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Custom built Motorhome for the Disabled

With advancing age, in May 2010 we decided to find and buy a custom built motorhome more suited to our needs. Pushing the wheelchair up ramps was becoming more difficult, therefore we wanted a lift and Wendy wanted a fixed bed so that she could experience a change of position and rest at any time of the day. We also wanted to ensure a good payload for carrying all those weighty extras required by the disabled.

Our first move was to send a diagram of the floor layout we were looking for to potential builders. We also stated our mandatory requirements. Following responses we visited three potential builders, finally placing an order with RS Motorhomes on the 10th September 2010 for a build on a Mercedes 516 chassis . The promised delivery was February 2011. The agreed layout and an artistic impression of the finished motorhome are shown below.


Agreed layout

Artistic Impression

Artistic Impression of build

A few facts
The build is to be based on a new model being developed which is to be called the Eclipse. A double floor will be fitted to this low-line model. The fixed 3 foot wide single bed is located across the full width of the rear with storage underneath accessible externally from both sides. The combined toilet and shower wet room will be fitted with double opening doors to make access easier. A sliding door, sectioning off the rear will give privacy from the living area. The front bench seat will also open out to form a standard 4ft 6inch wide bed and both driver and passenger seats will swivel to give better seating facilities in a large open lounge with plenty of space for a wheelchair. A cassette lift will be fitted so as not to intrude into the living area. Heating will be provided by an Alde system.

28th November 2010
We had expected delivery of the chassis 6 weeks after placing the order but by the end of November we had still heard nothing from RS. We had a design meeting at the time of placing an order and had carefully gone over requirements and measurements but nevertheless we had still expected some subsequent design queries. On contacting RS the chassis had still not been received and it looked like no further work had yet been undertaken. It looks like a February delivery is already slipping.

18th December 2010
The chassis has arrived. There appears to be a few problems in that the chassis it is not as anticipated by RS. Further information is awaited.

12th January 2011
RS could not overcome the difficulties with the 516 chassis and have recommended a 3.5 ton Merc/AL-Ko chassis upgraded to 4.2 tons. They believe they can meet my requirements with this. I am a little apprehensive about the potential loss of payload but have accepted their advice. The replacement chassis is not due until March. This means further delays but if it means a model delivered as envisaged then this is an acceptable drawback and hopefully the reduction in payload will not be that great to present us with problems. Just as well I have not put our Mohican up for sale yet!

2nd April 2011
March came and went and we still didn't have any definite news of delivery. A visit to the factory at the end of March didn't help much either. Mercedes appeared to be reluctant to give priority to the production of right hand drive chassis and delivery is now scheduled for May. RS assured us they were pressing Mercedes for confirmation of a firm delivery date and would let us know when they had this. A chassis delivery of no later than 10th June was subsequently promised

10th June 2011
We had received no response to email requests for information so called in to the factory on our way back from a holiday in the Yorkshire Dales to find out RS had now been given an August delivery date. RS were very apologetic and Mick the owner joined the conversation and stated he had even gone beyond their Mercedes dealership and spoken to the Director of Mercedes UK to express their dissatisfaction with broken promises and delays. He tried unsuccessfully to phone him there and then for me to speak to. I didn't think this would achieve anything but I expressed my concern that having now had two delivery dates not met I had no confidence that the August date promised by Mercedes would be met either. RS being totally at the mercy of Mercedes couldn’t offer any guarantees either. We had the option to cancel the order but we were reluctant to do this. Mick offered an alternative build on a 6 ton IVECO chassis of which he had three already in stock. I liked the opportunity to have an increased payload and the addition of an over cab bed and indicated we would be in favour of this option rather than waiting on Mercedes. We selected one of the chassis and left RS to work out more detail and hope to hear more within the next 3 weeks.
Note: It was just as well we did this because the Mercedes chassis were never delivered and to the best of my knowledge the development of the Eclipse, on which our build was to be based, was shelved.

5th July 2011
A problem had been encountered with the position of the fuel tank on the IVECO chassis, this had now been overcome and a design within a maximum length of 26ft (8 metres) is being worked on.

19th July 2011
At last! A design can be achieved and a quotation with an increase in price (not unexpected) and a layout diagram have been received. The layout, on an IVECO 65C17 chassis and based on RS's Endeavour model, is not too dissimilar to the one above and a delivery date towards the end of October 2011 is expected.

8th August 2011
A design review meeting was held at the factory to check information already supplied, identify any problems and agree options. The build is to start after the annual factory shut down in the week beginning 15th August 2011.

7th October 2011
We were informed the build is going well and a further visit to the factory was not required. Delivery has slipped a little and is now expected the week ending 11th November 2011.

8th November 2011
With time running out and nothing heard from RS, I phoned to find out delivery by the 11th November cannot be met. Difficulties in the production of the custom made skirt were blamed although other problems had also been encountered. The lift specified for the Mercedes chassis would not fit the IVECO. An alternative, a Ratcliff RUL35AW, was to be fitted also the upholstery originally specified was no longer available. We selected another using the internet and photographs sent to us by RS. It was estimated a further 2 weeks were required to complete. Due to commitments at the end of November and throughout December, we stressed the need to deliver before the week ending 25th November. Having waited so long, it will be a great dissappointment if this is not achieved.

28th November 2011
Delivery before the 25th November was not achieved. We are told the build is nearly complete and it may be ready for collection on 1st December. However, delivery depends on work by third parties which cannot be guaranteed, e.g. PDI by IVECO and safety checks on the wheelchair lift. We are very disappointed and for multiple reasons decided to visit the factory in the hope it might actually be ready for collection. RS have offered to deliver to our home should this not be the case.

29th November 2011
We were advised delivery on the 1st December was not possible.

1st December 2011
We visited the factory and were surprised to find the build was not quite complete. Outstanding items were mainly in the wet room. It was just as well, because the toilet position combined with the door width made for difficult wheelchair access to the toilet. Changes were discussed and modifications were identified. The opportunity was also taken to position the washbasin at the most convenient height, identify the most suitable toilet handrail and optimise the position of this. The rest of the build was very impressive and we were both pleased with the look, the space and the ambience. There was too much to take in and we missed one or two things which were later clarified in a phone call. I had not noticed the blind fittings and it was confirmed that these were not yet available and were not expected until mid December, yet more delays but hopefully the last!

9th December 2011
With no sign of the blinds we had to MOT our current vehicle. I had hoped to avoid this but thankfully no problems were encountered. Road tax and insurance renewal are also due at the end of December so we are becoming evermore anxious to collect our new vehicle. We are advised this is complete except for the fitting of the blinds.

20th December 2011
The blinds have arrived. However the sets are not complete, the passenger door side is missing. With road tax and insurance looming on our old vehicle we have requested pick up on the 29th December with the fitting of any missing blinds to be arranged at a later date. The missing blind is not an immediate problem as we have ordered a "Silver Screen" for winter use.

29th December 2011
Motorhome collected and we spent our first night in it at Clumber Park. A live in report and photos can be viewed here.