Mulling over the options in Mid-Summer, after we came back from France, it started to gel into a vehicle that could tow the drawbar trailer, carry an engine, albeit smaller than the two Rustons and give another bed or two plus cooking and toilet facilities.
As time went by it became clear that we would need something special, as the towing limits on most vans were too low for the drawbar trailer. The result was that we started looking at small trucks, and we came close to purchasing a DAF LF45 truck on a few occasions until we came across the Mercedes Vario.
It is almost unique in the market as it goes up to 7.5 tonnes gross weight and has a full panel van version, plus a load of specialist conversions to minibuses for which it was very popular.
The one we bought had 92,000 miles on the Tachograph, verified by inspection reports going back to 2012, and although we had some difficulties with the seller, the vehicle was to form the basis of our conversion.
The Minibus as Advertised
The Vario is a conventional truck with a van body, with ratings up to 7.5tonnes gross weight and a train weight up to 13.00tonnes with braked trailers. It is very over-engineered, the parts under the floor are huge in comparison to most vans, with massively constructed chassis and fittings. Ours is a 6 tonne version which will give us about 2 tonnes of weight allowance to build the motorhome bits in.
The engine is a 4-cylinder 4250cc turbocharged diesel, giving 136hp with a 5-speed gearbox. Braking is by hydraulics with ventilated discs all round and air-operated spring brakes for the parking brake. Wheels are 16" with 215/75R16C tyres, which we are uprating to 225/75R16C.
The Vario outside the factory with our renault Trafic LWB van behind
We started on stripping the interior out as soon as we got it back to the factory, but we had to store it up at the farm until we had room outside the house. The trailer was parked there and we had two more shows to do this year and a trip to the USA after those two shows.
Some of the interior fittings as removed
Inside the front of the Vario
Looking forward from the rear seats
Mileage, verified by inspection logs
Huge rear axle, spring brake cylinders and large anti-roll bar
The chassis and fittings are very substantial, this chassis is used for the 814D Vario which goes to 7.5 tonnes, but with slightly larger wheels and tyres.
Towing bracket supports, the channel section is not original
Inside the chassis at the rear. Spare wheel and carrier not fitted yet
The interior of the Vario was fairly standard minibus, it had been fitted with a taillift for wheelchairs but this was not fitted when we bought it. The floor had double sets of wheelchair restraint tracks set into the floor surface. The bus had 18 seats in all.
Inside the body showing the wheelchair restraint tracks
Looking rearward from the front
The seats were a bit sun-damaged and although we put them up on ebay, none sold and we scrapped them all.