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Fitting out my van myself or finding a fitter ?




But this is a world I know nothing about.


There are the purists who tell me: it's much better if you do it yourself, you'll make your house your own, you'll know all the tricks...

There's some truth in what they tell me about their experience. But I can also buy a ready-made house.

I'll have twenty years to get to know my motorhome in all its nooks and crannies...


I confess to having no knowledge of insulation, electricity, plumbing and everything else, I've always been “Daddy's little girl”. He did everything around the house.

I'm not ten-fingered (depending on what you're talking about, you might say). I don't have the tools, I don't have a workshop and, above all, I don't have the time or the inclination.


The other option would be to find a fitter: you list what you need with him, he draws up a plan, you approve it, he builds according to the plan and you pay and receive the van all finished and equipped.

Cool, isn't it?


As usual, I'm diving into this market segment.

I need to find the rare pearl, and above all one who knows the Mercedes Sprinter, because of course, every brand has its own van shape - what wouldn't they do to make our lives easier!


In Belgium, there are only two or three of these (don't forget that we're in the year 2021). The camper craze is not yet at its peak.


France is a different world, it's a known market and there are many craftsmen, many yes, but mainly for French rigids (cocorico oblige) or the Fiat with its 31% market share, as a reminder.

Few craftsmen fit out Mercedes and few venture into 4x4s, which require robustness, wear-resistance and metal fixings.


3C Cartier works with Brisebras - www.3ccartier.com - has been renowned for its quality and expertise for 30 years. I'll let you surf their site and give you the link to the X-Rock Mercedes 4x4, magnificent but the price too, and this one didn't fit in my budget, which was basically double. Yikes.


In the meantime, two companies have been in the news but were little-known at the start of 2021:

and


There's also the UK, but I was going to end up with a right-hand-drive Mercedes with a sliding door that opened to the left!

Their achievements were pragmatic, with bright colors or Scottish style that changed from ours and much more complete facilities (oven, microwave, ...) than those known on the continent.


And then there were the ace installers, the Germans.

The first one I called informed me that the starting budget was €357,000, to which I had to add the options I wanted to add. I thanked them, pointing out that my budget was much more modest. They advised me to go and see CS Reisemobile, which specializes in Mercedes Sprinter and 4x4s and is of very high quality.


I looked at their site - cs-reisemobile.de -, I read what users had to say on specialized forums, and the feedback was, in my opinion, very positive in terms of seriousness and expertise. But - and yes, there's always a but - I had to be patient, waiting a minimum of six to eight months.

I started looking at the different models they were offering, 8 with different layouts and different Sprinter lengths.

I was interested in the 5.41 m Independent, which corresponded to my needs and my vision of life indoors.

I watched some videos about this model - https://youtu.be/jRcOjZE-IVM?si=jxj5DoKkEDyzzqHe - and I was all for it.


Then I found out that CS Reisemobile had foreign agreements with Tartaruga in Switzerland, or else I had to work with the parent company in Henstedt-Ulzburg near Hamburg. I opted for Germany, as it was 613 km from my home.

I set up an appointment in their showroom to get a full presentation of the model and to see the materials and quality of finish.

The date is set for the end of October 2021, so I'm taking the opportunity to take a full week's leave, to combine business with pleasure, and visit Hamburg, Bremen and Hanover, which I don't know.


It's starting to happen ....


On October 27, 2021, I'm on the road, my hotel booked just two kilometers from the showroom. My appointment is set for 10am the next day. Everything's okay.

If you're in the area, I recommend the Hotel & Gästehaus Gut Kaden, with its magnificent rooms set in parkland including a 27-hole golf course. The peace and quiet is appreciated and the restaurant is welcoming with local specialties.



After a good night's sleep, here I am, enjoying my breakfast and looking forward to seeing the vans.

In five minutes, I'm there, wisely waiting for the boss.

The owner, Claus Oltmanns, is a charming man who isn't here to sell, but to satisfy his customers.

He explains that he and his wife founded CS Reisemobile in 1985, and that the C stands for Claus, his first name, and the S for his wife Suzanne.

They were, and still are, would-be amateur travelers, and it was as a result that they decided to become van makers, driven by a single preoccupation: to design robust, well-insulated vans. The Rondo was one of their first models.

Each trip helped them better understand the needs of nomads and optimize their vehicles.


He asks me which model I'm interested in and I mention the Independent. He's in the showroom and offers to show me around on my own, so that I can have an unrestricted look at every single cabinet. Then he'll answer all my questions.


Here I am, in front of this magnificent Sprinter and two seconds later inside.

My first impression is that I'm in a doll's house. Everything seems ridiculously small and cramped, and I'm wondering how I'm going to fit my house in there (for my former colleagues, a favorite expression of one of our bosses "là-dedan").

I know I'm going to have to rationalize my wardrobe of 350 garments, 150 pairs of shoes, 50 handbags and I don't dare talk about the rest.

I open every closet, every drawer, every trapdoor .... I'm starting to get the shivers.

In two steps, I'm at the foot of the bed, which is 135 cm wide and 180 cm long.

This has never happened to me in any other space, and I feel suffocated and claustrophobic.

What's more, at the time, I was thinking of taking a dog, a Malinois, to accompany me on the trip - I'll explain the reasons for not opting for a dog in another blog -.

No, the feeling is still there, and I get out of the vehicle, slowly coming to my senses. How to travel like this.

I walk around, look at the cargo hold and climb back in to form a second opinion.

Here I go again, no, this van really isn't for me.


Claus arrives and asks me what's going on, seeing my discomfited face, I explain and he smiles and says: that's why we have other models and implementations .... That's what the showroom is for.

The other models are outside and he hands me a bunch of keys, one for each model. Take your time, it's an important choice, especially if you want to live in the van.

The sun is shining, the vehicles are shining, seven more models to look at.

I take the plunge:


CORONA - the bed is on the ceiling, the bathroom occupies the whole rear. The interior space is interesting. I don't like the shape, I don't feel like climbing every night. If I want to sleep in and someone travels with me, I block the space. No.



COSMO - Same bed on the ceiling, but the bathroom is laid out differently. Still No.



DUO - 2 bunk beds at the rear and bathroom next door. No hold, do I want to fold up to go to sleep, do I want a small 90 cm bed? Answer No.



DUO INDEPENDENT - 2 bunk beds, it can be in 4x4, the DUO not but it remains a no for me.



ENCANTO - it's a long version with twin beds but no 4x4. So no.



LUXOR - long version and 4x4 option, twin beds. I feel good in it, it's airy. I like this one.



RONDO - best-seller with the INDEPENDENT, a little taller than the latter at 5.93 m vs. 5.41 m, but the same feeling of oppression, especially after visiting the Luxor.



I go back to Claus with a smile on my face, knowing that I'm going to buy and order the LUXOR 4x4 version.


I place my order and sign on October 28, 2021.

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