If your mates have them you’ve got have one as well, right? That’s how Dan Cooper cut his teeth on VWs and it’s fair to say they’ve changed his life forever
If the vehicle you drive says something about your personality, the Volkswagen T4 arguably points to a Freudian link to the disassociation with reality. It is a motor that suggests you’re not afraid to grab life by the short and curlies, get stuck in and escape the humdrum, even if it’s only for the weekend. That’s certainly the case for Market Harborough-based Dan Cooper, as his long term love of VWs has turned his life around in the most inspirational way possible. In fact, it’s not unfair to say that it has completely changed his outlook on life for good.
Having tinkered with ‘Dubs and been in the automotive trade since leaving school some 20 years ago, the chances are he knows a thing or two about transforming them from rust to riches. While most of us would usually pick up a vehicle and inevitably end up losing money on it, there are lucky few who buy at the right the time and the right price, ending up making a couple of quid for their troubles.
After leaving school, Dan started his apprenticeship as a panel beater but soon found that his skills were better suited to mechanics and a series of redundancies forced his hand. We’re sure he won’t mind us saying this, but Dan is a VW hoarder, fettler and seller par excellence. From a Mk1 Golf GTI Cabrio, that he set out to own before his 21st birthday, to a Late Bay Window that he kept for 12 years, through to a mounting collection of T4s, over the years he’s had the lot. “Keeping up with the Joneses was my reasoning for buying my first VW Campervan. A couple of my mates had Beetles and I bought my Bay Window to restore and join them as we started attending the shows. At the time it was far cheaper to own a Bus than it was a Beetle, and after attending a few Run to the Sun weekends and Bug Jam, I was smitten with the vibe that surrounded both the vehicles and the people.”
As the years ticked by, he slowly realised that having a boss was a bit of a drag. During a five-week trip to Australia, Dan toured from Sydney up to Port Douglas in a Campervan, giving him time to figure out how best to employ his talents once back home. “I love the simplicity of the Campervan life, going where you want, when you want for as long as you want… what could be better? As soon as I got back from that trip, which was around three years ago now I jacked my job in, kept my eyes peeled for a small unit and started looking for customers,” said Dan, and so the seeds were sown for Custom Camper Solutions.
After this epiphany, it stood to reason that Dan also needed a demo Bus to try and reel the punters in. “This one popped up on eBay one night after I’d had a few too many beers. It was the right price, and much to my surprise, when I woke up next morning I’d only won it,” laughed Dan. Beware, the perils of drunk eBay usage – we’ve all been there. This writer only recently missed out on a Lexus LS400 by £2.50.
A swift trip to Manchester soon unveiled a fairly tidy-looking blue 1.9-litre non-turbo diesel (1X) T4 with 200k on the clock. It had been owned by a school for moving bits and bobs around and had only covered 3,000 miles in the last four years. Dan put it to work immediately, moving a few people into their new homes who needed a man with a van before storing it on his driveway for a while.
Then, as his unit was finalised, it gave him the chance to put it into storage for a bit. Keeping it at work until roughly six weeks before the Stanford Hall show this year meant Dan had a tight and definitive deadline to meet. “When I started to strip it for the repaint the bottom 18-inches were totally clagged up with filler. We just couldn’t work out why though. Underneath all the filler was really straight, rust free metalwork and it was even good around the cab steps and sills.”
2002 Volkswagen T4 Transporter
Completely stock 1.9 (1X) non-turbo diesel. 240,000miles and counting!
50mm torsion bar adjustment, G-Max springs and lowered shocks rear, 6.0×15-inch Mk3 Caddy 2k steel wheels
Mk5 Golf GT TDi seats fully retrimmed in coffee and cream, full CCS furniture run including overhead storage, Halogen 12v 35w downlighters, Earth wool insulated, Dynamat sound deadening, heavy duty cream carpet throughout load area, custom-made CCS cab mats, 12v split charge relay and leisure battery, 240v hook up, Gas Safe LPG fuel install, Smev 9222 stove and sink, Waeco CR50 fridge, LED voltage readout, under-Van skirt tanks for waste and fresh water, ¾ width rock ‘n’ roll bed, custom-made Hibiscus curtains, pop-up table
Refinished in custom mix caramel colour, ’97 on short-nose colour-coded bumpers, clear indicator lenses
Prepping the bodywork himself allowed Dan to fill any minor parking dents and prime the ‘shell both inside and out ready for top coat, but not before he’d cut the relevant apertures for the genuine VW clear windows and that aftermarket sunroof that now resides above the driver’s head. “I really wanted to give this Van a kind of modern-retro feel to make it stand out and one of the key factors was making all of the windows totally see through.” Dan reveals.
Before any glass was bonded into place, however, the Van was dispatched to Wayne at Snow Spray who set about applying a colour that’s best referred to as ‘caramel’ due to the fact that Dan’s not really sure what the actual colour is called. Whether Wayne did the classic painter trick of mixing up whatever he had left on the shelf before firing the acrylic through the gun we have no idea, but we like the outcome.
Dusted onto those slightly later spec (’97 on) colour-coded, shortnose bumpers, which required a couple of extra brackets to sit square, we reckon he’s nailed the modern-retro vibe perfectly, particularly as the rolling stock smacks of OEM steely goodness courtesy of some powdercoated Mk3 Caddy Van 6×15-inch steels which convienently come in the correct 5x112PCD direct from VW, not to mention the ET47 offset.
With the empty ’shell back from the paint shop, all of the doors and panels were dispatched for colouring. Meanwhile, it was all hands on deck at CCS HQ to sort the interior out for its Stanford Hall debut. Dan, with his brother, Ben, and their mate, Kiwi Dave, all got stuck in to help out. Fully insulated with Earthwool, sound deadened and ply lined, the customary run of CCS furniture was drafted in while the ¾ rock ‘n’ roll bed and the Mk5 Golf GT TDi front pews were sent off for some matching dark and light vinyl stitchwork, bringing together the coffee and cream theme neatly. Hell, with caramel, coffee and cream it sounds more like a Cadbury’s product by the minute, but this one definitely won’t melt.
“All of our Smev stove and LPG gas installations come with Gas Safe guaranteed certificates as well, so people are assured of the safety,” Dan points out as we nose about inside at the 9222 stove and sink combo. With the classic Waeco CR50 compressor fridge also plumbed in there’s ample scope to keep your beers cool. Faultlessly executed throughout with fantastic attention to detail, the standard of trimming, carpeting and the lighting setup makes for an airy and welcoming cabin space, not that you’re likely to be paying much attention to the furniture because you’ll be too busy chatting to people about those hibiscus-derived curtains, which smack of the air-cooled interior styles that we all know so well.
Needless to say, once the additional weight of the furniture and appliances was added and everything had settled into place, the lads felt that a sensible spot of lowering was necessary. Around 50mm was taken out of the front torsion beam adjuster to match the drop that lowered G-Max springs and shorter shocks out back have produced. Dan’s the first to admit that’s not ground-scrapingly low, but it drives mint and deals with any kind of terrain with ease, which can’t be said for the other orange T4 project that he’s currently got on the go.
Nevertherless for Dan, this is more than just a project Van, it’s about the journey from Australia to being his own boss. He’s probably working more hours than the good lord sends now, but when you’re your own boss there’s really only one person to blame for that.
Rachael, Ben, Dad, Kiwi Steve, anyone else who’s helped out along the way.
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