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Luxury on Wheels: Custom Campers Mercedes-Benz Sprinter


The name of the company says it all: Custom Campers. Every vehicle that rolls out of Fred Oosthuizen’s factory in Meyerton is one of a kind. Each hand-built after numerous consultations and cups of coffee with his client.

I have shared the story and pictures of factory, now I need to share the story of one of Fred’s clients, Giel and Antjie Nel from Pretoria.

Fred and Antjie live in one of those lovely upmarket complexes that are dotted around the bushveld bedecked stone koppies of Pretoria north.

I popped in for a chat and to take pictures of their luxurious custom-built motorhome. And luxurious is certainly the name of the game with the Nel’s vehicle, built on a Mercedes-Benz  Sprinter chassis.

This feeling of splendor is apparent at even the briefest first glimpse of the motorhomes standing in the large garage. Like all good Pretoria citizens, I first have filter coffee and rusks before I get down to asking Giel and Antjie all about their new home-on-wheels.

I was fascinated to learn that they were first time campers, but Giel adds: “It was Antjie’s brother, Frik Botha, that got us into this idea of having a custom-made motorhome.”

Frik was one of the first clients who had a unique motorhome built by Custom Campers.

Giel continues: “Frik’s motorhome is massive, it was miles too big for us!”

So with a huge input on the interior layout from Antjie, the Nel’s custom-built Mercedes camper rolled out of the factory in Meyerton.

My first impression on stepping into the van was roominess, space and light. I have to confess here that I’m a ‘Camper Man’, finish en klaar. And if I won the Lotto I might just head straight for the Custom Campers factory and say: “Fred, built me an identical copy of the Nel’s motorhome… just build mine on the new Mercedes 4×4 Sprinter.”

The layout of Giel and Antjie’s camper ticked every box I look for in a comfortable five-star home away from home. Antjie had done a superb job.

In my opinion the key factor in the success of their motorhome was their choice of a Mercedes Sprinter as a platform to build their camper. The Sprinter of choice for the Nel’s was the diesel version with the 7 speed automatic transmission. They opted for the bigger 3.0-liter V-6 turbodiesel engine, which pushes out 188 horsepower and 325 pound-feet of torque.  Which Giel says “will easily cruise at 120 km/h but if you’re not careful will continue climbing to 150!”

Like one would expect from a Mercedes, the Sprinter comes standard with large colour display, Bluetooth connectivity, a USB 2.0 connection, SD media and an auxillary input point. Giel fitted a rearview camera option and the Parktronic parking assistance feature on their camper. All Sprinter now come out fitted with the Crosswind Assist system. The system keeps you safely in your lane when experiencing heavy crosswinds. So with all these key features fitted to their van the Nels headed off for the hills.

At this stage I have to tell you there is a third member of the Nel family. That is there little dog Luigi. Wherever the Nel’s go, Luigi gaan saam!

So for the very first shakedown camping trip the Nel trio headed down to the Klipdraai Caravan Park near the Custom Camper factory in Meyerton.

Giel says what he noticed immediately was the Mercedes with the automatic gearbox is an absolute dream to drive: “It’s powerful, fast, safe and it’s very easy to keep up with the Joburg traffic.”

At the caravan park it was a question of learning how and where to pack everything, and Giel admits: “It was also a question of whether we really enjoy camping.”

I think I can answer that question as I kept in touch with the couple as they went about their new camping life. On my follow-up phone call I was told: “We are in the Central Drakensberg… we’ve just been to Balito and Scottburgh.”

I could hear by his voice that they were really starting to get into this camping game. Barely two months after their Drakenberg trip, the Nel’s were in Tsumeb in Namibia, camping with Antjie’s brother Frik and his family in their huge camper.

I have to say I was extremely jealous when I heard they were heading for the Angola border, then on to the Caprivi before heading to Chobe and back through Botswana to their home in Pretoria.

Maybe on my next call I’ll hear: “Richard, we’ve decided to sell the house… we going to become gypsies!”

To contact Custom Campers, simply fill out the form below.

By Richard van Ryneveld

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