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

 

 

 

 

 

Go your own way…. Classic VW Camper van hire in the South of France

Image shows the 69 campers advert

It’s the fanatics, the curious, maybe the first timers that continue this story… from the initial “plattenwagen” design that the restorers piece together, the cabinet maker that mixes modern with iconic or the feel and smell of an era gone by.

69 Campers launch their very own and unique way of holidaying in Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur.

A vintage vehicle comes back to life in an area steeped in natural history and beauty; 69 Campers have married the classic VW Camper van to this esteemed region.

A premium range of VW Split screen and Bay windows from the 1960’s and 70’s have been sympathetically restored to realise today’s customers requirements without harming the integrity of the vehicle.

All the Campers hail from the sunny climates of the USA and France, enabling a professional bare-metal restoration and mechanical overhaul. They have new 1600cc twin port engines, re-conditioned gearboxes and new electrical wiring looms.  Bespoke fitted kitchens with two gas burners, sink, fridge and storage give a touch of luxury in a retro classic. Thoughtfully equipped with iPod connection, solar shower, 220v leisure battery, sun canopy and outdoor furniture to name a few… a truly fine product with beautiful toning hand-made interiors complimented by matching linens and tableware.

The Camper vans have all been named to reflect their personalities so a relationship can flourish from the moment you turn that key.  Margot a  1978 VW Bay window is our shimmering light from California, oozing beach and sun in her soft yellow and pearl body work.  Amélie is a 1968 VW early Bay, our sweetie from Alabama dressed in pacific blue and pearl.  Estée is our little star, a 1968 VW Bay window in velvet green and pastel white originally from gay Paris. Finally Gigi, our fabulous 1964 VW Split screen Sundial Camper, an Arizona belle shining in two tone beige and alpine white paintwork.

Margot, Amélie, Estée and Gigi are available for rental all year round, or why not consider hiring one for a wedding or another special event.

Collecting your VW Camper van could not be easier, fly to Nice, Marseille or Toulon, take the TGV or drive direct.  Your self styled adventure starts in Seillans, one of the medieval perched villages in Provence, the home of 69 Campers.  From collecting your beautiful vintage Camper the choice is yours, explore the vineyards, take a culture tour or head for the chic resorts of the Cote d’Azur and Monaco.  Discover Provence and the French Riviera with 69 Campers.

For all enquiries please contact Matt Tombs of 69 Campers

Tel: 0033 483 11 17 75 Mobile: 0033 675 85 25 76

Email: matt@69campers.com

Visit: http://www.69campers.com

69 campers banner logo

Camper Jam 2012 – Pictures!

A few photos that we took at Camper Jam 2012, there are more to follow after I finish washing the mud off and have a sleep!  If you spot your ride amongst the photos please let me know.  Feel free to comment at the end.  Were you at Camper Jam? Did you have a good time?

Camper Jam 2012

Picture taken at Camper Jam 2012
By Kate McCarthy Bedward of Classic Volks & York Classic VWs

After another week of checking the weather forecast every 10 minutes and seeing nothing but rain, rain and more rain we were beginning to wonder if this year’s Camper Jam would go ahead.  We were due to set off from York at 2pm on Friday (6th July) and it was constant rain here in York.  I called the show organisers in the morning to double check everything was okay and yes, it was very wet and very muddy after another torrential downpour overnight but they would most definitely not be cancelling.  I for one had made the decision that as long as it wasn’t cancelled we would be heading down – I had been looking forward to this show for a long time and really din’t want to miss it.

We set off as planned at 2pm, the drive down was dreadful – the rain was pretty much constant throughout the journey, bear in mind we were in our ’69 beetle with wipers that do what they want, and the traffic was very slow with many tailbacks due to accidents and roadworks in different parts.  We finally arrived at Weston Park at 7pm but this was not the end of our journey, it took an hour to get into the grounds and onto the camping area ‘Home is Where You Park It’.

We found a dry bit of ground to put the tent, in fact the whole of the area ‘Home is Where You Park It’ was pretty well drained.  We had lost a tent pole in the wind at last week’s Volkspower and so I had arranged to pick one up from Lightening Leisure on arrival at the show.  So, first stop over to the traders area to find them.  The ground as we walked down to where the traders were located was extremely muddy and we were very grateful for the wellies had bought that morning!  We found lightening Leisure in a foot of mud, picked up our new pole and went to get our tent up.  Once it was up it was time for a wander round to see what there was on site.  The first part of the show we came to was a good sized fairground with waltzers, bumper cars, a crazy bull ride, ghost train and much more, this we would definitely be coming back to later!  Next there were the food traders and what a selection there was! – from the usual fish & chips and burger stands to Caribbean and vegetarian food, a cous cous stand and noodles amongst many others, spoilt for choice I think you’d say! In among this was a DJ in a campervan playing some great tunes – people were having a fantastic time here dancing away in the mud!

There were 2 very large marquees both with live bands – although The Beat who were supposed to be playing were unable to come due to adverse weather conditions (not as hardcore as us veedubbers I guess!).  We had a good look around bumped in to a few friends and had a really nice evening.  It was a real shame the The Beat couldn’t make it as many had been looking forward to seeing them, in fact a couple of our club members had only come to this show because they were playing.  However, Saturday night’s band 16 Stone Pig were absolutely fantastic, I think I can speak for pretty much everyone that was in that tent to see them when I say, we all had a fantastic time – they played some great covers and got us all dancing and jumping around – videos will be uploaded shortly to our YouTube ‘Classic Volks’.   Once they had finished we wandered over to where Druid’s Brew were playing from their split screen campervan – we sat there probably for about an hour, very chilled out acoustic music under a tree, there was a beautiful and relaxed atmosphere, I could have sat there and listened all night.  After this we were relaxed and ready for sleep.

Unfortunately on Saturday night the organisers had to make the very difficult decision to not allow any day visitors in on the Sunday – although it had only rained a couple of times during Saturday, the times it did it was very heavy rain and any more vehicles coming in could have made it more difficult to get people out at the end of the show.

We awoke to beautiful sunshine on Sunday morning!  So we decided the best course of action would be to have breakfast and then pack up the tent etc in case it decided to rain later.  Once packed up we drove down to the show area so that we could get out easily at the end of the show.

The show and shine time was brought forward to give people time to get off the site and get towed off if necessary, some areas were still extremely muddy and this was most like to be the only way they were going to get off.  Some of the traders and packed up and gone home before we even go down there – I think they were worried that if it rained again they may be stuck there until Monday – it had been mentioned at some point that this may have to happen, we weren’t sure if this was true of if it was just a rumour, but there were some that didn’t want to take the chance.

The show and shine was of a very high quality, some fantastic campers on show – both old and new, one of my favourites was definitely the split screen high top.  Rob Henley with his T5 won best in show (his dogs had also won places in the dog show!),  Rob Underwood (of VW Wedding Hire) and his split screen wedding campervan ‘Beryl’  also won a prize as did Rob Newman (of Dubtrips camper hire) with his recently restored split screen ‘Jeremy’ – both of these split screens were immaculate and were restored at Dubtricks of Harrogate, see accompanying photos!

The sunshine did stay all day on the Sunday and it was a beautiful hot day but still very muddy on the showground. We decided to leave after the show and shine to avoid the queues getting off the site as we knew our first stop was the nearest petrol station petrol station!

Despite the weather and the mud I have to say Camper Jam 2012 was a fantastic show and I think the majority of people there would agree that the organisers did a fantastic job keeping the show running and making it an absolutely fantastic weekend!  We are already looking forward to next Camper Jam 2013 and come rain or shine we will be there!