Humble Beginnings M
acts (MHF) was established by David Burley (aka nukeadmin
) way back in October 2003.
David and his wife Julie had decided to leave their normal lives behind and go travelling after Julie had spent 2 years beating Cancer. Initially David wanted to backpack around the world experiencing the countries as they travelled through and Julie wanted to buy a world wide travel air ticket and stay in hotels and have some home type luxuries, obviously at opposite ends of the spectrum they eventually settled on a motorhome whereby both needs were satisfied.
David spent 12 years in the Royal Navy in a technical role but his heart was always in IT and so post forces career he spent some time working in Website hosting for Intel Corporation, followed by a stint in IT Security, both of which were helpful when he decided to create a motorhome information website.
David started researching motorhomes and found it was extremely difficult to compare one motorhome model with another and also to narrow down his options and so came up with the idea to have a database of different makes / models that was searchable and could show matching results.The website started off as a personal information website, a repository for him to store useful facts and figures that he tracked down in the search for the ideal motorhome for him and Julie and hosting the comparison database.
Carol Weaver (a fellow motorhomer met on the Yahoo Motorhome List) was very helpful assisting David and Julie by offering advice on what other motorhomers might want and entering in information on approaching 1000 motorhomes allowing quick and easy comparison of different motorhome models in Motorhome Specifications Database
. This initial database gave the site its name i.e. a list of Motorhome facts.
Whilst the site was in development they initially purchased a VW LT conversion to test out the motorhoming lifestyle. After 3-4 months use and the inevitable mishaps for motorhome beginners David decided something bigger and more reliable would be needed for an extended trip and so sold it on to a Priest who was using it on a trip around Europe (The same van now belongs to a MHF member).
Finally after much research and using the newly available motorhome comparisons database they settled on purchasing a Euramobil A Class motorhome from Germany and after an eventful flight over and drive back they organised the paperwork and re-registered the van in the UK. A few months of shakedown trips throughout the UK and a seemingly endless bout of research / purchase and then fitting of gadgets and addons to make their life easier on the road they were ready to leave the UK.
Fast Growth & European Travels 
As the database grew more and more people were asking could they use it and so the website was made interactive allowing others to access it and discussion forums were added allowing motorhomers to discuss travel, their vans and technical issues.
Over a period of 6 months a core community of >500 members grew who used the site and its fast growing functionality as a means of communication based around a common subject i.e. that of motorhoming.
As more active members used the site so did its ability to assist motorhomers in their time of need. A quick posting in the forums would usually elicit a helpful response to resolve the problem in minutes. As the site grew so did the aministrative overhead, members forgetting logins and passwords, member disagreements, posts with legal implications. It was a learning experience and so David recruited the aid of some volunteer moderators
, some of which are still moderators to this day. David and his wife spent a few years travelling around Europe in a used Euramobil 690 van they had imported personally from Germany. They logged campsites they had visited, blogged about their fulltiming experiences and kept the site up and running whilst working from their new mobile home using a Satellite Internet system to access the website.
As the site grew members wanted to meet each other Face to face due to the social nature of motorhoming so MHF had their inaugual rally at The Sportsmans Inn, South Molton, Exmoor in May 2004. From this initial rally we have grown our rally section immeasurably. We now hold rallies at motorhome shows throughout the year, we have a dedicated volunteer team of rally staff who organise events and marshall in all weathers. Offering a friendly smile and sometimes even a cup of Tea when greeting members to our rallies.
We not only rally in the UK but also hold meets on the continent and have had escorted trips to as far afield as Morocco. Photos from past rallies are in our photo section
. Details of our rally programme can be found in the dedicated Motorhome rally section
The Big Crash 
MHF was growing faster and faster with more and more motorhome owners finding out about the site and joining up. Up until April 2005 the site was funded 100% by David and some donations from thankful users.
Suddenly without warning the website computer hardware suffered a catastrophic failure and at first it was thought that the whole website data had been lost, but after huge amounts of money raised by the users and some specialist work by data recovery experts the site was regained in almost its previous state.
The opportunity was siezed to use a new framework at the same time as the site was rebuilt from recovered data.
This hardware failure and consequent 'growing pains' like downtime caused by computer hardware working too close to maximum tolerances left David in a quandry.
MHF had grown and grown way beyond his expectations and now needed some dedicated computer server equipment with better hosting companies, more bandwidth requirements and better backup facilities, this all would work out very costly. The site had been primarily funded from Davids' own pockets for 2 years with some donations trickle fed in as and when needed from the community, but this would not sustain the improvements needed to go to the next stage in the site evolution, a push for many advertisers could be attempted, but the problem with these is that too many big advertisers can also limit the effective independance of the site and its community.
The MHF Independance is one thing that we are very proud of as it allows us to question companies customer support and service with no comeback from a large advertiser and allows us to give unbiaised reviews of vans and accessories.
Outdoor Bits 
As the community flourished so did the number of requests for the ability to buy things from "within the club" and at the end of 2005 David launched www.outdoorbits.com which initially only had a very small range of products but over the years has grown to be a fully fledged Motorhome Shopping Centre with its own Workshop offering fitting services and 1,000s of products online at competitive prices.
Initially the products available were simple club related such as tshirts, badges, pennants but over the years this evolved to encompass almost every facet of accessories and addons. A recent addition is the new fitting workshop which allows not only the supply but also the installation of satellite systems, solar panels, reversing cameras, gaslow systems, inverters and motorhome batteries.
Eventually the idea of subscriptions was suggested to David by one of the members and after much research this was decided the best route to take that offered sustainable and perhaps more importantly predictable funds.
The site switched over to optional subscriptions in January 2006. An initial period of unrest ensued with some members leaving as they did not wish to pay to use the site. However this practice of paying for access to websites is now commonplace and thus proved in hindsight to be an opportune move and many of the members who left returned in later years to find the site thriving.
The subscriptions funding model has allowed David to further develop the site and hire in contractors to add facilities and contribute towards drinks and food at some events. MHF has had sufficient funding to have also gone through many revisions of hardware to compensate for the huge number of visitors we now receive.
Return to the UK 
in 2006 David and Julie returned to the UK plus their newest addition to the family of a Labrador Dog called Bradley (Bradders for short !) Bradders inspired another community project for David of a website for Labrador Owners and thus www.labradorforums.co.uk
The initial intention was to spend only a few months in the UK assisting Julies sister after the birth of her 1st child, but after this time they both decided that the time to return to "Bricks and Mortar" was now and so moved into a house in Gloucester
Julie gave birth to our first daughter Isabella (apparently a medical impossibility due to complications from Cancer treatment !).
David started to look for alternative housing as our small house in Gloucester wasn't sufficient for a child, labrador, 2 adults and a business !
In 2007 the family moved into a house on the coast in Budleigh Salterton in Devon and in 2008 David & Julie had their second daughter Sophia.
Caravan Facts 
Again spurred on by requests from members (and ex members) David created a website in the same mould as Motorhomefacts for Caravan Owners and www.caravanfacts.com
As the site layout, usage and terminology were the same as MHF it was thought that it would prove a good transitional website for motorhome owners who were downsizing to a caravan and conversely for caravanners who were opting for the motorhome model.
Help Needed 
After numerous false starts with work experience, temporary staff and friends / family, David needed help and so Ben (aka Aircool
) was taken on as a full time assistant
Margaret our office admin / book-keeper also joined the team early in 2009 and attempts to create some semblance of organisation and filing to our office.
New HQ 
Motorhomefacts has been run from a number of locations, firstly it was from within a motorhome with just a small Sony Vaio laptop used to access it (The same laptop from 2003 is still working and can be seen in our current HQ), then an integrated garage converted to an office in Gloucester. MHF moved into Devon in 2007 where Motorhomefacts was finally allocated space in a "proper office" which was a converted detached triple garage.
In June 2011 our most recent move was into a combined workshop / offices / shop
in Exmouth in Devon but already have an eye out for the next size up !
Motorhomefacts was sold in October 2013 in its entirety to VerticalScope a Canadian company who specialise in running discussion forums.