A Brief History of the Fiat Ducato HYMER Car 3 Camper Van

Hymer Car 3

HYMER Car 3 - The Beautiful Machine

The German company HYMER, which is based in Bad Waldsee in the southwest of the country, have been building and converting camper vans since 1961.

They first became well-known in 1971 for the HYMERmobil, which was their first series production camper.

The first HYMER Car was built in 1983, based on a Ford chassis. Three years later, in 1986 Hymer began producing this model based on the Fiat Ducato van. Our specific van – the HYMER Car 3 – was first detailed in their 1987 brochure (ZIP).

In the days before Photoshop, this sort of stunt was the only way.

In the days before Photoshop, this sort of stunt was the only way.

Our camper van (a.k.a. camperissimo) was built in 1989 and first driven in 1990. As it happens, at the time it was actually the luxury version of the HYMER Car, with its massive 2500ccm engine delivering a staggering 75 bhp of pure diesel power, along with a fair few of the optional extras: bike rack, solar panel, swivelling passenger chair and very substantial gas heating.

This model was listed for the next 4-5 years, with the version illustrated in the 1992 catalogue (PDF) the most similar to our van. In 2007 the HYMER car was relaunched on the basis of the newest version of the Fiat Ducato. While the basic layout of the van remained the same, it clearly belongs to a completely different generation of camper vans. Here’s the brochure for the 2007 relaunch.

Here’s a brief overview of how it’s laid out, although I should note that a couple of these features were listed as extras, and are hence van-specific:

HYMER Car 3 - Layout of the Van

HYMER Car 3 - Layout of the Van

  • The van sleeps four adults, with a fold-down double bed in the roof of the van and a piece-together jigsaw puzzle bed directly below, in the area which is usually the table.
  • The passenger seat swivels to face the communal area and create a greater feeling of space, but the driver’s seat is fixed. Curtains on either side can be pulled around the frontal area over the dashboard.
  • The van has room for two 6kg gas bottles, which power the stove, the heating and the fridge. The fridge can also run on mains electricity (if the mains is connected), or else off the battery if the motor is running.
  • The van originally came with two 16 litre fresh water canisters (we now carry 60 litres: 2 x 19 litre and 2 x 16 litre) and has a 50 litre waste water tank below the car.
  • The van has two sinks: one in the front section for cooking and dishes, another in the rear for bathroom-type activities.
  • The van has a rack for two bikes behing the back doors and a roof rack above that, which has standard-width rails for mounting a car roof-rack. A ladder is mounted on the left rear door and standing on the roof of the van affords a wonderful view of the surrounding area 🙂
  • A solar panel is mounted on the roof for topping up the second battery.
  • The van was sold with a PortaPottie chemical toilet, although we have never used ours.
  • No shower is fitted, but the tap on the rear sink is a “Japanese shower” which can be pulled out of the sink for showering behind the van (we invested in a plastic basin which allows us to shower easily in the back of the van, with the doors closed).
  • Here’s a list of stuff that we’ve changed since buying the van.

I found out all of this – and a lot more besides – through a Google image search for the name of the van. I found quite a few online auctions for similar models, a great archive of HYMER product catalogues (hence the plentiful links) and a similar blog in German, which is what inspired us to finally getting around to writing one ourselves.

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