The latest Westfalia expansion on the VW T6 first reminds a lot of the VW California series, which came out as the first modern Campervan variant with a retro-coloured bicolor scheme. Nevertheless, the homage to the Sixties was even more consistent with the Kepler sixty than on the bus from Volkswagen: The latest sixty comes not only outside, but also inside with red-white elements, colors the WestfaliaHier goes to matching products Amazon.de! Quite appetizingly referred to as “Candy and Rotkirsche”.
The interior of the Kepler sixty shines red and white.
But with the colors it only starts: in Chrome, there are either shiny stickers with the “Sixty” logo or shiny slats that remind of the ventilation slots of the older vehicles. Elements such as the door handles or indicators shine Chromefarben, as are the rims in chrome and white and give the modern vehicle a certain vintage feeling. The design continues with the furniture forms: here, curved edges and lines that are entirely in the vintage look dominate. Just like the white-red leather seat cushions, this will certainly make the hearts of rockabilly fans beat faster.
The layout of the vehicle is based on the Westfalia Kepler 6, which was presented in the model year 2018 with a long wheelbase. Just like the sister model six, the Kepler has sixty 5.30 meters in length. In addition, it has a continuous sleeping bench in the stern instead of two single seats, which can be folded to sleep and are anchored on two notes in the vehicle. So a total of four people can travel with the sixty.
On the way, a kitchenette and a built-in cooler will supply the crew. A table with a shiny white surface and a cherry-red edge can be attached to the kitchenette and lowered. Clothes and luggage are included in the side cabinet with Chromefarbenen slats.
The roof is also red and is shown in the front with rounded edges. The bed itself is from Flori. In winter, a Webasto diesel heater provides warmth. The engine of the Westfalia Kepler sixty brings 150 hp with
LOS ANGELES, California — In case you weren’t aware (we’re guessing most of you aren’t since it’s no longer sold here) the Volkswagen T6 is the sixth generation of VW’s long-running Transporter van series. It’s a vehicle whose lineage can be traced back to that of the Type 2—otherwise known as the world-famous Microbus. We recently had a go in a version of the T6 called the California, in Southern California of all places (clever, VW, clever).
The primary reason Volkswagen shipped a group of brand-spanking new T6 camper vans to the Golden State was to celebrate the 30th anniversary of the California model. Given that it was taking place in SoCal, VW thought it would be fun to let a bunch of us Americans loose with them for a couple of days. We would quickly come to curse them for letting the rest of the world have them and not us.
We got a go in an Ocean trim level, the highest spec model in the T6 California hierarchy, save a plethora of special editions. It included a stove, cabinets, drawers, power outlets, lighting, and yes, even a kitchen sink.
Our particular T6 California was a German-market specification vehicle powered by a version of VW’s long-serving 2.0-liter turbo four driving all 4Motion wheels via a seven-speed dual-clutch transmission. The engine delivers 201 horsepower and 258 lb-ft of torque, potent enough to haul the near-6,000 pound van to 62 mph in a tick less than 10 seconds.
From the pickup location at LAX we slogged our way through some classic L.A. traffic to Venice Beach to meet up with Martin Squires, a surfer who runs a surf school out of his classic VW Microbuses. Driving a T6 in this area attracted more looks than a supercar. Windows down, an excited onlooker shouted: “Hey when are they bringing those here?!” Preaching to the choir, bud.
After snapping some shots of Squires’ classics alongside our most up-to-date Transporters, we join the traffic once more for a coastal drive to Malibu, stopping first at a Vintage Grocers store alongside the freeway, where we pick up some coffee and refreshments to stash in the on-board fridge. On the way back to the van, a pair of local boys—already stoked out of their minds to get a glimpse of our T6 Ocean-liner—almost have a stroke when we give them a tour. These campers are an extrovert’s dream.
During the final stretch of the first day’s drive, we work our way up the coast to a camping spot in Carpenteria, just south of Santa Barbara. From the ocean-adjacent site on a hillside, our hosts give us a walkthrough of our homes for the night.
After showing us around the kitchen, we learn about some of the other cool kit equipped on our California Ocean campers. The California’s signature pop-up top tent feature is electronically operated from the control unit over the driver and front passenger seats. Once the tent is up, the upper level can be raised and lowered to allow adults to stand on the bottom floor. The rear seats flip down to make a second bed.
There’s a folding table inside the van, and the front two seats swivel around to allow four people to sit around the surface. Other hidden furniture includes folding chairs stashed in compartments in the rear hatch, and a camping table stowed inside the sliding door. Hidden among the door frames are shades that allow for complete privacy. The driver and passenger windows don’t get hidden shades, but Volkswagen includes cloth window covers that stick to the steel door frames to conceal the forward cabin.
Once the feature walkthrough is complete (our VW hosts also point out the 30-gallon tank for onboard water storage, waste water receptacle, and gas tank to heat the stove), our crew enjoys a seafood dinner and a warm campfire. We use the foldout chairs from our vans and chat until it’s time to retreat to our vans. Once inside, we use the full suite of LED lighting and the onboard heater while enjoying some music using the Android Auto and Apple CarPlay compatible infotainment system.
I personally bunk on the upper-level bed, which has a wooden slat support underneath. The thick cloth walls of the tent are wind resistant and ventilated, which kept me warm and protected for the duration of the night. The following morning we have breakfast at the camp and then break down the camper’s setup in preparation for the day’s journey.
Our next leg is a quick jaunt to Ojai, a free-spirited town inland from Santa Barbara. Along the way, we hustle the Californias along some of the area’s winding roads. For what amounts to a rolling bed and breakfast, the T6 handled the twists and turns remarkably well. Thanks in part to its optional adaptive chassis control system we tackled several aggressive corners with something actually approaching confidence.
The T6’s steering proved direct and very tactile, its powertrain accelerates smoothly, and the steering wheel-mounted paddle shifters work great for picking the right gear on inclines or declines.
After a hearty vegetarian meal for lunch, we take in some local color with a visit to Poco Farm. The fields and orchards are located in the town, and farmer Grace Malloy explains how her operation varies drastically from most other farms in the U.S. because of its small size and sustainability practices.
Following a final photo shoot in Ojai, we head out to the Songdog ranch in Maricopa for another night of camping. It turns out to be a breathtaking drive, not just for its sweeping vistas but also because it cuts through land torched by California’s recent devastating wildfires. The scorched trees, homes, and road signs along the way serve as a reminder of the ferocity of nature and how it can impact our lives, as well as the importance of getting out there and experiencing the things the world has to offer.
Our camp is in the high desert and the wind rips through our campsite, causing the tiny windmill on the roof of the adobe-walled ranch to spin feverishly. We set up the exterior-mounted awning, another feature that serves as one of the biggest points of contrast between the T6 California and Volkswagen’s other Transporter variants.
A crank, cleverly stowed in one of the drawers hidden under the passenger seats, is used to unwind the canopy. The weather-resistant tarp is supported by two folding braces and a pair of legs that swing out from the outside edge and the fully extended setup holds fast in the face of the whipping winds.
Our dinner is a barbeque, enjoyable partially because of the irony of Germans grilling excellent hamburgers for Americans but also because the protein-heavy meal is a welcome contrast to our meatless lunch. We hide from the gusts in the cabin as Christian, our host from VW, regales us with stories of the previous year’s Nordic adventure.
The next day we pack up the camper and hit the road back to Los Angeles without stopping. The round trip was close to 350 miles total, and the T6 California did it all on one tank of gas. On the way back, we tested out some of the vehicle’s new school tech, including its start/stop feature, lane-keeping assist, forward collision detection, and adaptive cruise control systems.
All of them generally performed as well as similar systems we’ve sampled from other automakers. Forward collision did intervene one time and although we thought the application unnecessary, given that it never occurred again it seemed to be on the less-intense side of the sensitivity spectrum. The adaptive cruise feature proved welcome during a stretch of the infamously boring Interstate 5, easily maintaining speed and following distance.
While it certainly seems to us like a no brainer for Volkswagen to bring the T6, especially in California form, to the U.S., there are several hurdles, chief among them price. Our California Ocean vans were optioned up to somewhere in the neighborhood of a whopping $110,000 (converted from Euros to dollars by Volkswagen). That said, several, less expensive variants could probably be had in the mid $40k range if brought here, but you wouldn’t be getting the kitchen sink.
Further making the case for VW to bring the T6 to the States was that we were stopped by everyone from beach bums to the finer folk of Malibu during our journey. They peppered us with questions, wondered aloud where they could get one. It proved an eye-opening experience that reinforced just how much the Volkswagen van has been seared into the national consciousness—at least out here on the left coast. Volkswagen gave the California a proper 30th anniversary bash, and now we’re more eager than ever to see the German camper make a return. Thanks a lot for whetting our appetite, Volkswagen.
2018 Volkswagen T6 Transporter California Ocean Specifications
The Volkswagen Camper. It’s got to rank up near the top of the most iconic cars ever, hasn’t it? Second only to the Beetle in terms of instantly recognisable VWs, most people’s minds will instantly go to the original – the Type 2 Microbus. But Volkswagen’s keen to remind potential buyers that the California has evolved – and so it invited us for a celebratory road trip around the American state from which it takes its name.
The California name was first used on campers built by famed camping brand Westfalia. Never officially applied to a Type 2 or bay window camper, it first appeared on a T3 camper in 1988.
Westfalia built another on the front-engined T4 platform, then VW itself took over production in 2003. The T5 California was the first to be officially built by Volkswagen in its own specialist facility – just down the road from where the vans themselves are made.
For 2018, the California is based on the latest T6 Transporter, and benefits from all the latest advancements – a car-like cab, retro styling details, and class-leading refinement, driving manners and safety kit.
After a 10-hour flight, we landed at LAX and took ownership of ‘our’ California. While the majority of Californias sold worldwide are diesels, to bring a fleet of Volkswagen oil-burners to the US would be a PR disaster – so our vans were 2.0-litre TSI petrol models, with four-wheel drive and DSG automatic gearboxes.
Powertrain aside, we were glad to be assigned a van in bright red – though sadly not the two-tone retro vibe of some T6 models – with stunning dished chrome wheels. Ours were ‘Ocean’ models, which gain a fully-fitted kitchen unit alongside a sliding rear bench. Cheaper ‘Beach’ models do without cooking facilities, but still retain a pop-up camper roof and space to sleep four.
After a brief tour courtesy of VW’s international press team, we fired up the air-conditioning as protection against the fierce California heat and set off to our first destination – Martin.
Picture ‘surfer dude’ and the chances are you’re visualising Martin. Every day, he parks his fleet of Type 2s on the Venice Beach seafront and offers surfing lessons and board rental to anyone who’s been drawn in by his colourful garage. He’s been here for eight years, and built himself up from living in one of the vans to owning several of them – and retiring every night to a real house.
“The VW van is the icon. It’s the star of TV and film and I think that’s why it’s endured so much,” he told us. “It’s what’s helped my business grow. If you’d told me back then, when I was living in the van and peeing in bottles, that one day I’d own so many, I’d’ve said you were crazy.”
And would Martin indulge in the latest T6 California if VW sold it in the US? “Of course,” he said. “I’d give my left nut to own one of those.”
After departing the beach, we headed to our overnight stop – driving down the iconic Pacific Coast Highway as we did. The T6 California really is remarkably car-like to drive, though a diesel engine would no doubt suit it better. The smooth-shifting DSG, ample power reserves and incredible refinement all made for a painless journey, leaving us plenty of time to admire the scenery.
And as we took in the coastline, the locals took in our vans. Stopping at traffic lights we had no shortage of admiring glances, with drivers often winding down their windows to enquire about the California. “Is that an import?” they asked. “You can’t call it a California if you don’t sell it here. Tell VW that. We want to buy this van.”
Our first overnight stop, with a stunning view of the coast, gave us an opportunity to test the California’s camping features. Building this van from the ground up has allowed VW to use every inch of space within this van, and it’s packed with features. Once you’ve raised the electric pop-top from the neatly integrated control panel and slid the front seats round to face the comfortable rear bench, you can wind out the built-in awning and get comfortable.
A pair of sturdy camping chairs stow away in the tailgate, and a freestanding table sits just inside the sliding door. As for the side kitchen unit, it hides a two-burner gas hob, a sink with running water, a top-loading fridge and bags of storage. Though you’d be hard-pressed to live in here permanently, it’s ideal for a weekend away.
When it comes to sleeping, you’ve got two beds to choose from. The first is ‘downstairs’ in the main cab – it’s a traditional campervan ‘rock’n’roll’ bed, and is easily made up with a few pulls of a lever.
Upstairs is definitely the captain’s quarters, though. The bed inside the rising roof is larger than the one downstairs, sits on a slatted bed base, and offers the best views out courtesy of three zip-up windows.
Though both beds are quite firm, you can quite easily grab a good night’s sleep – though a lack of ventilation at the rear of the van made our first evening uncomfortably hot.
The next day we headed away from the coast and into California’s twisting mountain roads, giving us a good opportunity to evaluate the VW on something other than a smooth freeway. Unsurprisingly, it’s no sports car, but once again it’s the refinement that blew us away. Most third-party built campervans creak, rattle and shiver over all but the smoothest surfaces. The California, built to VW’s exacting specifications in its own factory, is dead silent.
Of course, UK buyers are more likely to spec one of the diesel engines, and we found ourselves wishing that our California was similarly equipped. Though the 2.0-litre TSI petrol is a great engine when fitted to a Golf GTI, it’s simply not suited to lugging around two-plus-tonnes of motorhome. It lacks low-end torque, forcing you to explore the rev range to make any meaningful progress.
The trip computer made for some very depressing reading too – over several hundred miles, we averaged less than 16mpg. That would definitely be tough to stomach on UK shores.
After a night in the California desert, we headed back to Los Angeles – at rush hour – to see how the vans coped in the cut-and-thrust of city traffic. Perhaps unsurprisingly, the excellent DSG auto and decent amount of power kept us ticking over nicely – and despite the big kitchen unit, visibility is still great.
We waved goodbye to ‘our’ California with a pang of regret. Though it was of course pleasant in the 25-degree heat and endless sunshine of the Pacific coast, we’ve no doubt that it would be equally at home on a muddy campsite in Cornwall, with a pan of soup on the hob and a pack of beer in the fridge.
For us, there were only two sticking points. The first is fuel economy – easily remedied in the UK by speccing a diesel engine. The second is purchase price, which is less easy to overcome. Though a basic ‘Beach’ model can be had from around £46,000, the ‘Ocean’ – the true campervan – comes in at more than £56,000, and creative application of the spec sheet can see that rise over £60,000 and beyond. That could pay for quite a few family holidays.
But if you can afford it, if hotels, camping or caravanning doesn’t suit you and if the freedom of a California suits – then you won’t be disappointed.
Special edition of VW’s iconic camper van limited to 80 units; prices start from £52,985
This is the Volkswagen California Edition – a limited-run version of the brand’s iconic camper van. Just 80 examples will come to the UK, adding styling and equipment upgrades to both Beach and Ocean models.
The Edition features a gloss black roof and door mirrors, exclusive decals and 17-inch alloy wheels with black inlays. The front passenger windows are fitted with heat-insulating glass, while the rear windows and tail-lamps are tinted. There are five exterior paint colours to choose from: Candy White, Cherry Red, Grape Yellow, Indium Grey and Oryx White.
Equipment upgrades include LED headlights, front fog lights with a cornering function, and the firm’s Discover Navigation infotainment system. The six-inch touchscreen comes with a reversing camera and smartphone integration through Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. A multifunction leather steering wheel, soft-touch dashboard and three-zone climate control are also included.
Both Beach and Ocean models are powered by VW’s 2.0-litre TDI diesel engine – the former gets the 148bhp version, while the latter gets the more powerful 201bhp unit – and both are equipped with a seven-speed DSG automatic gearbox. In addition to the more powerful engine, the Ocean adds an interior fitted with kitchen cupboards and a bed extension, plus a water connection for an outdoor shower.
The Beach Edition is priced from £52,985, and the Ocean Edition costs £65,879. Both models are available to order now with first deliveries due by the end of May.
But it wasn’t actually the Microbus doing the “running” part, just like a 1985 Toyota Van Wagon made the old chopper go. This sideways 1976 Microbus shell, made by LeMons shitbox series legend Speedycop and named the “Trippy Tippy Hippy Van,” is mounted on a 1988 Volkswagen Rabbit and powered by a 1.8-liter GTI engine. Speedycop said the engine makes about 120 horsepower and will go from 0 to 60 in about eight seconds. Its speed caps off at around 100 mph.
Transporter Syncros are as desirable as T3s get. They can also go where no other VW camper would dare. Seeing one in America is a rare treat.
YouTubeClassic Car Club Manhattan
Volkswagen’s boxy Transporter Syncros were built in limited numbers for the European market from 1985 to 1992. Each came equipped with a four-wheel drive system added by Steyr-Daimler-Puch, the same people who brought you the Mercedes G-Wagen and the Fiat Panda 4×4. Only a handful have made it over to America.
Introduced for 1986, T3 Syncros featured rectangular headlamps, a tachometer, new fabric choices, a more effective air conditioner and a five-speed gearbox, with first being a crawl gear.
A Syncro at the 2017 VW Meet at the Hungaroring
The camper van the Classic Car Club Manhattan just bought from Tampa is powered by a 1.6-liter turbodiesel, producing 69 horsepower on a cold day. That means it will need 27 hours to cover 1200 miles, but that’s okay. It’s well-equipped, full of spare parts, and ready for all sorts of zombie apocalypse. Because yes, fuel economy will be a factor.
The way things are going, Nvidia stands to play a pretty big role in the future of self-driving cars. Its AI chips are already the driving force behind autonomous systems for Tesla, Audi and Toyota, and today it has added a couple more transportation powerhouses to its clientele, in the form of Volkswagen and Uber.
Interior of Volkswagen’s forthcoming I.D. Buzz van, which will feature Nvidia tech to power its autonomous systems
Volkswagen finally gave the go-ahead on the electrified Kombi van back in August, with plans to begin selling a modified production version in 2022. Dubbed the I.D. Buzz, it will start with level three self-driving capabilities, but the German automaker is hoping to achieve full autonomy by 2025.
At the heart of that, it was announced today at CES, will be Nvidia’s DRIVE IX Technology. The company bills this as not just self-driving hardware and software that relies on data from internal and external sensors to navigate through traffic, but as a kind of artificially intelligent co-pilot.
This means using deep learning networks to track the head movements of the driver to detect distractions and have conversations with them using speech recognition and lip-reading. It will also allow for owners to unlock the vehicle through facial recognition and control in-car settings with their gestures. Nvidia says these kinds of capabilities will be improved through software updates over time.
“In just a few years, every new vehicle should have AI assistants for voice, gesture and facial recognition as well as augmented reality,” says Nvidia founder and CEO Jensen Huang. “Working with Volkswagen, we are creating a new generation of cars that are safer, more enjoyable to ride in than anything that has come before, and accessible to everyone.”
Also signing on to make use of Nvidia’s AI systems is Uber, which plans to place it at the center of its self-driving car and truck fleets. Uber has been making steady progress on its autonomous vehicle aspirations, with its Otto self-driving big rig delivering 50,000 cans of Budweiser in 2016 and Volvo recently agreeing to sell it 24,000 XC90 premium SUVs. These Volvos will be purpose-built to accommodate Uber’s own self-driving tech sometime between 2019 and 2021, with the XC90s used in the company’s trials so far already incorporating more basic Nvidia processors.
“Developing safe, reliable autonomous vehicles requires sophisticated AI software and a high-performance GPU computing engine in the vehicle,” says Eric Meyhofer, head of Uber Advanced Technologies Group. “NVIDIA is a key technology provider to Uber as we bring scalable self-driving cars and trucks to market.”
Being armchair observers in the world of classic autos, we know these old buses have a storied history and are supported by a seriously devoted following. We also know they’ve been steadily creeping up in value for some time now. The thing is, these aren’t quite on the radar for many auto buffs, so we suspect there are many people like us wondering when – and how – a first-generation Volkswagen Type 2 Microbus ascended into the realm of six-figure collectible cars.
To find out, we dialed up a couple experts on the matter – one from the auction world and one from the enthusiast realm – so we may better understand the bonkers phenomenon that is the vintage VW hippie bus.
“A 23-window Volkswagen is as iconic as a 1965 Mustang Convertible, or a Mercedes Gullwing,” said Gord Duff, global head of auctions for RM Sotheby’s in an interview with Motor1.com. “It’s one of those things that relates to any age, and to any level of collector. It appeals to someone that only ever wanted a 23-window bus, or to the type of collector that has Ferraris, vintage American cars; a wide range classic, iconic vehicles.”
Or course, there’s more to a $207,200 sale price than just an iconic status. Duff explained that a perfect storm of features, restoration quality, and venue played into the sale of this 1960 Microbus. He also noted that color combination makes a big difference, saying that the right shades can add as much as 20 percent to the value. On the flip side, he said having the same van with 21 windows can drop the value by half. That’s still $100,000, which isn’t exactly cheap.
Now that we better understand the why, let’s take a look at when. For that, Duff points to the pre-financial crash world of 2007-2008 as the take-off point, which is roughly the same timeframe identified by VW guru Adam Hurlburt. Aside from being a proper motoring fanatic and journalist, Hurlburt actually lives the VW bus lifestyle with his own first-generation ride – a 1965 Riviera camper.
“Split-window price hikes began in the early 2000s,” he explained. “Before then then you could nab a clean 23-window for $10,000 or less. In the 1990s you could buy one off a street corner for as low as $500. Boomer nostalgia really drove prices up, much like it did with muscle car values.”
Since then, several vintage busses have eclipsed the $200,000 mark at auctions. In 2011, Barrett-Jackson sold a restored 1963 23-window for $217,800. Just last year, a 1965 21-window bus actually topped $300,000 at Barrett-Jackson, though with a tweaked engine, custom interior, and 17-inch wheels, it wasn’t entirely stock.
Will the prices go up from here? Trends are suggesting the top-dollar buses are stable, but that doesn’t mean other models might not inch up. Hurlburt bought his 1965 Riveria for $5,000 back in 2010 and feels he could get at least $22,000 for it now, but both Hurlburt and Duff say the first-generation 23-window models are where the really big money will likely stay.
Who knew that one of the biggest symbols of the 1960s would become such a high-dollar collectible? For now, anyway.
In 1945, major Ivan Hirst convinced the British Army to rebuild the bomb-battered VW factory in Wolfsburg and by the following year the plant was producing 1,000 cars every month
By Mark Hodge
4th January 2018, 1:04 pm
Updated: 4th January 2018, 3:43 pm
EUROPE’s biggest car giant Volkswagen is a byword for reliability and strength – however its dark past has more than a few bumps in the road.
After being started by Adolf Hitler in 1937 as a scheme to give ordinary Germans an affordable family car, VW quickly became part of the Nazi war machine.
But out of the ashes of war, British army major Ivan Hirst rescued the plant from being dismantled and helped transform the company into what is now the world’s second biggest car maker behind Toyota.
When was Volkswagen set up by the Nazis?
Created by the Nazi trades union organisation in 1937, the company was named Volkswagenwerk GmbH in 1938 and had a factory built in the city of KdF-Stadt, now Wolfsburg.
Hitler demanded that Germany’s “people’s car” should carry two adults and three children and would cost no more than a motorcycle.
Designed by Ferdinand Porsche, the car had an air-cooled rear engine and was encased in a “beetle-style” shape – a design which eventually became synonymous with the swinging sixties.
Despite over 300,000 Germans signing up to a scheme in which they could buy the car through monthly savings, very few vehicles are actually produced before the outbreak of World War II.
During the conflict, the firm became a supplier for the Nazi army using 15,000 slave labourers shipped in from concentration camps.
How was the Volkswagen transformed following WWII?
After the bomb-battered factory came under the control of the British military in May 1945, the plant was set to be dismantled with parts being sold for war reparations.
But, the firm was rescued by 29-year-old Major Ivan Hirst, who had a background in watch and clock manufacturing, who convinced his superiors of the potential of the factory and the beetle’s unique design.
And while the plant itself had been heavily damaged, and looted by US and Russian soldiers, much of the machinery remained intact in numerous outbuildings.
Along with partner Colonel Charles Radclyffe, Hirst rebranded the company as Volkswagen.
The British Army placed an order in September 1945 for more than 20,000 green Type 1 Beetles to assist with the running of post-war Germany.
And by 1946, VW was producing 1,000 cars per month.
The Beetle has since become a classic and one of the biggest selling cars ever with more than 20million produced.
Who was major Ivan Hirst?
Hirst was born to a family of watch and clock manufacturers in Saddleworth, Yorkshire in 1916.
After attending Hulme Grammar School in Oldham, he studied optical engineering at the University of Manchester before setting up his own optical repair firm.
While at uni he was a member of the Officers’ Training Corps contingent and eventually became a lieutenant in the Territorial Army in 1937.
After joining the war effort in 1939, Hirst became a Mechanical Engineering Officer in 1941 and eventually joined the Royal Electrical and Mechanical Engineers.
After the D-Day landing, he was in charge of tank repairs for the British Army in Belgium.
With one of the greatest histories of any vehicle, the VW Camper, (or Kombi, T2, T5, California, “van” or “bus”, or any other term of endearment owners choose), is one of a handful of models that has a true claim to the title “iconic”.
It started life as the VW Type 2 (hence T2), as it arrived after the Type 1, which was that other iconic VW, the Beetle.
While the T2 remained the lovebus of generations of hippies and lovers of the Sixties, counter-culture, Woodstock vibe, the T5 Transporter, which launched in 2003, took on a substantially different air, with a more corporate design, for smart local businesses, and middle-class weekend surfers. the current facelift, the T6, is, in camper van mode, the California, which proves beyond doubt is surfing aspirations. At £50,000 a pop, it also shows how far it has traveled from the transportation of broke hippies, to the weekend second-car of wealthy active families.
This is a good-looking campervan, especially in vibrant blue, with a svelte front end and softened corners. Inside, it’s a tardis-like work of genius to fit in the mod-cons every owner expects these days, especially for the money, and when Mercedes has its Marco Polo version breathing down VW’s neck.
Up front, the driving position is very, very comfy, with an upturned steering wheel and automatic gear-lever positioned high in the centre console. Dash surfaces are predictably plasticky, but not in a cheap way. A little knob up by the rear-view mirror raises and collapses the extending roof for a double-mattress space which is illuminated by mesh windows and smart, soft electric lighting.
In the back, the rear bench seat slides forwards so the children are within reach, or right back to enable the little side table to be raised. One side is flanked by a sink and gas stove, with smart glass lids creating a smooth surface over them. There are plenty of cupboards and storage bins, and the rear bench folds flat to enable another double mattress to slide over the top, creating a decent bed for two six-foot adults. Blinds cover all windows to block out the light.
Of the 200bhp 2.0-litre turbodiesel engine? Perfectly acceptable – 0-62mph in 11.1 seconds etc – but it’ll be the performance of the stove, the battery, the way the water supply hooks up and the surfaces wipe clean that really interest owners of this vehicle. We took it to the Isle of Wight for the weekend and let four children clamber all over it. On that basis, it performed remarkably well, mud thankfully washing off the pale fabric seats, roof-raising and lowering more than was strictly necessary, without a glitch. Also, it might be long, but it’s pleasingly narrow and, with that very short front overhang, is easily maneuverable into tight parking spaces.
You’re either a diehard, lifelong fan or just don’t get the appeal. Not being a hippy, a surfer or with a particular need for a van, I confess I didn’t get it… until I got in this one for the weekend with a seven-year-old and four-year-old, who thought it was the coolest thing ever. Suddenly, weeks in the Lake District beckon, sleeping, walking, camping and cooking over an open stove. The “upstairs” space is brilliant for two children, and this is the easy way to face the Great Outdoors. Frankly, it’s just as appealing a thought to leave the kids outside the house in it for a night and treat it like an extension.