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The hunt is on for a caravan that ticks all the boxes on our list. Searching on the internet comes up with a number of forums dedicated to caravanning as well as all the different manufacturer web sites. One of the first sites I look at is Bailey’s…. the Orion range. Wow… that looks good, there are a couple of videos on the site of some chap called Andrew Ditton taking them to the beach in Spain and somewhere knee deep in snow. I really loved the idea of the Alu-Tech construction system, it seemed right.

Unfortunately, we were looking just at the time the wheel detachment issue was coming to light with one of the Bailey range and on the forums, there was lots of speculation about the mechanical fastening system of the Alu-Tech construction. This knocked Bailey of our top spot for the manufacturer of our soon to be pride and joy.

We had previously been up to Glossop Caravans to look round when we were looking for what we thought we wanted when hiring. It was time for another visit. Originally it was our intention to buy a second hand van, maybe twelve or eighteen months old, but after wandering round all the pre-owned vans, there was nothing we liked or came close to ticking any boxes. What had seemed like an easy task, finding a suitable caravan, suddenly became a lot harder. If we couldn’t find something at one of the biggest dealers in the North West, what chance did we have.

Out of frustration…. and the fact it has started to rain we were wandering round the new caravans and just happened to stop by a Sterling Celebration 550 and went inside to shelter from the rain… “I like the light wood of this one” Sue said. We started to look more closely… fixed bed – yes, big end washroom – yes,  big shower – yes, big wardrobe – yes, as we moved down the list, more and more items were being ticked off, without any compromises. We took the details and price and as the rain had now stopped, headed back to the car. We had found the van, so now we had to find the best deal. We had not planned on a new van, so it was going to be a bit of a financial stretch.

I typed “Sterling Celebration 550” into google… and it listed a page full of hits… all Glossop Caravans. Hmm, I clicked on a link and it took me to the details page for the van. Reading through, I discovered it was something called a “Dealer Special” and was based on a Sterling Europa 550. “I typed “Sterling Europa 550” into google…. pages and pages of hits… I started clicking on the links and moving down the list… they all basically used the same system for displaying the details. OK, “Caravan Finder”…. that took me to the site I wanted… search “Dealer Special 550”. There was the Celebration offered by Glossop Caravans, and the Beachcomber offered by someone near Bristol with the exact same specification and interior photos. OK, the penny dropped, these were upgrades offered to dealers so they could badge them as “exclusive” to themselves.

Searching for dealer specials, I realised that Glossop were actually cheaper than anyone else. The fact it was a 2011 model and it was coming to the end of the 2011 selling season and they needed space to start taking delivery of the 2012 stock helped. The price of the caravan was actually cheaper than the standard Europa 550… by a big margin. Back to Glossop Caravans, this time to talk to a salesman. 4 hours later, we were the proud owners of a new 2011 Sterling Celebration 550.

The search was now on…. for all the equipment we needed, and a place to keep it as it was a bit bigger than what we had first looked at.

I had already compiled a list of what we needed. If you spend enough time reading through forums, you get a feel for what you need and in most cases, the make and model of the equipment. My granddad always said “Owt cheap’s dear… buy cheap buy twice” and that has stayed with me 50 years. I started working my way down the list ordering over the internet all the things we would need and after several visits by UPS, FedEx et al I had a workshop full of boxes. Thankfully we only had a few days to wait until the caravan was ready for collection. One thing I did have to do however, was convert the Freelander’s 12N and 12S sockets over to a 13 Pin socket. I’d already ordered a socket over the internet and so one afternoon I reversed the Freelander up to the workshop and 35 minutes and one cup of coffee later, the Freelander had a new 13 Pin socket installed, complete with new protective flexible trunking and heat shrink seals. I just had to convert the trailer over now!