Camper van

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Firered

Many camper vans are built in "fire red," which blends well with the ladder trucks that so often work alongside them.

The camper van, which takes its name from famous pianist Camper Van Beethoven, is a popular type of vehicle, best exemplified by the Volkswagen Type 2 Camper Van as manufactured from about 1949 to 2013 in various guises.

They catch fire

The worldwide Green campaign to ban useful fuels from the roads by 2020, driven by activists who drive camper vans, has resulted in the addition of ethanol to petrol to almost drinkable levels. The ethanol causes the fuel pipes to crack and spray petrol over the ignition leads. At that point, these eco-gadflies are literally "hoist upon their own environmentally correct petards," as Shakespeare would have put it, at least if he had listened to talk radio more often.

When (not if) a camper van catches fire, it is important to remember that the engine is in the rear. Firefighters often waste valuable time trying to open the front latch, only to find the boot, whose contents catch fire much less often than the engine does. The engine is inside the lower flap at the back end.

The hippies who own camper vans experience comparable consternation when they open the rear hatch to load their suitcases and wonder what the hell that greasy, noisy, whirring thing with the fan belts is doing there.

They don't go very fast

A safe rate of crawl is achieved by use of a 50-horsepower, 4-cylinder lawnmower engine. Invented by Porsche for the Nazi Volks Wagen in the 1930's, these use state-of-the-art materials like magnesium and aluminium in the engine. (See the preceding discussion of engine fires.) At first, they avoided using suitable metal for the bearings too. Insertion of full-size engines is problematic, because the van's aerodynamics and wobbly tyres would make for a harrowing ride except on Europe's rare straight-away.

They don't stop very fast

When new, the brakes can take the camper van from 60 to 0 in fifteen seconds, which is only half as fast as it took to attain 60 in the first place. However, once a bit of air gets into the brake lines, the brake pedal acquires a "vintage" feel and matches the softness of the accelerator response.

They guzzle petrol

A motorist who has just bought a Ferrari and feels a bit miffed at the fuel consumption can take consolation by looking at the guy in the camper van. He is burning about the same amount of fuel and getting a different kind of fun, and chiefly when the motor is off. At least if he floors the accelerator, he will find it hard to immediately end up in the local duck pond.

The headlights are crap

Yes, even after you replace them with halogens. All the electricity is generated on the other end, and about half of it gives up during its trip to the front of the van.

Maintenance is a bitch

Any really deep pothole is able to crack the engine block. At that point, you simply remove 4 bolts — No, it's about eight, and a load of wires, cables, pipes and other crap. It is equally cumbersome to perform other maintenance that should not require removal of the engine block. Because it does.

You can take the engine out in about a day and put it back the next day. Then do it again to find good homes for the pile of spare parts left behind the first time you reassemble the van. Set aside two entire weekends to change an obscure part (a fuse, perhaps) buried down inside the engine.

They are air-cooled

Also oil- and petrol-cooled: The evaporating petrol cools down the air going in, and the hot oil pours out on the road. The way the engine is cooled is that you stop and add cold oil every few miles. You don't need water except for the screen washer, which you need to pump up. The engine also cools during the intervals that the camper van experiences vapor lock and sits on the shoulder of the highway.

The Brazilian model is water-cooled because Internal Combustion is the least hot thing that happens in a camper van in Brazil.

They are unreliable

Flowercamper

Camper vans make great planters.

If you imagine you will use your new camper van like a modern car, based on its cute name and shiny paint job, you will be surprised when it breaks down as soon as you drive off the garage forecourt. It needs constant love and care, time and attention, annoyance, frustration, screaming rage and depression to keep one on the road. Deep pockets help for those little jobs like engine replacement in case you forget to pour the oil in to cool it down after a trip to the shops.

They make them in Brazil

Not after December 2013, when the Brazilians decided they weren't safe enough anymore, even for a load of death-wish South Americans.

See also

Flowercamper
Recreational vehicles
"Keep on trucking!"
Camper vanSUVTruckWhite van
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