Side-popping VW pod mini-camper adapts from work to play
Thanks to its low-profile, side-popping roof, the Space camper van from the UK's Bilbo's Design has a distinctive look compared to all the front- and rear-popping VW camper vans out there. But it's what's inside that really sets the van apart. Using a series of compact, removable modules, Bilbo's entry-level camper van serves as its most flexible, easily transforming from a cozy mini base camp to an everyday four-seat grocery-hauler.
A different modular camper layout from what we're used to seeing, the Space packs its kitchen at the rear of the van and its living/sleeping area in the front/center. In place of the floor rails that often define modular camper vans and serve as the attachment points for removable components, Bilbo's installs a flat camper floor and utilizes the vehicle tie-down points for installing its pods.
Bilbo's packs in four individual pods in all, the two taller kitchen pods just inside the tailgate and the two shorter storage pods between the kitchen and two rear seats. The center pods store a 14-L fridge box and offer additional space. At night, the pods work with the folded rear vehicle seats and available swiveled front cab seats to create two single beds, each measuring 73 x 24 in (186 x 60 cm). The beds can be joined at the rear end by a center cushion, a configuration that looks like it might be useful for having a small dog sleep at the foot of the bed.
In addition to serving as the bedroom, the front/center of the Space camper van also serves as the dining area. A removable tabletop stored on the rear kitchen module attaches to the sidewall between the rear vehicle seats and front swivel seats to create a dinette. That table can also attach to the outside of the kitchen block to work as an outdoor tailgate table and work space.
Because they're made to be removed, the two rear kitchen pods have a simple, self-contained design. The driver-side pod includes a push-action faucet hooked up to the dual 12-L water canisters below, with a simple bucket serving as the sink basin. This pod also stores the single-burner gas cartridge stove on one of its shelves.
The passenger-side console houses the built-in microwave, designed to run via the 240-V shore power hook-up, and a countertop for using the stove. It also has a storage compartment below, which can be used for general storage or for the optional portable toilet.
The Space conversion also includes an 80-Ah leisure battery to run the fridge box, dimmable LED lighting and two 12-V outlets. The 240-V hook-up feeds the two 240-V outlets in the van.
Bilbo's unique EasyLift side-raised roof provides more uniform standing height throughout the Space cabin, rather than the angled ceiling that comes with more traditional front- or rear-lifting roofs. It can be optionally equipped with a bed to increase overnight capacity to four people, creating a four-seat/berth camper van perfect for families of four.
When the Space owner doesn't need a camper van, he or she can easily remove all or some of the pods and use the van as an everyday driver. Bilbo's doesn't offer an option for additional seats, so it will work best for a family of four or fewer, offering four standalone seats with cargo space in back. Users can also leave individual Space pods in as desired, perhaps using the fridge box module to cool drinks for day trips, tailgates or recreational activities.
The Space comes built standard atop a 193-in (490-cm) short-wheelbase VW Transporter, and a long-wheelbase model is an option. Bilbo's offers several VW diesel engine options as well as 4Motion 4x4.
The Space was initially introduced on a VW T5 as a prototype before finding its way to the T6 and, most recently, T6.1. Bilbo's is showcasing the model alongside its other VW camper vans at this week's Caravan, Camping and Motorhome Show, which runs through the weekend at the National Exhibition Centre (NEC) in Birmingham, UK. It does not list base price information, but the most recent Space van listed on its sales page, the off-white 2021 demo model with sleeper roof shown in some of the photos, sold for £51,785 (approx. US$69,450).