Bedford Bambi

Note: Most of the pictures of the Bambi are taken by owners; a simple Google will yield many results. I just ran with the original advertisements.

 

My sister and her boyfriend are Doctor Who fans (I have not watched an episode…maybe I'll wait until it's over to start from the beginning…) but I do know what a TARDIS is.

Of course, it's a time machine-slash-spacecraft shaped kind of like a blue police box from London, UK. Much of the show's myth revolves around how the TARDIS is much larger inside than it appears to be on the outside.

According to bedfordrascal.com, Bedford Bambi owners refer to their kei-based motorhomes as being like a TARDIS. It's probably more of an exaggeration.

We will start first with Bedford. A brand created by General Motors in 1930 to replace "British Chevrolet"—Brazilian-made (with parts from Canada!) General Motors trucks that were imported into the UK. General Motors decided to do it right and start a truck plant in Bedfordshire.

Fast forward five decades and the British manufacturer had lost its military contracts, stopped producing large trucks, and was refocused into a brand comprised of captive imports from other General Motors allies, including Isuzu and Suzuki.

The Bedford Rascal is a Suzuki Carry Van.

The Bedford Bambi, however, is a Suzuki Carry Truck. (A revelation, surely!)

Autohome Ltd was an extremely successful manufacturer of caravans, and even though the Bedford-badged Suzukis were small, the company was invited to check them out. A partnership with a motorhome manufacturer would sell more vans, but Autohomes was unconvinced that the van was large enough for conversions.

Romahome, a rival (and still in business), had recently unveiled a camper conversion for the Suzuki Carry truck and, upon seeing a similar Bedford truck, the managing director for Autohomes Ltd had found their solution.

They only needed a name. After "Bambino"—Italian for "baby" was suggested, Bambi was seen as an even better alternative. Disney, probably far too busy working on designs for The Little Mermaid merchandise, gave their OK to use the name of their famous little deer.

Back to car stuff. Unlike the Romahome-topped Suzuki, a Bedford Bambi is not removable—this ensures greater mounting stiffness and overall strength. 

Mounting a camper shell to the truck chassis allowed Autohomes to make it nearly half a metre (one and a half feet) wider and 0.6 metres (2 feet) longer, with room for insulation. 

It's still shorter and narrower than a Ford Fiesta, though. Figure that one out!

Inside, the Bambi is considered a "two to three" berth van, with a small bed above the cab for kids and a larger double mattress down below. There's a fridge (that runs on electricity or gas), a two-burner stove, sink, and running water. 

There was also a "terlet" but, according to the BBC:

"It can be used in situ, but it is very inconvenient as all the cushions have to be moved, the curtains closed and any residents removed from the van. One needs to be very dexterous to get down that low, into such a small gap. If a larger loo is required for any reason, it will not fit into the locker. However, it can be placed between the bench seats, covered with a lacy doily and used as a coffee table while travelling."

No…just no.

Powered by a 970cc Suzuki inline 4-cylinder engine hooked up to a 5-speed manual transmission, the Bambi is—apparently—capable of 112 km/h (70 mph). Fast enough for a camper, I think…and definitely fast enough for a micro loft on wheels. Cruising speed is closer to 80 km/h (50 mph).

Fuel economy? 9.4 L/100km (25 US mpg; 30 Imperial mpg). It sounds terrible, but compared with a gigantic motorhome, anything a Bambi uses is a drop in the bucket.

Introduced in 1986 (and sold until 1993!), about 1500 have been produced—with a club dedicated to keeping them on the road for as long as possible.

The title of their bi-monthly club magazine? Ready? It's perfect: Bambi Tales.

 


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