Lieutenant Colonel Bill Kilgore has probably never met Clive James Parker, but he’d undoubtedly approve of his T5 Surfwagen

If the global t-shirt and merchandise industry could survive without the cliché of Split Screen Campers and surfing, we’d be mighty impressed.  Don’t get us wrong we love the long-held belief that all VW Van owners are drawn to coastal hotspots and big swirls by some kind of genetic, primal impulse, but it couldn’t really be further from the truth.  Sure, there might be a few who possess the ability, or desire, to stand up on a wave and also drive a tricked-out ’60’s icon but, in our experience, the surfing masses would far rather bed down in something bigger, quicker, warmer and more practical – something just like Clive James Palmer’s 2007 2.5 TDi T5 in fact.  The reality is the romantic notion of a pristine, 40-60-year old emblem of rebellion at the beach is one best suited to a t-shirt, as the salty sea air would undoubtedly send shivers through the aged chassis and down the trumpets of any twin downdraft carbs the moment they caught their first whiff of a north easterly.

” It sound bonkers to respray an already white Van, er, white, but Clive was adamant “

Fortunately, there’s no languishing smell of napalm in the morning when you awake in a modern-day VW Van – lashings of insulation, carpet and perfectly snug seals see to that. There is, however, the certainty that, if you’re Clive, you definitely won’t be going surfing any time soon, particularly along the Mekong Delta, as the Yorkshire-based plumber swiftly confirms: “I’ve never even been near a surfboard, let alone balanced on one,” he laughs, as we chat about the somewhat surprising livery on his LWB T30.  “Until recently, I’d never even owned a VW at all. I was a devout, long-term Range Rover fan, having owned five on the trot.  That was until I sat in the back of my sister’s Vivaro van one day, and decided there and then that I needed a van in my life for my fishing trips.”

Consequently, a short-wheelbase T5 soon became a part of the family, but just six months later Clive was back in a high-spec Chelsea tractor.  “That was such a bad move on my part,” he confesses.  “It suffered from no end of air bag and wiring faults, so we outed that Rangie and I started looking for a replacement T5 once more.”

Tech info:
2007 LWB T30 T5

  • ENGINE: 2.5 (AXD) turbo diesel; unknown re-map and EGR bypass for 174bhp
  • WHEELS: Unknown brand 9 x 19-inch ET40 wheels with 245/40-19 EP Accelera tyres; Brembo-style caliper covers
  • SUSPENSION: V-Maxx height and damping adjustable coilovers
  • BODY MODS: Repainted in Range Rover Clawton White; Fiamma E45 wind-out awning; sun visor; vinyl wrap on back doors and additional graphics; angel eye headlights
  • CAMPING INTERIOR: Full Bus Stop VW Camper conversion; diamond-stitched leather seat covers; custom CNC’d satin black kitchen and storage units with push door releases; red worktop; colour changing LED VW logo with remote LED strip lights; PMS3; 240v hook up; Waeco CR50 fridge; Smev 9222 hob and single sink; rock ’n’ roll bed; inertia reel seatbelts; fold-down table; Van X blinds; 15-inch Sovos swivel TV

Surf’s up

In pursuit of a useable day Van, he cast his gaze on eBay, turning up this 85,000-mile, long-wheelbase example for the right money.  It came with a double bed in the back and the vinyl-wrapped rear doors were already sporting the eye catching surf mural.  “If I’m perfectly honest, when I first went to look at the Van I wasn’t very keen on the back doors, but when I got it home the wife said, ‘Ohh… I quite like that.’  And when everyone else was like ‘leave it on, leave it on, leave it on’ I relented, and decided to just go with it until the respray was due to take place.”  As you can see though, Clive went all the way and wholeheartedly embraced the whole idea.

First up though, he decided to consign the double bed to the scrapheap, with the intention of slotting a full-width, three-berth seat in its place so his kids (Liam, 17, and Dalton, 21) could come along for the journey, too.  Clive even went as far as having a rear seat trimmed to match the luxurious, diamond-stitched, red leather captain’s pews up front, but just as he went to bolt it into the load area, he found himself becoming increasingly drawn to the Campervan vibe.

“I got the seat back from Bus Stop VW in Sheffield, bolted it into place and it stayed in there for a less than week.  I don’t think anyone even sat on it before I decided that I wanted the whole thing changing again.”  After doing his research on the ’net, and looking at mags such as our sister title Camper&Bus, Clive knew exactly what he was after.

Rhubarb boudoir

With much of the thermo-wrapping, insulation and carpeting already in place thanks to Craig and Gavin at Bus Stop VW, the lavish red leather and corresponding trim details could really get underway.

To begin, a split charge relay, 240v hook up and PMS3 management system were wired in to supply the necessary power to a Waeco CR50 fridge, while a gas safe-certified Smev 9222 sink and hob combo (surely the most popular Camper addition of all time!) provided the cooking part of the conversion. With 10 metres of colour-changing LED strip lights, that attention-grabbing, colour-changing LED VW logo grafted into the ceiling, some Van X blinds and the solely rhubarb-fed (maybe!) cow-covered rock ’n’ roll bed it’s a boudoir of significance.

Kicking back with a color-coded brew, spinning the 15-inch Sovos flip-down TV and watching some Big
Wednesday all adds up to suit the remote control mood lighting of the LEDs, which have some 16 colours to choose from!  Further entertainment is provided by the double DIN head unit upgrade, and there’s ample colour coding of the dash plastics to carry the red theme on through the cabin.  Having collected a number of trophies through the 2013 show season, Clive is more than happy with the big pimping results.

Innovation also comes in the form of Clive’s recent eBay addition. “One of my latest purchases is a 120w solar panel on the roof that’s specifically developed to charge a 12v battery.  I bought it as a kit and it was a simple plug and play install.  It works a treat – it keeps the leisure battery topped up and stops the fridge from draining all the juice during long camping trips.”  Clive tells us enthusiastically. Being 120w, it should theoretically provide 10Ah when it’s nice and sunny outside but, this being the UK, who knows how often that will happen!

Mucky White

With the re-fit complete inside, attention turned to the bodywork. There was nothing wrong it per
se, but Clive wasn’t happy with the shade of white.  “It was that horrible dirty Van white (L902 Grauweiss top be precise) when I got it, and I just couldn’t stand it.”  Upping the bling factor meant a more pure shade of white was vital, and Clive looked to his roots for inspiration.  “The brightest white Colin could find was actually from a Range Rover – Chawton White (LRC603).”  It sounds bonkers to respray an already white Van, er, white, but Clive was adamant it needed to be done and so, with the correct shade on board, it was dispatched to Colin Bowkett in Castleford who tackled the re-spray, making a blinding job of it, too.  He also bolted the love ’em or loathe ’em shark bars onto the front bumper and slotted the angel eye headlamps into place, all personal touches that add to the big character of this outrageous Van.  One thing’s for sure, you can’t ignore it and people definitely notice it.

” Personal touches add to
the big character of this
outrageous Van “

Clive reports that the 2.5-litre (AXD code) Bosch EDC16 ECU had already been on the receiving of a re-map prior to him taking ownership, so making decent progress is no problem at all with the GT1749 turbo making additional boost and the PD injectors working closer to their maximum delivery rate.  In fact, it’s the smooth and effortless torque from lower down the rev range that is often cited as the main reason for increased mpg claims, largely because you don’t have to work the engine as hard to really pick up the pace.

Night and day

So, with ample shove on tap, the chassis was suitably uprated using a set of mid-level V-Maxx coilovers all around.  These height-adjustable beauties are surprisingly refined, thanks to their adjustable damping, even when wound down to a maximum drop of -75mm.  Ample tyre sidewalls help in this case, and that’s something Clive is only too aware of.  “I used to have it on 22-inch wheels and it drove terribly, sniffing out every imperfection on the road.  It was unbelievably stiff and the road noise was almost unbearable.  It’s so much better to drive on 19s, even with 40-profile rubber.  The difference is like night and day.”  And having tried out four different sets of wheels and tyres on this Van so far, Clive is certainly in a position to say. The brand unknown, eBay special rims weigh in at 9 x 19 inches and, when wrapped in 245/40 EP Accelera rubber, it’s a match made in heaven.

Whether it’s that paint scheme, the graphics, wheels or that in-yer-face interior, there are so many details to soak up here.  Not only has this Van been on a journey, so has Clive, and it’s transformed him from Range Rover stalwart to Van devotee in under a year.  “I honestly don’t think I could bring myself to buy any other vehicle now.  I’ve met so many good people through the scene, I can’t see me ever looking elsewhere.”  If that isn’t a reason to buy a Van and get stuck in, we don’t know what is.  Who knows, maybe a surf lesson next, eh Clive?


Photos taken by: Steve Sharp

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