Seeking more comfort for the next Le Mans Classic

6

Author: Alastair ClementsPublished:

Since I became a father six and a half years ago, it has been a challenge for me to balance my passion for classics with the practicalities – and financial constraints – of family life. The sports cars have now long gone, and now seatbelts and number of doors have become more of a priority than horsepower and handling.

Accepting – or better yet embracing – that has helped to give my family an interest in or, at the very least, a tolerance for my hobby. It always thrills me to hear the kids plead to be dropped of at school in the Magnette, and taking the family to Italy in it this summer was among the highlights of my classic life.

It also planted the seed of a thought, which was watered and fertilised by a recent trip to Volkswagen Commercial Vehicles’ Oldtimer restoration facility (C&SC, July 2012). What if I could get the ultimate multi-purpose classic: a blend of style statement, daily driver, fun car, family wagon... and holiday home? The VW Camper, or ‘Bulli’, could be the perfect all-rounder.

If you don’t believe me, it’s worth seeking out The Bus, the brilliant but largely unsung documentary by Damon Ristau. I defy anyone to watch it and not to come away wanting a 23-window Samba ‘Splittie’ (below).

Unfortunately, a quick look at the auction results was all I needed to persuade me that this particular idea was a no-go. I tried shifting my gaze a little lower to the classic ‘Bay Window’ Type 2 (below), a car – well, the Americans call it a Beetle Station Wagon rather than a van – beloved by everyone from hippies to The Who’s Pete Townshend, but prices have gone bonkers in recent years. Even when a friend’s neighbour had an apparent bargain up for grabs, basically sound but with no MoT and needing some welding plus an interior refit, it turned out to have an asking price of "at least £3000".

Which leaves one option: the Youngtimer Type 25. Actually, it doesn’t feel like the third choice because it makes so much sense: more power, hopefully a bit more reliability and less tendency to catch fire, plus more space and comfort when you get to the campsite. And for the price of a very rough Bay – say around £6k – I should be able to get a smart ‘low-roof’ pop-top such as a Devon. I even think the wedgy design is looking rather retro-cool these days.

Sadly, the super-cool one-off Porsche 911 Carrera 3.2-engined version created in the Weissach technical centre is probably rather outside my price range, as are the desirable Westfalias and four-wheel-drive Syncros (above).

While in Germany for the Oldtimer press trip, we also got a tour of the factory that makes the current California, Volkswagen’s first camper made entirely in-house – and a pretty tasty bit of kit it is, too, with powered roof, superb build quality and a price-tag north of £43k. I sneakily asked if I could have a go, and recently took the family away in one for the weekend to see whether four people and a dog could cope with the space in a van that is still small enough to be a practical daily driver.

The verdict? Yes they can: it’s plenty roomy enough, and brilliantly versatile – and, electronic gizmos aside, it really isn’t too different in concept to the classic vans. Which leaves me with two questions: 1) is a Type 25 a classic? And, 2) could I actually live with one as a daily driver?

As if to answer the latter question, I’ve somehow found myself buying a cheap sports car as a runaround. But, with my wife’s encouragement, I’m treating it as a bit of a pyramid scheme: tidy the car up as we go along, then sell it in a year or two’s time in the hope of making enough cash for a downpayment on a Camper. Perhaps by then the bottom will have fallen out of the Bay market...

Comments

Pre 80s TVR

It all sounds very familiar. The bride baulked at camping for the Silverstone Classic so we hired a Danbury Type 2 for the weekend, and had a brilliant time. Our 2.5 year loved sleeping "in the roof", we were dry when it rained, and everyone stopped to admire it.

We would love one, but can't afford one, and so I keep wondering about Type 25s. A lot quicker, when the bride drove the Type 2 she couldn't believe how it was flat out at 50mph, and I am sure they are much nicer to drive. The more I look at T25s the more they appeal, a different kind of cool, but their time will come.

At least I would be able to follow in the TVR at 65mph next year...

Oliver.

TVR Car Club Pre80s Editor

jgyuhas

No American has ever used the term "Beetle Station Wagon."

Ever.

Jon

64StingRay

I would recommend to buy a T25 now. I have previously had Type2's and they are very good and cool? but the prices!!
Type 25s will have their day and prices will rise, they already are. I have recently purchased a cheap early T25 High Top camper although not looking for a high top and it drives better than the pop top type2s did. Hopefully it will be more reliable being water cooled, it is up to yet and it has a proper heater. The square looks grow on you buy one now and enjoy.
Ian

stagman74

A potential problem? I went to the website to order the DVD but it's in NTSC format. I don't think that this is compatible with European standards. Anyone know?

Stagman74

bigtrev200

Yes, this sounds like a very familar story. Four years ago my first daughter arrived and all of a sudden my motorcycling days out looked rather anti-social so I begrudgingly decided a new family friendly hobby was needed. With my beloved bike sold and cash in my pocket I headed onto eBay one night when the word 'Camper' cropped up in conversation between my wife and I. After quickly deciding that Bays were way out of our price range the search for a clean T25 was on, and after doing plenty of research we ended up buying a 1981 air-cooled CI-converted Transporter in a retro shade of yellow. A week later we headed off on our first camping trip to the Le Mans Classic 2010 and we've never looked back since!

The world of old VWs has blown us away. You couldn't meet a more friendly, sociable and family orientated bunch of enthusiasts, and we've made so many new friends in the scene our only regret is not buying a Camper years ago.

Peter_Mouldweb

I have always wanted to get a van for my family too. I agree when we start having kids, we prioritize their needs first before thinking about our own interests. A van can accommodate more people plus their belongings, and still have extra room for them to sit comfortably, which is especially critical for long journey trips. Type 25 looks like a stunning classic but I have to agree with Ian that its price is indeed scary as compared to other classics. Well, either you invest on a classic beauty or something high-end and does the job well like a BMW V5 or a secondhand Ford Winstar.

..............................

Best regards / Peter Mould / pmwltd

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