Preaching to the unconverted

Date: Wednesday, January 11, 2012

James Dallas takes a look at a trio of aftermarket items that will make your life simpler, encompassing a Volkswagen Crafter conversion, an innovative seat cover design and an anti-misfuelling device

For many businesses, particularly those operating in the building trades, the crucial requirement a van must fulfill is getting both tools and workforce on to site.
In many cases a perfectly suitable model will be available fresh off the assembly line, but sometimes a van more tailored to a firm’s specific needs is what’s required – this is where conversion firms come in.
The classic cabin conversion involves transforming an existing panel van into a minibus, or at least adding more seats to the original, off-the-shelf model.
Dutch conversion specialist Snoeks Automotive established a market for its crew van conversions in the UK in 2004. This year it expects to deliver a total of 2500 crew van conversions and has recently launched a European type-approved double cab conversion for the new VW Crafter.
Michiel Abbing, Snoeks’ UK area manager, says demand for the Crafter conversion comes from customers such as utility companies, fire brigades and local authorities.
“As the base vehicle, the new crew van has many innovative items and is unique for being fully type-approved,” he says. “We are able to serve our customer base even better than before.”
Abbing names the conversion’s USPs over a double cab as its lighter weight, larger load floor, and more flexible seats.
Snoeks’ double cabin can accommodate six people with the availability of a four-seat bench in the rear, although there is also a three-seater. Abbing forecasts shifting up to 300 Crafter conversions annually with 60% of customers opting for the latter. Snoeks says the bench seat is positioned to maximise both leg room and load area.
Because the second row of seats is integrated with the partition wall, Snoeks claims it is easy to turn the converted van into double cabin mode at any time, resulting in “the perfect solution for the combined transport of people and material”.
The fact that the Snoeks cabin is type-approved gives retailers peace of mind about their safety liabilities, Abbing points out.
Each seat comes with approved lap and diagonal safety seat belts, while the bench is equipped with tilting and height-adjustable head rests. Snoeks says the separation wall meets the required standard for protection against shifting loads.
Seat, bulkhead and parts weigh about 105kg so reduce payload capacity by a similar amount.
When it comes to integrating the design Snoeks keeps materials and shapes as close to the OE look as possible, including floor, side wall covers and headlining. Additional load space under the rear passenger seat bench allows for storage of long items, such as ladders.
Prices for a conversion start from £2145, excluding VAT for the H1 low roof model, and Snoeks also converts vans from other major brands such as Citroen, Fiat, Ford, Mercedes, Nissan, Renault and Vauxhall.


Sitting pretty

 Of course, transporting groups of workers to and from building sites and the like can be a messy business, and a van’s seats are directly in the line of fire. But help is on hand.
Bradford-based firm Leafseat claims to have “revolutionised” van seat covers to provide an ideal solution when working between dirty/clean or wet/dry environments.
Director Chris Peltier says Leafseat has now secured a patent for its product following seven years of development.
The cover is designed to protect both passenger and seat. It covers the whole seat and includes an extra “clean leaf” attached to the back rest, which can be lowered when a clean, dry seat is required.
Peltier says this can be invaluable when the van is needed by someone meeting customers or pricing a job shortly after it’s been used by the on-site workers. The cover can then quickly be switched back to dirty/wet mode when needed.
“The transition from one leaf to another allows you to accommodate passengers from clean and dirty or dry and wet environments within a matter of seconds,” claims the manufacturer.
It adds that, unlike most seat covers, which are either universal or semi-tailored, resulting in a loosely draped cover that moves about and becomes uncomfortable, the Leafseat is tailored to fit snugly and stay in place.
Peltier says the Leafseat is suited for use by a wide range of businesses including builders, painter/decorators, taxi drivers, police, paramedics, landscape gardeners, home care workers and vets.
Tailored Leafseats are currently available for the Ford Transit and Connect, Vauxhall Vivaro, Renault Trafic and Nissan Navara.


Head off misfuelling

Stress, a distraction or just absent mindedness can sometimes lead to misfuelling, a mistake that can be costly, ranging from £175 to upwards of £3000 depending on the damage done.
Inventor and engineer Lee Steadman has designed a device to stop these mishaps occurring.
Called Diesel Head, it prevents a petrol nozzle fitting into a diesel fuel tank.
“The opening to a fuel tank fitted with a Diesel Head needs a diesel diameter nozzle to activate the opening and let the nozzle in – as a result the smaller petrol nozzle cannot open the Diesel Head and so the vehicle is protected,” Steadman explains.
The cast-metal constructed Diesel Head, which Steadman describes as a “fit and forget” product, costs £34.99, rising to £39.99 for a lockable version.






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