Motorhome Blog Part 2 - Bailey Alliance 66-2


2018 is our sixth season with the Bailey. It has completed just under 21000 miles in that time. The 740 is an excellent motorhome in layout which gives us plenty of room. However on reflection I think we are coming to the conclusion that perhaps it is a bit on the large size for our overall needs. Understandably when thinking about buying a motorhome we in some ways wanted to replicate what we had in our last caravan. The 740 certainly met that requirement. However in terms of practicality a smaller motorhome would have been better on reflection. As an example we have never taken it off site during any of our stays because the real or imagined concern that we would not find anywhere to park. We are also both in our seventies now  and since buying the motorhome we have both had medical problems which has slowed us down a bit. This manifests itself in needing to be on sites which are relatively close to transport links or within reasonably easy walking distance of a town/village or place of interest.

 

We still like the principal of motorhoming for its general ease compared to a caravan and we can't see ourselves going back to towing. Whilst we have liked the fixed bed design, as we grow older, our view has changed and we feel  we are moving towards the thought that perhaps two single bunks might be more convenient. The last year has been spent thinking about alternatives and persuading Margaret that we should seriously think about changing. She has obvious concerns about the cost! I do as well but perhaps I am a bit more reckless?  Because we now have far greater experience of motorhoming we are in a better position to judge what may be a better choice for us. The trouble is that choice is still quite wide! We have firmed up on the idea of having two singles rather than a fix bed. That gives us a bit of flexibility as usually they can be also be converted into a double if required. We have had to accept that this decision makes it necessary  to deal with bedding on a daily basis. Having decided on the sleeping arrangements has narrowed our choice  down quite a bit. Another requirement so to see if we could buy a motorhome that was easy to take off site. Not necessarily into town centres but at least to the supermarkets and perhaps the odd country house or even just out for a drive which we have felt was not possible with the 740 although many people do. This initially got us thinking about van conversions. They have the advantage of being compact and would meet our  requirements for off site use. Whilst we were very tempted I think in the end we could not reconcile ourselves to the loss on internal space just to satisfy the need for compactness.

 

This got us thinking about a middle way and started to look at coachbuilt motorhomes that had two long bunks but not too long in length. We have been to dealers and to the NEC. To cut a long story short we narrowed it down to another Bailey model in the Advance range. This range was introduced about two years ago as a pretty basic model. A year later they did a major revamp which included better equipment levels and tweaked the model name from Advance 635 to the Advance 66-2. This model has two long and quite wide bunks. Kitchen amidships and an end bathroom so very much in the style we were used to in a couple of our previous caravans which worked well for us. The only downside was that there was a step up from the kitchen into the lounge area which we would have preferred not to be there. Having more or less settled on this model Bailey only went an introduced another range called the Alliance with exactly the same layouts as the Advance but with much higher levels of equipment. Both ranges were to run side by side. We were able to have a look at both models at the NEC in October 2018. Obviously the Advance 66-2 would be more affordable than the new Alliance model but we would have to add some essential equipment to the Advance which was included in the Alliance which narrowed the gap a bit! So by now we had more or less decided that the 66-2 model was what we wanted but were still to decide whether to push ourselves and go for the better equipped model. We would really only get a proper idea when we talked to our dealer.

 

Our Bailey 740 had been purchased from White Arches Motorhomes near Rushden. The only problem was that they never ever seemed to have an Advance 66-2 in stock. Plenty of other models but not the one we were interested in. I emailed the branch manager to see when they were likely to have one in stock. It seemed unlikely they would have one but he did offer to let us see one that had arrived but was already sold to another customer. We duly made arrangements to have another look. It was interesting to see the 66-2 along side the larger Autograph range which is the latest successor to the Approach that we currently have. Not only is the Advance about 90cms shorter but it is also about 10/12cms narrower. The 740 is fine on ordinary roads but you often feel pushed into the hedgerows on narrow country lanes with passing traffic! Sitting in it at White Arches we did, probably for the first time, a better sense of the size. Decision time. We only had a rough idea of what ours was worth as someone at the NEC had done a back of the envelop deal for us on a van conversion so that was our starting point. For the Advance the offer was not quite as good so we enquired about the Alliance. This worked out better, albeit still more expensive because of the gap between the two models, because we had less to add and the deal was an improvement. The deal has been done and we hopefully take delivery sometime in March 2019. Had we kept the 740 we would have needed to replace the tyres. We would also have had to pay for another cab and habitation service plus MOT and another years VED so those savings will all go to softening the cost of the purchase of the new van!

 

Friday 8th March 2019. Collection day has arrived. The 740 has been moved to the side of the house for the last time! So with a mix of sadness and excitement we made our way to White Arches Motorhomes  at Irtlingborough. As we pulled into the yard we could see our new motorhome. Neil the manager went through everything with us although it all made more sense this time than six years ago. Unfortunately the spare wheel and frame had not arrived which was an extra we had fitted so we will have to return to have that added at some stage in the future. As it is not a standard fitment we do have the standard gung pump should it be needed!

 

 

Two weeks after picking up the Alliance we set off for our first stay in our new motorhome. We didn't venture far, just to Moreton in Marsh which is about 50 miles from where we live. Although it is not massively shorter than the old 740  motorhome the 66-2 does seem to have a lot more room on the pitch. Much of what we have in the new motorhome is similar to the old but I suppose there are two major differences. Firstly we have the make the beds up each night and secondly whilst it shares the same Truma Combi boiler as the last van this one has the CP Plus electronic control panel. The bench seats that form the two single beds are about 30 inches wide so will accept standard small single fitted sheets. We also purchase duvets as we didn't fancy going back to sleeping bags. We found some nice ones in John Lewis which weren't too expensive and were rated a 7 TOG so a bit of a half way house between summer and winter rating. One issue was what to do with the backrests? The bed on the kitchen side of the van can be pulled out to form the double. So what we do is the pull it out a bit and drop the back rest down behind the cushion. The other back rest we stand in the door way. With a bit of practice over a few nights and mornings we seem to have got into a good routine of setting up at night and putting away in the morning. All the bedding stores in the generous under bed storage space. This has been a major change for us as the previous van had a fixed bed which was always made up. At least with two single beds we don't disturb each other should we need to get up in the night!

 

 

The Truma CP Plus control panel has been a bit more problematic. Not because there is anything wrong with it but it is a bit more complicated than a switch and two dials on the old motorhome. If you wish to operate any element of the system you must first remember to have the 12 volt Master Switch on, which is a change from the old system. Once you have mastered that the control panel gives you a lot more options. You can opt for boost to make sure you get enough hot water. There is a fan speed setting that allows the pumping of either hot or cold air around the van. We do like the fact that we have more warm air towards the cab area of the van. If there is a downside the bathroom is not as warm as its almost the furthest point from the boiler.

 

 

The water supply system in the 66-2 is quite different to the 740. Firstly the tank is inboard rather than slung under the van. Fortunately there is not much difference in capacity. An inboard tank has the advantage that it offers more protection from cold temperatures which is very much a positive. If there is a negative it is that it takes up valuable potential storage space. The 740 had a much more substantial water pump whilst the 66-2 has what is essentially a submersible pump similar to what you would use in an Aquaroll. It generally works perfectly well but the power of water delivery is not the same as the 740. We have experience a few issues with the pump as it tends to come on continuously which means to have to adjust the pressure control valve. On one occasion even this was not the remedy and I resulted to disconnecting the main water pipe from the tank which did the trick. Not sure you should have to do this. I should mention we have only had this issue between site so whether it's something in the transit that changes the situation I don't know.

 

 

 

Because Bailey have raised the floor in the living area both the storage areas on the nearside and the space that occupies the water tank and the boiler are quite deep. I am wondering if there are opportunities to make use of the space above the water tank and boiler for more storage but that is probably a project for later on!

 

At the end of April we travelled down to VanBitz at Taunton to have a Strikeback alarm fitted, the same as we had done six years earlier with the 740. These alarms cost in the region of £600 so not cheap but they have an excellent reputation. It is a full day job so they provide a free night at the adjacent campsite called Cornish Farm. The 66-2 also has a solar panel fitted but penny pinching by Bailey meant that it was only connected to the leisure battery so unless the engine is running there is no charge to the cab battery. This was the reason we asked VanBitz to fit a device called the Battery Master which sends any excess charge from the leisure battery to the cab battery. We had one fitted previously to the 740 and that provided excellent service during our ownership of that motorhome. Unfortunately, whereas last time it was fitted at a discount this time we had to pay full price!