October 21, 2018

The Selector: Conversions

Buying a panel van can be a complex business, finding the right wheelbase, roof height and load volume for your individual application, that can haul the payload that you need to move. Move into the world of the chassis cab, with the vast range of conversions and bodies available from a variety of suppliers and the decision-making process becomes even more complex.

Which is why so many vehicle manufacturers now offer a range of ready-built vehicles, designed to meet the needs of the majority of buyers in each market sector. Tippers, dropsides, Lutons and minibuses can all be ordered direct from your local dealer, with no need to search for an approved body builder.

There are a number of advantages to this approach, along with a few possible pitfalls. Perhaps the biggest plus point for buyers is that the vehicle is supplied as a finished item, with a single warranty and one point of contact should anything go wrong. There is no passing the responsibility between the chassis provider and the body builder.

This single vehicle registration has the secondary advantage of carrying a residual value for the whole van, rather than just being registered as a chassis cab without a body, your vehicle is seen as a finished tipper or dropside. It should also be possible to finance in a single deal, including a tail-lift, racking, lighting or any other part of the finished conversion.

Time saving

There will usually be a time saving too, as manufacturers aim to hold these ready-built conversions in stock for rapid delivery, cutting out the body building time of a more bespoke solution.

There can be downsides however. While manufacturers will have chosen the most popular specifications, they may not exactly suit your individual operation, so you may have to compromise. You may also have an established relationship with a body builder and may want to continue that association.

If you do go down the ready-built route, these are the main options available from the manufacturers.

Vauxhall

Vauxhall offers a range of conversions from the factory, based on the Movano chassis. This includes single and double cab tippers at 3.5 and 4.5-tonnes GVW. These can be built on the L2 or L3 chassis in both front and rear-wheel drive, with rear-driven models offered with single or rear wheels.

When it comes to dropsides, Vauxhall offers three load lengths on L2, L3 and L4 chassis. Again, there is a choice of driveline and both single and crew cabs can be accommodated. The company also offers a box van, on L3 and L4 chassis, with up to 22m3 of load volume. Both drivelines are available and there are gross weights of 3.5 and 4.5-tonnes.

A recent addition to the Vauxhall line-up is Conversions2Go, which can be ordered through a dealer and delivered complete. The warranty and aftersales support matches the base vehicle, but is covered by the converter. Models include an Ingimex Luton body with a 16m3 capacity that can be ordered with or without a tail lift.

You can also have a Movano KneeHi low-floor Luton, with a loading height of just 550mm and a load volume of 18.5m3. The third model in the Conversions2Go range is a lightweight tipper from VFS.

Vauxhall adds to this line-up with a full range of approved conversions, that can be ordered by dealers. These include the Oberaigner 4×4 conversion, racking systems, wheelchair accessible conversions, welfare buses, vehicle recovery bodies, mobile workshops and refrigerated vans.

Vauxhall also has its own dedicated conversion centre within the Luton Vivaro plant, that carries out bespoke conversion and fit-out work for customers.

Mercedes-Benz

Mercedes-Benz Vans has built up a strong relationship with a wide range of body builders and converters over the years and has always preferred to use those varied vehicle specialists to meet customer demand for conversions. It will continue to offer bespoke bodies in a two-invoice build.

However, the company is about to introduce a Ready To Work range as well, to launch on new Sprinter. This will include a factory-built dropside, along with a tipper and a Luton from UK body builders. All will be based on the 314CDI chassis cab. There will be an opportunity for customers to select from a range of options on these vehicles, along with a limited selection of bodywork adaptation.

Ford

Ford calls its ready-bodied range Transit One-Stop and the line-up includes dropsides, tipper, Lutons and box vans. Minibuses are offered as a separate line within the Ford commercial vehicle range. The dropside models can be built on front or rear-wheel drive chassis, with a single or double cab. There are five body lengths ranging from 2.9-5.3m and on the L2 350 FWD model there is a choice of Standard or Premium dropside float body.

Tippers are available with one-way or three-way tipping bodies. Single cab models are built on the L2 chassis while double cabs use the longer L3 chassis. Luton vans and box vans are only available with a single cab, though either can be ordered on the L3 or L4 chassis length. As with dropside models, the tippers, Luton and box vans can all be specified with a choice of front or rear-wheel drive. All of the One-Stop vans carry Ford’s three-year/100,000-mile warranty.

If the One-Stop range doesn’t quite suit your needs, Ford also runs a Qualified Vehicle Modifier programme, using accredited body builders to supply a more bespoke body.

QVM suppliers currently offer crew van conversions, camper vans, blue light conversions, racking solutions, refrigerated and freezer vans, welfare vans, utility body conversions and wheelchair accessible vehicles.

Volkswagen

As the name suggests, Engineered To Go is Volkswagen’s ready-bodied range, which consists of various dropside, tipper and Luton bodies. The dropside uses an Ingimex body, on a choice of three Crafter wheelbases, while the tipper body comes from VFS and can be had on a choice of two body lengths. Double and single cabs are available and now that Crafter comes with front- rear and all-wheel drive, customers really can choose the driveline to suit their operation. The Luton body is also produced for VW by Ingimex and is available on a single wheelbase with a single cab.

For something more bespoke, Volkswagen has an Engineered For You line-up of approved suppliers and converters. These approved body builders can supply wheelchair accessible minibuses, refrigerated vans, hydraulic cranes, access platforms and a host of other dedicated body styles, to suit individual customer applications.

 

Citroën

Citroën has been a major force in the pre-bodied van market for some years, with its Ready To Run range. Based on the Relay chassis, this includes L2 and L3 single cab dropsides and an L3 crew cab dropside model. There are also single cab tippers on the L2 chassis and a crew cab tipper on the L3 model.

The company offers two Luton models, on L3 and L4 chassis, offering 16m3 and 20m3 of load volume respectively. There is also a low-floor Luton providing a 22m3 load volume. Completing the line-up are curtainside trucks on the L3 and L4 chassis, along with single cab box vans on the same choice of body lengths. All of the Ready To Run vehicles carry a three-year/100,000-mile warranty on the complete vehicle. Citroën will add to the line-up of Ready To Run vehicles this year.

Renault

Renault has become a big player in the conversion market, with its Off The Shelf range taking centre stage. There are dropsides in three lengths, with single or crew cabs and front or rear-wheel drive; tippers in two chassis lengths again with a choice of cabs and drivelines, a 22m3 box van on the long or extra-long wheelbase and a Luton LoLoader that is built on the front-drive Master chassis. All of Renault’s Off The Shelf conversions come with the firm’s full four-year/100,000-mile warranty.

Renault also offers what it calls Renault Tech conversions which are carried out at the factory. The latest additions to this line are the Master Pharma van, a pharmaceutical delivery vehicle with temperature-controlled load area, and a Master Parcel van, designed with UPS. This includes a walk-through bulkhead and fold-up racking.

To complement this line-up, the company has developed a range of Tailor Made Accredited Conversions. This includes minibuses, refrigerated vans and grounds maintenance vehicles. However, Renault accredited converters can also offer a far wider range of bespoke conversions, including blue light models, patient transport, welfare vehicles, wheelchair access, catering vans and livestock transport, including horseboxes.

Peugeot

Peugeot has taken some time to catch up with PSA partner Citroën, but recently launched the Built For Business range of ready-bodied conversions. Models include single cab L2 and crew cab L3 tippers, single cab L2 and L3 dropside, plus an L3 crew cab dropside. There are Luton vans based on the L3 and L4 chassis, along with a similar choice of curtainsiders and box bodies. Peugeot will also offer a low-floor Luton with a 22m3 capacity.

All of the Boxer conversions are based on the 335 chassis, powered by the firm’s 2.0-litre BlueHDi 160hp engine, with Stop&Start and a six-speed manual gearbox. Standard equipment across the range includes air conditioning, an uprated battery and revised dual-leaf rear suspension with an anti-roll bar.

“All Built For Business light CV conversions will be available through the Peugeot dealer network and will carry a full warranty,” said Richard Abbott, head of national specialist fleets at PSA Group.

MAN

MAN Truck & Bus may be something of a newcomer in the van market, but the VW-owned commercial builder is already launching a pre-bodied service, called Vans To Go. Initially Vans To Go will offer dropside and tipper bodies from Ingimex for the TGE chassis, along with a Luton body from JC Payne.

To start with the pre-bodied vehicles will only be available on the recently introduced rear-wheel drive TGE, though MAN has not ruled out front-driven conversions if there is customer demand. The company is also hoping to introduce refrigerated bodies and a selection of racking options under the Vans To Go banner.

Toyota

Toyota has developed a range of dealer-order conversions for both the Hilux pick-up and the Proace van. Sold under the Toyota Trade Plus brand, the conversions include tipper and dropside bodies on Hilux and a refrigeration version of the Proace van. All three carry Toyota’s standard five-year warranty.

In addition, Toyota has a network of authorised converters across the country that dealers can call upon for more bespoke builds. This includes refrigerated vans from CoolKit and the Cold Consortium, an aerial work platform from Cumberland Platforms, a utility top for Hilux from Strongs and van racking from Bri-Stor.

Nissan

Nissan has developed a range of Business Ready solutions, pre-bodied conversions that are all covered by the firm’s five-year/100,000-mile standard LCV warranty. This includes the normal range of dropside, tipper and box van, based on the NV400 van chassis. Nissan currently also offers dropsides and tippers built on its NT400 forward-control light truck chassis.

Single and crew cabs are available and Nissan also offers a crew van version of the NV400 panel van, with a fixed rear bench that can accommodate up to four people.

In addition, Nissan has a certified partner conversion programme running, with a single point of contact through your Nissan dealer providing access to conversion specialists like Alloy Bodies, Bevan, Ingimex, Trucksmith, Paneltex and VFS.

Fiat Professional

Fiat Professional calls its conversion line Ready For Professionals, and it includes the usual dropsides and tippers, along with a low-floor Luton body and a range of double and utility cabs for Ducato. The company is also set to offer a Built For Professionals line of approved conversions from UK body builders. This will allow for a more bespoke build than the factory-produced models, to suit the individual needs of customers across a number of industry sectors.

LDV

LDV not only has a number of bodies available for its V80 chassis cab, but can also supply pre-bodied versions of its EV80 electric vehicle. These include dropside and tipper bodies from VFS and CPD. The company can also supply a full electric EV80 Luton or box body, both provided by JC Payne.

Isuzu Truck

With a focus on heavier models, it is not surprising to find that Isuzu Truck has a range of bodies on offer for its 3.5 and 7.5-tonne chassis. There are a range of dropside and tipper bodies available, along with box and curtainside conversions. Isuzu Truck can also source beavertail bodies, and refrigerated boxes for its trucks.

Iveco

Iveco’s Daily vans and chassis cabs benefit from a truck dealer network that has access to the widest possible range of specialist body builders and converters. Iveco has factory built dropsides, tippers and minibuses available, but also has a broad spread of bodies on offer through its approved converter partners.

Renault Trucks

Renault Trucks offers the Master van, from former distant cousin Renault, as part of its own range, however the truck company has its own conversions on offer. Sold under the Ready For Business brand, Renault Trucks offers pre-bodied tippers, dropsides, Lutons and box vans. This line-up is due to expand though, with the addition of fridge vans, minibuses, welfare vans and even aerial work platforms over the coming months.