a camper van is not just for shows

Although there are a myriad of Volkswagen shows dotted all over the place here in the UK and Europe, the humble VW camper vans life is not just one all about the glamour of show and shine! These classic campers are actually incredibly versatile and practical vehicles. They are no ‘one trick pony’ just for the more obvious camping holidays or trips to the coast, all part of the seductive ‘living the dream’ image that the iconic vintage VW camper encapsulates. Sometimes they need to just roll up their metaphorical sleeves and get stuck in with a bit of hard graft!

a mobile room with a view at Bexhill beach

a mobile room with a view at Bexhill beach

So after a happy honeymoon of road trips, car shows and days at the beach, my camper was forced to show a more rugged and practical side to its nature! Recently we had the dubious joys of moving house, and because we had a few days grace to when the actual move could take place, we decided we should move things over in stages over a few days. Enter my trusty camper van. It’s no ‘show queen’, it’s a much-loved, used and enjoyed camper, but now it was time to do some work.

Because of it’s somewhat unique shape and ingenious use of internal space (a big box on wheels!), it’s easy to forget just how big an internal volume it actually has! Slowly, but surely, load after load, we made a number of return trips dropping stuff off at the new place, charity shops and even the local dump. It was amazing what we could actually fit in.

a dishwasher might be a bit too much for a camping trip!?

a dishwasher might be a bit too much for a camping trip!?

Initially we bought that there were a couple of very tall, and fairly large Ikea bookshelves which we assumed were just not going to fit, but even with these, we were wrong! Open the rear hatch and you could simply slide them in over the rear seats, simple. In the end, nothing actually proved to be too big to fit inside and before you knew it, we had actually moved the entire contents of our old 5 bed house into the new place! To be honest, I was quite amazed at how well it had all worked out in the end. Retro removals anyone?

After all the hard work of moving, the ‘camper’ had certainly earned it’s keep! However, with all the stress and hassle of moving, it was really nice to get back to using the camper for more pleasurable pursuits, like going to the beach for a relaxing swim on a hot summers day – pure bliss!

a beautiful sunny day by the beach at St Leonards-on-Sea…

a beautiful sunny day by the beach at St Leonards-on-Sea…

a new soundtrack to Ninove…

I had always been wanting to add a soundtrack of some kind to my original time-lapse HD video from this years UK cruise to Ninove, but I never really had the skills to do it. However I’m very lucky that my son has just finished his degree at University and has just very kindly created a great soundtrack to accompany the HD video, hope you njoy it and the video evokes happy memories to those from the UK who went on the cruise or went to the amazing weekend that was the Freddy Files event at Ninove!

bus buddies arrive in France ready for a road trip to Ninove, Belgium

bus buddies arrive in France ready for a road trip to Ninove, Belgium

every cloud has a silver lining…

Sometimes it’s great to plan things out to the last tiny detail, other times it’s fun to just go with the flow and have a bit of spontaneity in your life. So it was a nice to get an offer from a friend to come over for a BBQ, have a couple of beers and watch the England v Uruguay match in the Brazil 2014 World Cup at their house out in the country.

As the weather was so great, and I was driving over in the VW split screen camper, I had the option of either stopping over in their spare room, or just parking up amongst the trees on their land and camping in the van… well it was a bit of a no brainer, so we picked a nice location to park up, and had a great BBQ and then settled in to watching the match…

beautiful spot to park up and camp for the night

beautiful spot to park up and camp for the night

OK, so the result of the match was not what was wanted, but hey, every cloud has a silver lining – what an amazing view and sunrise to wake up to the next morning…

sunrise - not a bad view to wake up to

sunrise – not a bad view to wake up to

The gentle rolling hills of the valley glistened with the early morning dew as the sun slowly slid into view. What a way to start the day!

nice rack

With the summer weather in effect, it has been great to be getting out and about in the vintage VW camper and make the most of both the glorious weather and the beautiful countryside and coastline in the south-eastern corner of England.

One of the jobs that I had been meaning to get around to, was to make some protective feet or covers for the feet of my 3-bow roof rack. I had taken the rack off in the winter with the intention of getting this little detail sorted, but my good intentions had got some what sidetracked! Well, Fathers day and gong to a local classic car show, finally prompted me to get my act together to get the job sorted at last!

outer roof rack foot removed for measuring…

outer roof rack foot removed for measuring…

For ease of measuring and trial fitting of my new foot protectors, I removed the outer clamp off of one of the legs of the 3-bow roof rack…

a sharp knife soon saw some double sided adhesive foam strips cut to size

a sharp knife soon saw some double-sided adhesive foam strips cut to size

…and cut to width a strip of double-sided adhesive backed closed cell foam that I had bought ages ago in preparation of doing the job! The strip was then cut to length (x6) for each of the roof racks feet. I allowed enough to fully wrap around the base of the foot plus extend up the side of the support to ensure that the metal of the rack was protected from coming into direct contact with the split screen campers roof metal gutter section.

self-adhesive foam strip positioned and stuck in place

self-adhesive foam strip positioned and stuck in place

Once complete, I repeated the process to make protective covers for the outer clamp of the 3-bow roof rack.

process repeated for the roof racks outer feet

process repeated for the roof racks outer feet

With all of the new protective covers in place on the 3-bow roof racks feet/clamps, it was time to put the roof rack in place and tighten all the clamps up nice and securely. It was only at this point I realised I had missed a trick with the positioning of the double-sided adhesive backed closed cell foam pads on the outer clamps, can you spot it?!

the roof racks feet fit on the camper is nice, neat and discreet

the roof racks feet fit on the camper is nice, neat and discreet

In my haste I should have reversed the positioning of the double-sided adhesive backed closed cell foam pads on the outer clamps so that the foam protected the outer edge of the roof gutter from the inside face of the outer clamp, not the other way round! Doh! Schoolboy error for rushing to go out and play in the sun!

the re-made outer clamp protective coverings

the re-made outer clamp protective coverings

So after removing the wrong size/positioned outer clamp covers, or should I just call them the v1 trial versions, I remade and refitted some new ones to complete the job!

the fitted 3-bow roof rack looks the business

the fitted 3-bow roof rack looks the business

However, the end result is worth the effort as the 3-bow rack looks great, so time to head off to the Classic car show…

out and about in the spring sunshine

Having had the recent trip to Ninove in Belgium, it acted as a great motivator to get a few little bits and pieces sorted on the camper, but since getting back and the weather turning from spring to early summer, well the motivation has been more about making the most of opportunities and getting out and about and driving the bus!

I’m lucky enough to live in a fairly picturesque part of England, so when my talented artist wife wanted to take a look at a few of the medieval Churches that are scattered around Romney Marsh in Kent for a potential location for a forthcoming art piece she wanted to do, it sounded like a great excuse for a drive in the sun to me!

Church of St Augustine, Brookland with its unique separate wooden 11th century spire

Church of St Augustine, Brookland with its unique separate wooden 11th century spire

First stop was the very distinctive Church of St Augustine, at Brookland. It has a unique feature in that its 11th century wooden spire clad in cedar shingles, is built separately on the ground next to the main body of the church! We then visited a couple of other churches in the area before I was getting directed out deep into Romney Marsh and what was rapidly feeling like a road to nowhere!

arriving in the middle of nowhere to find a church in a field!

arriving in the middle of nowhere to find a church in a field!

Eventually we arrived at our destination, a small country lane in the middle of nowhere, where off in the distance, sitting in the middle of the marshland grazing fields surrounded by sheep, cattle and irrigation dykes and watercourse, sat St Thomas á Becket church, Fairfield!

Fairfield Church in Romney Marsh

Fairfield Church in Romney Marsh

It is a beautifully quirky, quintessentially English church in its scale and location. Its wonderfully weathered and lichen encroached brickwork apparently dates from the 18th century, and encases and protects the original 13th century timber frame structure.

lichen growth on the beautiful Fairfield Church brickwork

lichen growth on the beautiful Fairfield Church brickwork

To see inside, we discovered by research that the key can be obtained from Becket Barn Farm, Fairfield, TN29 9RZ, which is on the opposite side of the road a few hundred yards to the west of the church.

Fairfield Churches 13th Century timber frame

Fairfield Churches 13th Century timber frame

Inside this beautiful little church set in the middle of the grazing fields of Romney Marsh, is a very ‘domestic’ scale Georgian church interior, with a three decker pulpit and its original ‘box pews’ still painted white with black linings. Outside the church are three wooden bench seats, and it is a fantastic location to really take in the panoramic views and enjoy the peace and location!

I fell in love with this little church, and have put some photos up on 500px which are available to buy – I will donate 50% from any sale to the support of this beautiful little church that is part of the local heritage, feel free to have a look…

So after a long day taking in various medieval churches scattered across the expanses of Romney Marsh, it was great to head to the coast, stick the kettle on and soak up some sun as we took in a stunning sky scape panorama at Romney sands beach!

a beautiful sky-scape panorama to finish the day off at Romney Sands

a beautiful sky-scape panorama to finish the day off at Romney Sands

Although great to be out in the camper rather than underneath it, there are always a few little things that I could turn my attention to, things that I didn’t quite get the time to finish off before Ninove… the joys of owning a vintage VW, there is always either something to do or somewhere to go!

taking the camper out for an Easter run in the sun

OK, so it may have been a Bank Holiday here in the UK, but a job at a clients studio in Kent gave me an excuse for an Easter run in the sun was hard to turn down, especially when there is such beautiful countryside in East Sussex/Kent area…

out for a run in the Easter sun…

out for a run in the Easter sun…

Hope everyone has a great break over the Easter holidays whatever they get up to!

going out West…

Sometimes you just have to ‘strike whilst the iron is hot’ – this is especially true with the weather in early spring in the UK. If the opportunity arises to make the most of a great looking day, make the most of it! I had been thinking during the week it would be fun to head out West and go to the small town of Pevensey and have a walk along its shingle beach, so with a mixture of sunshine and overcast clouds, it was great to take the camper out for a trip west along the East Sussex coast.

On the way over I noticed a few really nice vintage cars heading in the opposite direction, a nice old Austin, a period ice cream van and a tasty looking Aston Martin. I assumed that maybe there must be a vintage car show on somewhere, and sure enough, as I pulled into the small town of Pevensey, I saw that the vintage car show was going on that afternoon right there in the beach car park!

Unfortunately I had arrived a bit too late, as when I pulled up, the show was closing down and all the cars had left and were heading home, all except a nice Saab 96 that was left like Billy no mates in the middle of the car park

a lone Saab 96 was the last vintage car left when I arrived

a lone Saab 96 was the last vintage car left when I arrived

So my sense of timing might be out, but I’ll have to remember the show for next year instead! On the plus side, the I was still let into the car park for free and had a choice of pretty much anywhere to park!

a day trip to Pevensey beach

a day trip to Pevensey beach

So as the weather began to brighten up, it seemed like the perfect opportunity to go for a walk along Pevensey beach before coming back for some local fish and chips and then sitting back to enjoy the view and a freshly brewed mug of tea in the camper!

a tea room with a view

a tea room with a view

Roll on summer!

the sun goes down on a brilliant time at Freddy Files 2014 in Ninove

So before it was time to head back, it was hard to not just have one more look around at the vast variety of vintage vehicles on display in the streets of Ninove, but this time these are some of the ones that were caught by my friend Ollie’s camera this time as we walked around, always nice to get a different perspective on things…

Take for example, the evolution and development of the different noses on these two beautiful Karmann Ghia’s – one a stunning convertible, the other a ‘Razor Edge’ Karmann Ghia

the nose profiles of different VW Karmann Ghia's

the nose profiles of different VW Karmann Ghia’s

The subtly of the satin paint finish, red pin stripe and minimal detailing on this pressed bumper VW Ambulance really made it stand out.

satin paint and minimal detailing look great on this ambulance

satin paint and minimal detailing look great on this ambulance

It was great to see a wide spectrum of the vintage VW colour palette on display on the various Beetles that lined the streets of Ninove, rubbing shoulders (or should that be wheel arches!?) with more custom colour schemes

beautiful vintage colour palette of Beetles lined the streets

beautiful vintage colour palette of Beetles lined the streets

I’ve always had a soft spot for ragtop Beetles, and this ragtop Oval Beetle with its rear pop out windows was very cool indeed!

cool oval ragtop beetle with rear pop out windows

cool oval ragtop beetle with rear pop out windows

However Ollie was rather smitten with this very sleek Porsche 356 Outlaw, the excuse being it would make a perfect daily driver to work!

smooth detailed Porsche 356 Outlaw gleaming in the sun

smooth detailed Porsche 356 Outlaw gleaming in the sun

I think if I were looking for a real ‘work’ vehicle, then in my opinion, this tough looking, original paint Crew Cab would be the perfect solution! Plenty of people carrying room upfront, yet a load bed at the back for any gear or equipment you might need, and then check out the hard-core, off-road rubber on the wheels, perfect!

check out the off-road rubber on this tough looking cool crew cab

check out the off-road rubber on this tough looking cool crew cab

The beautiful sunny weather of the afternoon in Ninove made it very hard to tear yourself away from the Freddy Files show, but unfortunately it was time to begin our journey back home after a fantastic time in the town.

With the perfect driving weather all set, it was now time to fill the tanks and head back to the Le Shuttle and the Channel tunnel in France. As this time on our return journey we were not part of a larger cruise or convoy, and with the roads back to the coast being pretty clear, we made it back to the Channel Tunnel in good time without needing to stop.

So time for one last picture of our busses before we finally caught Le Shuttle home. It has to be said that both busses performed faultlessly, and were a real pleasure to drive, after all, this is what the are intended for!

So take a bow, Ollie’s very cool, original paint bus, with its work in progress Westfalia interior and upgraded running gear and engine…

about to board Le Shuttle for the channel crossing home

about to board Le Shuttle for the channel crossing home

…and my more stock VW camper with it’s Canterbury Pitt interior, both made it there and back without a hitch!

homeward bound after a great trip to Ninove

homeward bound after a great trip to Ninove

Roll on Freddy Files Ninove, 2015…

diggin’ the detail… it’s where it’s at – more Ninove Freddy Files show pics

One of the things I enjoy the most when walking around a vintage car show such as the Freddy Files event at Ninove in Belgium, is seeing all the various little details or contrasts in style that can be found, the juxtaposition of vintage versus modern, original versus restored or simply the subtle versus the in your face looks that are often on display. Although to be fair, if you look at my Instagram or Flickr feeds, you will see that more often than not, it is the detail to be found in everyday life that fascinates me and draws the attention of my lense most anytime!

Like on this original paint Split Screen bus, I loved the tiny attention to detail to blend in the Union Jack with the overall aged look of the bus…

UK flag, patina style

UK flag, patina style

…as opposed to the stand out simplicity and boldness of taking a vintage Volkswagen Split screen bus, and giving it a contemporary monochromatic grey paint scheme. The result is a very subtle, yet really stylish looking bus!

vintage VW given a contemporary monochromatic paint scheme

vintage VW given a contemporary monochromatic paint scheme

One of my favourite campers at the show was the beautifully battle-scarred, White over Mouse grey sub hatch Westfalia camper. I loved the way it wore its battle scars on its sleeve and carried its aged exterior with pride.

headlight detail from a beautiful battle scarred sub hatch Westfalia camper

headlight detail from a beautiful battle-scarred sub hatch Westfalia camper

Equally I loved the curved, sensuous lines of the T34 Karmann Ghia ‘Razor Edge’ headlight detail, such beautiful organic styling, barely a straight line in sight! Really loving the contrasting yellow headlight lenses too, fast becoming a trend I suspect!

the sensuous lines of the T34 Karmann Ghia ‘Razor Edge’ headlight detail

the sensuous lines of the T34 Karmann Ghia ‘Razor Edge’ headlight detail

Then look at the vast array of wheel size and design on display. Some serious effort and time went into getting these full polished Porsche Fuchs with their detailed centre cap ready to roll on…

beautifully polished Porsche Fuch with detailed centre cap

beautifully polished Porsche Fuch with detailed centre cap

…but equally I really liked to see the modern trend of almost luminous coloured wheels applied to these solid steels that this vintage VW Beetle was sporting, a nice little twist!

standard solid steel VW Beetle wheel with a modern colour style twist

standard solid steel VW Beetle wheel with a modern colour style twist

Seeing the clean and simple lines of this deluxe Beetle dash with its beautiful vintage radio reminded me of my much missed early Ragtop beetle…

the clean chrome lines of a deluxe beetle dash

the clean chrome lines of a deluxe beetle dash

…but if you like simplicity, then the Flandria moped speedo certainly epitomised it, but with an added dash of aged patina!

aged simplicity of a Flandria moped speedo

aged simplicity of a Flandria moped speedo

There were lots of various ‘hot’ engines on display, unfortunately way above my pay grade or understand to fully appreciate their complexity, however visually stunning they appeared. However, one engine that caught my eye was this fairly stock looking flat 4 air cooled unit in the back of a Beetle, I just liked the way it had been stripped back to bare metal and cleaned up to give a fairly urban industrial look with its satin/natural gun-metal grey appearance, simple but effective styling.

bare metal industrial look engine detail

bare metal industrial look engine detail

All in all, the Freddy Files event in Ninove was a great first introduction to European VW shows, that both my friend Ollie and I really enjoyed. I think it really benefitted from being in the urban context of Ninove itself as opposed to being in some remote location, and it was great to have such a warm welcome from the town itself who really seemed to embrace the event. Looks like I might need to book this event into the calendar as a regular show to go to! Roll on 2015!

show time in Ninove – Freddy Files style as the VW invasion takes over

Woke up early to a perfect clear blue sky, looks like it’s going to be great weather for the main Freddy Files show in the centre of Ninove today! So after a quick breakfast, it was time to follow some of our VW neighbours who had parked near us on the street, and head into the main town centre to get a prime location to park our campers in. As soon as you started getting closer to the centre of town, you became aware of the sheer number of vintage VW’s both ahead and behind you on the roads – up to this point, I had not realised just how popular the day’s event was going to be!

Fortunately we were fairly close to the front of the queues to get in, and were soon directed to our allocated parking area in the sun (the whole show was really well organised from start to finish!). So once parked up, it was time to grab some coffee and croissant to go and start exploring the streets of Ninove…

some really amazing beetles lined the streets of Ninove

some really amazing beetles lined the streets of Ninove

It was amazing to just walk around the main and back streets of Ninove and see all available spaces taken over by such a wide range of vintage cars and buses, there were quite literally thousands of different vintage vehicles that poured into the city centre for the show, and the town really seemed to embrace the vintage invasion, as it was packed with families and automotive fans alike!

this was a intense orange Karmann Ghia was not for the shy

this was an intense orange Karmann Ghia – definaitly not for the shy or retiring!

Plenty to grab your attention as you wandered around the streets, I particularly liked this very straight and solid Dove Blue Crew Cab with its cyclops light and stroker 1776cc engine, very nice indeed!

always loved crew cabs, and this one was very sweet

always loved crew cabs, and this one was very sweet

Then there was this battered but beautiful Mouse Grey and white Westfalia sub hatch camper which was an amazing looking camper in its original paint and battle scars…

battered but beautiful sub hatch westy camper

battered but beautiful sub hatch Westy camper

…and was complete with its Westfalia camping interior, very nice indeed!

original Westfalia camping interior was in great condition

original Westfalia camping interior was in great condition

Then as a contrast, there was this very nicely restored early, pressed bumper, semaphore Palm Green over Sand Green microbus still with its microbus interior looking like it had just rolled off the original VW production line!

stunning Palm Green/Sand Green colour combo on this early bus

stunning Palm Green/Sand Green colour combo on this early bus

The show was not just limited to Volkswagens (which was nice), and I came across this fantastic little Flandria motorbike!

this Flandria motorbike was cooler than ice cubes in an igloo

this Flandria motorbike was cooler than ice cubes in an igloo

There was also a fair amount of quality Porsche 356’s, 911’s and 912’s parked around the streets on Ninove as well.

there were some great looking Porsche 356’s on the streets

there were some great looking Porsche 356’s on the streets

The cars and bikes just kept on pouring into the town centre all morning, so when you thought you had done it all, a whole new selection of voltage vehicles rolled up and added to the mix on the streets!

Time for a Belgian waffle and a bit of a break I think!