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Route 66 for couple with their VW camper

DOROTHY is the third party in Matt and Cindi Paines’ marriage. No problem, though – she’s a VW Camper. Matt tells John Woodhouse how the fiftysomethings, of Stafford, fell in love with her on a road trip across America – and how Dorothy is now making other couples feel special.

FOR some time, Cindi and I had been considering buying a VW bus. We both shared childhood memories growing up with them and had started visiting various shows around the UK drooling over the assortment on display.

Eventually, we decided enough was enough. It was time to own one of these nostalgic motorised tin-box beauties ourselves. The only question was whether to buy in the UK or, since Cindi is American, buy in the USA and bring it back.

Purely by happenstance we discovered a friend of a friend in Wichita, Kansas, had decided to sell his bus. We were considering having it shipped, until, one relaxing afternoon, while lying on lounge chairs in our back garden, Cindi suddenly suggested we go fetch ‘Dorothy’. Two things had happened here. The first was the bus now had a name, since Dorothy (The Wizard Of Oz) was from Kansas, it seemed like the obvious choice. The second was the idea of buying the bus had veered away from a mere vehicle purchase and was now rapidly moving towards becoming a road trip adventure.

Against the owner’s strong recommendation to ship, we decided to fly into San Francisco, Cindi’s home town, then on to Kansas, buy the bus, and drive back again to California – eight states and 2,456 miles in two weeks.

We considered several routes, but the one highway that beckoned was the famous Route 66. It looked straight forward on the map, what could possibly go wrong?

Plans were made, our moonstruck adventure had become a reality, and we were heading over to the US for a real fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants trip of a lifetime.

We had arranged to meet Dorothy’s owner at our hotel at Wichita airport. Seeing the bus for the first time in the morning sun, she lived up to all the pictures and expectations. We were truly happy with our decision. We were now owners of a 1970 VW Westfalia Camper.

It was time to hit the road and head south-west until sundown. My first reaction was how difficult it was to turn the over-sized steering wheel. Then the brakes – or the lack thereof! I practically had to put my foot through the floor to get the old-style drum brakes to react. Cindi and I just looked at each other and laughed in a futile attempt to ignore our growing concerns. We had a very long road ahead of us!

It was becoming noticeable that people were staring at Dorothy as we were driving around. We’d get waves from other drivers, pedestrians, and every time we stopped to fuel up or for food, we’d end up with someone telling us about their history with VWs. We even had trains flying by blasting their horns and drivers waiving at us traveling the opposite way. We both found it very amusing.

Route 66 may be one of the most famous roads in the USA, but it has to be said that, for such a national treasure, it’s actually quite difficult to know if you’re on it or not, since at every opportunity the powers that be try to filter traffic back on to the newer interstate 40.

As we headed north, we were beginning to become apparent the little towns that had petrol stations were becoming few and far between and would commonly be 100 miles apart. Not only that but we had discovered early on that large trucks and crosswinds were not a VW bus’s friend. Our slower speed, square girth, and loose play in the steering was a recipe for an unstable situation whenever one flew past. I would see them coming up in the side mirror and just hold on to the steering wheel and cringe, waiting for the overpowering gust to try to blow us off the road and over.

So needless to say we were relieved to finally exit the big roads and head north towards the Grand Canyon. At this time the bus wasn’t running too well. Our concern for Dorothy was coming to fruition. It was becoming clear the altitude was having an impact on her ability to climb hills.

As we approached the Grand Canyon, we realised there were signs stating the parks were in fact closed due to government funding. Heading west again we entered Mt Zion National Park in Utah. There were signs everywhere stating we were not permitted to stop because of the government shutdown. All we could do was gaze out the cab in amazement at the spectacular scenery, the most gorgeous red rugged mountains I had ever seen.

As we exited the park we found a campsite. This was to be our first and only night we were able to enjoy the delights of Dorothy. Mainly because it took me an entire week to convince Cindi how fun it would be!

Lighting the fire pit adjacent to the bus, noticing the rubbish bins were made of steal and padlocked because of bears, it made us wonder how much Dorothy’s vintage doors could withstand should a bear decide it wanted in. Thankfully, the night went without incident and we continued our journey into Nevada. Our aim, Las Vegas!

We became aware that a white pickup was following us. We made several turns, in and out of retail parks, but the pickup remained. As we pulled into the car-park at a burger bar, it pulled alongside and a man leaped out. In his mid-30’s, he started to look round Dorothy, and explained “I have four of these myself”!

As we neared Las Vegas, the style of driving, temperament and behaviour of other motorists had noticeably changed. All of a sudden everyone was in a hurry. The quaint rustic charms of Dorothy no longer cut the ice as they gestured with a blow of their horn for her to get out of the way or speed up.

Vegas was a chance to unwind from eight days of driving. To check in to a suite at a fancy hotel, sample some interesting cuisine and . . . get married.

While the adventure had progressed, Cindi and I had been having a life affirming and romantic experience at the behest of our guest, Miss Dorothy. So much so that if there was anywhere in the world this Brit and Yank should make it official, it was here and now. We had a very simple unassuming ceremony at the Little Chapel Of The West, the perfect choice for us.

After a two-day break, it was nice to leave Vegas as a married couple, definitely making the adventure that much more special. Next state, sunny California, or so we thought!

The final stage back to San Francisco was mostly uneventful and a little sad, because it signified our epic journey was coming to the end. It was glorious to see the city as we passed through, then crossing the Golden Gate Bridge into Marin County, where Cindi is from. At that moment, the realisation that Dorothy had miraculously transported us safely to our destination on a wing and prayer was emotional to say the least.

Back in England and Dorothy now spreads her joy by making other couples’ big days more memorable. We hire her out for weddings in Staffordshire – a beautifully preserved classic 1970 Volkswagen Campervan, immaculate inside and out, that will certainly get you noticed on your special day.

Every day we’re thankful for the adventure she has given us.

* For more information, go to

Camper man brews perfect life by taking van full of craft beer on the road

Paul Gibson and wife Cathy Quinn

Paul Gibson and wife Cathy Quinn


IT’S the kind of life many people dream about – touring the country in a classic VW camper full of craft beer.

But for Paul Gibson, going festival-to-festival in his Campervan Brewery is a serious business.

The IT worker ploughed his redundancy money into a mobile brewery to turn his hobby into a money-making enterprise.

The venture launched earlier this summer and now, eight weeks in, the Edinburgh beer baron is already eyeing expansion as demand outstrips supply.

Sold at festivals and in selected pubs, his ales are proving so popular that he cannot produce enough in his city garage or on the road and has now turned to “gypsy brewing”, using the facilities of larger operations to increase his capacity.

The father-of-two is also working on moving into larger premises as he seeks to push more pints and take his products across the border following requests.

He has also turned down offers of investment as others seek to capitalise on his success, saying: “I’ve had offers already from people wanting to invest. It’s an idea that’s been brewing in my head for a couple of years, it’s my baby and I have no interest in selling it at this stage.”

Gibson’s route to craft brewing began when he took a six-month career break three years ago to care for his geriatrician wife Cathy Quinn, who had a tumour of the oesophagus, and one-year-old daughter Maisie, who had bilateral hip dysplasia.

Both are now in much better health and, together with five-year-old Noah, accompany Gibson as he sets up his stall at food festivals. However, his time as a carer led to the idea of the Campervan Brewery fermenting in Gibson’s mind. He said: “As respite between bottle feeds and nappy changes I was reading about brewing and the idea started trickling away. I really took a look at my life, what made me happy and what didn’t.

“I was working for a telecoms and IT business to sell solutions into businesses. I went back to work and a year later I took redundancy and formalised qualifications in brewing at Sunderland University’s Brewlab.”

The result is two signature products, coconut-tinged milk stout Mutiny on the Bounty and citrus and lemongrass-flavoured Blonde Voyage.

Creating a batch takes about five hours, with production taking place at home and on the road using Gibson’s mobile kit, which can make about 70 pints in a cask wherever he pitches his 1973 camper. The vehicle has three beds and space for his surfboard.

The Northern Irishman, 38, said: “It has everything we need. I tend to set the kit up and brew outside and the van is quite comfortable. You have to be organised, but it’s very liveable.”

Juggling the project with his work for an IT firm, the Dundee University graduate uses evenings and weekends for brewing.

Last week he borrowed facilities at Drygate Brewery in Glasgow to make 250 litres to “help out with demand”. He said: “My stuff has been selling out as soon as it goes in, which is great. But I just can’t meet the requirements I’m getting, with requests to do festivals and give casks to pubs, even down in England.

“It’s like, ‘hold on a minute, I’m a one-man band and I’m moving as fast as I can’. I have a two-year business plan and hopefully by the end of that I’ll be able to go to the banks for help with moving to a bigger premises for storage and production

Summer of ’79: Volkswagen Vanagon road test

The 1979 Volkswagen Vanagon Type 2 and the 1979 Mercedes-Benz 280SE are both icons of their heyday.Jeff Jablansky

The 1979 Volkswagen Vanagon Type 2 and the 1979 Mercedes-Benz 280SE are both icons of their heyday.

Summer is basically here, and—as we’ve said, time and time again—it’s the prime season for a road trip.

Recently, I planned to spend a couple of days in Los Angeles with my friend and colleague, Kevin, much of it behind the wheel of two rental cars from Relay Rides. Much like Airbnb, Relay Rides is a peer-to-peer rental service that allows individuals to share their cars with one another. (Also like Airbnb, Relay Rides is deemed illegal in New York state, deemed a similar threat to the rental car industry as Airbnb is to the hotel industry.)

1979 Volkswagen Vanagon Type 2

Unlike Hertz or Avis, there are no vehicle categories at set prices, and the rental fleet is as varied as its members allow it to be. You name it, and for a set daily rate, you can generally find it—even from defunct brands like Oldsmobile and Mercury—although many Relay Rides are new cars with low mileage, often belonging to commuters. That means everything from a decade-old Pontiac Sunfire convertible to a showroom-fresh BMW M4 is up for grabs.

And grab we did. With a daily budget of $100 each—roughly what you might pay for a Ford Mustang V-6 convertible in peak summer season—we plumbed the depths of Relay Rides’ vast assortment of vehicles available in Los Angeles. Our plan was to meet at a coffee shop in L.A.’s trendy district of Silverlake for an official unveiling of each other’s choices.

The result? We outdid even our wildest expectations.

After spending several days trying out Mercedes-Benz’s newest van, the Metris, I wanted a classic van experience, so I went for a 1979 Volkswagen Vanagon Type 2. I’ve spent time with plenty of up-to-date, modern vans, but never with the iconic “VW Bus.”From my laptop screen, it looked like a steal: cheeky looks, room for seven, and a classic air-cooled engine with an automatic transmission, with none of the actual hassle of owning one. Let the ad-van-tures begin, I said.

1979 Volkswagen Vanagon Type 2 interior


1979 Volkswagen Vanagon Type 2

When I reached Sunset Junction, Kevin was already outside and waiting, hardly able to believe what I had brought. Ditto, I thought. Was there magic in the air, during the summer of ’79? Slowly and noisily, we found out.

(Lyrical amendments with apologies to Bryan Adams.)

The icon: 1979 Volkswagon Vanagon Type 2

Ain’t no use in complainin’
When you’ve got an old Type 2
Spent my evenings sittin
’ in traffic
And that’s when I met you, yeah

My experience driving the world’s most iconic van began in a most surprising way: at highway speed.

I wanted some time to get to know the Volkswagen Vanagon Type 2 (T2, Combi, Van) that makes everyone who sees it smile. The exterior was in fairly good shape for an unrestored Van, and it even had a (taped-on) racing stripe. The interior was a vast expanse for such a short, narrow van, with room for seven occupants and luggage.

I made sure to arrive in time to collect the 36-year-old van at LAX airport before evening traffic began, so that I wouldn’t be thrown head-first into the world’s most congested commute with only 60-something horsepower at my disposal.

How wrong I was. Traffic was moving at 55 mph, and I was expected to keep up. The thing you instantly notice about driving the Van is that it requires a lot of effort—and this is hardly my first time behind the wheel of a classic car. On the elevated 105 freeway, crosswinds immediately pushed the Van to and fro, even with the windows closed. (Air conditioning? Who needs air conditioning when you can sweat your way home?) Acceleration was brisk to 20 mph, and then virtually nonexistent. The braking point was vague, until it abruptly wasn’t. Ride quality was fairly soft, but imagining cornering exercises was a theoretical nightmare. Time not spent thinking about the angle of an upcoming hill or curve is used to mitigate the opportunity of becoming a human crash zone. The T2’s only saving grace on the highway was the unexpectedly smooth automatic transmission, a unique feature paired with the T2’s largest engine offering.

Most moments on the freeway were spent in the right lane with both hands white-knuckling the narrow steering wheel. This being California, however, no one seemed to mind, and we got the thumbs-up and massive smiles as we just concentrated on maintaining 40 to 45 mph.

That was our modus operandi for the next two and a half days: eliciting positive reactions while mostly suffering, ourselves. Everywhere we went, making noise along the way, people seemed to take note. In the Hollywood Hills, the Little Van that Could climbed its way up to Mulholland Drive and take in the full view of the city, although steering through some corners was best accomplished while humming a prayer. In Santa Monica, it fit in with the surfer crowd—who seem to have upgraded to Subarus and late-model Hondas. There are moments that we almost forgot we were driving a van old enough to be our uncle—most of them below 25 mph—although they were definitely fleeting.

At only one point did the Van’s engine refuse to turn over. (Not a great moment for a rental car.) Left alone, perhaps to breathe a sigh of relief, it gurgled to life and kept going. The sound of its start-up was rumored to have woken an entire neighborhood, for an early-morning photo shoot, but what did we care? We just imagined that it was still 1979, and that every car was like our lovable, loathsome Van.

Couple setting off on journey of a lifetime in their VW camper van

Couple setting off on journey of a lifetime in their VW camper van

Vintage-style H1 travel trailer by Happier Camper

HC1 travel trailer combines modular convenience with vintage looks

By – May 12, 2015 10 Pictures
The Happier Camper HC1 travel trailer is due to go into production

The Happier Camper HC1 travel trailer is due to go into production

Style may not seem like a priority in many travel trailer and caravan designs, but the HC1 from Happier Camper has oodles of both functionality and personality, combining a highly versatile modular interior with a rather eye-catching vintage look.

The HC1 design incorporates an “Adaptiv” interior made up of six base components – a bench, kitchenette, table, cushion, floor panel and lid. The components are slotted into place on a Lego-like floor to create a variety of interior layouts, or can be used as outdoor furniture.

Possible interior layouts include leaving the trailer empty for haulage, a bed and kitchenette combo for camping, a kitchen-only setup for commercial catering or a “mega bed” setup that can sleep up to five people.

Other accessories include a Bose sound system, built-in USB and AC power sockets and a tablet docking station. The HC1 also features a 100 W solar panel for generating power, a heated shower, an awning and optional outdoor lighting.

The trailer itself is designed to be lightweight and weighs in at just 1,100 lb (500 kg). This means it can be towed by a wide variety of cars and helps to minimize additional fuel usage. To keep the weight down, the shell is made of fiberglass, as is the modular furniture.

At 13 ft long (4 m) and just under 7 ft (2.1 m) wide, the HC1 will fit into a standard single parking space. There is just over 6 ft of headroom inside the trailer and 42 sq ft of walkable floor space. Access to the HC1 is via a side door or a large hatch at the rear. Windows on each side allow plenty of light in, whilst snap-down blinds offer privacy.

The HC1, which is reminiscent of the old VW Camper Van with its half-and-half color scheme, rounded edges and beveled wheel flares and taillights, has been designed over the course of five years. It is currently at prototype stage and Happier Camper says final refinements to the design are being made.

The base model will cost US$13,950 in the US, and there are plans to roll-out of the HC1 to Europe and Asia next year. A new HC1 website is due to launch next month.

Source: Happier Camper


#TBT Concept: 2001 Volkswagen Microbus

#TBT Concept: 2001 Volkswagen Microbus

In the auto industry’s annals of missed opportunities, few stand out quite like the 2001 Volkswagen Microbus concept. In an era where people movers were gaining in popularity, and Volkswagen held a cachet among young and wealthy Americans for a certain Germanic coolness, the Microbus concept was an outright hit upon its debut at the 2001 Detroit auto show. Retro-themed concepts were quite the rage at the time, and the Microbus successfully recalled its forebears while offering all the amenities and space a modern family could want.

#TBT Concept: 2001 Volkswagen Microbus

Designed in VW’s California studios, the Microbus had a lot of show-car flourishes, but also accurately forecast what people would want from their family haulers — three rows of seats, and lots of screens, with monitors in the back of the first and second row of seats, along with pop-up screens for the third row.


Why was it never built? VW knew it had a potential hit on its hands, and had slated the Microbus for production in 2004 — but getting the concept’s shape to meet modern safety standards and fit onto the corporate van chassis proved too difficult, and the idea was scuttled. (That lack of front overhang that’s a key trait of the old Microbus look would likely fail most crash tests.)


VW has continued to play with the idea — and even had Chrysler build a version of its minivans, the unsuccessful Routan. In 2011, VW showed off an electric concept van dubbed the Bulli, one with a longer nose than the Microbus, but still very much in the same vein. Last year, analysts forecast that VW would finally pull the trigger on a Microbus-like vehicle in 2019. Meanwhile, the demand for classic Microbuses has grown so much that pristine copies now sell for more than $200,000. Maybe someday families will have a way to feel so groovy again at a much lower price


Vintage van hire company reports surge in bookings

Richie Baird and Ishbel Moffat with their iconic VWs at Callander House. Picture: TSPL

Richie Baird and Ishbel Moffat with their iconic VWs at Callander House. Picture: TSPL

AN EDINBURGH couple have turned their love of classic camper vans into a thriving business driven primarily by the power of the internet.

Ishbel Moffat and Richie Baird struck out on their own after both were made redundant from their jobs in hospitality. After settling on Falkirk as their business base, Vintage VW Campers began hiring out vehicles in April last year.Since then, the firm has expanded from one to six vehicles, while reservations in the first five months of this year have surged by 60 per cent. It is now almost booked solid through the summer season by holidaymakers seeking modern comforts with classic style.

“There is a real love for Volkswagen campervans, and what some people have called ‘modstalgia’ – this idea of taking the kind of holiday you might have had in the past, but with modern elements like a TV or DVD player,” said ­Moffat.

She attributes the firm’s success to digital know-how acquired through Business Gateway Falkirk, which has helped Vintage VW to build an online presence.

“Despite a delay with the website that meant it didn’t go live until we began trading, the skills I learned at the workshops enabled me to begin marketing on Facebook, ensuring we had plenty of interest and advance bookings when we officially launched,” said Moffat.

“With our bookings for 2015 up so dramatically on 2014 already, a total increase of 100 per cent by the end of the year is looking promising.”

The company’s rare and classic VWs from the 1960s and 1970s have been hired for trips across Scotland, though the majority of customers head to the north. Vintage VWs have travelled as far as Islay and Harris.

Moffat and Baird have also developed a sideline in wedding hires after taking “Meg” – a 1965 VW Split Screen – to the Scottish Wedding Show at the SECC in Glasgow.

Unique and quirky places to go camping in Coventry and Warwickshire


Wigrams Canalside

Wigrams is situated on the junction of the Grand Union Canal and the Oxford Canal.

The house was built in 1798 as a Toll house for the Warwick and Napton Canal.

Today it stands in fifteen acres surrounded by breath-taking countryside, and offers guests both cottage stays and camping.

Mousley House Farm

Mousley House Farm

Grab an escape from the daily grind with Mousley House Farm, where you can camp up and pitch up in the gently rolling hills of Warwickshire.

This family-friendly, spacious site offers an idyllic four acres for touring caravans, motorhomes and tents, all with glorious, uninterrupted views of the countryside.

Mousley House Farm is also a haven for wildlife lovers and those who want to get as close to nature as possible.

Cost: Luxury Bell Tent £80 per night/Retro Caravan Hire £45 per night

Contact: 07443 475434

Somers Wood

Somers Wood

Somers Wood is an adult only caravan park offering 5-star luxury facilities.

Somers Wood is part of the Forest of Arden, ancient woodlands that separate Birmingham from Coventry.

The site is adjacent to Stonebridge Golf Club and 20 acres of Packington Somers’ fishing lakes.

Meriden’s Village shops, country pubs and restaurants are within a mile of the park.

Cost: £23 per night in July and August

Contact: 01676 522978

Warwick Racecourse

The Warwick Racecourse Caravan Club Site is set on a grass and tarmac enclosure within the grounds of the racecourse itself and is a mere 15 minute walk from the town centre of Warwick.

You can also enjoy a lovely walk along the Grand Union Canal at picturesque Hatton Locks and perhaps stop for refreshments at the Hatton Lock Café.

Close to the historic Hill Close Victorian Gardens and the award-winning iconic Warwick Castle.

Cost: £10 per night.

Eriba Glade

Heading to the NEC? Check out Eriba Glade, then.

A small friendly site located in beautiful woodland glade in the heart of Warwickshire, with ten pitches helped by electric hookup and shower blocks.

The site is quiet and dogs are welcome.



If owning a Type Two wasn’t enough – the new T6 will have motorbike carrying options!

Volkswagen MultiVan PanAmericana teased for Frankfurt motor show

Volkswagen will reveal a new spin on its latest-generation T6 Transporter van this week, dubbed Multivan PanAmericana.

Unveiled in April, the new ‘T6’ van range will again be offered in Transporter, Caravelle and Multivan forms, and it’s that latter variant that forms the basis of this new concept.

Teased today ahead of an unveiling at this week’s Frankfurt motor show, the new PanAmericana concept claims to combine the passenger comfort of the Multivan with a dash of unique load-hauling ability.

In this case, unique load-hauling means motorcycles, with the PanAmericana conceived as a means of transporting one’s two-wheeler across the country, from track to track.

To that end, the Multivan PanAmericana is equipped with a powered ramp to get your weighty bike in and out, along with a series of hooks inside to keep it secure during transit.


On the styling front, the PanAmericana will feature large multi-spoke alloy wheels (although this artwork likely exaggerates their proportions), combined with PanAmericana badging and new red, black and silver highlights inside and out.

Power in the concept is provided by Volkswagen’s EA288 Nutz turbo-diesel engine, producing the same 150kW offered with the top model in the new T6 range. A seven-speed DSG auto sends power to the van’s 4Motion all-wheel-drive system.

Watch for the PanAmericana to debut in the coming hours, ahead of what is reported to be a limited-edition production run

This VW Type 2 Sidecar is the Most Vantastic Way To Ride Shotgun



Back in 2007, a quirky three-wheeled concoction was featured in Scootering magazine, and the sidecar game hasn’t been the same since. Paired and color-matched with a Lambretta, this minature Volkswagen Type 2 Bus creation is the perfect transportation for a kid, a dog, or maybe a tasty pizza pie.

This car was built and is owned by a man named Jay Dyer. He built it so his then 11-year-old son could come riding with him. A long-time enthusiast, he wanted his kid to enjoy that part of his life with him. So, Dyer came up with the idea to make this. According to Geeky Gadgets, it took him about seven months to weld, paint, and craft the whole thing after buying the shell.



“We get absolutely mobbed by people when we take it to shows and journeys can take ages because we’re constantly stopped for photos,” Dyer said in his interview. “No one has ever seen anything like it and it’s a great feeling to see the look on people’s faces once they realize it’s a miniature camper van. I’ve had scooters for 27 years and see them as an iconic part of British culture. I’m glad to make my contribution.”

The project reportedly took about 2,500 British Pounds, or $3,800 by today’s conversion, and he has had plenty of offers exceeding 8,000 pounds, or more than $12,000. He said he’d never sell it, though. Let’s hope he’s maintained that attitude