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Road trip gone bad: Not quite making it to Baja in my Westy

http://boingboing.net/2015/01/05/road-trip-gone-bad-not-quite.html

My Wesy takes a trip

 

Mexico’s Baja California peninsula is an incredibly beautiful place. My 1987 Volkswagen camper van can be an amazing way to travel there. As anyone who has been around one knows, however, calamity is part of every Westy adventure.

Two years and 10 thousand miles ago I completely rebuilt my VW Vanagon GL Westfalia. A day before a large holiday party, while running to pick up ALL THE FOOD, my Vanagon threw the alternator belt, overheated and in a disastrous chain of events ended up needing an engine, transmission, cooling system and brakes. I threw in a new tent and bigger, low profile wheels just for fun. I used GoWesty’s fantastic 2.3L upgraded power plant and made a slew of minor improvements. I had been having such a great two years with the bus, I started to think it was bulletproof.

“She’s like a new car!” I told my girlfriend, who had agreed to come with me on a trip to Canyon de Guadalupe, Mexico, before I described the long, long list of things I’d replaced or had done. We booked a campsite for a few days in late December and planned to marathon drive down from San Francisco on Christmas day.

I worried over every small detail. Swapping out an old p-trap under the kitchen sink in the van took 3 days. This should have been the first clue things were going to go wrong. I started out thinking I needed a better wrench to free it. I ended up drilling holes in the old trap to weaken it, and needing a saw to cut it out. Welcome to the world of the VW bus.

Then the fridge, after starting easily the first time I tried, refused to relight after I’d filled up the propane tank. “Oh well!” I thought, “I’ll run off of electric and start it on gas when I get to Mexico.” It gave me something to worry about, which I felt was normal, so I didn’t let it get in the way.

I’d labored over a decision: whether to take Highway 5 up and over the Grapevine, or the 101. As we were trying for speed, and I trusted my GoWesty engine, we chose the 5. Where to cross the international border was also a major consideration. I wanted to cross at Tecate and drive the famous, scenic MEX2 highway 150 or so miles through La Rumerosa to Laguna Salada and Canyon De Guadalupe. I was worried that Pemex, the state-owned and only gas stations in Mexico, might be closed on Christmas in more rural areas and thought we might run out of gas on our way North. To ensure that didn’t happen, we planned to cross at Mexicali.

I left Muir Beach, CA at 3:30AM, picked up my co-pilot in Oakland around 4 and we were off. She drove the first shift and I slept. Waking up once or twice at gas stops, I wasn’t really cogent or thinking as she headed up the Grapevine, California’s famous VW bus killer.

Many an air-cooled VW van has died on this monstrous incline. Named after the grapes that grow wild around the remnants of the earlier HWY99 that was long ago replaced by the 5, this section of road was once to be feared in the Summer. Nowadays cars have far more efficient cooling systems, as it helps regulate fuel efficiency (an important point later,) but my woefully underpowered 1987 van would have been in danger. Luckily, I thought, it has run super cool since the rebuild and December was freezing cold. I didn’t anticipate any trouble. I didn’t realize my co-pilot was unfamiliar with the Vanagon’s quirky, near useless, gas gauge.

We actually made it over the top of the Grapevine just fine! The van did well and held 55 most of the way. Once we came over the top, with her nose pointed down, we ran out of gas. Initially, I didn’t notice anything. My co-pilot complained she was losing power and I asked her to let off the gas. I took the car out of gear and immediately the engine stopped. Luckily, without the engine braking we sped up. We threw on the hazards and decided to try and roll to the next gas station in Gorman. We came up about 15 feet short and needed a slight push, but as far as Grapevine calamities go this was pretty mild. We filled up the tank, primed the fuel pump and she started right up.

It took about another hundred miles for things to go wrong. My best guess is that we sucked up a ton of sludge from the bottom of my new gas tank (did I mention that had been replaced 2 years ago as well?). It is possible we also got bad gas in Gorman, but they have so much traffic I find that less likely. Whatever the cause, the Vanagon gradually lost power until it wouldn’t rev over 3500rpm. That limited us to about 50-55mph on flat ground and 35mph or so uphill. We were trying to take the 210 freeway around Los Angeles to bypass traffic and didn’t anticipate the San Gabriel mountains being such a problem. Clearly something was wrong with the car.

We ran a little bit of fuel injector cleaner through the Westy. Things got better. We ran a lot more fuel injector cleaner through her and things got a lot better. I decided to swap the fuel filter, after I proudly told my traveling companion I had the foresight to carry one for just this type of problem. We would head from San Dimas, about 70 or 80 miles, with the car gaining and losing power, to Santa Monica and spend the night at my parents. In the AM I’d swap the filter and we’d head to Mexico.

Visiting Santa Monica let us have dinner at my favorite deli in West Los Angeles, Izzy’s. I am not a Fromin’s fan. Had we been closer to the San Fernando Valley, I’d have gone to Brent’s. It was wonderful to eat at a deli on Christmas.

The next morning I swung under the van, asking my friend to time me, because this was going to take less than 5 minutes. Then I saw that the bolt holding the fuel filter to the frame was stripped. It looked like someone had used a power tool on it while up on a lift and chewed the center out. I tried my fathers special “remove stripped bolts and screws” screwdriver to no avail. I tried vise grips but couldn’t get any purchase. Then I found a local mechanic who was open and for $20 he removed the bolt and swapped in the spare filter. It took him less than 5 minutes.

We were on our way! The car was running great again, we could hold 75mph no problem and O’Reilly Auto Parts had another spare fuel filter for us. We headed towards Mexico.

Around 40-50 miles later I noticed that the car felt like it was losing power when I floored it, a frequent occurrence in a vintage VW bus. I had no clue what was going on, so we stopped at a gas station. Idling the van for a few moments, I was surprised to see the temperature gauge never came up above minimum operating temps. I thought the thermostat might be stuck open. Luckily, my incredible mechanic Paul from San Rafael’s Valley Wagonworks chose that very moment to call me. We discussed the issues I’d been seeing and he suggested finding a Vanagon expert to swap the thermostat. He wondered if maybe a fuel injector was still clogged. He told me I wouldn’t hurt the van driving it like this, but it’d be slow.

I took a look at the thermostat housing and decided it was under too much junk to try and swap on the road. I wanted to go to Baja but I also just wanted to go home. The idea of finding myself stuck on the side of the road in Palm Springs, CA with the fluids pouring out of a cooling system I was unable to properly bolt down was only slightly more appealing than the idea of being in a similar position on the southern side of the US/Mexico border. It was around 11am and 70ºF out. The car was running fine. We agreed it’d be safer to just go home.

Thus began a long, slow trip home. I did not anticipate the outside temperatures changing. As it got colder the car lost power. As we went up in elevation, we lost power. The car ran less and less efficiently, sometimes down to 6 or 7mpg. We were stopping every 60-80 miles. When outside temperatures dropped below 50F the car started to blow clouds of smoke when you’d accelerate.

This was not how I’d hoped to introduce a new friend to the joys of Vanagon camping.

We got home. During the several days we spent pretending my house was a campsite, I found a spare thermostat. I swapped it in, in about one hour, and didn’t lose much coolant. The car runs perfectly fine now. I’ll take it to my mechanic to change the oil and check my work soon.

One friend suggested I find a newer van to go camping in. He doesn’t get it.

While I never got to Baja, this was kind of a perfect Westy adventure. We solved the issues and got home safe. My friend says she’d love to find a closer hot springs and try the VW again. I still want to go to Baja.

 

1. Welcome to the VWT2OC website…

The Volkswagen Type 2 Owners Club is a UK national club for owners and enthusiasts of the classic Volkswagen transporter van.There are also some most welcome members from outside the UK.

If you are a type 2 enthusiast why not join us ?

The Club aims to help its members maintain their vehicles both as preserved historic vans and as restored, or otherwise reclaimed, going concerns keeping a family travelling and camping happily. From the technical team helping out with advice, to the mutual support of other owners chatting at events and camps, there is plenty to encourage even the most reluctant restorer. Our members are spread right across the UK, and the Club tries to provide activities and events that everyone can attend and enjoy. Mostly, we run camps and rallies where members meet up and relax. There are also valuations and restoration teaching rallies. Finally, we also have a strong presence at some of the country’s biggest VW events, including Camper Jam, BVF and Busfest.

Please allow 14 days following payment for your application to be processed.

If it is urgent you may be given a temporary membership number on an e mail request to the membership secretaries.

 


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Budget 2014 – another year added to exempt road tax vehicles

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/motoring/news/10708398/Budget-2014-What-it-means-for-motorists.html?fb

The Chanceller announced in today’s Budget   a handful of small measures intended to help motorists.

First was to confirm that fuel duty will be frozen until spring 2015, meaning   that the planned rise in September has been abandoned. In his fifth budget,   George Osborne described how this would make petrol 20 pence per litre   cheaper on average than it would have been under the previous Government.

However, plans to increase vehicle excise duty costs in line with inflation   remain, meaning that from April 1 any band from D upwards will rise by £5 or   more.

It has also been confirmed that motorists will be able to pay for their   vehicle excise duty on a monthly, biannual or annual basis from October 1   2014, . He also confirmed that when selling a car any remaining tax is no longer transferrable.

There was news of a £200 million fund for local authorities to repair   potholes, a move that was cautiously welcomed by the Institute of Advanced   Motorists: “Every little helps and it will be welcomed in many areas hit by   this year’s bad weather,” said Neil Greig , the IAM’s director of policy and   research. “With a ten billion pound back log in repairs, however, it is only   through consistent long-term funding that the pothole problem can finally be   fixed.”

The RAC, however, warns that merely patching up potholes isn’t enough: “We   need whole stretches of road to be resurfaced regularly rather than just   patching them when they start to fall apart, costing taxpayers more and more   money every year. Simply filling potholes is a massive false economy which   has now unfortunately become necessity. We really need to put an end to this   by making sure roads are never allowed to degenerate to the point where   potholes develop,” said David Bizley, the organisation’s technical director.

As per last   year’s Budget it was also announced that the exemption from   vehicle excise duty for classic cars will move to a 40-year rolling period,   which takes effect from April 1 2014. This means that models such as the   Austin Allegro, Reliant Robin and MGB V will qualify for tax exemption,   which could have a positive impact on their value. Previously only cars   built before January 1 1973 were exempt from tax, after the Government   abandoned the previous 25-year rolling scale in 1997.

VW T2 could be saved!!!

VW Kombi could be saved | Industry – Car News Dec 2013

http://www.carsite.co.uk/news/article/vw-kombi-could-not-be-saved/15538

1            

16:36 Wednesday 18 Dec 2013

Fans of the classic VW camper rejoice! VW’s venerable old bus may not be dead after all.

Cast your mind back to September last year when we brought you news that the VW Kombi, which has been in production in Brazil since 1976, is finally being killed off, 63 years after it was originally introduced in Europe.

From the beginning of next year, Brazilian legislation will force all new cars to have both ABS and driver and passenger airbags. VW decided that these could not be fitted to the Kombi, announcing its decision to pull the model and launching a Final Edition model to say farewell in the process.

Now, however, it seems that the Kombi may not be destined for the scrapheap after all. Brazil’s finance minister Guido Mantega is reportedly looking at an exception for the VW bus, based on the fact that the model’s ancient design does not allow room for the new technologies.

Mantega has already provoked criticism in Brazil for suggesting that the new safety standards could be postponed over concerns about inflated car prices.

The VW Kombi is still very popular in Brazil, with 26,000 units sold in the country every year. Its popularity is largely down to its low price, practicality and reliability, which has made it a favourite among cash-strapped businesses.

Of course, even if the Brazilian government does make an exception for the Kombi, it remains to be seen whether VW will continue production of the model.

Orders of The VW T2 Skyrocket following end of production

Orders of The VW T2 Skyrocket.

Orders of The VW T2 Skyrocket

The Volkswagen T2 is one of the most iconic campervans in the world. Its popularity and evergreen design has endured for over half a century with over 10 million having been produced. Caravan Owners Club recently reported that production of this incredibly popular vehicle will finally come to an end on 31st December this year.

Despite still being one of Volkswagen’s most successful products, with output being presold even today, health and safety laws being introduced in Brazil mean that the vehicle’s lack of airbags and ABS system will signal the end of production at the VW plant in Anchieta.

Despite this rather gloomy news there has been a silver lining for campervan conversion company Danbury Motorcaravans, who have seen orders for converted T2’s skyrocket since the end of the Type 2 was announced.

“We are absolutely inundated,” Jason Jones, sales manager at Danbury told Caravan Owners Club.

“People who have thought about buying a T2 but have maybe put it off, now have a limited time in which to order one, because on the 31st December production will stop forever.

“Plus of course the production run always sells out in advance, so if someone is wanting to buy a T2 then the time to order one is now because we have no way of knowing when the production run will be fully allocated. We’ll just find one day that we hit the button to order and find that it is no longer possible.”

When asked whether he thought that the T2 might make a comeback at some point in the future with ABS and airbags fitted Jason replied:

“There is no way that it can be done. It just isn’t possible with this vehicle, these really will be the last VW T2’s ever produced and that’s why we’re going to document the last ever shipment that we receive and put the images on our Facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/danburymotorcaravans) to commemorate the end of production.”

Although those who want to capture the symbolic freedom that the type 2 represents may be disappointed if they do miss out, it’s not all bad news as there are other high quality campervans available as an alternative, like Danburys T5, VW Caddy, or Fiat Doblo conversions.

Danbury’s new double back T5 campervan comes with an unprecedented choice of 10 different wood finishes, 5 different flooring options, and 150 types of fabric and leather finishes meaning that each one is different and is really a bespoke design depending on the preference of the consumer.

So while the 31st December will mark the end of the road for one of the most popular campervans ever produced, you do have a last chance in which to order one if you act quickly.

Links:

You can see the new T5 range here: http://www.danburymotorcaravans.com/models/model.aspx?modelID=2

 

See what Jason Bradbury of Channel 5’s Gadget Show had to say about the VW T2 after he took one touring around the South Coast here: http://www.danburymotorcaravans.com/models/modeltype.aspx?modelID=1&modeltypeID=7

Danburys Facebook page where they will document the last ever shipment of VW Type 2’s here: https://www.facebook.com/danburymotorcaravans) to commemorate the end of production

See Danburys new T5 range here: http://www.danburymotorcaravans.com/models/model.aspx?modelID=2

VW T2 Camper Van Review – Classic cars driven

VW T2 Camper Van Review.

2007 VW T2 Camper Van Driven

There is nothing cooler than a VW T2 Camper Van and so we borrowed one from classic-campervans.co.uk who operate out of Classic Car Club London’s N1 base for the weekend to find out exactly how cool.

Ice cool, as it turns out, judging by the waves, positive feedback, adulation and general interest our 2007 Danbury converted camper generated. Whether it was the history of these iconic vehicles that incidentally celebrate 64 years of continuous production in 2013, more on which later, cool blue hue, lowered stance, smart interior or sexy alloys isn’t clear. Everyone, young and old wanted to chat, touch, look inside or simply know more. This really was the classic car equivalent of getting a puppy; a people magnet with a very strong pull.

View from a T2

Enjoying the view from our borrowed T2

That when you think about it is a little odd, given that the VW Type 2 (T2) was originally an attempt to re-use the VW Type 1 (T1 or Beetle) platform in a more practical way, the brainchild of Dutch car importer Ben Pon in 1946. Three years later in 1949 the first split windscreen T2’s appeared and eight years after that in 1967 the first ‘Bay’ front window vehicles started to be produced. Something that continued in Germany until 1979 when production swapped to the squarer looking T3, Mexico until 1994 and amazingly Brazil until the end of this year (2013). Danbury and others will be forced to convert second hand vans after all of the new stock has been consumed. Another interesting point, all camper vans were and continue to be today converted Type 2 buses, albeit originally offered as new in partnership with specialists such as Devon and Westfalia, the latter often referred to as ‘Westies’.

Top Tip: Remove Air Vent to cool your beer en-route

Top Tip: Remove Air Vent to cool your beer en-route

The question remained, how does a converted utilitarian commercial vehicle dating back to shortly after the second world war win over the hearts of so many people and for so long? Well, being frank judging by our two days experience it can’t be about practicality, the inside is cosy at best, or comfort whilst on the move, it is after all quite noisy to pilot, and it certainly isn’t about decent cross-country pace because 55-60mph is as fast as you dare without running the risk of blowing the engine up. Worse still travelling above 60mph tests not only your nerve, but also the ancient and heavy powerless and somewhat vague steering as well as rudimentary suspension to the extreme as the T2 bounces and weaves its way along the highway. There are alternatives on the market that tackle all of those points in a much better way, but then they’re not the reason you and so many others like you want a T2 so badly. Because just like getting that puppy, buying a converted VW Type 2 Bus is much more a lifestyle choice.

In a T2 there's usually a queue

In a T2 there’s usually a queue

I dwelled on the why all the time we had our van and the word that kept coming back even with a contemporary conversion like this 2007 Danbury was ‘simplicity’. These vehicles are like life stripped right back down to the bone. There is no fat, or waste, just an honest attempt to transport up to four people around with luggage, feed everyone and then accommodate them overnight. The additional two needing to be children really as the extra sleeping spaces involve hammocks or relatively thin flooring that make use of the elevated roof space. For two adults that same space can be used for the luggage previously stored in the boot and forced to move in order to make way for the bed, an arrangement that works perfectly well. So much so I challenge anyone to find a more romantic way to spend a weekend than tootling around in a T2 stopping only when you want to, which on the glorious weekend we had was to watch the sun go down whilst enjoying that naturally chilled bottle of beer.

2007 Brazilian T2 (left) next to original 1973 Camper (Right)

2007 Brazilian T2 ‘Molly’ (left) next to original 1973 Camper ‘Olive’ (Right)

If you’re interested in some other minor Camper Van blah-blah then be aware that the later Brazilian built T2’s moved away from the infamous air-cooled flat four engine to a more modern Polo water cooled in-line four unit around 2005-2006. That those same sourced vehicles may require protecting to prevent them rusting away whilst removed from their far drier climate. All will need a heater adding, our Danbury had a Webasto unit retro-fitted, and all will have been converted from left hand drive and so the sliding door on the side is to the right and not kerbside in the UK at least on the left. Other than that the newer vehicles should have a tidier and possibly more practical interior with a cleaner layout that includes essentials like a small fridge. This as opposed to an original not so cool, ‘cool’ cupboard one owner showed us on their ’74 Devon for instance.

Choosing one of these vehicles carefully is particularly important because much like a puppy or in classic car terms say a Morgan 3 Wheeler (M3W) it might not be for you. Puppy’s take up a lot of time and energy and M3W’s are difficult to get in and out of, offer no weather protection and are extremely noisy to drive. Camper Vans offer similar challenges, being tight on space inside, slow and noisy to travel in (motorways being most tricky given that foreign registered trucks are not restricted to 55mph) very expensive to buy new, or requiring a lot of time and energy as a second hand proposition. If you are in the market and haven’t experienced one previously our plea is to try before you buy because after all much like puppy dogs Camper Vans are not just for Christmas, they’re for life.

How does this car make you feel?

In one word: Hippy

As a favourite meal: BBQ chicken washed down with a bottle of beer nicely chilled on the journey down

Anything Else: Such simplicity in the complex world we live in today is still very refreshing

Key Ingredients: Simple and modest design, cutesy looks, universal appeal, cosy but comfortable bed, air cooled flat four engine (missing on final Brazilian built vans)

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With thanks to Classic Camper Vans For Hire and Classic Car Club – London

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Campers and caravanners – be TV Licence aware – Lifestyle and Leisure – Fenland Citizen

Campers and caravanners – be TV Licence aware – Lifestyle and Leisure – Fenland Citizen.

With hundreds of campsites across the UK and over 44 within 20 miles of Wisbech, TV Licensing is raising awareness with first time campers and experienced caravanners alike about the need to be correctly licensed if they are watching live TV from their tent, caravan or mobile home.

 

Figures recently released by The Camping and Caravanning Club revealed a 25 per cent increase in the number of scheduled arrivals on UK Club Sites and Camping in the Forest Sites during May 2013, compared to the same month the previous year and with good weather forecast for the rest of July and hopefully beyond, campsites across the UK are predicting a bumper summer.

With many camp sites across East Anglia now offering Wi-Fi access, campers and caravanners are able to keep up-to-date with their favourite live programmes using hand-held devices, such as tablets and smartphones, as well as laptops.

Mark Whitehouse, spokesperson for TV Licensing in East Anglia, said: “With ownership of tablets and smartphones on the rise and Wi-Fi coverage across campsites becoming the norm, live TV is now accessible to even the lightest-packed camper. So with many people putting up tents for the first time this summer, it’s important campers and caravanners know the law and are correctly licensed. If they are found watching TV without a licence then they would be at risk of prosecution and a fine of up to £1,000.”

Anyone camping in a tent or touring caravan and who is watching live TV on any device will be covered if they have a TV Licence for their residential home.

However, static caravans, mobile homes and moveable chalets will only be covered by a residential home licence if the TV in the main residence is not being used at the same time as the TV in static caravan, mobile home or moveable chalet.

In this instance, TV Licensing requests campers complete and submit a declaration form. The form allows the TV Licence holder to state the TV in their main residence will not be used at the same time as the device they use when camping.

Ian Hewlett, The Camping and Caravanning Club’s technical manager, said: “Many holidaymakers use televisions in their camping units so it’s important for the Club to highlight the importance of purchasing a TV Licence. We urge all campers and caravanners to check the licensing requirements if they plan to watch television whilst they’re away.”

For more information about when a licence is needed, visit www.tvlicensing.co.uk/check-if-youneed-one

‘Camper van of love’ gets Coedpoeth woman to church on time

http://www.newsnorthwales.co.uk/news/124297/-camper-van-of-love-gets-coedpoeth-woman-to-church-on-time.aspx

A BRIDE used her late father’s camper van to get her to the church on time.

While some brides dream of a posh car or a horse drawn carriage, Amie Tekeian-Gash, from Coedpoeth, wanted a ‘camper van of love’ which has been in the family for 25 years, doing thousands of miles.

Meroojan Tekeian bought the blue Volkswagen in 1988 and took the family on holidays all over Europe including Spain, St Tropez, Berlin and Vienna, never once breaking down.

Mr Tekeian died five years ago but there was still a part of him at his daughter’s wedding thanks to his van, which the family always called ‘The Tecko Van’.

Travelling in the van, Amie arrived in time to marry the love of her life, self-employed builder Chris Gash, 42.

Amie, 27, said: “Dad used to turn up to school to pick us up in the van and I used to be so embarrassed.

“Now I have ended up using it as my wedding car.

“I even said to Chris that if the van breaks down on the way to the wedding then it’s a sign my dad doesn’t want me to marry him.” But true to its form, The Tecko Van got the bride to St Giles’ Parish Church on time and to the reception at Chester Racecourse.

“I felt like my dad was taking me to my wedding and there was a piece of him there,” said Amie, who is originally from the Rhosddu area.

When Mr Tekeian died he was in the process of changing the van’s engine.

But dental nurse Amie, who works in Ruabon, was not going to let the camper van fall into ruin and decided to spend about £5,000 on the van, getting it all done up for her wedding, and passed on her idea to Simon Edwards from Body Perfect garage, Rhosrobin, who carried out the work.

She said: “Everyone around Wrexham knows the van and it is very well known.

“My dad used to own Tekeian’s off licence on Rhosddu Road and everyone knew him and the van.

“Now we are are going to pimp it out on the inside and take it to the VW camper van shows.

“We will never sell it because dad loved it and it was his pride and joy.”

Widnes camping company saved from collapse

http://www.liverpoolecho.co.uk/news/liverpool-news/widnes-camping-company-gelert-bought-4710763

Widnes camping company saved from collapse

100 jobs across North West and Wales saved

Gelert tent 

Widnes-based camping and outdoor equipment specialist Gelert has been saved from collapse after it was bought by retail giant Sports Direct.

Gelert was bought out of receivership by Sports Direct for an undisclosed sum.

The deal saves 100 jobs in Wales and the North West.

Gelert was founded in 1975 in North Wales and imports and sells outdoor and camping equipment from brands including Dunlop, Lonsdale and Karrimor.

It has stores in Porthmadog, Beddgelert, Caernarfon, Betws-y-coed and Dublin, with an outlet store in Haydock and its head office in Widnes.

David Riley and Les Ross, of Grant Thornton, were appointed as administrative receivers of Gelert on Friday to complete the deal.

The Dublin store is not included in the deal and the receivers are still considering its future.

Mr Riley said: “Gelert is a well-established brand and we are delighted to have been able to secure a sale to set it on a new course for the future under new ownership.”