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The Caravan reports on Road and Site Test no. 193
ECCLES SAPPHIRE Winter sports version tested
Eccles Saphire

GONE ARE THE DAYS when tour­ ing caravans were used only for summer holidays, and spent the winter laid up in the garden. As caravan insulation and heating improves, so the season is extended further into the cold winter months. Interest in winter sports of all kinds has increased over the past few years and many up-until-now sum­ mer only caravanners, frightened of the inevitable high hotel bills at ski resorts, have started to take their caravans with them. Eccles have realised that people need more than an ordinary caravan to live in comfort in sub-zero conditions, and have developed a fully insulated version of the Sapphire which is designed both to keep the cold out when winter sporting, and the heat out if holidaying in hot countries is contemplated.
From outside, the Winter Sports Sapphire looks the same as the Standard 1967 Sapphire. The Eccles treatment of the front end with the large protruding bay window is the same as in previous years. The second colour flash which used to pick out the side windows has gone and is replaced by a wood-grain waistband which runs right round the van and incorporates a series of vents in the rear wall. The large grab handles are black stove enamelled and are in keeping with the square angular treatment of the body shape. The roof has been redesigned and strengthened to withstand the weight of snow which the Winter Sport can expect to encounter, and this has resulted in a reduction of one inch in the overall height. Guttering runs along both sides of the roof, and there is a complete awning rail on the near side running from floor level. Two doors are provided, one of which is of the glazed, stable type.
The only exterior difference between the standard Sapphire and the Winter Sports is a four-inch high flue on the roof. Inside, however, the differences are more marked. There is an effective Chaud-Car gas heater, and Perspex double glazing on all windows except the toilet room, the door, and the small Perspex side lights in the bay at the front. The efficiency of the double glazing was most noticeable first thing in the morning when there was no trace of conden­ sation on any of the windows. No amount of inspection short of removing part of the floor will reveal the last major difference between the Sapphire and Winter Sport. The floor is fully insulated. As with the Sapphire, the walls and roof are insulated with Fibreglass, but the floor has a layer of ex­panded polystyrene as the main insulation material, with a pro­ tective covering of hardboard.
The interior styling, although not new to Eccles is still way ahead of many of their competitors. The mattresses are fluted and in con­trasting oatmeal and deep choco­ late colour. The up-to-date styling is further illustrated by the use of white pvc covering for walls, ceiling and furniture with afror mosia veneer for all interior doors and drawers and the pelmets. A preponderance of light colours often makes a room seem very cold, but this tendency has been avoided in the Winter Sports by the use of bright, warm-coloured cur­ tains, with an abstract, modernistic design, in keeping with the rest of the van. The wardrobe and clothing cupboard doors do not extend to the floor. Below them the units are cut back about Sin. This does not add appreciably to the floor space but is all part of the basic design to give a feeling of space and light to the caravan. Sleeping accommo­dation is for four with the forward dinette forming two single beds, and a pull-out double amidships on the off side. The second door towards the front of the van on the offside necessitates one of the singles being shortened by day. To convert it into a full size single bed, a slatted extension which forms part of the bedding locker top is pulled out, the mattress being made up by two small biscuit arm rests. On the test van, the extension was found to be particularly stiff. The same principle of the latticed extension is used to convert the long day seat into a double bed. This principle serves a double purpose of saving weight and allowing the mattresses to breathe so that they do not hold condensation.
The bedding lockers are a good size and are ventilated to the interior, but the test team were surprised to find that the lids were hinged against the wall and did not allow for the mattress to be stood on its side whilst the lid was open. Either the mattress had to be re­moved completely, or squashed behind the lid. This no doubt contributed greatly to one of the lid hinges pulling away from the framing, although the half inch screws used to fasten the hinge would hardly seem adequate. The long padded backrests which give ample support when sitting at the table are removable at night so that full use can be made of the width of the beds. The one-sided mattresses were a good compromise in density and seemed to suit every member of the test team.
At mealtimes, the dinette will accommodate four with reasonable comfort although the large table does not allow very easy access. The melamine-topped table hooks on to the side of a top-opening bottle store, which, together with the flat ledge afforded by the bay window, makes up a fairly large flat surface. Hooking on the table is sometimes difficult. The fixing lugs are not easy to engage, the table is not very light, and it is difficult to see exactly what is going on. This resulted in one member of the test team denting the woodwork in the front of the bottle locker with a corner of the table. Once the table is properly erected, it is secure enough for most purposes.
A caravan of this type must be expected to get fairly hard treat­ ment, with people walking around in boots, carrying winter sporting equipment. Some of the veneered panelling could be more robust. Considerations of weight are im­ portant particularly with all the extra equipment included in this model, but slightly thicker ply probably would not add appre­ ciably to the 18i cwt overall weight of the van.

eccles interior

Storage space for clothes and personal items is adequate, bearing in mind that extra sweaters take up a lot of room. The wardrobe will accommodate most of a family's coats and jackets, but access to the clothes at the back is difficult because the hanging rail runs from front to back. This is a criticism by no means confined to this van, but there seems to be no reason here why the rail should not run from side to side. A certain amount of heat reaches the wardrobe from the adjoining heater flue and helps to keep clothes aired. The wheel arch protrudes into the wardrobe but does not reduce hanging space unduly.
The other principal storage place for clothes is a tall five-shelved cupboard beside the rear door. The shelves are only 15in by 16in but there is adequate space be­ tween them. The push button catches on all the interior doors are effective but sometimes did not engage through being very new. They should be better with use. Roof lockers run the full width of the front and rear walls, and the fronts hinge down below the horizontal so that even quite a short person can see in easily. The nylon catches are stiff, but once shut, there was no danger of the lockers falling open. Boots and shoes were stored in the toilet room and in a fall-front locker below the bottle store. The locker contains a moulded plastic rack which not only holds shoes securely but prevents the surrounding area from being soiled by dirty shoes.
There is a limited amount of storage space on top of the war­ drobe unit, but great care had to be taken to ensure that no items were put near the flue which runs between the wardrobe and cup­ board. There was not only a danger of scorching, but small articles could fall down beside the flue and could not be retrieved without dismantling the wire mesh panel on the front of the unit. A cover of some sort is needed to prevent this happening.
The toilet room is ample in size and will accommodate the table when it is not wanted. There is plenty of light by day from a frosted glass window in the rear wall, and a similar glass panel in the door allows light to enter from inside the van at night. Ventilation is through a glazed louvre in the top of the window. There is a fall- front roof locker on the rear wall. Two coat hooks are provided for hanging wet anoraks.
The kitchen which is across the rear end of the caravan comprises a Calor Gas B600 cooker with a fall-front locker below, and a sink and drainer unit with a drawer and two cupboards below. There is a full width roof locker with a small shelf below for crockery and other small items. When cooking there is ample working surface but if the sink is in use as well, work surface is in short supply. The double- hinged sink top arrangement can be seen in the photographs.
The cooker top arrangement i» unsatisfactory. An aluminium flap is the only means of support, and it rests rather precariously behind the cooker. If it is acciden­ tally knocked or the wind blows the curtain the working top will fall on to the cooker, and could well cause a serious accident. A simple clip would be all that is needed to hold the top up securely. The aluminium flap protects the curtain adequately, but it seems unneces­ sary to have two curtains in the kitchen window. Curtains are inflammable, and if only one were used, it could be drawn well out of the way of the cooker, and so lessen even further the chance of accidental ignition.
The divided cutlery drawer below the drainer is a plastic moulding with a veneered front, and the same type of moulding is used to provide a small soap tray at the side of the sink. The cupboard below the cutlery drawer is designed to take an Electrolux LM10 fridge. Both cupboards below the sink unit are ventilated to the outside and to each other, and the fridge cupboard is also ventilated into the toilet room. Light in the kitchen area is good, as there is a large window and a light on the toilet room wall. Ventilation, however is no more than adequate. As sources of heat loss have been eliminated as far as possible by the use of double glazing and full insulation, so no roof vents have been provided, as they are obviously considerable wasters of heat. No high level ventilation of any kind is provided in the kitchen area, and the only means of escape for cooking fumes is through the glazed louvre top of the rear window. This is hardly high enough to take away all the fumes, and the top half of the adjacent stable door often had to be opened to clear the atmosphere. All the windows with the exception of the large bay at the front and the glass panel in the stable door have louvred tops. Those in the kitchen and toilet room windows are glazed, and the others are purely vents. The temperature can be regulated to within a degree or two by adjusting the louvres and the gas fire. It is rarely necessary to open the windows to keep the van at the desired temperature.
None of the test team had ever used the Chaud-Car heater installed in a caravan, and it was only after a considerable amount of fiddling that it would ignite. Since the flame is completely enclosed, lighting by a match is not possible. There is a small magneto which, when a wire is pulled, discharges a spark over the gas supply ; propane is used because butane will not produce sufficient pressure at low temperatures. The size of the gap which the spark jumps is critical, and only when it is adjusted properly will the fire light. The gap seemed to alter when the van was being towed, and it was necessary to adjust it when first on site. The fire draws its oxygen from outside and the fumes and heated air pass through a series of finned pipes before being discharged to the outside via the flue. None of the air used for combustion, or the fumes from the fire enter the cara­ van itself, so it is perfectly safe to leave it on continuously. The fire has two burners, an ordinary and a booster. If both were on full, the temperature in the van rose to the seventies in a very short time. It is still possible however, for the van to be unbearably hot at head height, and chilly below the knees.
During the test in the Cairn­ gorms, the temperature in the van never fell below fifty even with the fire running as low as possible. The temperature outside, however was unusually high for the time of year, and never fell below freezing, so it was impossible to test the fire under really arduous conditions. Eccles themselves, however, conducted a test in the cold chamber at the Motor Industry Research Assoc­ iation. With the heater full on, the temperature inside the van was raised from -10°C to 58°F in 20 minutes. The temperature out­ side remained at -10°C throughout. This is an astonishing performance but one we can well believe.
On the rare occasions when the fire was turned up high during strong winds, a low-pitched re­ sonance was set up which could be heard some distance away. This was probably due to bad cowl design, and may even have been a phenomenon peculiar to this one installation. The fireguard and mesh front to the flue space were rather crudely made and care had to be taken not to catch clothing on them.
The general light colour of the interior helps to augment the artificial light which comprises two Morco No 2 gas lights and a 3w electric light just inside the nearside door. The curtain material is very much in keeping with the modern design of the interior, but their operation is somewhat stiff. Strainer wires are used for all curtains except the partition, and there is no overlap on some of the windows. They are retained by fabric straps, one of which came away from the window surround.
One of the most notable features of the van is the ease with which it is kept clean. The floor is covered in felt-backed Vynolay which is not only warm but washable, and the walls are lined with Stormur which is a washable vinyl. The interior roof panelling was of a pvc-coated hardboard.
The test van was found to be appreciably heavier than the manu­ facturers state, but despite an ex-works weight of 15cwt, and a loaded weight of 21cwt, it behaved very well behind a Volvo 122S. There was no view-through at all. A tendency to waver slightly when approaching corners downhill may well have been due to the fairly strong winds encountered and to the fact that the van was above Volvo's recommended weight limit for that car. Despite the weight, a track speed of 70mph was recorded, with a nose weight of l¼cwt. When the nose weight was taken, there was no gas cylinder on the drawbar, but there was a 100lb cylinder over the axle.
The weather conditions on test were not as severe as were expected, and so it was impossible to test the special winter sports specification to the full. It is plain, however that a high standard of comfort could be maintained in almost any conditions which Scottish or Alpine weather might produce.

Data Sheet
"Reproduced from an article in the October 1963 issue of The Caravan"

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