There’s nothing we like more than a cool Camper that’s used as a daily driver, like Leigh and Kelly Hampton’s T5
When I was a kid, I was lucky if I got a lift to school. My folks expected me to walk, after all it was only a mile away, but at 8am in a smoky, drizzly London suburb, it might just as well have been clear across town. Okay, so I could have caught the Bus but with the state of London Transport at the time, I’d be amazed if one actually passed me as I trudged through the gloom. And when I did manage to blag a lift, I had to cower below the waistline of my dad’s brown, rusty Morris Minor in case anyone saw me. The reason I’m telling you this is that I’m jealous, very jealous of Leigh and Kelly Hampton’s kids, as they get dropped off at school and nursery in one of the coolest daily drivers we’ve seen for a long time. And we love a cool daily driver, especially when it’s also a cool Camper.
The credit for building this awesome ride has to go to Leigh, who has had a succession of essentially stock VWs in the past. But then, as many of us do, he started thinking about a Camper, and realised that the best kind would be one that he and the family could use every day, as well as going away in to enjoy the delights of the British summer.
Having convinced Kelly it was a good idea, Leigh began searching, and eventually found an ex Motobility-converted Transporter at Transporterland (www.transporterland.com) in Gloucestershire. It was a perfect base for what he had in mind, with a pair of single front seats, the sliding rear windows already installed and little else in the rear, other than the brackets to secure a wheelchair.
Once the Van was his, Leigh left it at Transporterland for the guys to get busy kitting out the rear, ready for action. They carpeted the roof in light grey carpet and the walls in contrasting dark grey, before fitting one of their kitchen units, featuring just about everything Leigh, Kelly and the kids might need when they are away camping.
The interior now houses a Waeco fridge in the lower section with a Smev double burner and sink unit set into the sparkly black worktop. Behind this is a floor-to-ceiling cupboard unit, accessed from both the interior and the rear of the Van, housing just about all the clobber that goes with a family of four on tour. The cupboard units themselves were finished in satin black, but the doors were formed from Vöhringer Zebrano plywood, and look lovely.
Next up was an RIB seat / bed unit, with integral seat belts for rear passengers and, of course, the children. This folds into a full-size bed for Leigh and Kelly and also provides a small bench seat in the back of the Van that can be used when the tailgate is opened.
The bed / seat was trimmed in black leather with contrasting light grey Alcantara and looks the absolute business. When the family is away, the bed is big enough for Leigh, Kelly and their youngest to sleep on, while their daughter sleeps in a cab bunk over the front seats.
There is a control panel for the electrics mounted in the front of the tall unit, as well as 12V and 240V power sockets for when the family are camped with an electric hook-up. There’s also a roof-mounted DVD player / Freeview TV for cosy evenings in when camping or to keep the kids happy on a long run.
Moving to the front of the Van, Leigh replaced the single passenger seat with a double unit, as he wanted to make sure the Van was a genuine five seater. He also added a swivelling base so it could be spun round to form part of the interior. The addition of a single leg table, also in the Zebrano material, means the family can all eat around the table when they are away. And you know what they say about a family that eats together…
Both the double passenger and driver seats were re-trimmed to match the rears, while both also received embroidered VW logos to finish them off a treat.
The dashboard remains largely standard, although Leigh did add a Kenwood double-DIN multimedia head unit. This has sat nav, ’phone control and hands free, DVD player and iPod hook-up and is joined to a pair of Vibe component speakers in the front doors. The tweeters, meanwhile, live high up on the door trims, while the mid-bass units are mounted in the factory locations, behind the grilles.
In addition, in the rear seat base are a pair of Vibe 6 x 9s, while a 12-inch sub in a box under the seat gives the sound some depth and clout. Leigh also sourced and fitted a genuine VW multi-function steering wheel, which although he has yet to make the necessary connections to get running, makes the driving experience just that little bit more special.
With the interior well and truly sorted, Leigh could turn his attention to the outside, and all the work you see here was done by the man himself. Leigh was after something that looked just right and we reckon he’s hit the nail on the head.
The Van retains its standard front bumper, but Leigh added a lower front splitter from Transporterland to toughen it up. The bodywork additions were already colour coded in the factory silver but the bumpers did need a bit of re-painting, particularly after Leigh became a little too friendly with a car park bollard a week after he bought the Van. Come on, we’ve all done it…
The headlights were replaced with aftermarket projectors with LED daylight running lights, while he also fitted a black VW badge in the front grille. While he was at it, Leigh also swapped out the factory door mirrors for later spec items and changed the standard front fog lights for a set of aftermarket projector lamps.
To the flanks, he fitted a pair of stainless steel side bars he found on eBay, before tackling the genuine VW Sportline tailgate spoiler at the rear. Whilst on the subject of the rump, he also changed the rear lights for smoked LED versions before fitting another, very cool black and chrome VW roundel.
Two more essential ingredients in getting the look he was after are the Inovit Spin alloy wheels. They’re sized 18 inch all round but somehow look so much bigger. As everyone knows you can’t fit alloys without lowering (it’s the law, nothing to do with us) the Van was treated to some V-Maxx coilovers, and currently sits around 60mm lower than standard – not slammed, but good looking, and useable, too.
To ensure the Van lives up to the promise the looks suggest, Leigh had the 1.9-litre turbo diesel engine re-mapped to bring the power up to around 120bhp. While this isn’t a huge number, and by Leigh’s own admission the Van won’t win any traffic light drag races, the hike in torque that comes with it makes it much more driveable, and he says even boosts fuel economy a little, too. That has to be a win / win situation if ever there was one.
The end result of all Leigh’s labours is simply a superb Van. It’s a super cool daily driver and a well thought out and executed weekend Camper at the same time.
Leigh loves it, Kelly loves it and, perhaps every bit as importantly, the kids love not only sitting up front and looking out over the top of the repmobiles on the roads but, we would imagine, the admiring glances mum and dad’s motor draws like a magnet.
If it were me, I wouldn’t be able to wait for tomorrow’s school run…