Our Campervan Build Process

Vista motorhome build

After much tooing and frowing and vacillation between caravan and camper van, we finally made the decision that the only way we would possibly survive a year road trip with our bullies was then camper van option. The hunt for a suitable van started with a very old, and I mean old WJ Entertainer. It was a grand old lady but that was where the problem started, it smelled a bit like my grannies house. Although it was spacious and would easily accommodate the whole bunch, it had a well tested straight six Nissan Skyline engine that must have glugged petrol. It was decided that we needed to look at newer models so a trip to Atlantis to meet with the rep for Motorhome World was arranged. These were also the folks that operated Bobo campers and they would regularly sell off old rental vehicles. The campers looked fine after they were refurbed but the waiting list was endless and the timing meant we would only leave in December(which co-indecently is now the case) instead of October, our original date for getting the show on the road.

Tina and I continued to scan the internet hoping to find a frog worth kissing. Most of the decent looking vans were in Gauteng which meant schlepping up there in the hope of getting a deal. Then we found an ad for Helderberg Camper Hire/Vista Motorhomes which had us tearing up the N2 to Somerset West to meet with Greg. The camper van turned out to be an oldie that had seen better days. Back to Google and the search continued. While looking through the promising ads, I noticed that the newer the van, the closer the price was to a new van which meant that they held their price very well. Why not buy a new one?

Layout test of the campervan

Decision made, we were back up the N2 to Vista to chat to John Lawrence, the co-owner of the business. We arrived just in time to see the finishing touches to their new Vista 6 design. It was modeled on the European models with a “french style” double bed, a dinette/double bed and a luton bed. Although it was spacious, neither Tina or I could get our heads around climbing over each other in the middle of the night to go for a pee (we are at that stage of our lives).  It had to be an island bed or nothing. And so the process of re-designing the interior layout began. The Vista design team were brilliant, coming up with a few alternatives, moving bits of the interior around to accommodate our needs. We were finally invited to view a mock up of the design. Bill, the head coach builder used masking tape to outline the various components on the workshop floor. The bathroom would be at the back, the double bed against the side wall and the galley and front dinette was similar to the original Vista 6 layout. We all agreed that this was going to serve our needs best. As we were leaving for a 10 day trip to the Tamkwa Karoo National Park, we left the finer details to the Vista design team. It was now well into August and the build was now a month behind schedule.

Motorhome island bed in the making

No sooner had we arrived back in Cape Town, we  received a call from John at Vista. The build was under way but…. there was a “challenge” with the layout. Could we make an urgent trip out to the factory. We arrived at Vista not sure what to expect. There was the van, at this stage just a big box bolted to the chassis with only a doorway cut into the side. At least that seemed to be in the right place. We stepped inside. It was cavernous with only a fridge and loo in place. We spent the next few hours trying out various layout options; the bed on the side, the bed at the back. After much umming and ahaaing and taping up the floor, we finally agreed that the bed at the back layout was the most practical with the bathroom midships opposite the galley. Everyone was happy. BUT time was running out. We were already several weeks into our build and all we had was a massive mobile box. Bill gave us assurances that they could complete the build by the end of September in time for our anticipated October get away.

Wrong again. More delays. There seemed to be an endless number of obstacles placed in the path of the completion of our build project. To top it all, we were faced with other challenges on the home front that were taking their toll on our sanity. The marketing/letting of our home wasn’t going according to plan. We had some lookers but no bookers. We were making frequent

The galley getting some attention

trips to Somerset West to check on progress which became very frustrating as progress was very slow. The delivery date kept creeping. We finally got Bill to commit to a date at the end of October. Now fully two months behind schedule. I understood that it was a new custom design and mistakes were made that needed to be rectified, but it was cutting it fine and not giving us much time to do any shake down trips. On the plus side, Vista were really making an effort to produce a quality product. John, Bill, Greg and Jeff took our feedback and suggestions in their stride and made them practical. The interior was taking shape and looking as splendid as we anticipated, but would we ever get finished?

We finally hooked a rental offer at the end of September with a corporate tenant that suited us perfectly. Occupation would be !st December which meant we could be on the road before the madding crowds of  holiday makers. Now the pressure was on Vista to complete. Bill’s team were working long hours to meet the deadline. After a few false starts, we finally got a firm date. The 19th of October was the day. We drove out to the Vista factory on an overcast morning, bursting with anticipation. I had never driven a campervan and it had been years since I had piloted a vehicle of this size. The Cape Doctor was pumping across Badenpowel Drive and sand covered stretches of the road near the Macasar beach. We pulled into the factory complex. There she was. Standing almost three meters tall and looking splendid. wow, were were now just weeks away from our trip and only days away from our first shake down trip to Stellenbosch. Bill had prepared the van with the blinds closed and all the lights on inside. It really was spectacular. One of those wow moments that you remember for a long time. We gathered the build team for a photo and gave them a case of beers as a token of our appreciation of the long hours worked. Apart from a few fine details, everything looked fantastic. Or so we thought.

The master bedroom coming together

Driving home along the coastal Macasar road, I was amazed at how easy the van was to drive. Despite it’s bulk and a howling South Easter, the three and a half tonne van gave a firm feel. There was plenty of power on the undulating road and the steering was light and responsive. I was greeted by open mouths and dropped jaws as I approached the entrance to our estate. The security guards all passed comments of awe and wonder. Saturday morning dawned bright and clear with no sign of the wind. Tina and I were up early to do a spring clean and start packing the van. Were we in for a surprise. In the cold light of day, the van was far from clean. And equally as far from completion, at least to our standards. The cupboards were coated in sanding dust and even saw dust. The floor was dirty. There were wire off cuts littering many crevices and glue marks on the upholstered ceiling. Tins and I spent the best part of Saturday and several changes of washing water in our buckets to get the interior presentable. Although we were thrilled by the layout and general finish, the attention to detail was very disappointing. I think it was the plumbing problems that was the final straw. I called John of Vista Motorhomes and had a little rant.

Test run to Stellenbosch. Looking good

To their credit, Vista rose to the occasion and committed to getting the van up to scratch. We dropped it off on the Monday and agreed on a week to sort the issues. Ten days later, we headed back to Somerset West to collect the van. Everything seemed to be in order as we inspected our new home from top to bottom, referring to our snag list. Great, now we could get away for our first shakedown trip. We had yet to test our systems and all the theories for living arrangements; where would the dogs be sleeping, how would we manage to move around the van at night with the dogs sprawled in the walk way, could we live in the van for a year. These were just a few of the questions that needed answering.

The test trip to Stellenbosch went well. Apart from a few small niggles, everything worked like a dream. On our return, the campervan went for it’s final snag sorting. John and Neil Lawrence, the owners of Vista Motorhomes proudly delivered our home from home on wheels on the 4th of December in time for us to start packing for our trip. Let the journey begin. All in all, Vista was the right choice for us. We ended up with a motorhome we could be proud of, but more importantly, a home we could live in for a year. Or was it. The proof would be in the living…


Job done. The Vista build crew.


Cintsa Beach Walk

It was another lazy Saturday afternoon in Cintsa. Tina was indulging in a siesta so I decided to take the dogs for a leisurely beach walk. One of the most appealing things about Cintsa is the pristine sandy beach that follows the curve of the bay for miles. Tina and I had noticed an astonishing […]