This Mercedes Benz Sprinter Conversion from frontline is just a little bit different to the rest. Frontlines latest campervan makes a change from the usual Toyota Hiace by converting the front-bonnet Toyota SBV van.
STORY AND PHOTOGRAPHY BY MALCOM STREET
There are several things we like about the Mercedes-Sprinter: it’s easy to drive and maneuver; it’s large enough to be comfortable; and it’s small enough to get around easily. So it’s not surprising the frontline team have added a Sprinter to their motorhome and campervan range.
Most of the sprinters we’ve driven have been packing the Mercedes Sprintshift gearbox. It’s a cluchless gearbox that can be driven either as a full automatic or by manually changing gears.
However, frontlines jobbie had a five-speed manual gearbox. Forget about long-levered, truck-like gear changes – the gear-change lever is a short stubby item on the dashboard and the clutch is feather light.
The seating position in the sprinter is far superior to other vans, allowing you to sit above the rest of the traffic. All the relevant gauges and instruments are in front of the driver, but being of European extraction, the sprinter’s indicator wand is on the left and the wiper controls are on the right.
For engine capacity (2.15 litre), the turbo-diesel is good little performer. Another feature of the Sprinter design (of special interest to motorhomes) is the ease with which one can climb from the front rare of the van.
Speaking of the rear. Frontline have opted for a dinette/bed across the rear of the van with a kitchen bench along the nearside. Behind the driver’s seat is a shower/toilet cubicle; between that and the rear bed is a second dinette.
The inclusion of the second dinette means that the rear bed can be left made up all the time. Another feature, something not seen on other campervans, is a sliding door that only opens half way. This means the kitchen bench can be made longer, which is never a bad thing.
There’s plenty of window space, and with shower/toilet cubicle at the front of the van, the layout has a spacious feel. All the opening windows have flyscreens, and all windows are tinted.
General cupboards and an locker space is good except for kitchen, which only has two cupboards and overhead locker.
Starting from the front, the bench is angled back to allow easy access. It has a two-burner stove, a microwave and three drawers underneath the bench. No grill though.
The three-way fridge sits between the stove and stainless-steel sink. Given the amount of bench space, the drainage area of sink is rather small. Under the sink is a single cutlery drawer and two-shelf cupboard.
Like some larger motorhomes, there is a choice of two places to dine, depending, of course, on weather you choose to make up the bed each night.
The rear dinette can be swiveled around but can only be used with the long side across the van, otherwise it’s very difficult to get in and out. Together with a piece of ply hidden under the seat, the table is used to form part of the bed. The table for smaller dinette simply lifts out and slides out of the way when not required. All the seat cushions are flat, high density foam.
Under all seat areas are the usual storage compartments. However, part of that is taken up by the gas hot-water heater (nearside the seat), battery and battery charger (offside rear seat) and two 4kg gas cylinders (rear seat of small dinette). The rear-seat storage areas have lockers, accessible only when the rear doors are open.
Like other manufacturers, Frontline has used one-piece fiberglass unit for the shower with a frosted glass door. Inside is the usual flexible hand-held jobbie and Thetford cassette toilet.
On the road, the shower hose banged about behind my head, which I found annoying; however, wrapping it around the hose fitting a couple of times solved the problem.
In the cabinet beside the sliding door is a small electrical control panel that contains fuses for lights, water pump and general 12V electrics. There’s also a gauge for checking battery charge. At the opposite end of kitchen bench is a water-level indicator.
Lighting is all 12V, with twin mini-florescent above the dinette; it also has recessed halogens above the dinette, sink and stove and a halogen reading light above the rear seat.
Power points are located in a locker above the offside dinette and at the rear end of the kitchen bench. Given the length of the kitchen bench, a power point above the window might have been more appropriate, otherwise electrical cords will be trailing behind the kitchen sink.
There are quite a few Sprinter conversions getting around and frontline have opted to be slightly different by including a second dinette. It’s a great idea and means you don’t have to make the bed every night. The Eclipse adds to the selection of small motorhomes or larger campervans (depending on your point of view) that are appearing in the marketplace at the present time and goes one better.