Having got to know Gez and Ollie, the organisers of the UK Cruise to Ninove on our road trip to Belgium earlier in the year. We caught up with them again on home soil to find out more about their cars and friendship… and have a bit of a laugh too!
They first met after Gez responded to an advert for a stash of old Volksworld magazines Ollie was selling around 7 years ago. It wasn’t just air cooled VW they had in common though: Gez arrived in his Audi A6 estate, parking behind Ollies… which was in front of his T4 Westfalia; Gez also owned one that was practically identical. The coincidences continue: both have beach huts on St. Leonards seafront and daughters born within a few weeks of each other! This chance encounter has led to the two being best mates ever since.
2 buses at once…
The above tale overlooks the fact that both gents also own super cool Split buses, Ollie having owned his ‘64 for 13 years and Gez his ‘67 Samba for 8. With the similarities stretching further still to their penchant for OG patina and of course the classic Cosmic wheels – which are original, they hasten to add!
The ‘green one’
Ollie, who is a partner at a commercial property firm by day, picked up his ex-Sacramento Split bus from FBI VW in Swansea after parting with a 1969 Bay Window Dormobile back in 2006. Externally it still wears the original coat of Turkis Green and white above the waistline. Inside Ollie has installed a Bay Window camping interior “because it was cheap” and is working his way through some DIY door panels when time allows.
The Wheel Deal
Rolling on freshly polished Porsche Cosmic’s Ollie tells me he has a couple of sets of original Mahle Gas Burners should he want to change the look. A set is earmarked for a Porsche 912 project I’ve got on the go, which hopefully, I’ll bring along to Heretics one month” Ollie reveals. Well, we look forward to seeing it… If not that, then his bright orange T3 Katastrophenschutz sounds pretty cool too!
Stop! Carry On!
Keeping the Splitscreen sills from scraping the stones is a 2″ narrowed front beam from CB Performance partnered with 3.5″ dropped spindles. At the back Ollie has chosen a straight axle conversion, giving him a touch of camber in comparison to Gez’s.
Slowing things down are a quartet of Porsche 944 stoppers, more than adequate for the 123bhp and 130lb/ft that this motor was last dyno’d at.
Propelling this vintage people carrier is a 1956cc engine on twin Weber 44’s assembled by Rich Morena. “I used to have the engine in my drag racing Dormobile, back when I was racing it with Team Akciddento” Ollie informs us. We’re not quite on the right road surface for a demo, but Gez reassures us it runs along nicely!
I see you, Sea Blue…
Both buses sit so comfortably with the surrounding maritime pallet, something we’d not even thought about when the location was mentioned, but it should be no surprise as Gez’s US import is finished in Sea Blue.“It’s had a bit of bodywork below the Samba belt trim, but the top half is all original” Gez tells us “The interior is OG door cards and blue rubber mats with replacement basket weave covers for the front, and the rear rock and roll bed. The plate was a bargain too, it’s a Northern Irish registration”.
As mentioned before, both guys own Beach Huts and we were afforded exclusive access to this part of the beach via a private track normally reserved for walkers and cyclists. “This is the first time we’ve brought the buses down here,” Gez tells us, going on to share his car history which includes a Porsche 914 that he owned for 1 day shy of 20 years. No prizes for guessing the wheels he ran! Currently, he dailies a Mk1 GTI and his wife runs a Mk2 Diesel around town, again the rims of choice are waiting in the wings, once they have been detailed.
Use and abuse
Gez, who works as a Tour Manager for big-name musicians, by his own admission doesn’t take his bus out as often as he should; something he wants to try and address this year. With a well presented 1600cc powerplant out the back, it’s perfectly useable but they chose Ollie’s bahnstormer as their mode of transport for the Ninove cruise earlier in the year.
Steering Box Scraper
Bolted below the front arches is a 4″ narrowed front beam, coupled with T2D dropped spindles and supported by GAZ adjustable shocks. Behind his Cosmic alloys lurk a pair of Willwood 4 pot calipers which grab hold of 11.5″ drilled and vented discs via a servo upgrade, when Gez stands on the stop pedal. To the rear a late Type 3 IRS gearbox rebuilt by John Bowles plays it part in the Independent Rear Suspension conversion together with adjustable spring plates, to keep the wheels sat vertical, in line with the flanks. Gez is the UK coordinator for the Steering Box Scrapers club, the “original and best lowered Split Bus club” so stance matters to him – ironically, his bus now runs a steering rack conversion!
Gez has taken his passion for period tuning parts well beyond a set of cool alloys, and even runs a dedicated Facebook page for fellow Cosmic fans. He’s keen to show off his rare Cosmic steering wheel, and matching Cosmic pedal “I’ve got another few sets of Cosmic wheels at home” and as it happens I tipped him off on a set local to me the day after we met, which he promptly purchased – they won’t even fit the bus!
Lee, our resident snapper has done a great job hiding the fact that it was raining the afternoon we met up and took these photos, it was blowing a gale too! Both Ollie and Gez, however, came dressed for summer – just as they did in Ninove when it was even windier! Shorts all year round for these guys – hardcore!
As we bring our shoot to a close and stop by some colourful beach huts for our last photo opportunity, another hut owner comes over for a chat. As it happens, he’s restoring a Split Bus himself. What a small world…
A big thanks to Gez and Ollie for bringing their beautiful buses out despite the weather so we could chat and capture these photos to share with you. Stay tuned to Social Media for news on the 2020 UK Cruise to Ninove – we’d thoroughly recommend it and plan to be joining them both again next year.