account immediatly and reappears three days later in Germany, I drove there quicker!! But I expect the cash needed a break at a nice health spa.
I had to wait a week while the beast had a new cambelt and service before we caught several trains to collect it,
a phone call to the seller an hour before we were due to arrive insured that he was there to meet us and in our Vehicle!!!.
I took another look around searching for all the bits I had nightmares over missing and still couldnt find a problem, drove it to the Local govt. Office where registrations are done, changed the ownership documents into my name, handed over a wad of cash and headed for Strasbourg.
It has a 2.5TD Fiat engine and I was worried that it wouldn't keep up with the traffic, but the Italian horses had a few secrets, there might only be 95 of them but they were packing lots of torque joy once out of second I never returned to it third was there but rarely used and we cruised all day in fourth and fifth. Over the Voges up and over the Auvergne.
Mont Dore held no nasty suprises and so home 1500 km or so and the consumption? 10l/100Km or 30mpg to me. happy bunny!!
I arranged French Insurance before I left on my safari to Germany ....Aloa assurances only needed a phone call giving the Temporary German plaque number to cover me fully comp. ran out of gas in the Vosges mountains and found out that German 'detendeurs do not fit French bottles, got an adapter tho in Brantome at Font-Vendome
But now the paperwork trail has started, I tried the phone number of Hymer-Eriba in France but it is disconnected, Hymer Loisirs and Hymer-France are on holiday as is Hymer in Germany but I've left messages for them to come back to me.Fingers crossed. Fiat France have taken my 145 euro cheque and so far not replied, off for a control technique now.
Will let you know how I get on but as the Germans dont get back from their holidays until 3rd Sept I shall just have to run round with my German Export plates on.........which expired on the 8th!!!
Hymer- loisirs in France have come back from their Vacances and demanded a similar sum (€129) for their piece, ah well speculate to accumulate.
Removed the back box after a shakedown cruise to the Charente coast, felt at home there-but I grew up at Topsham-on-the-mud!!
8th September 2010
Today is the first crunch day for the Camping Panzer. The Controle Technique.
Booked for 15.30; the day started normally but my nerves took over, checked everything and to my horror several rear lights refused to work and only one hour to go.........Out with the trusty cross head and dive in. the first was easy,the bulb was corroded so a quick swipe with a fine abrasive cloth and a health giving drink of WD40 cured that. The second ? duh no bulb looked in the spare bulb bin niet, nothing, nada, panic, went back to van and was about to screw the cover back on when a gleam caught my eye and there it was, It had popped out somehow. Out with the trusty kit, WD40, abrasive etc and e.v.entuuuually it worked, slight squeeze,of the holder with the big pair of pliers and it was all systems go.
By now I was sure that I had missed some deeply hidden and horrendously expensive problem; so it was with great trepidation that I arrived 'chez Dekra' for the Controle. I thought I had phased him the last time with a UK registered car and Carte Gris Anglais but no he was cool with all the German documentation.
Headlights , Front and rear suspension, all no comment, Emisions, its an ancient diesel and stinks on start up so that was bound to fail, no comment, underneath banging and levering of vital components, no comment.
How do you open the Bonnet he asks, I show him. 'C'est bon' he says looking over the engine bay, discussed the relative pricing of French vs German Vehicles and my confidence started to climb. Oui ....AT LAST I was congratulated with a good deal and I happily paid the €65 fee. No I really knew it would be OK, no honestly I did!!
15 Sept 2010
Thought everything was going too well, just got a letter from Hymer Loisirs to say that they cannot provide a certificate of conformity because their(Hymer) approval to issue was in the name of Hymer -France who went into Judicial liquidation earlier this year, but they say they will ...eventually.. issue one to me. So I am doing an Anglais and running round with 'foreign' plates on but with CT and Assurance
Went to Nontron last week for the 'attestation' to prove that I've paid tax on the camping Panzer, so decided to try the Prefecture in Perigueux to start the registration process, got the German Reg document, a controle technique, the bill of sale, the C of C from Fiat and a partial C of C from Hymer-Loisirs for the conversion.
I knew that the documentation was insufficient because prior to 2001 the French and Germans hadnt agreed common standards for caravans therefore I was looking forward to a trip to Bordeaux for another Controle and a visit to Bureau Veritas for a gas and Electricity check to make sure that the van would meet with French regles. Experts had assured me that the Prefecture would demand such checks and would provide a list of approved test houses that would eventually provide more papers for at least €400.00
Arrived at the Prefecture at lunch time and didnt have to queue! Bored Functionaire took all my papers (I even remembered an Electricity bill) and gave me a form to fill out with my name and address..........checked the papers and announced that I didnt have the bill of sale? panic attack nearly led to a smoking fine but SHMBO found the little sucker inside the carte vert and so normality was restored.
Much to my suprise she handed me a payment slip for €151.50 which I paid and was given a Garte Gris.......... this should not have happened but who am I to argue with the state?
Perhaps that wasnt a suicidal old lady who stepped out in front of me in Boulazac?
We now have French plates ready for our trip to the wonders of Portugal in the spring.
Now if i can find at least one inexpensive 'Velo a assistance electrique' for the memshahib and her damaged Knees life will be simpler.