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VWNW show review and podcast with tips on VW camper purchase and restoration

Volkswagen North West is the premier Volkswagen show in the North West of England catering for enthusiasts from all over the country. I visited the 2006 show, which was held on Sunday 13th August, as always at Tatton Park, located around 18 miles south west of Manchester. I did some interviews to capture a flavour of the event and picked up a lot of very useful information. Listen to the audio and read the summary below.

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The first person I spoke to was Mike Sylvester, co-organiser of the show.

He told me that the 2006 show marked the 21st birthday of VWNW, and that there were 200 traders, including 100 autojumblers and over 1000 display cars and concours cars. The weather wasn't sunny but the attendance was good.

Mike was very positive about the place of the VW camper van in the show. He said:

'The VW Camper van is a primary part of the VW scene. The vans are very important to us especially the earlier vans with their split screen, and VW logo on the front, they are very much an icon for the show"

The show also includes kit cars, custom cars and vintage VWs as well as related marques such as Audi, Seat and others. At VWNW they try and cater for as diverse a range of enthusiasts as possible. It's not just an air-cooled show!

In the first year, 1986, the show was held in a small area of the car park. There were 30 traders, and around 500 people came through the gate. It was early days for VW events, funds were limited and they weren't sure if it would be a success or not. Soon VWNW grew into a major event and has gone from strength to strength.

Question Number One: How many people came through the gate at the 2006 show?

Next I spoke to Damian Mason of VDub Bodyshop, based in Cheshire.

Damian described the restoration of a VW bay camper van which was on display at the show. His business partner David Lowe does the restoration work while Damian does the paintwork. The work on this particular van focused mainly on the areas all round the bottom of the van, including the sills, rear arches, rear corners and battery trays.

Restoration would take David around a month to do, the paintwork would take another month, and a couple of weeks would be required to put it back together. The cost? Anytning up to 10,000.

Question Number Two: Which type of van is more suitable for restoration: A van that's rotten but has never been touched, or a van that has had some restoration work done on it already?

For more information visit www.vdubbodyshop.co.uk or phone 01270 812 949

Next I spoke to Phil Clerkin of Bullibus, who import split screen Kombis or vans from Brazil.

Phil showed me a 1975 split screen van, one of a range of vans he has imported from Brazil. It's important to remember that in Brazil, split screen vans were made up to 1975

Question Three: Until what year were bay window vans produced in Brazil?

This van was restored in 2003 by the previous owner in Brazil. Most Brazilian vans are buses reather than camper vans. The main feature of this one is that the interior has been refitted, so it's fully colour keyed and re-upholstered.

As most people in the UK would want a camper van, it's likely a conversion would be carried out, depending on the preferences of the potential buyer. Phil admitted he is tempted to keep it, though, as he is quite fond of it. If he does keep it, he will convert it into a four berth Devon style interior.

This van has a 1500cc 12 volt engine, single port, standard as came with all the vans of this age. It was originally sold as a deluxe van, with chrome trim, chrome badge and rooflining for sound deadening. It uses lead replacement petrol.

Bullibus is a part time business that's carried on as much for enjoyment as for profit. They have a lot of vans advertised that are still in Brazil. They can arrange for buyers to pay a deposit and organise shipping to the UK.

Please note they only import split screen vans, as these are more sought after. Bays simply don't command the prices. It can cost over 2500 pounds to import a van, including taxes and other charges, so importing a bay just isn't cost-effective.

A split screen supplied by Bullibus will probably cost around 10,000. On top of that are MOT, registration fees etc. All the vans are left hand drive.

Bullibus are based in Chester. For more information visit www.bullibus.co.uk or telephone 07971 568 687.

Finally I spoke to Lee Griffiths, judge of the concours bus classes at Volkswagen North West.

He has owned about 5 vans over the years, and it is his attention to detail and hands on experience that give him the qualifications to be a judge at VWNW.

He described his first van a 'the biggest mistake ever, the worst kind of bay window type van'. It was a panel van that had been converted into a camper by cutting holes in the side and adding windows. This is the worst type of van to own, he said.

Next he jumped in the deep end and bought a 21-window Samba. This one was already well known on the scene and had been featured in magazines.

After that he got itchy feet and decided to buy a pick-up. He restored it and displayed it at all the shows. It became a 'shelf queen' and lived in the garage, like the Samba.

Then he decided to have a shake up and sold everything. His next van was a 63 split screen. It was beat up and needed some work but he had more fun it it than he had ever had before.

And then he felt the need to own the archetypal van, which is the Samba he had with him at ths show. The one he found was very rough, but it was complete and very original, with original paint, original interior, but no chassis, no sills and lots of rust.

He spent a month welding, a tough challenge in hot weather. The only other changes he carried out were to fit a bigger engine and disc brakes.

With its 1776cc engine Lee describes the van as 'scarily fast'. At just 70 or 80mph it feels unsafe. The original engine was just 1200cc. With a powerful engine, an equally sophisticated stopping system is required in the form of disc brakes, which are available in kit form from Germany.

The bus was purchased from RCC imports based near Mold North Wales, and came from Austria, so it has European specification, including semaphore indicators. It is in the only availble colour at the time: chestnut brown on top with sealing wax red on the bottom.

When Lee obtained the birth certificate from Volkwagen it turned out that the bus was originally delivered to Norway, and was presumably exported to Austria some time in the 1960s.

Question Number Four: What effect does a cold climate have on rust? Does it stop rust? Or does it cause more rust?

Lee's Samba represents for him the highest level in VW ownership. It may not be shiny and new, but it's rare. There are probably less than 10 examples of this model, condition and year in the country. He couldn't help but buy it.

Lee spoke enthusiastically about the VW scene, which he considers to be far better than that of any other classic car. He also owns a Triumph Dolomite and has brought it to shows, but the VW Show is the best of all, due to the festival atmosphere.

FInally I asked Lee to fire up the Samba's refitted engine so I could record its happy revving, which I've used as incidental audio between the interviews.

Many thanks to all the people at VWNW I spoke to. If you're within striking distance of Tatton Park Cheshire - or even if you're from further away - I strongly recommend you go along to VWNW, it's fantastic.

Go to the VWNW website to find out the date of the next show.

Written by Aidan O'Rourke
Posted/Updated 2007-05-01

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