Bilbo's Celex LWB
Size isn't everything but the extra room the long wheelbase version of the Celex VW campervan conversion from Bilbo's certainly makes a lot of difference, as Nick Harding found out.
Before you hand over money to a company that is about to build your dream caravan, it’s vital you do your research on its overall dimensions. You might want to consider the room that a long-wheelbase version of Volkswagen’s T6.1 Transporter gives you – as provided by this Celex from Surrey-based converter Bilbo’s. It may only be some 40cm longer than the standard short-wheelbase model, but boy does that make a difference in a campervan.
Celex long-wheelbase prices start at just under £50,000, but that’s for the model based on the Startline version of the T6.1. More typical, and seen here, is the Highline variant, with 148bhp engine and manual transmission (automatic may be more desirable but it’s a £2,300 premium). You can choose between five standard colours and a further nine metallic choices, for which you pay extra – the Mojave Beige on this model costs £1,000. Another base vehicle option fitted to our example is a rear-view camera (£300), while conversion extras include diesel-fuelled blown air heating (£1,295), an 80W solar panel with app (£625) and a swivel table tucked inside the nearside door (£195).
The Celex has National Small Series Type Approval, is National Caravan Council-approved and comes with a three-year conversion warranty. Bilbo’s is also one of a small number of companies to have been granted ‘Motorhome Qualified’ status in relation to its conversion work by base vehicle manufacturer Volkswagen.
BUILD QUALITY – 89%
Bilbo’s uses the Kombi version of Volkswagen’s Transporter base vehicle. That means it comes from the factory with fitted windows and rear seat belt mounting points. Other refinements, such as extra noise suppression, distinguish it from its initial status as a commercial vehicle. The Highline T6.1 base means high specification: cab air conditioning, 17in alloy wheels and front and rear parking sensors are among the most notable features.
Security starts with a Thatcham Category 1 alarm and Category 2 immobiliser. Bilbo’s recommends fitting a tracker system (a Meta Track model, priced from £595) for campers with a retail value of over £55,000.
In terms of the conversion work, Bilbo’s cuts two holes in the base vehicle body – one for the elevating roof section, one for the mains electricity inlet point.
The company makes its own furniture and the Bilbo’s designed roof is side-hinged – somewhat unique these days. Typically, Bilbo’s customers want that for standing room along the length of the vehicle once on site (there is also storage shelving front and rear on the long-wheelbase example here), rather than specifying the extra bed option.
Zipped panels front and rear provide ventilation, while acrylic windows let in the light. It’s particularly easy to put up and down, and virtually impossible to trap the ‘canvas’ during such operations. And those rubber strips along each side of the bodywork? They’re Bilbo’s own, too, and have long proved themselves as brilliant protectors against unwanted little scrapes.
DRIVING – 88%
The Volkswagen is quiet and refined, and features a vast array of ‘control’ systems, such as adaptive cruise control. Meanwhile, a sophisticated stereo/infotainment system is centred around a 6.5in touchscreen. Electro- mechanical steering is light and positive and the brakes are reassuring. It definitely counts as economical (dare owners dream of 40mpg?). As for the extra body length, you barely notice it until you park in a particularly short bay.
DAYTIME – 82%
This is a classic Volkswagen campervan layout – with the furniture all along one side of the vehicle and a rear seat that converts into a double bed. The greater living space provided by the long wheelbase results in an extra worktop and an additional shelved locker.
The furniture might look basic – but all edges are carefully rounded and there’s a melamine finish that’s easy to clean. The ‘Blueflec’ scheme here also makes the interior feel more roomy; darker Puntinella is a no-extra-cost alternative.
A lightweight table stows for travel on the end of the kitchen unit. It’s easy to use, clipping onto a rail on the front of the kitchen, where it can be adjusted as necessary. It might be a struggle if you are catering for more than two folk at mealtimes (hence the aforementioned second table option).
NIGHT-TIME – 78%
The bed is easy to set up: unlock the backrest and flip it all the way over to create a generous, flat mattress area (approximately 6ft 3in x 4ft 4in maximum). The head restraints can be removed and stowed if desired, but frankly there’s sufficient space here to leave them in situ. Lined curtains with press studs ensure no stray light gets in, and Bilbo’s claims there’s less chance of rain damage when windows or doors are open, compared to other types of blackout. That’s also the reason for the plastic insert in the sliding door; many other campers make do with carpet that, once damp, takes an age to fully dry.
KITCHEN – 78%
The Celex kitchen is different from the typical campervan offering, too. There’s a two-burner hob and sink in stainless steel but these are separate rather than combined, so there’s flexibility in terms of which lid you leave open or closed, resulting in useful worktop space. Plus you get an extended section of permanent worktop.
The grill comes as standard but if you’re ordering your own Celex you can opt for a microwave oven or even just a drawer instead. Bilbo’s has squeezed in a 65-litre capacity compressor fridge that includes a removable freezer compartment.
Over the kitchen, the run of little lockers is an absolute boon for storage of smaller items.
WASHROOM – N/A
This is a campervan, so don’t expect full washroom facilities. There is a dedicated space for a portable toilet in the rear seat base but there is still plenty of room for storage in this area – a particular Bilbo’s strong point. There an attachment just inside the tailgate for an external shower – ideal for washing off dirty footwear, etc.
DETAILS – 79%
There are plenty of impressive touches inside the Celex: the largest cupboard has removable shelves; upper-level LED lights are individually dimmable; the Webasto heating (option) includes a digital control panel with timer function; drawers are soft-close; there are fresh and waste water tanks and there is a powerful 130Ah AGM leisure battery.
There’s a cluster of sockets on the furniture unit – mains, 12V and a double USB port – plus two more mains sockets elsewhere. And you’ll find a wireless charging pad in a cubby adjacent to the main electrical control panel.
VERDICT – 82%
It may be bling-free, but don’t be fooled by that... Bilbo’s has 44 years of campervan conversion expertise, and the Celex is an example of the practicality and reliability for which it is known. Give serious consideration to the extra space that the long wheelbase Volkswagen gives you.