A simple request for a room with a view resulted in unique engineering to create a shower that’s hot enough to take your breath away.
Tim Scott Images Sam Rees-Jones
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When Nick Sinclair, the owner of this superb vehicle, approached Nick Reed of Xcentrix campervans to build it for him, Mr Sinclair had a very firm vision of what he wanted. He wanted a campervan that comprised everything one would need for long periods on the road but in a style that didn’t resemble a traditional conversion.
He didn’t want lots of visible accessories, and certainly didn’t want holes cut in the Mercedes-Benz Sprinter’s panels either. What he did want, though, was when lying in bed, an uninterrupted view out of all the camper’s windows.
If you think about all the self-contained campervans that you’ve ever seen one feature stands higher than the rest and that’s the bathroom. Clever conversions can secrete all manner of innovations away behind panelling, but a full height shower? That’s indeed a tall order. We’ll get to that a bit later.
A practical man, Nick Sinclair ordered the Sprinter in a MWB format for manoeuvrability on- and off-road – it’s a 4X4, too – and ease of parking. It’s a high-roof variant with 300mm over standard, and has a optional feature that allows the rear doors to be unhinged and folded back against the side panels, providing superb rear access. The rear door opening is fitted with insect screens from Top Gear to Go.
At the opposite end, the Mercedes-Benz drivetrain is a proven 3.0-litre V6 turbo-diesel with 140kW and 440Nm that’s exploited via the superb seven-speed auto gearbox. At the time of writing Nick Reed was dealing with M-B Germany to have the van retro-certified for a 3.88t GVM upgrade. The certification regulations changed during the build so that it’s no longer a simple trip to an engineer to have a GVM increased or reduced. Having driven Nicks’ vehicle we agree with them that there’s no need for the leaf-springs to be up-specced as may be specified as part of the process as the Sprinter behaved perfectly in its new weight and format. In the driver’s cabin it’s as Mercedes sent it from the factory although Nick Sinclair bemoaned the fact that factory won’t supply the Euro-Spec heated seats to Australia. The front pews’ swivelling is the extent of their antics.
Behind them, though, is where a world away from factory thinking takes place. Taking a leaf from Collyn Rivers, a theme was to build below window height to maximise vision. With two large windows on either side the van is well lit despite the glass being heavily tinted – part security, part practicality.
A black polished finish table top folds up from the wall in front of the third occupant seat that forms a basic dining option when the seats are swivelled. However, the table has a neat, swing-out extension that brings the front passenger seat to the meal space, too. Two 240V power points are installed above a narrow shelf along the window line, so the table can be used as a work station.
Above this setting, in the first of several beautifully formed light timber ply overhead lockers is the control panel. The gauges for water tank levels and all switchgear is contained here. This covers the inverter, safety switches, Webasto diesel heater, water pump, Dingo solar charge regulator, slide-out, and DC outlets. Wait. Slide-out? Hmmm.
The van body was thoroughly lined with Rockwool insulation, foam or thermal sheeting to maintain as comfy an environment as possible. The most obvious aperture in the vehicle is the side sliding door that is optioned with the remote open/close action operated via the ignition key fob. On most Sprinter campers it’s the coolest remote control function this side of a fully-automatic awning – this one is manual, by the way – but on this van it’s superseded by most unexpected installation.
On the off-side wall, opposite the matching black benchtop that surrounds the Dometic single burner fuel stove and hot-cold sink, is a wide expanse of useful bench space. In itself, perfectly adaptable to anyone’s use but at the touch of the slide-out button we just mentioned a remarkable operation takes place.
The benchtop rises electronically upon a steel slider to reveal a full-height shower. The cubicle has solid walls, too, and a half-height door in the front that’s closed off with an internal shower curtain when in use. There are full domestic chrome fittings within, even LED lighting, and plenty of room to move. This bathroom is augmented by the initially unseen installation of a composting toilet on the left-hand side. Push the button once more and the whole unit collapses to become a beautiful piece of furniture; simply a stunning concept, design
Nick Reed said that by asking to have the composting toilet incorporated Nick S actually helped ease a very complicated design process as the lack of traditional plumbing avoided complicated work around the wheel arch area.
We’ve tagged this vehicle as a dream RV as that’s what it is. It’s Nick’s. Mr Sinclair brought the shower and toilet idea to the brief, along with lots of hardware he’d collected to begin the build with another outfit (ill health brought that to an early halt) which gave Nick Reed not the easiest of take up points in the project. While Nick is a skilled cabinet maker, and has crafted a three-drawer stack under the bed that opens out into the gangway – the bottom drawer acts as a step
to the bed – along with the comprehensive storage beneath the kitchen, he’s been totally receptive to the less than traditional fabrications required to hold the other items on Nick Sinclair’s design wish list.
By insisting on the Webasto diesel heat accumulator (positioned at the rear of the vehicle) hot water and DHA heating system for efficiency, the practicality was two-fold. There was no need to allow for gas storage – and no holes required for cubbies or vents, and Nick doesn’t want to sleep in a vehicle containing gas. The fridge, that opens out into the side entry doorway (so it can also be reached from outside) breathes via the airspace in the door well. Again, so there’s little clue on the Sprinter’s external bodywork that living quarters lay within the clean crisp white lines.
On the roof, you’d be hard pushed to notice the solar panel array and the 12V Rencool air-conditioner mounted surreptitiously with an alloy protective casing. Did I hear the work sleeper mentioned? We guess this vehicle is the very definition of the word.
And the queen-size bed, from which Nick is to enjoy his uninterrupted view is placed east-west and has very generous storage beneath in the form of two deep, timber roller drawers for containment and an open area to accommodate larger items. The bed also hinges and can be stowed upright so that there’s room to carry items such as bikes, etc. A rack would require attaching items to the outside.
With installing the 200-watt solar system to feed the lithium battery of 400 amp hour rating, and run the 12V aircon, plus by using the composting toilet, the camper is prepared for long periods of self-sufficient travel.
A heavy-duty Mercedes 220 amp alternator has been installed and with a 120 amp Sterling DC to DC charger Nick reckons that his minimal solar array will never leave the lithium battery wanting.
Fresh/grey water storage of 110/65 litres (in stainless steel tanks) and the use of a single burner fuel stove will further reduce the need to call into civilisation to re-stock. Incidentally, a spare wheel attaches to the rear step towbar arrangement.
You can’t help but be immpressed by this conversion. Obviously the shower is the star of the show, but this is a self contained 4X4 camper full
We got the feeling that Nick Sinclair was a man on a mission with the dream behind this vehicle. It’s a dream that’s been excellently interpreted by the vision and technical adaptability of his namesake, Nick, at Xcentrix Campervans.
- Proven base engineering
- Unique bathroom
- Attention to detail
- Minimised environmental impact
- Storage capacity
- Lack of diesel cooker
(but that’s just us)
- Custom isn’t cheap