A Van to take part in the Gumball 3000, piloted by a duo of Dirty Sanchez headcases. What would you expect other than a slightly bonkers VW T4 panel van?

We all love the idea of being individual.  The desire to be left of centre and to defy convention drives any kind of customisation and personalisation, no matter how small your budget, how ambitious your strategy or how mainstream your project may at first appear.  For the sake of an easy life, many just go with the accepted norm, not daring to venture outside of what’s available off-the-shelf yet, as we’ve come to expect here at VWt, the most convention-defying rides are often determined by a lack of budget.  For when you haven’t got much to spend, you tend to look for weird and wonderful ways to stand out.

” The history of this Van is the key to its soul and character “

If indeed necessity is the mother of invention, then a lack of funds creates some of the most memorable vehicular solutions we’ve encountered.  This particular T4 is one we think you’ll remember for some time to come.  It certainly doesn’t conform to the paint-by-numbers approach of slick paint, run of pre-fabbed cupboards and incredibly expensive wheels and suspension that we’re used to. Oh no, you see, this Van is all about attitude and purpose.  It’s no concours wannabe, in fact it probably doesn’t even know what a show ’n’ shine is, but in our minds at least that makes it even more of an attention grabber.  It doesn’t have an endless spec list and it isn’t the cleanest example we’ve ever seen, yet there’s something appealing about it nonetheless.  All that is backed up by a fantastic story involving the Gumball 3000 road rally and a couple of Welsh lunatics.  Current owner, Matt Redfern, takes up the story: “Pritchard and Dainton, regular favourites to the absolutely bananas Gumball rally, and of MTV’s Dirty Sanchez, were due to take part in the 2011 London to Istanbul run, and had a Chevy van lined up to go in.  Everything was set, until the Chevy was written off just a few days before departure!  So, in a last minute panic, Dainton managed to find this T4 tucked away somewhere in the Welsh valleys, wearing its original Indian Blue paint (along with plenty of rust) and sporting a blown 1.9 diesel lump.”

Tech info:
1991 VW T4 Panel Van

  • ENGINE:  Mk2 Golf GTi 1.8-litre, K-Jetronic 8v, custom exhaust manifold
    and system
  • WHEELS: 8 x 16-inch BMW fitment BBS wheels, 205 / 55 x 16 tyres
  • SUSPENSION: -60mm drop adjusted torsion beam up front, -60mm springs out back
  • BODY MODS: Satin black paintwork; Gumball, PVSD and skate company stickers throughout
  • INTERIOR: Split66 bespoke living quarters; corner sofa / fold-out bed; Jack Daniels-fuelled optics; custom Gumball cushions; Split66 vintage fuel can iPod  /  iPhone dock; submarine light; owner-designed skateboard decks; black and white chequered lino floor; sidewall pine panelling; Hawaiian beach hut-style roof

£850 changed hands, and it was dragged away for a last minute spruce up before the event.  The knackered diesel lump was wrenched out and replaced with a 1.8-litre 8v petrol engine from a Mk2 Golf GTi, before a few litres of satin black were thrown at it.  With a 60mm lowering job and some 16-inch BBS wheels bolted on, it was then sent to the Gumball sign company for the obligatory sponsorship livery, but not before the Dirty Sanchez lads had sticker bombed the living daylights out of the dash, door panels, rear doors and, well, pretty much everything really. There’s even a film that charts the journey of the mad duo available on iTunes called Gumball 3000 – Movie 13.

While little has changed since, Matt’s only too aware that the history of this Van is the key to its soul and character.  As such, he’s well versed in the story that follows the lads picking it up in 2011.  “The Gumbus (as we’ve now named it) arrived at the London start line in front of thousands of spectators, with Pritch and Daint dancing on the roof with a giant ghetto blaster and a pretty scary mankini!  David Hasselhoff dropped the flag and away they went.

“Along the way they emptied a fire extinguisher in it (because it had no air-con), played ‘ear fishing’ (apparently it still has the DNA to prove!) and drove it alongside Bugattis, Ferraris and McLarens, from the wealthy streets of Monaco right through to the dodgy backstreets of Belgrade,” Matt explained.  There’s no doubt it’s a pretty damn cool Van to inherit, but how did the keys come to be in Matt’s possession?  “Upon its return to the UK, it was sold to a dreadlocked, weed-smokin’ dude who, along with several of his mates, lived in it for eight months.  Then, mid-way through last year, we spotted it for sale on eBay, threw in a bid and, before we knew it, were heading down to Bath to collect it.”

As the main man at Split66, and a purveyor of custom furniture and other cool stuff, Matt was far from happy with the empty back end that he was presented with, not to mention the smell of 15 dead camels that came for free.

Sticking [no pun intended] with the skate company sticker bombing theme meant that a conventional rock ’n’ roll bed layout just wouldn’t cut it.  And given Matt’s roots in re-purposing knackered old stuff, he knew the ideal way to breathe new life into the living quarters was to accentuate the skate theme that it came with. With that petrol engine on board there was little chance of hauling it all over Europe or further afield, so the day Van layout meant he could really go to town by staying true to its roots. “Starting with the floor, we went with black and white chequered lino as a little nod to the ‘rally’, then lined the walls with our trademark pine panelling, along with a Hawaiian beach hut-style roof,” Matt revealed of his Tiki-inspired creation.

Going down the storage route, he then added a couple of units, topped with custom made longboard worktops, complete with grip tape! Door handles?  “We ditched the standard idea and went with trucks and wheels.  Hey, we’ve never seen it before!  And, as everyone likes a little JD, a couple of optics were bolted in for good measure (ha ha).”

Then came the chillin’ and sleeping bit.  “For a good few years now, we’ve been using these corner sofa beds in our interior builds and they’re absolutely spot on,” Matt continues.  “A really nice place to relax as a sofa, with a decent view out of both doors, but a quick flip over and you get a full sized double bed – a bloomin’ comfy one as well.”

” A conventional rock ’n’ roll bed layout just wouldn’t cut it “

Add to that some custom made Gumball cushions, and a super cool Split66 vintage fuel can iPod / iPhone dock (they build them, too) for the tunes, a DVD player to watch films, a submarine light converted from 240V to run an indicator bulb, a set of six self-designed skateboard decks (each with individual designs of companies linked to the Van) and a little top up of the stickers and here it is.

Is it perfect?  Absolutely not, it’s got battle scars, a bit of rust, a motor that needs tuning and steering the Titanic would be proud of (yep, no power steering – the only power being the guns at the tiller), but it definitely works for us.

By all accounts, public reaction has been positive as well and, after taking it to a VW show on its first journey out with the new interior, it won a ‘Best T4 in class’ award, much to Matt’s surprise and pleasure.  Needless to say, the man on the street doesn’t know quite what to make of it, but that’s half the fun, right?

Whether it’s serendipity, good karma, hard graft or just plain ol’ good luck that has lead to this Van being this cool, one thing is for certain, it’s as much about where it’s been and what it’s done as it is the contents that’s on display.

As far as we’re concerned, if recycling and creativity can be made to collide so successfully, and produce a vehicle that is as much fun as this, we can’t think of a better way to ‘go green’.


Photos taken by: Steve Sharp

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