The Vehicle Story

We started in a tent … that is proper camping!  But James had not grown up with it and referred to being under canvas as sleeping with a rock up your a…!

Van No.1 – Valerie the Mazda Bongo October 2009

So we bought Valerie, a black Mazda Bongo; very quirky, but we loved her.  We used as much holiday as we could travelling, mostly UK, but she went to the S of France twice one year.  We even had Christmas lights up in her in cold and damp Norfolk.

Valerie was so dubbed as she was black with red lights and red upholstery.  her reg was VA51 and we knew a stubby lady with attitude, who mostly dressed in black and painted hew nails red.

We were averaging once a month away and even in the winter!  No toilet, so we needed to be on site and had to constantly shift luggage around in order to pull the bed out.  Two years later, we sadly decided we had outgrown her.

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Van No.2 – Chardonnay the Bessacarr E584 October 2011

We knew we wanted a fixed bed, so headed off to the big October 2011 Motorhome Show at the NEC.  The intention was to come away with a short list of brands and shopping list of must have features so we could trawl the second hand market.  Best laid plans and all that …. in the recession and two dealers competing, so a most excellent price on a new Bessacarr E584.   We did not even know if it would fit on the drive.  James is nothing if not spontaneous!

Given her bling lights inside (downlighters, step lights and reading lights) she comes from the ilk of a footballer’s WAG … friends Bev and Mike came up with a suitable name … ‘Chardonnay’ was christened.  And you have to say this with an Essex Accent (sorry to those from Essex).

When we decided to go full time travelling in late Sept 2014, we invested in some improvements:

  • large sun panel feeding twin leisure batteries and a trickle to the vehicle engine
  • additional 12 volt sockets
  • Gaslo twin LPG gas bottles
  • sine wave inverter so we can power 3 pin devices such as cameras and laptops.

We have a couple of niggles such as lack of kitchen work surface, but we were amazingly lucky, with such a spontaneous decision to buy her, that she suits us so well.


Van No.3 – Adria Sonic Supreme 22nd October 2016

Corr, I really haven’t done much on our website … this page is well out of date.  We’ve had Jez  – our Adria for almost a year now.  And only introducing her now.  I’ve lifted this from a post last October – you can read the whole post here.  A year on the review is pretty accurate.  We’ve had a few faults, but Family Travel Centre have put them all right with no issues.  Overall … a cracking purchase.

And the name is a little random, bear with me.  Sonic Supreme reminded me of Sonic the Hedgehog and Adria is built in Slovenia.  A certain person, who shall remain nameless had never heard of Sonic the Hedgehog!  Hedgehog in Slovenian is Jez …  Frances and Edward gave us a pair of soft toy hedgehogs who travel with us on our dashboard … they are called Jez n Bel (Jezebel).

For the Motorhomers amongst you, or those just interested …. reflections of our Adrian Sonic Supreme I 170 SBC


  • Jez is a totally different beast to Chardonnay.  He is an A Class, which means he is built totally as a motorhome, not on the back of a Fiat van.
  • He is fully winterised … with a double floor, which acts as good insulation.  Even the garage is heated.  The heating is pretty much the same as Chardonnay Alde radiators, but we now have underfloor heating too. Lovely under the tootsies and Oscar seems to find the best spots.
  • He is a little wider (Jez, not Oscar!), and we notice it particularly inside, as we have more room to pass each other, but possibly less fun as we grew accustomed to a pat on the bum.
  • Driving is a much more stable ride with much fewer rattles.  The engine is a 3ltr Fiat Iveco; a truck engine, so it should have fewer issues than a Fiat Euro 5 and is is chain driven so no expensive cam belt changes.
  • There is one can door for the passenger and the habitation door is on the European side.
  • Our insurers insisted on both an alarm (with motion sensor, which can be disabled) and a tracker.
  • No microwave, but I only ever used to use it for storage.  Toilet, hob and F/F are Dometic, which is better quality than Thetford.
  • The control panel tells you everything:  inside and outside temperature, voltage and % charge of both leisure batteries and engine, fresh and grey water %.  And huge LPG bottles.
  • 140 ltr of fresh water.  So far we’ve used it for 6 days, and only filled then as we were on a site.  So good to be able to dispense with bottles and containers to supplement our supplies in Chardonnay.
  • Driver and passenger seat are a LOT more comfortable … with a lot more adjustments. I don’t climb out of the cab and spend 5 mins trying to walk normally.  They even have weight sensors to work out how much damping they need to do.
  • We have a large double island bed at the back, and a drop down bed over the cab.  When this is down, the table and bench seat are still usable.  Kerstin, who tested the over cab bed said it is firm but comfortable … she managed to stay there till 9.00 ish most mornings.
  • The bottom half of the main bed lifts electronically and lifts a hanging rail.  It also gives access to a large well for all our shoes and boots.
  • The table moves out, up / down and swivels (not sure why the last is needed, but, we may find a reason for it).
  • Sitting at the table is a lot more comfortable, as it is closer to you, so we’ve been able to dispose (the Aged P’s attic again) of some cushions we used to use to prop ourselves up to prevent back ache and tennis elbow flare ups.
  • Extractor fan
  • We’ve had a whopping solar panel put on, along with a 1400 watt sine wave invertor and two Gel batteries (slow to charge but slow to go and no acid burns should we crash!)
  • 4 holes in the floor for additional storage, some are quite large.  If we’d not put the carpets in the Attic, they would have been concealed, but then what a lot of inaccessible space.
  • The bathroom can be shut off from the living area and the bedroom, so a guest can reach it without having to walk past us (Chard had a rear bathroom).
  • Kitchen drawers, including a pan drawer and another deep one for tins / herbs etc.  Much better than the revolving stand, I had before, where things fell off the back.  Oh, and they are all soft close.
  • LOTS of LED lights, so much brighter at night.
  • And of course the really solid build quality.


  • The bedside and under bed wardrobes are not full length so long skirts, dresses and trousers get a bit scrunched.
  • The hab door needs a really hard slam to shut it, but apparently this makes it water tight!
  • The BIG one is that we’d wanted a bike rack on the rear wall.  Adria designed the van with the intention that the garage is used for this, so built a ‘floating’ wall, which is not compatible with a bike rack.  As we have filled the garage, we had to leave the bikes in my sister’s garage and the bike helmets and kit in … the Aged P’s attic.  Addendum: we’ve removed so much ‘stuff’ we really did not need, that there is now room for our E bikes.
  • Would have liked more kitchen work space … but then this is a common complaint unless you go for a really loooong motorhome.  And our draining board has to sit over the closed hob, whereas there was room for it in Chadonnay with the hob in use.
  • Getting used to the changes of floor level from the washroom to the bedroom.
  • There is a lot of white / off white faux leather … which is unlikely to stay its original colour.  Despite the throws over all the seats, we already have ‘christened’ them with red wine!  The table is white and high gloss … covered to prevent stains and scratches.
  • The lounge area over window lockers are pretty big up … at almost 5’8”, I can just reach in most, otherwise I have to stand on the seat.  And before you remind me Mum, I know I’d shrunk half a cm last time Dad measured me!
  • Most of the light topologies work from a switch by the door … the parallel rows in the living area are only touch sensitive.  There are 6 of them, which is a bit of a pain to have to ‘touch’ them off individually.
  • As the bed is high, it is closer to the wall cupboards and there is insufficient room to sit up in bed to read with a morning cuppa.

It’s in Danish, but this YouTube the same model as Jez…

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Jez Mods

A few modifications to Jez over the 3 years.  I’ve not listed all the dents and scratches!

  • Lithium Batteries. LiFePO4 from Alpha Batteries.    Super light and last forever.  You can run them at full output until their own management system cuts them out at about 5%.
  • Massive solar panels … with a new MPPT 100/50 controller
  • Larger battery to battery cable so if we should ever need to run the engine as a generator, the batteries will charge 4 times faster.
  • Victron phone apps that tell me how many watts the solars are producing and what % charge the batteries are at (the lithiums didn’t work with the existing wall control  panel.
  • Fuel cut off switch, so it just can’t be driven anywhere.  And only we know where the switch is!
  • Goldschmidt rear air suspension.  It really does make a difference to the handling and ride.
  • Up- plated from 4250 kgs to 4850 kgs, the rear air suspension helped with this.  And our wine carrying capacity!

And the Pedalecs – Kalkhoff Agattu October 2017

We were quite happy with our normal bikes, and missed them hugely during our winter 2016 to Spain and Portugal as we were told at the last minute that a bike rack could not be fitted to the rear of the new Adria.  They were left in my sister’s garage.  But by now we had Oscar, the second hand Welshie.  And we found out that some countries are very dog unfriendly, not allowing them on public transport.  OK, so we need a solution to getting from the motorhome to places, with a dog, not using busses or trains.  A moped would have been OK in theory, but we would both have wanted to drive it and the problem remained about what to do with Oscar.

A doggy trailer!  attached to one of the bikes.  We travelled to Bunnik in Holland and bought a EUR400 DoggyRide.  Great but now whoever is towing the 16kgs of trailer and 20+ of Oscar can’t get up hills.  Enter the e-bikes.  OK, so we are just under £4000 and we are now mobile!!! The DoggyRide has a 50kgs+ load capacity, so easily takes Corrie too.

3 thoughts on “The Vehicle Story

  1. nIce to meet you both yesterday. Did you get the mags and SIM card I left ? There was no movement at your van so we assumed you were running. Like the blog !


    • You manage a fair bit of travelling and we have been envious … get yourselves to St Petersburg if you have not been yet. And thanks … not being at work is helping … another half stone off just from moving around!

      You up for a camp / cabin first bank holiday in May? We will be back in the UK?



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