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For many years we have used a Jamet trailer tent for the annual jaunt
to Spain. Now the kids are older it looks like this will be the last
year we go as a family as the teenagers fly the nest. The wife and I
had been planning to replace the tent with a caravan to enable us to
do much more touring of the UK and Europe. We're getting too old to
deal with damp canvas and erecting the tent.
We have just been offered a Starcraft camper which I'm told has rigid
sides and is quick to put up. The price for this 20 year old camper is
900. The only info I have is that it was imported from the USA and
sold by the VAG group.
Anyone have any knowledge and/or advice to offer on this deal?
Starcraft are manufacturers of recreational vehicles, and are (were )based
in Topeka, Indiana with manufacturing facilities in nearby Goshen. They were
taken over by their rivals, Jayco, some years ago but continued to produce
under the 'Starcraft' name.
The make various kinds of units - chiefly large '5th Wheelers', for putting
behind a Pick-up truck and 'Travel Trailers' (their version of a caravan).
The unit you are referring to is called a 'Camper', and are the least
expensive unit made by the Company.
'Campers' come in various sizes/trims, but all feature canvas sides with a
solid roof (although some Starcraft models (never imported) were 'all
canvas, like the Pennines/Conways in the UK
They do have a couple of models with solid sides - but these are fairly
recent, and will not be the one that you are thinking of buying.
In the early 1980's several brands of the American 'Camper' were imported
into the UK thanks to a good dollar/pound exchange rate. Conway bought in
'Jayco' (which became the basis for their own, UK built 'Laser, Tardis, and
Cardinal models) and a chap named Rodney Binley imported Starcrafts. The
smallest (5 berth) was the 'Starlite' (US spelling) and the largest (8
berth) was the 'Constellation', in between were the Starflyer, Starmaster,
and Galaxy. Each had a different 'box' length ranging from 8 feet, to 14
The first units to arrive (1980) were full US spec and had a Bendix
hydraulic hitch with a master cylinder mounted on the hitch. This never
seemed to work properly. (spares were carried by Conway for the earlier
'Jayco' models which they imported - but you had to tell them that you
required the various spares for one of their own units - a 'Jayfinch, or a
Jaythrush, for example. If you told them it was for an early Starcraft they
wouldn't sell you the bits)
It's important to note that the early units had a 2" hitch that was a bit
slack on the European 50mm towball. Many people did tow with it - but it
was never particularly safe. It used to be possible to obtain the old UK 2"
towballs, but supply of these has probably dried up by now.
After 1980 only the 'box' was imported, and placed on a B&B chassis with
conventional overrun brakes and a standard 50mm hitch.
Starcrafts were only imported for about 3 years. They are recognisable by
their distinctive red and white graphics. The spare wheel was mounted on
the rear (like a 4x4) and they had a substantial bumper.
The Venture range was a cheaper/lighter version that was imported during
1982/3 - they had green graphics and a lower level of trim (not that any of
them could be described as 'luxurious')
The Canvas was excellent quality - although made of Cotton (unlike some
rivals who were using acrylic type material.
The Starcraft winding system/cables was routed externally (unlike the Jayco
that kept everything within the box) and was prone to deterioration by the
weather. Snapped cables were fairly common.
Later Starcrafts used the Jayco system (even before hey were taken over by
Jayco) but all the UK ones had the early version.
Starcraft are very good about retaining spares for their models. In the
early 1990's it was still possible to obtain some parts dating back to 1963
models. Whether this is still the case, I don't know. A telephone call
will advise you.
£900 is far too much to pay for an old Venture - unless it is in truly
exceptional original condition. Over the years all these models tend to
have been modified/butchered by owners - adding fridges (instead of the
original cool box), ovens and fires.
Chassis' rust badly, solid roofs are prone to leaking/rotting . Check
cables - especially where they fasten to the four lifting posts.posts
Ratchet spring that holds the winding drum also tends to fail
Look for mildew on the canvas - especially the buk ends which were covered
in vinyl on the exterior (tends to create condensation when packed)