Caravan Salon Exhibition Dusseldorf 2017

Achtung Camper reporting on the latest and greatest from the campervan world internationally.  We recently attended our second Caravan Saalon Exhibition in Dusseldorf, Germany and got to see what the biggest and best companies from Europe and the UK are doing campervan and motorhome wise.

The first thing that hits you when you attend a caravan and camping exhibition overseas is the sheer size.  We are used to (what we feel are!) very large exhibitions with lots of sheds and km’s to cover in Australia.  Arrive at an exhibition in Europe and you’ll see just how small the market is here.  The vast array of (often extremely similar) campervans on offer is baffling.  How can any of these companies compete with each other when they all look so similar!  That question is answered by walking through the streets in any German town – where you will spot at least one new T6 campervan or old Westfalia parked on pretty much every street corner.  Campervanning is BIG here!  And with THEIR climate, you’d wonder how so many people find the cash to finance a camping mobile they probably won’t be using for 50% of the year due to the hard winters.

And the differences in travelling style that the climate and landscape bring are reflected in the features included in the campervans built for travel in the UK and Europe.  Densely populated areas and no long dry spells of unrelenting heat mean it is always easy to fill up water and food no matter where you are on your travels.  Unlike Australia where you might drive for days without a clean water source or food store, it is not necessary here to be as self-sufficient as it is during an Australian road trip.  We considered the harshness of the Australian when looking the features in 90% of the campervans on offer in Europe and the UK:

  • One small draw fridge as opposed to our ‘large’ 50, 65 or 80 litre upright fridges.
  • One 10 litre water tank as opposed to our 40-litre tank.
  • Minimal cabinetry/storage as opposed to our full cabinetry. The majority of trips here are taken over the weekend not months at a time.

We were disappointed and proud all at once, on one hand there was little to learn from companies who have LESS features and usability than an Achtung Camper.  Conversely, we were proud when it sunk in that these guys actually have it a lot easier than the folk building campervans for the Australian public.  Sure, it’s easy to build a van with minimal cabinetry, water and food storage.  But Achtung Camper (and the handful of other Australia suppliers) had managed to fit so much more into that small space, and still make it liveable.

Our disappointment continued when we finished our third enormous hall of campervans on show.  Westfalia (the original VW campervan converter and still the most prominent) and 90% of the other companies all had the same modern grey interior.  Yes, it looks slick and inoffensive, but to us? It’s just plain boring!   Where were the crazy fashionable boundary pushing interiors?   (In Geelong, apparently!)

Then we came to a very small setup with only two vans on show and two young men talking to the press.  The German company called Kampagnia was opened only 2 years earlier and offers about 20 different film faced formply colours to choose from for your cabinetry.  Colours we could only dream about were available here.  After chatting to our new friends for a while we found many similarities between their company and ours, two young people with a drive to do something different and let clients personalise the look of their vans, a drive to do something colourful and cutting edge.

Another company worth mentioning – Dogs Campers (crazy considering having a dog as a pet is not nearly as popular in Germany as it is in Australia).  That’s right, campervans designed specifically for the camping dog owner.  We loved some of their features such as the integrated dog cage but didn’t really like the brash dog-related branding on the outside of the vans.

That’s not to say we didn’t get some great new ideas from the exhibition  and European market offerings.  Quite the contrary, Achtung Camper are now working harder than ever to integrate some awesome new features to our range.  Here are some of the ideas we are currently working on for our vans:

  • Diesel heater with hot water.
  • LED exterior light as a feature for the Nature Lover conversion.
  • LED light strips for the interior.
  • Power control system/phone app to view water tank level, leisure battery power level, temperature inside and outside.
  • Better quality plug and play cold shower.

The real highlight of the exhibition (besides the free champagne and finger food at 10am on Trade Day!) – being able to step inside a 1.5-million-euro motorhome.  Yes, something this crazy and ridiculous exists.  Check out the pics below and dream away…!

Torquay’s Top 10

10 great reasons to visit Torquay on the Surf Coast – written by the locals!

  1. Visit Point Addis Beach (5 minute drive)
  2. Visit Torquay surf beach/Fishos/Cosy Corner/Jan Juc beach
  3. Walk along the Esplanade from Fishos Beach past Cosy Corner Beach, around Point Danger (watch the wind and kite surfers), past Torquay Surf Beach to the rivermouth then walk the boardwalk to the cliff path and continue on to Jan Juc beach if you want to keep going!
  4. Grab a bargain at the surf outlets on Baine’s Crescent.
  5. Grab a take away coffee at outdoor kiosk Third Wave and sit on the grass hill watching the tourist/backpacker surfers have a crack at Torquay Beach.
  6. Have Coffee/breakfast/lunch at Café Moby on the Esplanade
  7. Have Coffee/breakfast/lunch at Swell in Jan Juc
  8. Try some Torquay brewed beers at Blackmans Brewery
  9. Have American/Mexican for dinner at Senores on the Esplanade
  10. Have Japanese for dinner at Roku Den

VW Long Wheel Base VS Short Wheel Base – which is right for me?

There are a number of factors that come into play when deciding which size VW Transporter to purchase for your campervan conversion:

  • Price: The SWB vans are about $2000 cheaper than the LWB.
  • Internal space: 30cm does not seem like a lot, and it isn’t. However in such a small space it does feel like you are in a larger area with this extra 30cm, PLUS you get an additional 30cm wide storage area.
  • Your driving ability: Do you live in the inner city and use your campervan as your everyday vehicle? Think twice about a LWB. Yes it’s only 30cm but this small amount of space makes a world of difference when parallel parking on busy city streets or squeezing into the last spot available at the supermarket carpark.

We’d suggest – take a test drive at your local VW dealer of both the SWB and LWB and do some parallel parking of your own to see if you are comfortable in the larger van.

One last thought – having travelled in both many times, we do love the larger feel of a LWB, especially if you are travelling for extended periods of time in colder weather (and spending longer periods of time ‘living’ inside your campervan. HOWEVER, you will not miss the additional 30cm if you get a SWB.


Thinking of campervanning with a newborn, baby or toddler? Below we detail the main things to keep in mind before you set off!

The weather
Sure, we went camping in winter BEFORE but NOW? If it’s cold once the sun goes down we can’t just escape into the van to continue on the party/board game playing/reading/watch a movie. Such a small space means lights inside must be kept off once babies asleep (7pm!) This means cold weather camping nights are solely to be enjoyed by the fire. Still enjoyable but don’t forget to bring the firewood or you’ll be up for a very early night indeed!

240 volt power
We would never have been caught dead in a caravan park, and paying for power?! HA! WHAT FOR?! I’ll tell you what for:
Being able to heat up milk or snacks easily using the microwave in our van as opposed to getting out the cooker/pot/cooking utensils to heat up half a cupful of food that will most likely not get eaten anyway…

Your neighbours
Not much has changed here, I am well knows to be VERY paranoid about where we park and who our neighbours are. I know nothing can ruin an evening more than loud/drunk/late parrying within earshot. So what’s changed, I am even MORE paranoid about who we park next to as I know it’s not just MY sleep that will be effected when we woken up at 1am by drunk teenagers.

OK we couldn’t afford a LWB, but MAN how that 30cm would have changed our life in that first year. 30cm?! That’s right, the difference between a LWB and SWB – the difference between being able to fit a porta cot in your van and not being able to. Sure we made do by creating a safe sleeping space for baby in the pop top roof bed but (see point above) how we miss the possibility of being able to pull down the roof of a nighttime to avoid outside noise and make the most of Ronny’s wonderful insulation job…

A bottle off wine
To celebrate what a great job you’ve done when said baby/toddler is finally asleep!



This article by RACV ROYAL AUTO MAGAZINE is a MUST REAL for anyone looking to buy a new vehicle!

You’ve up-ended three weekends, trudged from car yard to car yard weeding the great from the not-so-great but finally signed on the dotted line for a shiny new set of wheels. It’s about now most people feel almost instant relief, the stress of getting a good deal on something so expensive is finally over.

Dealing with upselling
But it’s also about now that the upselling begins. Finance, insurance, rust and fabric protection are all on the list of extras that dealerships may offer their customers.
In some cases the dealer will make more money from those add-ons – which can add thousands to how much you’re shelling out – than they will on the car. They’re major profit centres in an era when the earn on the car alone could amount to a few hundred dollars.
“You’ve got to think about the negotiation of those elements just as much as you do with the car,” RMIT Associate Professor of Marketing, Dr Con Stavros says. “There’s no point saving yourself a couple of thousand on the car but then spend that on pure margin for the dealer.”

Do your research
The General Manager of Motoring, Gordon Oakley, says buyers need to put as much energy, research and thought into the extras as they do the purchase of the car.
“Buying a car is quite an exhausting process,” he says. “You research the hell out of the car, you’ve got the price you want then you let the guard down and relax. But that’s not the time to let your guard down and relax.”

Mr Oakley says finance, in particular, is one area buyers can be misled. Temptations of zero per cent interest may seem appealing, but throw in fees and other charges and the cost of the loan can easily escalate.
“It’s not the rate – it’s the monthly payments that are most important,” Mr Oakley says. “People can save themselves thousands [on finance] by shopping around.”
Simplify the process.
Mr Oakley says buyers should negotiate on the car independently of the finance and other extras, all with the aim of simplifying the process.
Tackling people once they’ve decided on a car is part of the sales psychology employed by sales people generally, including car dealers.
“From a sales point of view you want to maximise the price people pay,” says Dr Stavros. “They’re going to try to see where the maximum is you’re going to pay and the consumer is trying to work out what the minimum they can get away with.”
Sales people will often concede some money on the price of the car only to make it up in some other part of the often-complex transaction that is purchasing a vehicle. It’s all part of the negotiation process.

“The art of negotiation is to create a win-win feeling,” Dr Stavros says. “Both parties want to walk away feeling they’ve got something positive out of it. Consumers have to feel like they’ve made some inroads or some kind of progress.”
But he says the rarity with which most people buy cars – generally years between purchases – and the differences in deals between makes, models, time of year, even a particular dealership can make a complex process even more difficult.
“I still think it’s [negotiating] a bit of a black box for most consumers; most don’t really understand how much they can ask for … so it’s a bit scary for a lot of consumers.”
He says much of the sales process involves forming a relationship and building on it in the relatively short time someone is in the dealership.

Build on relationships
“Fundamentally from a psychological perspective we like relationships,” Dr Stavros says. “A good sales person is able to develop a good rapport with their customers.”
He says the better sales people will have “some empathy and understanding for the consumer”.
“Being able to see things through the consumer’s eyes … responsiveness, being able to answer questions and anticipate what those needs are.”
Within that relationship, though, the sales tools are generally being used to maximum effect.
Scarcity is one of those tools. As with other areas of retail, car dealers like to make out a car is rare or a particular deal or limited edition will end soon. Sometimes it will, but other times it’s all about speeding up the sales process.

Accelerating the decision
“That’s a well known psychological concept in marketing,” Dr Stavros says. “If people think a deal is going to expire that forces them to make a decision … it’s an acceleration tool, it’s trying to bring it to a decision point.”
Dr Stavros says as with much of the sales process consumers can get in on the act.
“Consumers can play that same game as well, of course – you see it a lot in real estate,” he says, pointing out that many offers made on apartments or houses come with a use-by date.
Indeed consumers have more power than ever, mainly because of the transparency created by the internet.

Consumers get power back
“We live in an age when a lot of knowledge is available through other sources,” says Dr Stavros. “People can walk into any retail environment … and have a lot of information already. It does give the power back to the consumer … makes them feel more comfortable in the purchase.
“With a little bit of knowledge beforehand they probably know where the high and low points are.”

And, he says, “a good sales person is going to quickly establish what kind of information people have … and move past any stereotypical approaches.”
Speaking of which, are car dealers really as bad as the stereotypes suggest?
“That’s a bit of a hangover from the old days,” says Dr Stavros. “My perception is the good dealerships really want long term relationships.”

Getting a new car is exciting, but it can be easy to get caught up in the euphoria. Here are the new-car buying mistakes to avoid.
Not doing your homework
There’s a mountain of information, comparisons and reviews available at the click of a button, so doing your research is easy. Why wait for a salesman to tell you about a car’s features, when you can get impartial advice elsewhere?
Make a list of what you want and need and look for models that deliver.
Top tip: Determine your budget early and research the cars within that range before you visit the dealership.

Urgency puts the power into the dealer’s hands. Visit multiple dealerships so you can speak to more than one person about price and – even when you’ve found an offer you like – don’t be afraid to tell the salesperson you’ll think about it.
They may offer you a once-off deal to buy then and there, but removing yourself from the pressure and hype could help you see more clearly. Take a friend for support and for a dispassionate opinion. They may be able to give you a reality check if you get caught up in the excitement.

Top tip: Remember, you have the upper hand – there’ll always be cars on the market and people who want to sell them to you.

Feature creep
‘Feature creep’ is the tendency for optional bells and whistles to suddenly seem like essentials – usually thanks to a salesperson.
If you’ve decided you’re happy with cloth seats, for example, don’t be talked into a leather upgrade unless it’s within your budget.
Further, optional extras – such as rustproofing, extended warranties or paint and fabric protection – often aren’t worth the money or are cheaper elsewhere.
Top tip: Stick to your budget and your list of what you actually want.

Test drive failure
The test drive is critical, so don’t feel like you need to rush. Make sure you try a range of manoeuvres to get a feel for the vehicle.
Perform a U-turn, try reversing, and test driving on back streets and main roads. If possible, drive to places you’d normally go and, if you use child seats, make sure you can fit them easily.
It’s also important to test drive a car that has the same – or similar – specifications to the model you want; there’s no point testing a top-of-the-range variant with a different engine and suspension if you’re looking to buy the base model.
Top tip: Aim for a 20-minute test drive that covers a range of driving experiences.

Not understanding the price
In 2009, laws were introduced to ensure all compulsory charges associated with a new car – such as dealer fees, registration and stamp duty – are included in the advertised drive-away price.
So, the price you see slapped across the windscreen of a new car might be the worst case scenario. For example, it could be based on the most expensive rego costs in the country or could include costs that relate only to business buyers. Remember that while it says ‘driveaway’ price, you’re still able to negotiate.
Top tip: Make sure you ask for an itemised quote to find out what you’re really paying for and remember you can negotiate.

Not reading the paperwork
Paperwork is critical. Read everything before signing and question anything that’s missing or seems off. Ensure any deposit you’ve paid is in the contract. A purchase deposit may commit you to buying the car and may be non-refundable; however, a holding contract may simply ensure a vehicle is not sold to someone else. There’s no set amount for a deposit, so it’s important both parties are clear on the terms. Ask when they expect your car will be ready for pick-up and write on the contract that it’s subject to delivery by that date.
Top tip: Only sign when you’re satisfied. Keep a copy of the contract.

When buying a new car, insurance is often one of the last things people think of. It is vital that you organise insurance before picking up the vehicle – there are plenty of stories about people who have collected their new vehicle, only to be in a crash on the way home.
Top tip: Make sure you have insurance cover for your new vehicle by contacting your insurer in plenty of time. Also, if you are trading in your old vehicle, make sure you have insurance on the vehicle up until you have signed it over to the dealership/new owner. Having an accident while uninsured can be very costly.

The compliance plate trap
All cars come stamped with a build date and a compliance plate. The build plate tells you when a vehicle was manufactured; the compliance plate signifies when it was certified for sale in Australia – usually a few months later. The value of your car will be based on the build date so make sure this is the same year as the model you agreed to buy. If not, you could you be paying more for a car that should be valued lower, and you’ll lose money when you sell, as the car will have depreciated more than expected.
Top tip: Check the build date, which is located under the bonnet, and ensure the car is priced accordingly.

Not checking the car
When you get your vehicle, inspect it closely to make sure there aren’t any faults – if you don’t notice something then and there, making a claim later could be hard. Also check the car is the model you agreed on and meets the specifications you purchased.
Top tip: Even though you’re getting a brand new car, it’s still important to check that everything is in order and that there aren’t any scratches before driving off the lot.

Camping Spot Review – Blackwood Mineral Springs Campground

The TINY town of Blackwood has a surprising number of things going for it – beautiful old buildings and cottages, a lovely cosy local pub (a 5 minute walk from the campground), a cute general store with great coffee, snacks and wood fired pizza plus live music on Friday nights (also only 5 minutes walk away), mineral springs, a beautiful open garden and best of all it’s the perfect distance for a weekend away.

Location – Blackwood is a 1 hour 15 minutes drive from Melbourne or Geelong and is 30 minutes from Daylesford and 10 minutes from Trentham (which desserves it’s own blog altogether, and well worth the drive in itself).

The campground – Although there is a standard campground setup area we chose to camp in the ‘bush camping’ spot (one of two). These were absolutely wonderful. Protected, private, grassy, and with your own very clean toilets. Best of all the bush camping spots are only a 2 minute walk from the picturesque watering hole and mineral springs.

The camping spot with our van 

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The beautiful watering hole

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The campervan set up




What is this? That’s a great question! :>

4Motion is the fancy name for VW’s all-wheel-drive feature in the Transporter.

In their own words “the Transporter 4Motion model is an all-wheel-drive system which will give extra grip and stability, especially in wet or off-road conditions.”

Mechanical Differential Lock or ‘Diff Lock”: This is an additional feature available on 4Motion Transporters. If you have ‘Diff Lock’ you can press a button when you are in difficult off-road conditions and it will make starting up the car and getting out of the ‘difficult condition’ much easier. In other words, it will stop you getting bogged.

Our opinion: Yes, the 4Motion function will give you more freedom to drive off road and confidence when the road you are on starts looking worse and worse around each passing bend. HOWEVER…The 4Motion will NOT allow you to drive like a 4 Wheel Drive. You cannot do river crossings or drive to your hearts wild abandon. Having said that if you do want to drive rough in your van a SWB is better and a ‘Diff Lock’ will help you make the most out of the 4Motion capacity.

Is it a necessity? Definitely not. It’s great for your driving confidence – are you on a road that is starting to get sandier and sandier? You won’t have to turn around as quickly.

Some things to keep in mind: If you make your mind up you want a 4Motion there will most likely be a wait… you are unlikely to find a used 4Motion and a new T6 4Motion will most likely be a factory order from Germany which take about 5 months (at the time of writing however it may be a shorter lead time in the future).

The 4Motion feature is only available with the larger TDI400 engine. (see my previous blogs for an explanation on what TDI400 means).


We recently had the pleasure of camping in Forrest for a long weekend. We stayed one night in each camping spot to check them both out.

The Town – Forrest has enough attractions for a weekend away:

  • Lake Elizabeth, a nice easy walk around the majestic lake.
  • Lots of hiking trails.
  • Mountain biking rails. This is why we were there and from the looks of things why 99% of other people camping were there too. Apparently Forrest is a mountain biking mecca.
  • The Brewery: has GREAT beers and nice food and coffees too. Lovely comfy couches and lots of magazines help if the weather’s bad and you need to kill some time.
  • The ‘general store’ or café across the road from the Brewery had some nice home made pies, cakes and gifts.

The Campgrounds – From our research we ascertained 3 camping options in/around Forrest.

  • One was a very isolated bush camping area called ‘goat track road camping area’. After asking locals and trying to work out if we could make it to check the campground out we decided it was most likely a 4Wheel drive track so not suitable for our campervan.
  • The first night (a Thursday night in April, school holidays and very nice weather) we decided to check out Stephenson’s falls, which is a beautiful waterfall but also National Park camping. They say 50 spots on the website but it was more like 20, and FULL. We were extremely surprised by how busy it was as we arrived at midday so were lucky to get a spot but many many cars rolled in later in the day and missed out. This spot we would rate as O.K. The spots were not that private or amazing and there wasn’t much to do there besides the short walk to Stephenson’s Falls. We also had some rowdy teenagers playing loud music which always ruins things!

Forrest Stevensons Falls

  • The second night (the Friday night) we stayed at The Wonky Stable’s campground which is in the centre of Forrest. We didn’t even know a campground in Forrest existed and ALWAYS favour national park camping over paid campgrounds but in this instance the campground was better! It was fairly empty and had a lovely view over rolling hills. Fire pits for each campsite and good hot showers plus a new camp kitchen were handy, as was the 2 minute walk to the local pub (average) or a 5 minute walk to the Brewery.

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The Location – Only about an hour from Geelong or Torquay and 2 hours from Melbourne.

Campervan pop top roofs – the difference between the European style and Vertical lifter

A question we get asked very often about campervan pop top roofs: why do you use the ‘European style’ pop top roof and what are the advantages of this type of roof compared to the vertical lifter style roof which is still commonly used in Australia.

There are two main reasons why we believe the European style roof is a much superior product:

  1. It is not ‘spring loaded’ (like the vertical lifter), but fitted with gas struts. This means we can tailor the difficulty of pulling down and up the roof to each client’s strength by letting in or out some gas to adjust the pressure.
  2. The gas struts do not make a sound when you are driving, as opposed to the springs on a vertical lifter which clang while driving.

Need more proof? Look around…the leaders in Campervan manufacturing and the big campervan markets are in the United Kingdom and Europe. They stopped using the vertical lifters 20 years ago. Volkswagen and Mercedes also have their own brand of campervan (not yet availbale in Australia but possibly soon!), the ‘California’ and ‘Marco Polo’ respectively, both also use the European style pop top roofs, and are at the forefront of auto innovation.

European pop top roof

European pop top roof