Chenae Loveridge’s van is suffering an identity crisis.
On the surface the tiny van resembles a classic Volkswagen camper, but hiding beneath the retro trimmings lives a factory standard 1990 Subaru Sambar.
The masquerading VW is a rare sight on New Zealand roads and there have been reports of Loveridge’s dolled up Subaru being the only one in the country – a far cry from the van’s motherland where there are plenty of Japanese motorists navigating the expressways in their kitted-out replicas.
The VW conversion kit – which comprises additional side skirts, an altered front panel, an oversized VW emblem, chrome wheel caps and a slick new paint job – is virtually unheard of here in New Zealand but is believed to be available for purchase in Japan.
Loveridge’s customised people carrier underwent its transformation before arriving in the country and when the New Plymouth woman fortuitously spotted it at a Te Awamutu car dealership she immediately fell in love with the peculiar motor.
But the van wasn’t actually for sale and the car yard, which had further enhanced the automobile’s charm with white-wall tyres and window tints, was instead using the vintage knock-off as a promotional vehicle and was not in any hurry to part with it.
“I looked at importing one myself but they’re notorious for rust and I didn’t want to take the risk of not being able to inspect it myself,” says Loveridge.
“When I called them to ask if they were willing to sell it they wanted to know what I would be using it for before they would consider it.”
The Humdingers Cakes owner-operator explained to the dealer how she planned to turn the fifth-generation Sambar into the custom cake shop’s newest delivery vehicle, and luckily for her the idea was well received.
About a month ago Loveridge became owner of the imitation VW, which runs a 650cc engine with a five-speed manual transmission, and she says her father had to head north with a trailer to pick it up due to the van’s lack of grunt.
“It doesn’t go much above 70kmh so you can’t really take it out of town.”
The urban delivery van embodies the cake shop’s unique and funky style, which almost certainly explains why Loveridge was so keen on pursuing the van despite already having a company car.
“I couldn’t get it out of my head,” she explains. “I just saw it and had to have it – it was one of those impulse things.”
The creative foodie, who is planning to vinyl wrap the Japanese auto with a nice shade of pink, says wherever the van goes it attracts a crowd and she has even returned to the vehicle to find onlookers taking photographs.
But, she understands their curiosity and although the mock camper tends to confuse a lot of bystanders she says more often than not it has them fooled and they are left thinking it is a legitimate Volkswagen.
“As far as I know it is the only one of its kind in New Zealand. We were really lucky to find it.”
– Taranaki Daily News