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Old 06-30-2014, 07:27 AM   #1
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Default Electric upper bunk bed lift

I've been keeping an eye on the Great West Vans latest Classic 2014 which seats 4, offering 4 captains' chairs, and sleeps 4, using an electric lift to raise and lower a top bunk over a dining table that converts to a bottom bunk bed. It's a clever arrangement, one which they are providing in their new Promaster van conversion, as it offers a tremendous amount of flexibility and versatility. The van can be used as a regular second car for a family of four, a camping and vacation vehicle for the 4-member family, or it can be used as a 1 or 2-person fulltime RV by keeping the bottom bunk set up as a dining table at all times and raising and lowering the top bunk to sleep.

Of course with so much seating and sleeping capabilities, something has to give. In this case, it is the bathroom which Great West Vans has sacrificed; there is only room for a toilet and sink, but no shower. I personally would do away with the second set of captains' chairs and provide a driver side two-person bench seat like so many other class B conversions do, in order to make room for a larger bathroom, or at least hope that they offer an aisle shower option.

Nonetheless, I am intrigued by the electric lift for the top bunk, as it seems to solve a space utilization problem. Raising and lowering the top bunk is similar to raising and lowering the roof, as is done in Sportsmobile pop-top campers and the VW Westfalias, only the roof stays in place but the top bed moves up and down. Has anyone else seen this design in other class B conversions, or have any experience with a raising and lowering top bunk?
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Old 06-30-2014, 01:05 PM   #2
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Default Re: Electric upper bunk bed lift

The Winnebago Trend has a similar bed and I've played with one at a dealer. It takes about 15 secs to fully raise or lower and in the case of the Trend, you need to move some seat back cushions out of the way. I've read it has a weight limit of 450 lbs., but some one wrote on another forum saying that limit was 300lbs. You can leave some bedding on it when you stow it. The lift motor was not the most robust sounding motor I've heard and I don't know if there is a manual backup, but I would think there would be. When the bed is raised, you can't tell it's up there. Very slick.
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Old 06-30-2014, 02:14 PM   #3
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Default Re: Electric upper bunk bed lift

The Great West Van Classic will most likely be a weekender, short family vacation tourer that can be an every day car as well because of its size. I can't see it as a lengthy time tourer for a couple or even a single person because it sacrifices much more than a shower = storage space as well for stuff (second bed and two seats) that would rarely be used. For that reason the captain chairs are smarter than an uncomfortable side by side tight bench seat. For a family with one or two kids it would be the right vehicle. A family tourer will, more than not, likely utilize campgrounds with amenities such as full restrooms with showers and a small B is never going to support showering for four people anyway. But you need that bathroom with kids. They never give you warning when they have to go. It is usually 5 minutes after you stop at McDonalds for lunch.
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Old 06-30-2014, 03:32 PM   #4
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Default Re: Electric upper bunk bed lift

I like the idea of the drop down bed, but that floorplan needs more work.

The captains chairs are just too big - you'd have to climb over the one in the doorway.

And now that you can seat and sleep four people, where does their stuff go? And if you are carrying 4 people, how do you get by with such a tiny fridge?

A much better plan would have been to have the captains chairs much smaller, and collapsible (I'd take the stow-n-go seats directly from a Dodge Caravan), and have the drop down bed up front. That way, you could have retained upper cabinetry in the rear with the dinnette. Also, they could have made the dinette in the back have flip up benches, so that you could use that entire back end as a cargo van if you wanted.
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Old 07-01-2014, 12:22 AM   #5
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Default Re: Electric upper bunk bed lift

I agree with many of the above comments about the lack of storage, and the pros and cons of the second set of captains' chairs. For everyday use as a second car, it makes sense to have two captains' chair rather than a tight bench seat that seats two, but provides more floor space to walk around the interior. Perhaps one solution is the choice of stow-n-go captains' seats that could be removed so that a smaller driver's side bench seat could be snapped into place when needed for a holiday. It would be very tricky to design a floor system that could be accommodate several different configurations, so that different components could be installed or removed like lego blocks, but here's hoping that someone would give it a try.

One of my favorite class B designs for a Fiat Ducato or Promaster, though, belongs to the Hymer 322.

http://www.hymer.ag/medien/pdf/HYMER_CAR_GB_kl.pdf

Hymer has been considering entering the US market, but so far, I have not heard of any definite plans. If they would offer the 322 on a Promaster, I think they would have a ready customer market, as that model offers nearly everything that the Great West Vans 2014 Classic purports to. With a family of 4, consisting of 2 adults and 2 young children, the small bench seat would not be much of a drawback. The small dining table in front of the bench seat lets kids draw, color, play with toys, or otherwise keep themselves occupied during a long drive; indeed, I think children would be more relaxed in such a setting.

Hymer dealers sometimes claim that the 322 can sleep 3, as the bench seat area can accommodate a toddler, while 2 adults sleep in the rear bed. This is a bit of a stretch, but if Hymer were to incorporate the electric top bunk bed lift in the rear just as Great West Vans is doing for its Classic, then they can legitimately claim to sleep 4. Of course the rear overhead cabinets would have to be sacrificed once again, as is the case in the Classic, but that might be an acceptable trade-off, because the Hymer excels at space utilization. They seem to have used up every nook and cranny in the van for personal storage. I don't know of any North American class b manufacturer that uses space or storage this well. Are there any?
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Old 07-01-2014, 01:07 AM   #6
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Default Re: Electric upper bunk bed lift

Very nice! Love the skylight. Similar to my Travato up front.

Just goes to show you what a good designer can accomplish. Assuming they are using a cassette toilet, I wonder what the tank sizes are - the water tank must be underneath that bench seat. Small fridge, though, like most B vans.
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Old 07-01-2014, 02:44 AM   #7
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Default Re: Electric upper bunk bed lift

Yes, the Hymer 322 uses a cassette toilet. They are much more popular in Europe. I personally prefer a cassette toilet because they can be discharged anywhere there is a commode, not just at a dump station. A gas station restroom is frequently used for this purpose.

The white water and gray water capacities for the Hymer are 100L (26.4 gal)and 95L (25.1 gal). Last I heard, Hymer was still evaluating whether to enter the US market:

http://www.autonews.com/article/2014012 ... .s.-market

If they decide not to sell in the US, here's hoping that some of the other class B makers would copy this design as much as possible.
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Old 07-01-2014, 03:22 AM   #8
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Default Re: Electric upper bunk bed lift

I wonder if people would go for the cassette toilet. On my boat, I discarded my porta-potti and went with a dry flush toilet. Lot less to deal with, but pricey. Think I'd be reluctant to buy a van with the cassette - but I do see some of the domestic expedition class RV makers using them - guess it make more sense for those traveling to the boonies. 10-11 gallons of poo seems about the right amount in a B van so you can go a week between dumps.
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Old 07-01-2014, 02:59 PM   #9
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Default Re: Electric upper bunk bed lift

I've mentioned elsewhere our experience with a thetford 403C cassette in a prior rig, my summary is if you are willing to find a dump site (bathroom toilet, etc) every 2 to 3 days it will be ok (it will need dumping in this time frame if two adults are using it as the only bathroom source).

What i've also shared is i'm happy to see van conversion firms such as OutsideVans utilize marine grade dry toilet systems such as the AirHead and NaturesHead. Here is a nice example at the OV website. This is the way we will go in our next rig. Extended dry camping (as far as dumping) can be extended well beyond the cassette toilet capacity.

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Old 07-01-2014, 05:28 PM   #10
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Default Re: Electric upper bunk bed lift

Here is the one I like that is another option:

http://www.dry-flush.com/

The bags are an ongoing expense, but it definitely a no-muss, no fuss option. I have one I use on my boat and also use it in a tag-along trailer.
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