Absinthe Makes the Heart Grow Fonder

Words and images by Martin Bellamy

Spring 2011: I’m chatting with my friend and business partner whilst out on a cycle ride and he says, “Did you know that you can buy new VW campervans?” “Really?”, says I, “I thought they were all old ones, that break down all the time” “No”, he says, “I saw an advert in the paper yesterday – they’ve got an offer on with £500 discount*”

 A month later and Mrs B and I are on our way to Yate, near Bristol, to visit the Danbury showroom. We’ve got an appointment for 2pm (you can’t just turn up) but we’re an hour early. The receptionist (sitting behind a desk made of a VW T2 body) isn’t sure there’ll be anyone to see us yet but she’ll ring upstairs to try and find someone. After a short while, Dan comes down and so starts the bewildering process of buying a new Brazilian made VW T2 Kombi.

I suppose driving down to “look” at a Kombi is a bit like going to “view” a litter of puppies. Apart from timewasters and those who can’t stretch themselves that far financially (and, believe me, it’s a stretch of gymnastic proportions) both outcomes are liable to produce a sure fire sale.

We’d thought about buying a classic 60s or 70s Campervan, but I don’t have the mechanical skills to keep one on the road. If it’s a pen you want pushing then I’m your man – but the thought of being stranded by the roadside with my limited skill set fills me with dread. What we wanted was something reliable that we could use at weekends and for summer holidays.

“Why not get a modern T5 then? They have power steering, modern interiors and much more powerful engines” That’s my head talking, of course, whilst meanwhile, my heart is doing cartwheels at the sight of the iconic T2 shape and suddenly I’m the hippie, free-spirit that I dreamed of being back in the 70s.  In reality, I’m MD of a commercial insurance broker in Wigan but, hey, we can all have our dreams.

So, it had to be a T2, and we got down to the process of choosing the options available. I’m 6’5”, so sleeping room was essential and we opted for the full size double bed option. Ker-ching! This meant the spare wheel had to go on the back and we’d need the locking wheel cover, of course. Ker-ching!  Do we want all leather on the seats? – you betcha, we do! Ker-ching! How about having her lowered? Oh, yes and BRM alloys please. Ker-ching!

What about colour? Now, we knew we wanted green over white, but weren’t’ prepared for the option of having ANY green we wanted. We’d expected a small choice like you have with modern cars but Danbury have swatches and swatches of colours. Eventually, we chose Spice Green (“Metallic?” “Yes, please” Ker-ching!)

With the addition of a retro wooden steering wheel and classic bowed roof rack we were done and the order was placed. As we drove away we looked at each other and thought, “What have we done?”

Collection was to be in August so we had 3 months to wait – time we spent worrying about the cost and thinking of where we could go in the new van. I found a Forum specifically aimed at the Brazilian Bay which proved to be a brilliant resource for information and which was so friendly we’ve made scores of new friends in the real world as well as cyberland.

We were so excited by delivery day and the train journey from Preston to Yate seemed to take forever. It was all worth it – our first sight of Absinthe (yes, of course, she’s got a name) was fantastic and we couldn’t wait to drive her home. Paperwork done, Mrs B took the wheel and we set off.

What was immediately obvious after years of driving modern automatic cars was that this one was going to need to be driven. The gearbox and gear stick seemed to have minds of their own and the steering was eccentric to say the least. That didn’t stop us from grinning from ear to ear though (what we now recognise as the permagrin of the VW enthusiast) and being thrilled by the waves from other VW owners.

 

It’s the last bit that has been the real thrill of ownership for us. The VW world is a small one with lots of interconnections and in the main we’ve been welcomed wherever we’ve gone. Sure, there are one or two die-hards who consider anything without an air-cooled engine as less than authentic but, in the main, Absinthe brings a smile to most peoples faces.

The recent ending of production in Brazil has brought the T2 into the limelight again and in 30 years time I’m sure the current incarnation will be as revered as the originals are now. For us Brazilian owners, the attraction is the freedom to use the van as often as we want.

Many of the Forum members use their vans as their everyday vehicles and many have now added power steering to make day to day use even easier. We use Absinthe almost every weekend from Spring until late Autumn and the pleasure we’ve had from her has been immense.

We’ve had 3 week runs through France and Spain and weekends away throughout the UK. We’ve done our first ever Festival (Larmer Tree in Dorset) and have used her as overspill family accommodation at our Static Caravan in the Dales. She’s shifted furniture and been to the tip. We’ve had afternoon teas overlooking the coast and icy mornings in the Cotswolds. She’s even part of our Xmas decorations over the holiday break.

Would we swap her? No! Are we glad we found Danbury? You bet we are.

* a bit like DFS, Danbury nearly always have a £500 offer running

 

 

 

 

 

Picture Blog from VolksPower 2012

I have decided to just do a picture blog for this show, partly because I am so busy cleaning mud of everything and doing my usual day job (running Classic Volks & York Classic VWs) and getting ready for setting of to CamperJam 2012 on Friday.  Seems the working weeks are very short currently as I am at shows pretty much every weekend, so I spend Mondays cleaning all camping equipment (all shows so far have been wet and muddy), and then Fridays are spent packing up and getting ready to go, with a day in the middle somewhere to give Miss Betsy (my 1969 Beetle a bit of love ready for her next trip).  We took plenty of pictures so please enjoy.

Dubfreeze 2012 Show Report

Some may say we’re totally crazy, others know and understand our obsession. Yes, it was the middle of February and extremely cold but that was not going to stop us heading down for a night of camping in order to be on site ready for the first Veedub show of the year.

We Met a couple of club members in York and set off just after 12:30 – all very excited and very much looking forward to this – marking the start of the 2012 VW events season. Our first stop was Woodall services just over an hours drive from York, here we met up with some of the Sheffield Owners club and some of the Doncaster club as well as some of the RULE (R U Low Enough) Club. From there we convoyed the rest of the way down to Staffordshire Showground.

We arrived at the Showground at around 4pm and found our York Classic VWs Club camping area – a couple of our members had arrived before us as they had been in the area the night before. We set up our tent in the freezing cold – although I have to say putting the tent up and the excitement must have kept us warm as we didn’t notice how cold it was after a while. Once the tent was up it was time for a coffee in the tent with the heater on. We then all had a bar-b-que and sat around and chatted dubs for a few hours, then decided it was getting a little cold so thought we should head of to the bar where it may be a little warmer. The walk over to the bar, although only a few minutes, was absolutely freezing so the warmth on arriveing was very welcome. We stayed in the bar and chatted to fellow Veedubbers for a few hours. We then headed back to the cold, cold tent. Heater on and coffee made it was time to try and get some sleep. We managed to stay warm enough to get some sleep which was great – with the help of a heater and a great big duvet! The next morning we were all up nice and early – part of this due to the cold and partly because we were all very excited about the show. Coffee and bacon on the bar-b and then ready to head over to the show – thankfully this show is an indoor one. We had woken in the morning to snow on the ground (it did disappear pretty quickly though as the sun was shining).

The show The show didn’t open til 9am so until then we decided we should have a wonder round and look at some of the lovely VWs around, and there were some real beauties. At about 9:30 we decided that the queue would have gone down enough so to the show we went. First stop was up to Dogs N Dubs up on the balcony to take them a much needed bacon butty.

The show was absolutely jam packed – obviously a very popular show, I think the majority of people drove to Stafford on the day (not too many people around mad enough to camp in this cold weather!). It was very difficult at first to get anywhere – so busy. We had a good wander around the show and shine area – some absolutely gorgeous dubs in there, I would have found it very difficult to pick a winner. If you are looking to buy anything VW related whether parts of accessories or clothing this is definitely a show to visit. We saw some fantastic cars and vans for sale – if only we’d had some cash on us (actually, probably a good thing we didn’t as there may have been a good few veedubs heading back to York with us! There was an amazing number of parts for sale including panels etc. All in all a very good show – although I do think they maybe need a bigger venue.
To get a real idea of the show please visit our facebook page: and have a good look through the photo album for Dubfreeze 2012, I have only added a small sample of the photos on here.

York Classic VWs first York Club meet

Just a quick one today, I’ll follow this up with a full write up with pictures after the event.

On Wednesday 27th July 2011 we are having our first VW owners club meet in York.  We are meeting first at the Black Bull in York and then a cruise convoy to the White Swan at Deighton just outside York – not far from the York Designer outlet.

So far our Volkswagen owners are bringing: 5 CamperVans, 3 Beetles, 1 Karmann Ghia, possibly a caddy, a Golf, a T4 and maybe a T5.  Unfortunately our lovely Betsy can’t make our first meet as she is going in for her re-spray this week, we were going to wait but I think some were getting anxious to have a meet so we decided to go ahead without her on this occasion.  For the next one, Betsy will be there looking all shiny and new…

We are really looking forward to getting together with some faces that we already know and some new ones. If you read this and are in the York area – or don’t mind travelling, then join our website forum and add yourself to the meets thread that I have put up about our local veedub meet.  We do need to know numbers as at our second stop we are getting some food laid on for us – it will be something like sandwiches and chips.