Customers have jokingly likened Ashley Peat’s Mercedes-Benz Sprinters to the outlandish vehicles that appeared in the post-apocalyptic Mad Max movie series.
With their chunky mud and slush tyres, raised ride heights, twin light bars, sun visors, and black paintwork and wheel trims, it’s easy to understand why.
Rather than the Australian desert, though, these vans are based in Derbyshire and bear the name of AP Engineers and Plant, the company that Ashley established in 2018. The latest is the first he has purchased from Dealer eStar Truck & Van.
A medium-length, high-roofed L2 H2 Sprinter 316 CDI model, it is powered by a fuel-efficient 163 hp engine that drives the rear wheels – Sprinter customers can also choose front-wheel drive or 4×4 variants.
Ashley took advantage of competitive funding from Mercedes-Benz Finance to acquire his new van, which also sports a personalised registration plate. It has lined-up alongside the company’s three other Mercedes-Benz vehicles, two Sprinters – a panel van and a dropsider with crane, both of which were purchased secondhand – and a small Citan.
AP Engineers and Plant provides routine maintenance and emergency breakdown support to customers from the construction, demolition, recycling and aggregates sectors. Its comprehensive, nationwide service covers all types of plant and machinery, and includes fabrications and structural welding.
While bigger jobs are carried out in the secure workshop at the company’s base in Ilkeston, most work is undertaken on site by Ashley and his colleagues, whose Mercedes-Benz vans are racked out to carry tools and parts.
“Our vans are always well loaded, while the nature of the work means we’re regularly on building sites and other rough ground,” said Ashley. “So they have to take plenty of hammer.”
He continued: “The first two Sprinters have been great. One’s done over 300,000 miles now, but it’s still very solid and reliable. As an engineer, I really appreciate the strength and build quality of our Mercedes-Benz vans. No matter how much abuse comes their way, I know they’ll withstand it.”
With the help of eStar Van Sales Executive Andy O’Hare, Ashley was able to specify his new Sprinter perfectly for the role. In addition to the chunky RM1 tyres and raised body, the van came with a rear step, a PSM electronic control module which means it can be used to power tools and diagnostic equipment, and a towbar with 13-pin socket – the vehicle regularly pulls a compressor or a 500 amp welding unit.
“Andy was brilliant,” recalled Ashley. “He couldn’t have made the process any easier and the finance package was very competitively priced, so it was a ‘no brainer’ really. I’ll certainly be going back to eStar when I need my next van.”
As Ashley’s first vehicle from the third-generation Sprinter range, the van offers a class-leading working environment with unrivalled levels of quality, quietness and comfort. The optional Parking Package adds a reversing camera, while comfort features include a driver’s suspension seat and air-conditioning.
Ground-breaking safety aids fitted as standard include the autonomous Active Brake Assist system with pedestrian recognition technology and ATTENTION ASSIST, which detects drowsiness in the driver and encourages them to take breaks when tired.
Again, Ashley has also specified additional safety equipment such as Active Distance Assist DISTRONIC, which allows the driver to set and keep a safe distance from the vehicle ahead, and is particularly helpful on motorways or in stop-start traffic.
“The new Sprinter is a joy to drive, more like a high-end car than a van, and the safety technology is really impressive,” he said. “It’s reassuring to know that the system is going to intervene and brake automatically if I’m inadvertently getting a little too close to the vehicle in front.”
He added: “Image is important to me, and the new Sprinter looks amazing. Shortly after I took delivery, and before I’d had it signwritten, I pulled up at a site and they instantly knew it was me. I asked how and was told: ‘You’re the only guy who turns up in a van that could be straight off the set of a Mad Max movie!”