After more than a decade of avoiding the ever-popular Volkswagen van conversion, U.K. campervan specialist Wellhouse Leisure has released its first VW T5 camper. The campervan seamlessly transforms between living and hauling configurations thanks to an electric rear bench that slides forward to open up space in the rear.
Since forming in late 2002, Wellhouse Leisure has rolled out numerous campervan designs – essentially everything but the oversaturated Volkswagen market. Its offerings have included campers built around the Hyundai i800 (below), Toyota Granvia and the Ford Tourneo.
"Over the past 10 years, Wellhouse Leisure simply concentrated on manufacturing Hyundai, Toyota and now Ford based conversions and have really never wanted to delve into the fierce competitive world of Volkswagen," the company explains. "Main reason is that the market is flooded with T5’s and Wellhouse wanted to offer a real alternative and develop a camper that drove more car-like, more economical and was loads cheaper than a T5. The Hyundai & Ford Wellhouse launched filled that gap perfectly and took the market by storm winning award after award."
Wellshouse eventually realized that some potential customers were clamoring for a Wellshouse-designed VW T5 camper. It also believed it had some unique design features to offer the market.
"They just wanted a VW T5, loved the T5s and nothing but a T5 would do (even though they loved the Wellhouse conversion). What this meant was that Wellhouse then lost that customer to the vast outside world of the other T5 myriad of converters."
In 2012, it decided to target these customers, forming an entire subsidiary for VW conversions. Volksleisure presented its initial campervan design that year. It gathered feedback, went back to the shop and spent the next year tweaking and finalizing the design. At this year's Caravan & Camping Show in Birmingham, it launched the market-ready T5 campervan.
Volksleisure explains that the feature that sets its T5 camper apart is the sliding, three-seat rear bench from German manufacturer Reimo. Despite having a rather crowded interior filled with camper essentials, including a two-burner stove, sink and refrigerator, the rear bench can slide the full-length of the cabin, locking in behind the front seats. This way, the van can haul cargo behind the seats, instead of in front of the rear passengers where it can be hazardous and uncomfortable.
The forward position still accommodates rear passengers but opens up the rear-loading utility of the van, allowing for hauling of gear, such as bikes, water toys, etc. The seat can lock into multiple positions, allowing the van to be configured for optimal leg and cargo room as needed. This rear bench also allows owners to use the campervan as an everyday people mover.
When the driver and passengers arrive at the campground, they can unload whatever is in back, slide the seat back to its rear position and enjoy a roomy camper interior. As in other T5 campers, the front seats swivel around to face the rear seats for lounging and dining.
The rear seats fold down to create a 2 x 1.2-m (6.6 x 4-ft) bed for two. The camper includes a Reimo pop-up roof, and a roof bed is available to double the sleeping capacity. Cooking is handled by the CAN two-ring hob stove with integrated sink and Smev electric-ignition mini oven. Other equipment includes a 42-L (11 US gal) Waeco compressor fridge, 35-L (9.2 US gal) fresh and waste water tanks, an optional Webasto heat and hot water system, and an optional rear hand shower.
More versatile, configurable camper vans are a theme that we've been seeing for years, including designs like the SpaceCamper and Terracamper. Volkswagen recently highlighted the versatility of its own slide-rail system with the Multivan Attack concept.
Volksleisure's electric bench is simpler and easier than the other options we've seen. It offers the advantage of running the full length of the floor track to open up the maximum amount of room in back. Other systems have no sliding tracks or have equipment mounted on or over the tracks, limiting how far the seats can move. Volksleisure's full-length system allows the driver to quickly switch between cargo van and camper, even during the same road trip, without removing any seats or rearranging any hardware.
The Volksleisure T5 camper is available in three trim levels starting at £20,000 (US$33,650) for the conversion of a buyer-supplied van and £40,000 (US$67,350) for the full package with base van. Depending on Volksleisure's T5 stock at the time, delivery takes up to 15 weeks. It plans to add a VW Caddy conversion in the future.
The short clip below shows the electric sliding seat in action.