From the ubiquitous soft top to multi-panel glass retractables, car convertibles have always been a staple of our coverage. Lately, boat convertibles have picked up steam, in the form of vessels like the Revolver 44GT and 88 Florida. As accustomed to the wide range of convertibles as we've become, nothing quite prepared us for the convertible motorhome, a concept that appeared at the recent Düsseldorf Caravan Salon. The one-of-a-kind, "penthouse-on-wheels" lets wind flow through the driver's hair with the retraction of its sliding roof.
While a 27-ft (8.2-m), 8.3-ton (7.5 tonne) RV doesn't seem like a vehicle screaming for a "cabriolet" variant, the advantages of a convertible panoramic glass roof are clear almost immediately after you see the Skydancer 7.5 concept. RVs are designed for extended travel through scenic landscapes and sitting in a high, glass-surround cabin provides a much better view than a traditional two-person driver cab/camper cabin. And what long-distance ride isn't better in a convertible?
Skydancer's 7.5 prototype puts the family of four in a raised platform cab that's reminiscent of the upper deck of a double-decker bus. The panoramic glasshouse creates the feel of a tourist bus designed specifically for enhancing sight lines. The glass enclosure also slides backward, opening up the entire cabin to the sky above. The design includes a frame below the glass for structural integrity when in convertible mode.
The Mercedes Atego-based 7.5 prototype builds upon Skydancer's reverse alcove concept, a camper construction that uses structural reinforcements to push the driver/passenger cell forward over the top of the engine. That design opens up room for a bed below the driver's cab, standing in contrast to the common design of a bed-equipped roof alcove at the top of the cab.
At the 2013 Düsseldorf Caravan Salon, Skydancer presented a skeletal reverse alcove prototype based on the Fiat Ducato, a front-engined van popular in camper van conversions. The Ducato driver is typically set back behind the short nose, but in Skydancer's design, he or she is pushed up and forward, along with three passengers. Skydancer showed the latest design prototype this year (below), alongside the 7.5.
Compare the Skydancer's reverse alcove design to the average RV and the advantages become clear. Instead of a stereotypical set-up of mother and father sitting up front and two kids in back, the design keeps the entire family together and, in the case of the 7.5 convertible, gives everyone crystal-clear views of the region they're visiting. The high seating position is also envisioned as a safety measure, keeping the occupants up above the average vehicle in the event of a collision and pulling passengers out of the camper cabin, where everyday objects can turn into projectiles. The 7.5's driver cab can also double as a sort of outdoor deck for eating and relaxing.
The 7.5 RV prototype sleeps its four passengers on two beds. The first two-person bed is set into the space below the raised driver cab and the second is in the rear. Outside of additional seating inside the camper cabin, Skydancer doesn't mention any other amenities. There's plenty of room for a kitchen, bathroom and storage, but the vehicle's status as an experimental prototype appears to have negated such inclusions.
Skydancer seems zeroed in on pursuing its patented reverse alcove design, as opposed to a production 7.5 motorhome, but it is selling the one-off 7.5 prototype. The RV, which is based on a used 2003 Mercedes Atego with nearly 124,000 miles (200,000 km) on the clock, is advertised for €80,000 (US$104,000) on the company's website. That sounds a bit rich for something advertised as a "low budget prototype" and built on a well-used chassis, but the design does provide some very interesting food for thought as to the possibility of an open-top RV.