Heritage Warehouse Manager Simon has worked as part of our team for 15 years, but amazingly this is his first dabble with a V-dub.
He’s not just dipped a toe in the project car pond though. He’s taken on a complete panel van conversion, getting his hands dirty where he felt comfortable and learning all along the way.
Don’t fear the Van life
Simon’s had his fair share of interesting vehicles, including a couple of superbikes but it was only in 2017 that he picked up this 2004 T5, in Panel Van ‘guise and silver, not the shade that it is now. “I think the fact that we sell so many VW parts has put me off before” joked Simon, hinting that reliability and rust could be an issue for the wallets of potential Volkswagen owners. “To be fair I’ve tried to keep a cap on my spending, sourcing parts from work and second hand. Maybe I’ve been lucky, but it hasn’t needed anything major in the way of mechanicals, apart from the conversion and the modifications.”
Whilst this rural lakeside setting wouldn’t be the obvious choice for photographing Simon’s custom camper, which rolls on black 20” Range Rover alloys, it was family holidays and fishing trips that he built it for. A keen angler, Simon and some mates were spending 4 days on the bank, trying their luck with the locals and drinking beer till the early hours.
The banter between them was very much at Simon’s expense, even taking a spirit level to his fishing rods to mess with his OCD! He had the last laugh though – hooking a 30lb Carp, a personal best for him in the UK.
With a little help from his friends.
Having worked in this industry for so long he’s made some handy connections. So when it came to making his campervan conversion happen, it was time to call in some favours. Step 1 on Simon’s shopping list was a trip to the body shop. The windows were cut in, the facelift front end attached and the bodywork prepped for his chosen colour: Scirocco Viper Green, to be applied with contrasting black roof.
To add some extra scene points Simon added the Sportline rear spoiler to his back doors. “I still love the look, but if I did it again, I wouldn’t have the spoiler,” he told me. “It stops you fitting a conventional bike rack, hence the tow bar I had fitted, plus, if you close the doors the wrong way, they hit together and chip the paint.”
Enthusiast in the making
With every new part or modification this hobby was pulling Simon further and further in. “I’ve taken my time to do the research and really plan what I have bought and done. This wasn’t built with a blank chequebook, but it’s attracted some great attention and comments. I couldn’t afford flashy suspension, but our budget T5 coilovers have done a great job, and ride much better than I had imagined. I’ve been able to share my experiences with our customers at shows like Busfest and also on the T5 Facebook groups too.”
Simon saved for months and months to make the interior happen. “I got ex-Heritage employee Tommy Vee at VW-T to do make the cabinets” he explains. “I thought green would be too much in here, and black would be too dark, so we went for white. But with the LED lights I can make it any colour I want!” The rock and roll bed was a sourced from Rusty Lee, Simon tells me “I had the cushions trimmed with a diamond pattern to match the SSP front seat covers in the cab.” A neat touch that ties the front into the back nicely, especially when Simon spins the passenger bench seat for dining and socialising. The curtain set is another SSP product from the T5 range at Heritage.
The Great Outdoors
Attached to the roof is a handy pull out canopy, which today houses a stove, some fishing gear and at the end a warming wood burner. “The burner was a tip-off from Heritage camping expert Andy H,” Simon tells me “and it’s been on ever since we pitched up – it kicks out some great heat”. As well as fishing Simon also enjoys a spot of Mountain Biking and has tried his hand at a few races too “The van is perfect for that, I can get 3 bikes on the rack at the back, my mates in the front and off we go”.
Get your rocks off
The stickers all started with the Fox logo on the bonnet. “I was driving home and some kids threw rocks off a bridge, and one hit my bonnet, then bounced up and smashed the screen. I’d only had it back from paint about a week.” He got the screen sorted on insurance, but needed something to cover the scratch and dent.” Since then Simon has become more colour conscious adding green stickers to black stuff, and black against the green bodywork “even my kettle is green” he points out!
The future is bright…
Now you’ve done this, would you do another project, I ask? “If I could afford it, I’d love to have a Karmann Ghia as well. Slammed on a set of our 17” Fooks” he tells me.
The same colour as the van? “Yeah, why not…” Simon replies.