The History of Hymer Motorhomes - page 4

On the van front only the ‘Magic’ remained in the programme, still with the same floor plan but now more spacious thanks to the increased size of the base vehicle. In summer 1994 Bad Waldsee sprang a surprise with a new model range between the B- and S-Classes. E Class paired a Fiat driving-head with a low-line Al-Ko chassis. The front was more rounded and swept back to its union with the sides, the Hymer cut-out was restored and the slightly upswept pairings of the four headlights introduced the first Hymer with a ‘smiley’ look.

The E Class came with a GRP roof and glued to the sidewalls; the new model’s bonded construction was a development of technology first used in the too-expensive-to-sell 880. Incorporated in the stylish GRP rear panel was a foldaway bike rack.

The new E-Class, with five models from 5.7 to 7.7 metres, was aimed firmly at the two-berth market.

There was the ‘bar’ seating group with its cantilevered table, all featured a fully separate shower cubicle or shower section within the washroom, kitchens had a new elegance and the three largest models boasted a fixed rear bed layout.

Mercedes forced more changes on the motorhome makers at the beginning of 1995 with the launch of their new ‘Sprinter’, which replaced and extended the range of the now rather dated ‘Bremen’ commercial. Hymer’s homework for the new chassis with the three-pointed star had already been done in creating the E-Class and the S-Class newcomers which appeared at the Caravan Salon that year differed only in the fine detail of their style. Inside, customers with S-Class spending power found specification upgrades and extra luxury. Notable was the S-520 with its round-table dining/seating group.

The Tramp models introduced in the late eighties were close clones of the Hymercamps but without the Luton. For ’95 the semi-integrated Hymer was reborn as the Hymertramp sibling of the new E- and S-Class, sharing their body construction technology and with a less prominent, sleeker low profile front moulding and sharing also the Fiat/AI-Ko foundation of the ‘E’. But if Hymer were moving upmarket with their integrated and semi-integrated models there was concern about their competitive position at the budget end of the price scale. In addition to the fall in sales, cheap Italian imports had been making significant inroads in the German and other European markets. Hymer responded with the Hymercamp Swing 494, a whisker short of five metres and on the 1.9 turbo-diesel Fiat Ducato 10. It followed in the wheel tracks of the earlier Camp 46 on the Talento and both the ‘Swing’ name and the cabinetwork were derived from the Nova Swing caravan from Cernay, where the 494 was also initially built.

Compared with the existing Hymercamps, the new model was simplified in style and specification but still with all the essentials -space and water heating, cassette toilet, second battery etc.MOTORHOME– and very keenly priced.

1995 saw the 50,000th Hymer motor caravan produced and this was celebrated by launching a ‘Jubilee’ version of the Hymercamp 544, similarly with a pared down spec like the 494 and selling at around 12.000DM less than the regular model. Already in Swing-style livery, this 544 was soon adopted into a quickly growing Swing series to run in parallel with the established Hymercamps.

Hard work at Bad Waldsee in 1994/95 upgrading existing models and introducing new brought its reward in the 1995MOTORHOME‘Reisemobile des Jahres’, when Hymers occupied two first places and three seconds in the results tables published in ‘Promobil’. Recognition of excellence came also that year with the granting to Hymer of their ISO 9001 certificate they were the first in the German motorhome and caravan industry to qualify for the award. In 1996 Hymer acquired Niesmann + Bischoff, that prestigious constructor having a few years earlier fallen to Fleetwood of America. Heavy investment in a new green-field factory and the new ‘Flair’ range had rewarded the Americans only with a large deficit.

Hymer took on a programme of upper middle class and super luxury models and before long increased sales, something the Bad Waldsee professionals seemed to manage with all their takeovers.

Back at base, meanwhile, things were not standing still. B-Class was reclad in a new, smooth outer aluminium skin in place of the previous hammer-finish and given an all-round package of improvements. Two new series were started. The integrated ‘Star-Line’ set B-Class style bodies onto the Mercedes Sprinter chassis, two models initially later increasing to four, and the Sprinter also carried a new cab over model, the ‘Hymercamp Star-Line 640′. Now the Hymer programme had a model to suit 99 out of every 100 buyers of a coachbuilt motorhome.

The B-Class was the main centre of attention in 1997, an external reworking leaping it arguably ahead of its E- and S-Class stable mates in the style stakes. The rounded front with twin headlights and the curved slash of the air intake in the bumper/spoiler accentuated the ‘smiley’ look first seen with the E-Class. Similar upswept styling to the rear bumper, and the sweep of the skirt moulding over the wheel arches, continued the curvy theme.

And gone was the flat roof dipping downward over the cab, in its place a rounded roof cap (surprisingly an aluminium sandwich composite, not GRP).

Nine layout options are offered with the new B-series, furniture now in a light pear wood decor, new windows and concertina-fold blinds (two of them cleverly fitted to close around the curved windscreen). Internally, however the piéce de resistance is the new washroom with the panel carrying hand basin and mirror arranged to hinge across to the toilet leaving a dedicated and uncluttered showering area. This ‘Vario’ system was to spread into other Hymer models which could otherwise find no space for a separate shower cubicle. One ‘old’ B-Class model, however, was allowed to remain in the company’s programme, that eternal favourite the 544 Styled the ‘B-Class Classic’, and since joined by the B-584, it provides affordable entry to the world of the integrated Hymermobil.

In 1998 the new B-Class bonded construction was applied to the Hymercamps which, in the process, gained a new half-round style over cab providing exceptional sleeping space and also establishing a wide visual differential between them and their budget priced Swing brothers. A similar realignment of the Hymertramps with the B-Class instead of the E and S models brought those semi-integrated models into more affordable territory.

After the recent flood of new and revised models,MOTORHOME1999 appeared to be a relatively quiet year, although under the seemingly still waters at Bad Waldsee there was much activity developing models for the new Millennium. The Swing series, now eight in number, had their hammer finish replaced by a smooth exterior plus improvements to specifications with little change in prices. The Hymercar was discontinued and the E-Class merged into the B-Class. A year later the Tramp was also terminated, a logical move as the acquisition of Bürstner in 1998 had brought into the Hymer fold a leading maker of semi-integrated motorhomes. At the ’99 Caravan Salon ‘Hymer-rent’ was unveiled, from the outset making Hymer a major force in motorhome rental with hundreds of vehicles at around fifty dealerships.

First among the moves towards the Millennium was ‘Project Mozart’, top secret with designers and constructors beavering away for more than two years to create a new S-Class range. Paraded first at the Düsseldorf Salon 2000, the new trio rode on the Mercedes Sprinter 416/419MOTORHOME(4.6/4.9 tonnes) with 6-speed ‘Sprintshift’ automatic transmission. The S-MOTORHOME650, S-740 and S-820 were respectively 6.6,MOTORHOME7.5 and 8.2 metres long and catered for complements from two to four according to layout.