The one and only rule of owning a VW van…. don’t ask “What can I do for the VW Transporter?” but “What can the VW Transporter do for me?”
2008 was my first experience of buying a van, and of course for me there was only one van that’s stood the test of time…… only one van that ages the best of them all, only one van that most people desire over other vans and that’s the VW Transporter.
We were having a baby and it was on the way….. not by post…… my wife was pregnant. I wanted a vehicle that was friendly, good quality and looked cool. Even though the T5 had been out for a few years, my budget at the time could only get me a T4…..and may I say, ‘there’s nothing wrong with that!’ I had found a nice one, a white panel van, it was a 2003 T4 Caravelle 888 special (oooooooohhh look at me!) The 888 special had cruise control, captain seats and it had a longer nose on the front end, which was my preference. I drove 150 miles to see it and knew ‘this was the one’, but still I struggled parting with the money….. why? Because, I couldn’t quite get my head around buying a van as my main family vehicle. My mind was still thinking vans were for builders, airport taxis and parcel deliveries (Silly me! Oooooooohhhhh silly silly me! )
Once the VW Van was back in the Frantony house and grounds, my first job was to take the old ply out of the rear of the van and steam clean it. Whilst that was drying, I cut out the panels for two side sliding windows and a rear window. After fixing all the windows it was time to insulate the van with foil back bubble wrap, stuck on with spray adhesive. The ply boards were carpeted, the floor had black and white chequered rubber tiles and a rear double seat was bolted in. The outside had a re-spray and the old steel wheels were changed for a nice set of alloys (paid for by my acting job on the film, IronClad!)
Having my son in the pram at the time was easy peesy lemon squeezy, as when it rained, we’d go in from the tailgate at the rear of the van….. it’s the size of a bus shelter. We could lift the pram into the back, take him out of the pram and in to his travel child seat. Close the tailgate from inside by the handle, hang my coat up on the hook, bungy strap the pram down and walk in between the captain seats…… and Voila! I’m in the driver seat…..and by the way, in all the time we had the pram, not once did I ever have to put it down. I know, all parents with saloon cars and people carriers are saying ‘Can this be true?’ Why YES my friends….. would I lie to you?? Never!
There’s NO getting wet as you stand outside your car whilst trying to strap your child in the travel seat, as you frustratingly fold down the pram and ram it in to the boot over all the shopping and new clothes you’ve just purchased (Grrrrrrr!!…… I hear you say)
Then there’s the VW Transporter day out experience….. it was a day at the coast overlooking the beach with the sea glistening in the distance. The tailgate open, the kettle on the boil and……..wait for it…….in the frying pan next to the fresh warm bread and pack of real butter…….. was BACON, mmmmmmmm….. and lots of it! This……. my friends, is a van of options and style! But wait….. what made it all the more desirable…… parked next to us was a BMW 5 series.
Lovely you might say but it didn’t look that good as we grinned, watching the couple face out the windscreen (for you beautiful American readers windshield) looking over their plastic Tupperware boxes on the dash, sipping tea from a flask in-between taking bites from a cold, drab ham sandwich. Don’t get me wrong….. I love a ham sandwich……but not next to a hot bacon sandwich with real butter melting through the fresh warm bread and a freshly made cup of tea (no flask tangy taste on my watch!) With a full belly from nice hot bacon sandwiches and hot tea, Mrs Frantony relaxed on the beach whilst my son played in the sand, and of course….there’s never a problem with space when changing back in to her clothes. And as for sleeping in the van…. well, it’s lovely and comfortable, warm and never damp.
Now we’ve all experienced a bit of IKEA from time to time, and I’ve seen how people are so focused on what they want to buy and then FORGET how they’re going to get it home? I’ve seen this first hand whilst eating one of their hotdogs as I watched through the window down on to the car park. They have one foot by the trolley wheel, stopping it from rolling away and stretching in and on top of the car making sure everything fits…… no matter how big the newly bought items are.
Well, not me….. why? Because I’ve got a VW Transporter van, the only problem that I have going to IKEA is that I’m happy to follow the arrows on the floor, write down what I need, find what I need in the store part of the shop, take it to my van and take it home to then build it up myself…..and I still go back……it’s like a big vending machine…..wait a minute this isn’t an IKEA blog….. Note to self ‘Dave, write about that another time!’
Anyhoo…. back to the VW van, all was well until one winters night, a tree decided that after 140 years, it was time to lie down….. on my van! Whilst I laid naked sleeping like a starfish in my super king size bed.
And that Ladies and Gentlemen………was the end of my VW Transporter T4….. my lovely, lovely van that I was going to keep forever; it now was only good for posting through a letter box. For five years after that, I travelled in the wilderness of having no van (you may feel for me at this point…….well go on then, I’m in tears as I write this). My mind, my body ached for another VW Van, I was lost driving anything and everything due to my insurance doubling over night, even though it wasn’t anyone’s fault. I was waking up in cold sweats knowing my body…. my soul needed another VW van…. I was getting close to wearing a straight jacket. Then a day like no other, as I walked a lonely path with the sun on my back, I felt a strange tingle through my spine. I looked up to the sky, I knew the VW Transporter Gods found favour with me, they took time out spoiling other people in the world with nice new VW vans and pulled out the Dave Frantony life file.
I was in the privileged position to buy a new VW T6 Transporter Combi van…..with extras!… and this didn’t mean garlic bread or onion rings, and for this I am grateful, very grateful! Swivel seats, twin electric sliding doors and leisure battery. It’s given us freedom like no other vehicle can. A weekend camping trip is nice and easy, and my son who’s now eight years old loves it. He’s more excited sleeping in the van than he has been in any Hotel we’ve stayed in. Cooking the bacon sandwiches is still a joy, and being able to easily fit 3 mountain bikes in the back, driving to the coast or to different trails or to canals venturing along the tow paths is a privilege. The captain seats are awesome…….I really do feel like Captain Kirk or Jean Luc Picard of the Starship enterprise driving along sitting in them. I’ll be honest with you…..sometimes I even say to myself “Make it so, number one.”
It’s comfortable, you sit high up on the road, there’s hardly any difference in length to that of a family saloon car, yes it’s higher but that only makes it easier to see the road. The VW Transporter gives you options and a life style that I am grateful for. Even though it’s not as aero dynamic as a fighter jet, the MPG is very good……. it’s averaging 42mpg…… and I’ll prove it. Here are my calculations over many nights in front of the black board.
And may I say……and this really happened, but only once when the conditions were right, as in the VW Gods were all happy and laughing, the Transporter was at its cleanest, the wind was dead centre behind the tailgate and the roads were quiet with not a pot hole to be seen and no insect flying in the sky and inadvertently unbeknown to them as they go about their daily deeds waiting to be squashed and weigh the windscreen down. Not to sound like a VW Transporter SUPER HERO, but on a long run we once had 52.5 mpg.
So that my friends, is my love of the VW Transporter van and my love goes deep…..so deep, I cannot see the bottom. So to all you VW Transporter owners out there……. take it easy…. don’t worry and live life to the full, venturing to places where no man or woman has gone before!! Always remember, as the famous speech goes of Sir Winston Churchill in a parallel universe….
“We shall defend our VW van, whatever the cost may be; we shall drive them to the beaches, we shall drive them to the camping grounds, we shall drive them to any suitable, idyllic field and park them in the streets, we shall drive them to the hills (because the view is nice); we shall never surrender……. to any other van!”
As ever on the Easy Blend, I’ll let you know what I’m listening to. Today it’s Madcon feat. Ray Dalton, Don’t worry.
You can find out more about my book ‘Farrago: Ten Tall Tales’ and buy it here…. (click on the cover)
Until the next Easy Blend blog………..
Stay warm and fuzzy……..