15 SEP 2022

NOT JUST A VAN: MOTORCARAVAN, LOW PROFILE OR MOTORHOME?

PRODUCT

Let’s find out the differences between the various types of camper vans with a Ducato base: not only vans, but also motorcaravans, low profile models and motorhomes.

Camper vans are synonymous with holidays, freedom and adventure. This is something we all agree on. However, the term camper van actually includes different types of vehicles, which are all designed to take us on holiday and satisfy our desire for freedom, but in different shapes and ways. In other words, not all camper vans are the same.

The differences between one type of camper van and another are evident even to the casual observer, since their external shape varies, but so does their interior. The different types of mechanical bases used to create the various types of camper vans also play a key role. Ducato has an extensive range of bases in order to meet the needs of manufacturers and offer greater variety to potential buyers. The first main difference is that there are camper vans built by converting the Ducato van and camper vans built on a Ducato base, in the motorised chassis model. The conventional van with a sheet metal body is the most complete base: it has everything you need, from the cab to the rear outer shell, and is ready to be fitted out inside. Yet there are also other bases, which are no less important when building a camper van. For instance, the chassis cab is a vehicle that consists of a cab with a chassis attached behind it, on which the living pod of the camper van is built. The original cab of the Ducato is a guarantee of comfort and safety, since it has ergonomic seats, a well-designed driver’s seat, and various safety systems. And then we have the chassis cowl, which unlike the chassis cab does not have... a cab. More specifically, it does not have the upper metal part of the cab, but instead has the chassis, the engine, the dashboard, and other elements.

Sheet metal or sandwich panel body

If you decide to convert a van into a camper van, you won’t need to build a living pod: the van already has a shell, with walls, a roof and flooring. However, the camper van manufacturer will make sure to thermally insulate the metal sheets and install windows and skylights. The rest of the work involves arranging the interior furnishings along with a number of technical elements, such as the heating system. For other types of camper vans, instead, which lack the sheet metal shell, a living pod has to be built, which is attached to the chassis of the Ducato. The living pod is normally built by assembling sandwich panels, which are made up of layers of different materials, including thermal insulation. One panel is for the roof, another for the floor, and others for the side walls... The alternative to sandwich panels is the fibreglass monocoque, which is quite rare.

Types of camper vans

But what possible combinations are there when considering the many mechanical bases offered by Ducato and the different types of camper van? As we said, the Ducato van model is used to create vans, while the Ducato chassis cab is the ideal base for creating low profile models and motorcaravans. Low profile models have a small dome-shaped part above the Ducato cab, which harmoniously connects the cab and the living pod, which is higher and wider. On the other hand, motorcaravans have an overhang above the cab, which in the camper van jargon is known as an “overcab”: it is a niche with a double bed inside. Of course, you have to make do with very little space above your head, if you’re lucky you can just about manage to sit down, but having two beds always at the ready, which do not take up too much space in the passenger compartment, is certainly a great thing. Naturally, the overcab is not the ideal solution from an aerodynamics perspective... The low profile model, instead, has a more harmonious and dynamic shape, but it does not have an easily accessible bed above the cab. This problem can be solved by installing a drop-down bed, which generally rests on the ceiling and is only pulled down at nighttime as it takes up the whole living and dining area. So it is usually difficult to use the living area when the bed is lowered and someone is sleeping on it. There is little difference between the two when it comes to the rest of the passenger compartment, with two additional beds usually available, as well as a bathroom, a kitchen and the living area. We can safely say that the motorcaravan is a great solution for accommodating many passengers, sometimes even up to seven people, while in the case of three to four people both a low profile model or a motorcaravan are a possible option.

However, we should also mention another type of camper van, which is formed by a single body and is generally known as motorhome (although, in many parts of the world, this term is actually used generically to refer to camper vans). In this case, the mechanical base is that of the chassis cowl. Motorhomes, which lack a cab, come in different types, each with their own specific front. There are no longer any gaps between the cab and the living pod, so they have a continuous shape and there is also plenty of habitable space, since the front part is as wide as the rest of the passenger compartment. In addition, if you want to fit a drop-down bed in the front part, the bed will fold down over the cab, leaving the entire dining and living area almost entirely free. Ultimately, motorhomes that use the Ducato chassis cowl can differ significantly from low profile models that use the Ducato chassis cab, just as low profile models are nothing like motorcaravans. There is one thing we can be certain of: they are all camper vans, intriguing travelling homes that allow us to travel and stop overnight just about anywhere.