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“Home Is Where You Park It” Volkswagen Camper and Commercial Magazine sub-title
Workhorses need holidays too and when their owners, unable to justify a second vehicle, started chucking the odd cushion and picnic rug in the back of the works van for a weekend break, the camper concept was born. Infinitely more practical than the family saloon, doubled in height and weight with wind breaks and Battenberg, the weekday working van could accommodate all and sundry plus their holiday requirements, saving many a hard earned shilling on B&Bs into the bargain. Many makes and models were subjected to such treatment but the Volkswagen T2, (the T1 was some short lived, flop of a thing known only to a handful aficionados, you won’t have heard of it, the ‘Beetle’, never caught on), with its cab-forward-smelly-oily-bits-underneath layout was effectively caravan-like inside with no visible means of propulsion to get in the way of its inhabitants. VW quickly capitalised and started offering the T2 in live-in configuration for those who liked the outdoors, as long as they could retreat indoors. While some compromise was to be expected (indeed encouraged in an ‘isn’t this fun children’, Enid Blyton sort of a way) lashings of bashed heads could be considered a drawback eventually and some lateral thinking, possibly by people with sore bonces, resulted in up-sizing – literally. The resultant pop-up roof conversions were the toast of the camper community as adults could at last achieve an upright stance in the living area and in the case of some better thought out versions, room for a couple of cabin-person sized hammocks was also liberated.
Volkswagen T2 Camper development was continuous and the experts take great delight in noting the detail changes, even if to the man in the street ‘they all look the same’. Suffice it to say this original UK right hand drive ‘Bay Window’ example is a late 1971 ‘cross over’ model; it has early features such as the slim(er) wrap around bumpers and low mounted front indicators paired with later ‘tall’ rear lights (with optional reversing lights), slight wheel arch flares and front disc brakes, or as we like to call it, ‘a low-light-tall-light-slim-bumper-discs-n-flares’ variant. Either way, it is a bit of a ‘one year only’ model and consequently as rare as a hen dentist. The cherry on the cake is the rare and desirable ‘Dormobile’ (geddit?) side elevating roof conversion carried out by Kent based former coachbuilders (and prior to that horse tack makers) Martin Walter, doubly so as it includes that four berth facility.
Having covered just a little over seventeen thousand miles from new in the hands of essentially one owner, originality is the keyword here. The interior is an early 1970s time capsule, full of frankly fantastic fablon, and forests of Formica. Basket weave front seats in tan vinyl were courtesy of VW and we suspect (but please feel free to correct us) Martin Walter were responsible for the nearly matching smooth trim in the rear. For its age it is all in surprisingly good condition, worn driver’s seat belt aside, though the van’s tiny mileage tallies with this. It is obviously lived in (that is sort of the point) but chock full of charming highlights such as original labels and stickers from the faded ‘Britax seat belts’ on the dash to the warning not to bring the Dormobile top down before stowing the beds (and presumably removing the occupants), through to what appear to be the original pop on window shades. There are even Martin Walter pencil markings on the woodwork identifying the conversion as ‘VW 678’. The rear window proudly displays a 1994 Isle of Man TT sticker attesting to the owner’s wanderlust, though the AA Relay label that accompanies it perhaps hints at an underlying practical streak.
A study in boat-like space efficiency, a table and gas cooker fold and are stowed in their appropriate berths and the camper has everything but the kitchen sink. Plus the kitchen sink. Plus another kitchen sink. More recent additions include, sensibly, a Halon fire extinguisher a few cushions and tailor made curtains plus a useful cache of spares such as a fan belt, hoses, control cables and so on.
Jumping outside, the van is let down by a poorly executed, ill-advised repaint but look beyond that and it is clear that the bodywork is actually remarkably sound with great panel fit and unblemished seams and it would not require any significant fettling if the decision was taken to repaint it. Underneath the technical term is ‘cruddy’ with plenty of road grime and some oil from the gearbox output shafts area. Again, look below the surface and the van’s structure is apparently really solid with just light surface rust on suspension and brake components. There are one or two flakes in the possibly original underseal but we could find no evidence of any welding having been carried out and we believe this is as good a shell as you will find – and there is a lot of shell!
Though the VW wheel trims are missing (a set of Rover ones are present) the van’s original wheels and even tyres are present, should you have your eye on the preservation class of your local car show. The chrome-work, what there is of it, is in good to average condition and a new ‘Volkswagen’ script badge is included.
Running and driving but not MOT tested or used for the past three years the Camper will require some light recommissioning though it would also provide a fantastic stepping off point for a concours standard restoration.
Here’s a game for all the family – check the hotel costs for the three annual Goodwood events, a Le Mans Classic and a Monaco Historique and it is clear this Camper will have paid for itself in a couple of years. A rare and desirable model with one of the most sought after conversions, the open road awaits.