In the early days of Jamie Oliver’s ground breaking TV cooking series, The Naked Chef, we got to see a street-wise Essex boy leading the sort of life that any would-be cook could only dream of; opening a window and pinching perfectly manicured herbs, collecting fresh meat from the local friendly butcher after winding his way through the streets on his scooter to cook for his lively family on a lovely abode.
Of course, life isn’t that perfect, but to his credit Jamie Oliver did actually own and use the scooter (he recently found his original scooter on eBay and re-bought it for £1,800 – no-one can recognise him under a helmet he says) and he did later have a beautiful VW 23-window Samba campervan.
That right-hand drive 1959 split screen 23-window Samba is currently up for sale once more on eBay for a cool £165,000. The camper underwent a full restoration between 1992 and 1997, a couple of years before The Naked Chef began its three series, 2 and a half year run.
Matt Keene at Airkraft in Cornwall carried out the restoration, and the van was subsequently bought by Oliver in 2000. Thanks to the proceeds of a highly successful TV series no doubt, Jamie Oliver was able to carry out some further desirable customisation on the sunroof deluxe camper to further enhance its comfort and worth.
An £8,500 aural upgrade had the Samba kitted out with a couple of roof mounted TV monitors, plus a Sony PlayStation and DVD player along with the more conventional sound and visual upgrades of CD changer and speaker set up and sat nav.
The famous coach trimmer Bernard Newbury trimmed the interior in 2002 at his humble abode in Leigh-on-Sea (I’ve been to see Bernard in his workshop before when I owned my Beetle and a nicer man you couldn’t wish to meet; no job is too big or small), while the stock engine was replaced with an air-cooled Porsche 914 2.4 litre – not an uncommon upgrade for those that can afford it. What must have been nice in the summers though was a bespoke Porsche cooling fan setup.
The campervan appeared in the 6-part Channel 4 TV series, Jamie’s Great Italian Escape in 2005, where it featured heavily along with a matching cooking trailer. You might remember it more recently featuring in a fun moment in Top Gear where the Stig put the Samba through its paces while a terrified looking Jamie attempted to knock up a salad in the back – take a look at the video courtesy of Bernard Newbury/Top Gear. If anything might convince you that this 23-window has been restored to a very high standard, this video snippet might – I’ve been in campervans before where a simple right-hand turn proved a tough decision for the body to make as to whether to stay on the chassis or not…
Yes it’s a steep price, but it comes with all paperwork (which is rare in itself), and in today’s inflated campervan market I can honestly say that I think it just might be worth every penny – and Jamie has signed the dash too.