Doug Harwood is somewhat of a hero. He’s a VW restorer, mechanic, business owner, fan of the great outdoors and someone who really cares. It doesn’t matter if you own a show winner, have the bank balance for a million dollar resto, or you’ve scrimped and saved to buy a battered old bus to take your family away to make memories; everyone is the same to this man.
We’re here to get up close and personal with ‘Ole Smokey’ his Hi-Top Syncro, his source of sanctuary. Come six o’clock on a Friday Doug likes nothing more than getting away from the hustle and bustle of daily business by taking his Type 25 and family to go surfing at the beach, or to chill out in his friend’s private woodland.
Let loose in the woods
We were lucky to get a backstage pass to check out this exceptional ‘invite only’ campsite, and photograph Doug and his bus in their native environment. Doug’s bus isn’t your traditional poster pin up model, but there’s a reason and a logic behind everything you see. Originally manufactured as a twin slider panel van, it was imported into the UK and turned into a 7 seater minibus by Devon, before being sold to a Vicar in rural North Wales. The high top was added by the second owner who used it for camping, before Doug picked it up and bolted in a 1.9TD engine when he took custody in 2015 (in fact he’s now preparing for a 2.8 V6 transplant!)
Tea drinking genius!
You may have noticed it’s got a chimney poking through the roof, and that’s because there is a wood burning stove in there. “My friends all laughed when I fitted this” Doug tells me “until one year at Brighton Breeze, when it was cold and wet outside, and 7 of us were sat in here drinking tea, keeping warm and dry, and all of a sudden, I was a genius!”
Wet Suits and Sheep Skins
The utilitarian interior continues to offer well thought out, if not quirky styling touches. The copper pipes for example are for hanging damp wet suits on after a surfing session. The sheepskin seat covers, chosen for their fire retardant properties being close to the log burner, rather than their aesthetics.
Practical from top to bottom
Outside, there’s a kayak strapped to one side of the roof and on the other, a pull out awning that once extended wraps around the back of the vehicle, too. As you can see from the photos, the bash guards, headlight protectors and spotlight selection are all practical additions. This bus gets used properly, and Doug loves a spot of mud-plugging in his spare time, making Syncro ownership a sensible choice.
Feeling refreshed and relaxed from my hour with Mother Nature, I head back to reality, and let Doug drive his bus back to work. Rest assured he’ll be getting away with it once more come the weekend…