Look inside: Our Hymer B544 2001 Motorhome: Zagan

Hi folks This post tells you a wee bit about our new adventure wagon/land yacht/home on wheels: Zagan (or strictly speaking, Żagań, after the town in Poland associated with The Great Escape), our Hymer B544 motorhome. Isn’t he one hell of a magnificent, luxury beasty!?

Hymer B544 Motorhome A Class Zagan

Zagan: Our 2001 Hymer B544

First off, a bit of background. My wife Julie and I (Jay) quit work in 2011, bought a 1993 Hymer B544 (named Dave after the previous owner’s cat) for £10500, lifted our dog Charlie inside and drove to Dover and turned right at Calais. A year later we came back to the UK, got an MOT, said hello to friends and family, and drove to Dover again, this time turning left at Calais. Another year later our funds finally ran out and we headed back, our heads packed full of memories and our hearts still on the road.

1993 Hymer B544 Motorhome

Dave, our previous 1993 Hymer B544

1993 Hymer B544 Motorhome

Dave, our previous 1993 Hymer B544

Dave, our previous 1993 Hymer B544

Dave, our previous 1993 Hymer B544

Fast forward to now (July 2015) and Dave has parted company with us, taken on by a wonderful family who continue to get joy and fun from the awesome vehicle he is. We on the other hand are the proud owners of a new luxury adventure wagon: Zagan. He’s another B544, as the previous one just suited us so well. This time he’s a 2001 model, and has a mere 49,000 miles on the clock (Dave had over 125,000 miles when we sold him).

Although Dave was still going strong (and we did attempt to buy him back), we have a hope to get some more significant travels under our belts so we may well have eventually managed to break him (probably not). So last week after two months of searching through autotrader.co.uk, ebay.co.uk, mobile.de and gumtree.co.uk, we finally bought Zagan for £16800. Our budget was £15000, but, ah, erm, we spent more… At the £15k mark we wanted the ‘new’ Hymer B544 look with the round headlights (since superseded, but we’re no way sinking £50,000 of capital when it could be earning its keep in a Vanguard ETF or some such, oh, right, best get back on subject…).

We also wanted a full service history (FSH) and less than 70,000 miles on the clock. Our free-camping habit also pushes us towards having a Solar PV set-up, and gas bottles we can refill ourselves with LPG (Dave had both of these). Zagan initially came on the market as an eBay auction, starting at £18k. He popped onto our radar immediately, despite being over-budget. Another couple of similar spec vans had appeared in the 2 month hunt, but were gone by the time we got to them.

The price put us off, everything else looked good – FSH, 49k miles, 3 owners from new, left hand drive, solar PV with 2 leisure batteries. We’d just need to install some bits and bobs, and we’d be good to go. The van went onto the mental ‘watch’ list. The auction completed without a single bid, and the van then re-appeared, again as an auction starting at £16800. Tipping point for us. These are the photos from the eBay ad:

Ju called the owners that night and confirmed they would take £16800, which they would, but no less. The next day I headed off in the wee hours on my weekly commute to Birmingham, while Ju arranged for insurance and checked with the bank how we could move that amount of money. As the van was a 3 hours drive away, we wanted to check it over and bring it back with us if all was good. The only option was to get £7000 in cash (that was one thick envelope folks) and transfer the rest on the phone that evening.

And the rest is history.

I came back to Notts to pick up Ju, headed down to Crowthorne in the Smart Car, the van looked perfect (with few intended mods – see below). We got it and drove back home, somehow arriving in one piece after 2 years driving a Smart, bushed and buzzing. I’ve taken a couple of videos of the van so you can get a feel for it (especially if you’re thinking of getting something similar). The specification’s then vaguely listed below along with the modifications we intend to make and why.

Zagan’s specification is:

  • Make and model: Hymer B544
  • Engine: Fiat Ducato 2.8 JTD (Dave had a 2 litre diesel non-turbo and made it over various mountain ranges, no problemo)
  • Chassis: Al-ko (double floor – as shown on the above video – means there are lots of external lockers, no under-seat storage is taken up by the fresh water tank and should be better insulated in the cold)
  • Current Mileage: 49,000 miles
  • History: Imported to UK from new, 3 previous owners, full service history
  • Driving position: Left hand drive (we’ll spend most of our time on the continent so although not essential by any means, this helps)
  • Food storage: 3 way fridge (12V when driving, 230v when on hook-up and gas otherwise), full width freezer within fridge unit
  • Heating: gas-powered air and water heating
  • Internal layout: two benches, passenger seat swivels all the way into the lounge area, rear kitchen and wet room
  • Sanitary facilities: wet room with internal hidden wall to separate shower and toilet. Shower heated from gas. Cassette chemical toilet emptied from outside
  • Cooking: 3 burner gas hob (no oven or grill – we learned to cook toast in a dry frying pan!)
  • Bed: double full–width drop down bed from above the cab, plus one of the benches slides out to make a further single bed
  • Length: 6.06m (or if you’re in Norway, 5.95m, ahem)
  • Additional: awning, reversing camera, two bike rack, roof-mounted Solar PV panel with two leisure batteries (Ah to be determined – I can’t see at the moment as the batteries need hauling out – guess around 150Ah to 200Ah), partial LED lighting, Snow and Mud marked tyres (all season tyres – legal requirement in winter in many countries), external gas/230v/12v points, cab air conditioning, power steering

So far,we installed these upgrades:

We’ll no doubt have some updates to tell as we get going with Zagan and using the wagon in anger – watch this space. Cheers, Jay No, hang on, what am I doing? I nearly missed the best bit – my favourite two things in Zagan:

We've forgotten something!
OurTour Motorhome Essentials Packing List
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29 Comments on Look inside: Our Hymer B544 2001 Motorhome: Zagan

  1. mike and June // July 11, 2015 at 8:40 pm // Reply

    Hi,
    Nice to see the pics of the “new” van! Very nice too! We’ve just returned from a 5 week 6 Country tour, I say tour but we end up staying for several days at most sites! We were avid caravaners and can’t seem to shake the habit.

    Vagan is a nice looking van can’t say were too keen to head to far North.

    The European weather forecast seems to dictate our direction of travel!

    We’ll be watching with interest, your next adventure!

    Mike n June

    • Hi Mike and June. We’re wondering how things will pan out for us this time. Previously time felt very limited. This time maybe not so much, as we’re sorted some financial stuff out and have a good idea what our costs might be. We too could find ourselves spending longer to get more of a feel for each place and the people there. To some degree it felt like we were stones skipping across a deep surface before. We’ll see. Yup, weather’s the main thing driving our plans. Norway in winter? Nah, I’m way too soft for that. Croatia on the other hand, might just be passable, failing that Greece or Turkey would do nicely (we’ve a fre drachma knocking about somewhere I’m sure). Cheers! Jay

  2. Yes thanks, we’ll have Zagan once you’re done with him! Love the bathroom design and the copious amounts of storage. You’re going to have fun in him.

    • Hi Kiri and Steve, you might need to wait a while guys! Thanks, the van just looks more awesome every time we get up there and have a look. The storage is ridiculous, but I’m somehow sure it will get filled… Hmmm, spear gun, wetsuits, Kayak, fishing rods, remote control toy dinosaurs to harass Charlie with? Yeah, it’ll all get used! 57 working days to go folks… Cheers, Jay

  3. Hugh Parsons // July 11, 2015 at 10:59 pm // Reply

    Brilliant job and I know you’ll go on from strength to strength with this new and luxurious van! I think the improvements you want to make are spot on and will add to the general comfort in which you’ll travel; and thats good cos you’ll be able to concentrate on the experiences and not the mechanicals. While we’re on that one, if you source a good supply of well-priced wing mirrors let em know as my 510 has been smashing them with gay abandon recently! Nothing to do with me……;)

    • Hi Hugh, cheers for the comment! Zagan will do us proud I’m sure, but having mangled a clutch in France we know we can get most problems sorted. The edge of the Sahara might be a different matter (planning on more Morocco action in 18 months). The previous Zagan owners included a sample flat mirror glass and one of the little curved mirrors; they must have heard about my reputation! Cheers, Jay

  4. Hey Guys, that looks superb! & good job on the videos too. We got settled down with a raspberry slush & some popcorn & enjoyed all 23mins of it. :-) Great layout, at 6m long, it’s got it all going on in there. We totally agree with you about the ‘mid afternoon crash-out sofas’, often missed in newer vans. We will also be looking forward to ‘The travels of Zegan’ aka ‘The great escape’ with interest. Not long now till you start pushing an eyeful of scenery past the windows. Good luck with the mods & thanks for the tour, Wayne & Angie. (ps, we are not sure if we need a dance pole now we’ve seen yours) :-)

    • Cheers guys, I did go on a bit! What can I say, despite the Captain Monotone dialogue I’m getting manically excited. The van is just beautiful, I never imagined owning something so fabulous, never mid having great hulking chunks of freedom to use it to the absolute maximum. Those sofas are going to work very well at think, just need a bit of table fettling but we’ll live in Zagan for a couple of months to work out exactly what will work first. Love that phrase ‘pushing an eyeful of scenery’, cracking stuff. I remember first driving Dave through France and feeling like an was sat still as some uber-realistic 3D wide screen movie was shown to me. Nah, I’m not sure you need the dance pole either. It’ll come in handy for something or other, maybe we can fit a tank inside and use it to sneak wine into Norway? :-) cheers, Jay

  5. Eddie Strong // July 12, 2015 at 3:45 pm // Reply

    Congrats on your new purchase. We too have made yet another change, our 6th van in 20 yrs of this fab way of life. After our usual winter in Spain we found our new van no. 5 too small so there you go. Hitting mid 70″s feel we must grab life by the throat while we can. This is a supa dupa e m, really enjoyed reading allabout and seeing your new 2nd home. With every gud wish. Ed

    • Thanks Ed! Sounds like you guys have done a good deal of ‘grabbing life by the throat’ already. Hats off to you! Cheers, Jay

  6. hi there, excited for you especially as we have almost the exact same Hymer, ours is a B544 2002, same Alko chassis, awesome for SUP and kitesurfing water toys, ski storage. Also rated 4 ton which is good for returning home with plenty wine / olive oil etc. Only differences seem to be ours is RHD and we have one long bench seat ( passenger side) and then a 2 facing forward plus 2 facing rear with table between on the other side. One tip ( assuming you have a similar boiler heater) is get a spare valve unit which comes out of the top of the boiler. It has a small floating ball in it which allows air in if the solenoid actuates the water drain ( when temp gets near zero) . The problem we had (scarily on the first outing) was the small ball broke down and so with the tap pump running the water was simply pushed out of the vent ( which should have been sealed by the small floating ball when the level of the water reahes the top of the boiler etc ) . I managed to find the parts even though some forums ( and suppliers ) seem to suggest you can no longer get them . let me know if you struggle to find some £6.50 each I think is what we paid. I will have the receipt in the file . kind regards

  7. No-one can be THAT happy about windscreen wipers, surely? ;-)

  8. Jackie and Tomas // July 28, 2015 at 7:16 am // Reply

    Hi, we are about to go to Germany on Saturday to pick up our own B544 2000 model.First time m/owners a true adventure! Been going over your blog carefully, any suggestions what we have to take with us(in 2 23kilo suitcases!) We live in Greece,so will be driving it back here all being sale goes okay! Manky thanks was great fun reading all your info Jx

    • Hi guys

      Wayhey! Happy days. The B544 is (IMHO) one hell of a motorhome – the best (I’d say that of course) but this make and model works really well for us. Bonne chance winging its way over to you for the sale.

      What to take? Hmmmm:

      • Critical stuff for the sale – not sure what that might be in Germany – ability to pay, to prove who you are, maybe proof of insurance?
      • Legal stuff – usual sorts of stuff – warning triangle, high vis vests etc – if not included in van purchase
      • Glasses if you need them to drive
      • Clothes and usual toiletries
      • Are they including bedding – if not a sleeping bag or two?
      • If not included with the van, you might want to pack some cooking stuff – pots/pans/plastic plates, cutlery, lighter
      • GPS and maps
      • Maybe some books – Lonely Planets plus a few novels?
      • Banging tunes to pootle down the autobahn to
      • The rest of it you can probably just pick up en route

      Ju put together a full list here which would be worth a quick check for anything I’ve missed. Could also be worth considering ADAC pan-European breakdown cover?

      Have a cracking time guys, Jay

  9. Your blog is a mine of information and a great way to get lost and explore a website. So many interesting articles. Will be following your new adventure with interest. Let us know how you get on with the WIFI aerial.

    We are off early Jan next year for one year in Spain. We have been fortunate in that we will be doing the trip in a loan Elldis Encore.

    Like you work in IT and have just given notice.

    ATB David

    • Cheers David, much appreciated! You might want to check out the Our Bumble PDFs too – they spent a fair bit of time in Spain.

      The directional wifi aerial we got from Adam at motorhomewifi.com worked well -got signals from some distance (over 1km line of site). As we were forever moving around though, I found it frustrating always trying to find a network to hook up to. Much of the time we used the cellular network, using a 3G USB dongle with a EuropaSIM (can’t get them any more) or a local SIM. The dongle often ended on the end of a cable stuck out the window to try and get a signal. Adam and Sophie are sending over a roof-mounted 4G antenna, 3 SIM and MiFi, which should give us one sweet experience compared to those previous couple of years. We’ll do a post on the kit when it arrives and video the install for the fun of it!

      Cheers, have a cracking time in Spain guys. Jay

  10. Hello guys
    How jealous are we?! What an amazing van Zagan is. Especially the automatic door step and those wipers. Mind blown. My partner Chris and I have a 1999 Peugeot Boxer motorhome with a similar layout but we always wanted a Hymer. Sadly when it came time to buy, it was summer and they were out of our price range. We’ve been on the road in Stan (named after my late father) now since May this year. Absolutely loving it. We enjoy keeping up with your travels and have taken a load of useful info from your site, so cheers for that! Will be keeping watch, Gem & Chris :)

  11. Can you support this petition:

    https://petition.parliament.uk/petitions/105748

    for motorhome parking.

  12. Brendon & Lorna Cannon // February 25, 2016 at 12:47 am // Reply

    Brilliantly blogged adventures guys!! We came over to the Old Dart last year and bought Hugo, our 2000 B584 Hymer. This vintage Hymer are the goods. We did 4 months all over the UK (not the most MH friendly place!) and he’s parked up in Folkestone waiting for us to return to take on France this time. Following your adventures closely…being a tragic skier I have had a light-bulb moment reading the last few weeks in the French Alps. It’s now on the list!

    Keep safe :-) Brendon & Lorna, Sunny Palm Beach, Queensland, Australia

    PS..Typo above describing Dave “bought a 2003 Hymer B544 (named Dave”..1993?

  13. Megan from Cornwall // May 21, 2016 at 8:56 am // Reply

    Hi, Do you always return to UK to get your MoT done once a year. Hubby asked me and I remember reading somewhere on your blog that you had returned home for this. Was this a one off or is this your usual plan? How does that aspect work? Meg P.S. reckon your next book could be on World Beers!🍻 keep up the taste tests. 😉

    • Hi Megan

      Yeah, For our insurance to be legal the van has to be legal in the country it is registered in, which means having a valid MOT. Unless you buy a new van, you need to return a UK registered vehicle to the UK once a year to MOT it. As far as we know there is no way to get a UK standard MOT done anywhere but in the UK.

      Hmmm, beers of the world! There’s a thought!

      Cheers, Jay

  14. Hi Jay, Ju and Charlie

    I have started reading from the beginning, now halfway through 2012 and loving your writing style. We are researching now for a purchase later this year, started off looking at nearly new Autotrail, now seriously considering the B544 to get us started.

    Noticed a typo above on the link to the Dave video, you have written 2003 and I think you meant 1993.

    Keep on keeping on. Looking forward to reading the rest of your adventures. Maybe see you on MH Fun or Wild camping forums.

    K

  15. your blogs is amine of information indeed guys and it is wondarfully written with love and good care, thank for the info guyes and always have a sweet breeze on your travels.

    I am interested to buy a humer of 1992 like your Dave, so may I ask your opinion about it. It will be my first one, considering his age can I fix the motor if is need it. Is a 10000 euros a good price,
    I would love to hearing from you,
    best
    nikos

    • Hi Nikos, hard to say without seeing the vehicle but that’s roughly the ballpark price you’d pay in the UK so sounds about right. Our clutch died when we were in France and we had to get a Fiat garage to fix it. That was expensive, over a thousand euros, but it is part of owning an older vehicle. They can always be fixed, but it’s not always cheap. Cheers, good luck, Jay

  16. Hi guys. After months of research we are now on the hunt for our first Hymer. Woohoo!!! We’re definitely going for a B544 and I’m edging towards a 2001 like Zagan because I think the double floor would work well for us. Wondering what your payload is with full water, fuel and gas? We’ll be fulltiming with a similar set up (I hope). Solar, gasflow, awning. No desire for ovens and such.
    Still working my way through your blog and return to pages time and again for info. Best resource I’ve come across and such a great read as well.
    Cheers! x

    • Cheers guys. The double floor has given us FAR more storage space than we have the weight capacity for. We have two leisure batteries, awning, a Sat TV system, two bikes and rack and a solar panel and we’re easily bouncing off the 3.5 tonne limit. I’ve never weighed the van before loading it, so I don’t know the carry weight capacity, sorry! Cheers, Jay

      • Thanks. Fingers crossed then lol. We’ve got bulky instruments, but not very heavy. Sure it will be fine. Good way to find out what’s really needed. Enjoy Morocco. x

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