The Rapido 996M
My ex long-term, long distance home on the road. Sold after four break-ins in three and a half years
I bought my first camper, a Volkswagen, in my early twenties. The conversion was carried out by Danbury in the UK, with a popup roof, two burner hob, small sink and a seat in the rear that converted into a double bed, it was a basic design that has became a classic and is still popular today. However it doesn’t take long to realize the limitations of such a small camper, particularly for extended trips. In recent years I have owned and traveled in a number of different motorhomes, including a couple of huge American RV’s.
These days there is a wide range of motorhomes and campers to choose from, but finding your perfect vehicle is always going to be difficult, if not impossible. Of course we all have different ideas about camping and what we want from our travels. My personal preference is on the wilder side, visiting remote areas, wild camping, or using aires or camper stops. I prefer the autonomy and freedom gained by staying away from the constraints of expensive and regimented campsites.
Two years ago, having owned an eleven year old Bessacarr 765 for awhile, I was ready for a change, I couldn’t afford to buy new, so a pre-owned one it would have to be. After looking for a month or two I came across a superb, low mileage, 2005 registered Rapido 996M A-Class, based on the Mercedes Sprinter 316 chassis. It ticked all the right boxes and it didn’t take long to realize that it was exactly what I was looking for. Two weeks later it was mine.
The Rapido 996M is a four berth motorhome with a superb, well designed and practical layout with a quality finish. Rapido’s trademark ambience is created by the warm maplewood and brass décor. The four areas of the interior, bedroom, bathroom, kitchen and lounge work really well and are all easily accessible, there is no wasted space. Ample storage is provided throughout, there are plenty of overhead cupboards. All the furniture is made to, and finished to, a very high standard.
A solid sliding partition can quickly separate the rear fixed double bed, bathroom, shower and
wardrobe from the living area, which creates an en-suite bedroom with total privacy. There is a second huge double bed that drops down over the front seats if needed. The large circular shower is separate from the toilet/washroom, which always remains dry, clingy shower curtains being a thing of the past.
The kitchen has a three burner hob above an oven/grill, a deep circular sink with mixer tap, a separate tap supplies water through a Whale filter providing good drinking water. Opposite is a large fridge/freezer with automatic three way power supply, above which I have a Panasonic microwave/grill. Two, 2 seater settee’s and the ability to swivel both driver and passenger seats provide ample seating for six. The superb fixed table with a sliding and swiveling top is perfect for dining.
As for the services, heating and hot water are provided by a Truma combi heater which runs off gas, electric or both. The fresh water tank holds 120 litres, the grey waste tank 90 litres and the toilet cassette 19 litres.
There are four roof lights, a large Heki over the lounge area with multi-position opening, the other three are smaller and situated one in the rear bedroom, one in the front bedroom and one in the washroom/toilet. There is also a small roof vent in the shower.
Alterations and modifications include a 130w solar panel fitted to the roof, two 135 AH leisure batteries and two 12v - 230v inverters. A large chassis mounted LPG tank has been fitted in place of the normal gas bottles, eliminating the problem of different fittings in different countries, LPG is also much cheaper than bottled gas. An outside gas connection for a BBQ has been installed in the original gas locker, which in an emergency or a lack of LPG could be used to connect to a gas bottle. I use this original gas locker to carry a small portable generator. A satellite dish mounted on the roof feeds a signal through a freesat box; I have a two TV’s one in the lounge area and another in the rear bedroom. The original radio has been replaced with a Sony unit with CD player, USB socket and a jack point for my iPod. The Sony has remote control so can be operated from anywhere inside the vehicle. There is also and outside shower point with hot and cold water feed.
Air suspension units have been fitted to the rear of the vehicle giving a smoother ride and less body roll.
A CAT 1 immobiliser/alarm system was fitted from new and this has a perimeter alarm function allowing us to alarm all doors and hatches and still move around inside. I use this setting at night. A gas detector which will pick up narcotic gases, including ether, has three sensors. Having been robbed after a gas attack in my previous motorhome in 2010, the gas detector gives me greater piece of mind these days.
The base unit is a Mercedes Sprinter 316 with a 2.7 litre, five cylinder turbocharged diesel engine giving 160BHP. It has the SprintShift gearbox allowing fully automatic or manual, but clutch-less, gear changes. The GVW or MTPLM is currently 3500kg, reduced by the original owner from 3850kg but could easily be changed back to 3850kg if needed. Rear wheel drive is for me a big plus point over the more common Fiat/Peugeot/Citroen base units, having been stuck on more than one occasion in front wheel drive models.
I find the Rapido 996M very comfortable and easy to drive, as I’m on the road full time this is important to me. Overall I cannot really find fault and look forward to my travels in the coming years.