Many moons back I remember setting out in my old Beetle on a drizzly morning to go and have some pretty major surgery performed on the old car down Bristol way at Beetles UK Ltd. I was going to get a traditional style ragtop sunroof cut in. I was pretty excited and nervous at the same time, but was put at ease when I got to my destination by the friendly reception I got, although when I was asked if I wanted to stay and watch, the thought of the sparks flying as my roof got brutally cut out was not high on my agenda.
When I returned later that day after a wander around the countryside and a nice pub lunch, I remember turning the corner in nervous anticipation. As I got closer I could see that I had made a very very good decision. The journey home greeted me with warm sunshine and I could open the roof for the first time. It remains one of the best things I’ve ever had done to the car.
As I arrived that morning & had a look around the much larger than imagined Beetles UK site, I was very taken with the sight of a car park full of new Camper Vans all lined up in neat rows, it’s an image that has stuck with me. It could have been 30 years earlier.
You could, up until fairly recently, buy a new Beetle from South America and you may not be aware that you can still buy a new Camper Van from there too. Brazil to be precise, though get in fast, because time is running out on this old classic now as well.
Beetles UK Ltd are now called Danbury Motor Caravans, and it’s quite heartening to be able to view a brand new Camper on their website that has had zero previous owners and has zero miles on the clock! They’re not cheap of course, but you are buying into a classic shape with no hidden rust, filler or welds to worry about and a customised, modern interior too. You are buying a new Camper Van.
The downside of all this is a report that came out late last year giving the sad news that the classic VW Type 2 Camper is now running on borrowed time. As often seems to happen with such vehicles, time catches up and new market legislation becomes a knife in the heart of the classic vehicle. This new legislation comes into play on the 1st of January 2014 and will bring all this to an end.
The new legislation states that each new vehicle produced must have driver and passenger airbags and ABS installed. Egon Feichter, VW Product Development Brazil, says that this new legislation is the only reason that the Kombi/T2 production has to stop. Continuing would mean having to create a “new car” as he put it. Currently Brazil produces around 251 new Campers per day at VW’s Anchieta Factory in Sao Paulo.
Of course, if you are a purist and want to go in for that full Splitty restoration project then this will not be affecting you too much, although if you are using any Brazilian spares on your restoration then I would imagine there will now be a finite amount of time before these become hard to find.
The new Camper Van is no longer air-cooled, that finished in 2005, it now comes with a 1.4 water-cooled petrol engine. So I guess essentially what you are doing is buying into the romance and idea of a classic Camper more than anything else, but that’s just fine by me – but I speak as someone who’s pretty much sick of rust and the continual fight against time that owning a genuine classic entails these days.
The water-cooled engine can necessitate in having a large rather unsightly grille on the front of the van, but Danbury will, if requested, rather ingeniously work around this by using an air-vented spare wheel cover that, as much as possible, gives the Camper a traditional vintage look. Essentially, this is the same vehicle with a few modern additions that you could buy thirty years ago, servo assisted breaks and reliability are welcome additions.
The range of what Danbury Motor Caravans can do and the sheer scale of the operation is a joy, and you can’t help but think that maybe this is what it might have been like all those years ago when the VW Camper was a new vehicle on the market.
Danbury Motor Caravans don’t only do the traditional Type 2, they also convert the VW T5 and VW Caddy as well, hopefully ensuring that they will suffer minimal impact due to the decision to stop T2 production.
Production on the Kombi/Type 2 Camper Van is expected to finish in about seven months time on December 31 2013.
Images used with kind permission of www.danburymotorcaravans.com
Feature image www.vwcampervanblog.com