An outdoor sports enthusiast has turned his passion for life on the wild side into a business converting run of the mill cars and vans into life-changing adventure vehicles.
Tommy Chamings started Simple Camper Vans in Caernarfon after friends admired the conversion job he’d done on his old Peugeot Partner and asked him to do the same for them – the fold-out kit converts into a sleeping platform and a seating area with a table.
The Sheffield University mechanical engineering graduate from Llandudno now has bespoke designs for over 20 different vehicles and with starting prices at £299 no shortage of demand.
That’s no surprise with the average camper van selling at over £40,000 brand new and even 10-year-old models going for over £20,000 that adds up to a massive saving
He is stepping up production now after hiring a 40-foot storage unit at the new Lock Stock Self Storage Park on Caernarfon’s Cibyn Industrial Estate, just a hundred metres from his workshop.
He said: “Simple Camper Vans does exactly what it says on the tin – we provide simple, well-engineered, easy to install and reasonably priced conversions that can turn small vans and SUVs into campers.
“I was keen on kite-surfing and I ran an outdoor sports shop in Llandudno Junction and I wanted a vehicle that I could camp out in so I built a removable camper van conversion module to turn my Peugeot car into a camper van for kite-surfing trips.
“It had a sleeping and living area, which could then be installed and removed in minutes and stowed in the boot to return the vehicle to its original five-seater configuration for everyday use.”
Tommy is still a practical user of his conversion, using it for rock climbing trips along with partner Ania and heading off to Europe for long stays when the business slows in autumn.
Lock Stock Storage Park Manager Tony Jones said: “It’s a very impressive operation because the modules Tommy makes are quick to install and take down and they stow away flat.
“I worked in the construction industry for 18 years and I can see the quality of the materials and the finish and they really do offer a simple conversion.
“The storage unit works well for Tommy as well because there’s 24/7 access to the site so he can take deliveries at any time of the day or night and his workshop is just down the road – it’s perfect.”
The 2,560 square foot Lock Stock storage unit is currently packed with the high quality cushions Tommy uses for the sleeping and seating areas and the rest of the kit is similarly top end.
He uses 12mm birch plywood, second only to marine plywood in quality, metal hinges made by a German manufacturer for concert grand pianos and TIMco screws – because unlike cheaper screws, the heads are almost impossible to destroy – and absolutely no glue.
It adds up to removable conversions which can be easily fitted and just as easily folded down and stored compactly in the boot of a range of vehicles which includes Citroens, Fiats, Peugeots, Renaults, Vauxhalls, Volkswagens and Skodas.
He said: “The models are CNC machined with sleeping areas and pop-up tables and they even come with optional cushion sets and they’re spirit-level flat because you don’t want to be rolling or sliding about when you’re asleep.
“Right now we have over 20 different templates which will suit right or left-hand drive vehicles and they’re very well made but highly customisable.”
“The business works because while I can fit them here in Caernarfon I can also ship them anywhere and the customer will be able to install the module easily themselves.
“The business had reached the stage where we needed more space for storing the materials and the Lock Stock unit means we can scale up production and take on additional staff.
“The use of a second container at Lock Stock Caernarfon would be perfect for us because their storage park is on the Cibyn Estate where we’re already based and it would mean we could carry enough stock to increase production and take the business to the next level.”
The Caernarfon site was added to Lock Stock’s 18 existing storage parks at Holyhead, Bangor, Llandudno Junction and Rhyl on the North Wales Coast, on the Dee at Flint, Sandycroft and Saltney, and inland at the Colomendy Industrial Estate in Denbigh, Mold, Wrexham and Newtown in Powys, and at Oswestry and Shrewsbury in Shropshire.
As well as offering units to hire on their sites they sell a range of used and new containers delivered by their specialist lorry – they also sell fireworks at Chester, and Llandudno Junction all year, seasonally at Denbigh, Rhyl, Shrewsbury and Wrexham, and on-line.