Motoring Getyourmotorrunning LiveoutyourchildhooddreamswithaholidayinatraditionalVWcampervan by andrew gillingwater Take to the road: hire a VW campervan with friends W h at do Je n s on B u t t o n , J a m i e O l i v e r, E w a n McGregor and Vic Reeves have in com- mon? Besides fame and fortune, they have all owned one of the most revered designs in automotive history -- the VW campervan. alongside Pop art, Marilyn Monroe, colour tV and Roger Bannisters four-minute mile, the VW campervan is one of the endearing images of the Fifties. Fun, individualistic and with its lovable face-like front end, few vans (let alone cars) have mirrored the thoughts and dreams of a genera- tion with quite the same success. Nearly 60 years and five million sales later and the beloved VW is still in demand. according to Bristol-based Danbury Motor Caravans (danbury- motorcaravans.com), the largest supplier of VW campers in the world and the only UK importer, year-on-year sales are up by a staggering 250 per cent. So whats the appeal? Simple Solution thE story dates back to 1947 when VW decided it needed a vehicle to transport parts and people around the factory in Wolfsburg, Germany. In an effort to reduce costs, it cob- bled together a prototype using a flatbed truck and a VW Beetle. a Dutch importer named Ben Pon thought he could go one better and came up with the idea for a box van. It was ridiculously simple and VW churned out 90 different models -- from ambulances to beer wagons -- including the famous campervan. iconic deSign thE first-generation t1 was launched in 1950 and, with its distinctive two- piece windscreen, it became affec- tionately known as the Splitty. Power came from an air-cooled, 1,131cc four-cylinder engine under- neath the rear floor pumping out a monumentally embarrassing 25bhp. Fast it was not but it was seriously loud, emitting a sort of high-pitched, fizzing warble that sounded like someone had filled the petrol tank with iron filings. In 1967, the t2 arrived with a new bay-style window, prompting nick- names like Breadloaf and Brickie. then it was all change in 1979 with the launch of the distinctly angular t3 (known as the t25 or Wedge), followed by the t4 in 1990 and the final t5 in 2003. Sign of the timeS thE Fifties was a period of recon- struction in Europe after the ravages of the Second World War, so a low- cost campervan made perfect sense for families on a tight budget who were keen to make use of their new- found freedom. the VW campervan really shot to fame in the Sixties and Seventies as the perfect counter-cultural symbol for the hippy lifestyle. Some were painted with psychedelic colours, some were purveyors of peace and love and most of them rocked to riffs by Jimi hendrix and Deep Purple. Sound inveStment SPlIttyS are by far the most popu- lar. In fact, a totally original and unrestored model was recently sold in holland for a whopping 75,000. Not many go for that price, but if you want a decent one, expect to pay between 9,000 and 25,000. from Brazil to Britain PlaCE an order with Danbury and it will ship over a new old-style type 2 from Brazil (where they are still made) and customise it to your requirements. Each one is fitted with a new VW Polo engine that can run on biofuel or unleaded petrol, which means you get the cutesy, classic looks without the archaic mechanicals. Weve been importing these vans since 1996 but demand has really shot up over the last year, says co-owner Jason Jones. Our prices start at 21,999 but most of our customers spend at least 30,000 and then add a few accessories like leather trim and two-tone paint. they see it very much as a long-term investment. these type 2s are just so simple, theres no computers or rocket science, just everything we love about old cars. the name game FaCt: if you have a VW campervan you have to give it a name. at one level theres the Vee-Dub, Combi, Bus or Mind-Expanding Van but then things get really personal. Richard Davis-Jones, from mid- Wales, who owns a Splitty, says: Ours was originally called Buffy, as it was bought to be a buffer between work and play, but when our son was a baby we took him out to see it and he shouted out the word Bubba and thats stuck ever since. Or how about harry, Buttercup, Kermit or Dougal? happy hire IF yOU want to try before you buy contact someone like Surrey-based Camp In a VDub (campinavdub. co.uk), which has four bay-screen campers called Patsy, Wilf, Daisy and Norbert. Managing director Fiona Walker says: So many people have fond memories of childhood holidays in the family campervan, but most of the originals havent lasted the distance. Now, the retro campervan holiday is having a resurgence with the Noughties generation who want to enjoy the Great British outdoors without slumming it in a tent. also try snailtrail.co.uk, based just north of london, vanillasplits.com in West Sussex, hiredaisy.com in london and eastcoastcampers.co. uk in Essex. Wedded BliSS aSIDE from the annual summer holi- day, the VW campervan is fast becom- ing the wedding car of choice. Sam and helen Walker, from Earlsfield, explain. I wanted something different from the stand- ard wedding car, says Sam. I looked at a Beetle and a Morris Minor but then I thought it would be a great idea to get something bigger so helen could travel to the church with all her bridesmaids and her Dad. So I contacted Vanilla Splits and chose a Splitty called Florence because it was blue and that was the best fit with our colour scheme! time out thE biggest campervan event in the world is VanFest held at the three Counties Showground in Malvern, attracting more than 8,000 vans and sideshows like the hilarious cooking- in-a-camper contest. then theres the Brighton Breeze, an annual meet-and-greet organised by the Split Screen Van Club; Run to the Sun (Newquay); Dubstock (leominster); Volksfest (Somerset) and Camperjam (Shropshire). If thats not enough there are communities on Facebook, owners clubs, vans for sale on eBay and Pistonheads and myriad gifts at happy-camping.co.uk. concept camper thE campervan proved so popular that VW unveiled a modern version at the 2001 Detroit Motor Show. Called the Microbus Concept car, it featured classic design cues and a proper V6 engine. although the project was put on hold in 2005, rumours are rife that its back on... driving the dream Ive always dreamt of doing this, squealed my friend Sarah as I heaved off the handbrake. Going away with my girlfriends for the weekend in a proper vW camper! She wasnt the only one. The envious looks, toots and thumbs-up from other drivers began before we even left Stoke Newington, bound for Bestival on the Isle of Wight. For the weekend at least, Gracie was ours, a beautiful duck-egg blue vintage vW campervan, courtesy of Snail Trail. As we motored along the A3 through the rolling english countryside, Susan fashioned our fancy-dress outfits for the festival from the back seat. At the ferry terminal, Gracie made scores of new friends, including some cute boys (thanks Gracie), who had vehicle-envy of the highest order. Once parked up though, she really came into her own, becoming a bedroom, a boudoir, a dining room, and a kitchen -- the lovely boys camping next door to us asked if they could make us breakfast on her hob. How could we refuse? Campervans from 500 for a week and from 325 for a long weekend. See snailtrail.co.uk Jane mULKerrinS London Lite Friday, 13 November 2009 49 index.html2.html3.html4.html5.html6.html7.html8.html9.html10.html11.html12.html13.html14.html15.html16.html17.html18.html19.html20.html21.html22.html23.html24.html25.html26.html27.html28.html29.html30.html31.html32.html33.html34.html35.html36.html37.html38.html39.html40.html41.html42.html43.html44.html45.html46.html47.html48.html49.html50.html51.html52.html53.html54.html55.html56.html57.html58.html59.html60.html61.html62.html63.html