Replacing a Regent L… with another!

The decision to exchange our 1998 Regent L (a two berth version with no drop down bed) created a problem. Finding a suitable replacement? We wanted, if possible, to have a la strada conversion on a Mercedes base. The owner of Gerulip had made it clear that they would “ride into the sunset with her”. This ruled out the latest Regent L so we considered it’s predecessor the CDi version introduced in 2004, which moved away from the ingenious bed/bench concept. The 2004 version had a fairly short production run because Mercedes decided to alter the Sprinter. This must have caused La Strada quite a few problems as the change in dimensions necessitated a complete re-think of the design although the basic layout remained the same.

Regent Mark 1 had a large kitchen and no bed in the roof space. Janet, who is most definitely head of the culinary department, was concerned about the relatively small kitchen and we both had concerns about bed accessibility as the years fly past with ever increasing speed. However, the pro’s outweighed the cons, and we decided to keep an eye out for a suitable van of this type. In March I was talking to Mike Williams and he casually remarked that there was a Regent L in the West Country Motorhomes showroom. The next day, having established that the van was the type we were looking for, we visited WCM and agreed a deal.

After 23 nights in “was for us” (the registration number is WA54 RZG) our doubts regarding both kitchen and bed have been allayed. Although small, the kitchen which has several surfaces next to the sink/hob for putting things on, has proved to be sufficient for our needs. The two steps incorporated into the kitchen fitments provide easy access to the bed. Having reached the bed the next question is – do you then turn round in order to sleep with feet to the front or do you simply continue head first down the bed and sleep the other way round? The location of the two spot lights at the rear end of the bed and the fact that head room at the front end is slightly less than it is at the back suggested that we should sleep with our feet to the front. However, having spoken to others who have faced this dilemma, we decided to defy logic and sleep with our heads at the cab end. Not only is it easier to enter but it also easier to get out. The lack of a reading light was not that important and could be remedied by the installation of two recessed spots at the front end if necessary. Having accessed the bed aided by the interior lights, J found that she could operate the main light switch on the control panel with her toe – problem solved! (Someone once said that every article in the van should serve at least 3 purposes – this obviously qualifies as one).

In all other respects the “new” van has proved to be eminently suitable for our purposes. The handling and performance are an improvement on Regent Mark 1, the short gear shift is easier to use, storage is unexpectedly good, and the bed is an absolute delight. It was our intention to have a smaller table rather than leave the large table which comes with the van in position. However, we soon decided that the design of the table with offset leg support and sliding device makes it so easy to adjust that we keep it in place most of the time. Incidentally there is a dedicated storage space for the table top to one side of the wardrobe. For a reason the logic of which defies me, Janet likes to lay the breakfast table the night before and she regards it as being a great improvement that she can now do this in the new van. For my part I can enjoy the pleasure of the lounge when rising at an early hour.

While admiring the extensive modifications carried out by Stewart in his “Silver Dream Machine“, we have no plans for modifications of this scale. So far my D.I.Y. efforts have been limited to opening up a small storage space in the boot (an idea pinched from two other members) and the fitting of a batten to the floor under the wash basin to retain two plastic storage boxes on the floor – the more adventurous could fit a cupboard under the basin. I have also had the temerity to remove the curtain from the track over the window in the sliding door to the nearside.. Earlier examples of this model retained the larger fixed window which was similar to that installed in our first Regent L. It would appear that when la strada decided to use the smaller window (complete with a blind) for standardisation purposes, the fact that a curtain was now unnecessary was overlooked. In a slightly more recent edition of our new van, the lack of the need for the curtain was recognised and the track and curtain were omitted. One can spend a long time, simply looking at la strada’s and noting the small changes made as ideas develop.

Although the removal of the side section of the “L” shaped bench seat, would create a more spacious feel as shown in the photo which accompany Stewarts report, I would miss the 300 mm wide recess between the box and the rear bench which is useful for storing items which might be needed quickly, in my case the camera bag.
Although the van came with a T.V. aerial and the essential aerial and socket for housing a T.V. in the small cabinet adjacent to the sliding door, we tend to prefer taking DVD’s to play on the laptop when entertainment is required. It is proposed to use the cabinet as a library by fitting another shelf – yet another test of my limited D.I.Y. abilities.

We had originally thought that the separate shower would be a waste of space but, as others have commented, it does provide a good space in which to hang wet anoraks and store larger items. It also more than adequately serves as a shower compartment. Mark 2 also has other improvements on Mark 1 – the extractor above the cooker, the ingenious sliding cupboard to the right of the cooker, a drawer within a drawer to the left of the cooker and the larger 80 cu.litre fridge.

At present we have two 6 kg calor gas cylinders and consideration is being given to the alternatives – a Gaslow cylinder or an LPG cylinder under the floor.

Just one thing marred our enjoyment and that was a lack of lettering to indicate that our pride and joy is in fact a Regent. It would appear that there was a period between the end of 2004 and the introduction of the latest Regent L when this lettering was omitted (previously the strip above the guttering on either side of the vehicle included Regent L) This omission resulted in the unkind suggestion that our van may not have been made in Germany! But that is another story. However when in Echzell I mentioned this sad fact to Charlie (the production manager) and asked if there was any chance of my obtaining two strips with the word “Regent” which I could affix to either side of the van. Almost immediately one of Charlie‘s colleagues, who hails from Virginia, appeared armed with a ladder and proceeded to provide the missing words, identity restored !

I am pleased to report that the vehicle was very well prepared before delivery and all requests for attention dealt with by West Country Motorhomes. The one or two problems which have subsequently come to light were efficiently attended to. All in all we are very pleased with our decision. It is a first class conversion. I think that Roger Mechan summed it up very well in an MMM article written in 2004 when he said “A closer examination of the Regent L dispelled all my pre-conceived criticisms concerning layout. I would be hard pushed to finds another conversion which gives as much as this one”.

Tony Cole