A mix of 20-inch rims, a healthy dose of slamming and a dash of Sportline chic make this T30 174 the perfect place to crash if you’d rather pour money into your Van than shell out on a hotel

A few months back, someone gave me a T-shirt with a Split Screen Bus emblazoned across it. Said garment had one of those annoyingly clichéd slogans that summed up the free spirit that we’re all probably hankering after as part of our Van escapades. “Life is out there, grab some mates and have an adventure,” it said. Granted, it’s probably got more to do with the surfing stereotype that every other form of media believes is exclusively linked to VW ownership, but much as we try to fight it, who wouldn’t want to be on a West Coast beach, hanging 10 with Keanu Reeves and doing our best to be undercover cops with floppy hair and baggy shorts? Reality, however, is often quite different. Far from the relaxed existence of being a beach bum slacker, out there in the fog of reality, the day-to-day grind of everyday life can still be massively improved by the inclusion of a fully kitted out Camper.

” Life can be massively improved by the inclusion of a fully kitted out Camper “

Take Darren Clarke for instance, he knows all about that. “I’m self employed and spend quite a lot of time away from home for work during the week, generally up to three nights at a time, so I bought this Van when it was roughly six months old from a VW dealer in Wales back in 2009. It had covered 7,000 miles and was arrow straight, but the load area looked like it had been used for diesel and oil rustling, it was truly filthy.  I intended to and indeed do use the Van for work all year round,” explains Darren. Not only was it the perfect crash pad for a spot of mid-week shut eye, but for the 41 year old from Worcestershire, it was also the ideal vehicle for bundling his family in and escaping for weekend adventures at the beach. If there’s a more enthusiastic Bus convert than his seven year old, Adam, who absolutely thrives on the ‘home is where you park it vibe’, we’re yet to hear of them.

Naturally, starting out with a zero-compromise LWB 2.5-litre TDi 174 Sportline direct from VW set Darren on the right track from the get-go, with a very clear brief for perfection. Having dabbled with all the best hot hatches over the years and a few show- winning Golfs, it’s fair to say Darren wanted something special. “I wanted a sweeping look throughout the Van with no square edges. It needed an oven, a heater, running water, a fridge, a big stereo and the ability to run lights, a laptop, the stereo and TV/DVD player without flattening the battery.”

After chatting to a couple of well-established Camper specialists, and being let down by one of them the day before work was due to commence, he stumbled upon Johnny at Dirty Weekender Adventure Vans. “I initially spoke with him over the phone and arranged to meet a few days later. Upon meeting him I was blown away by his enthusiasm. We pointed fingers and scratched heads and then a couple of hours later we’d hatched a plan where Johnny would use the Van for development of what has become the basis of the majority of T5 conversions currently offered by Dirty Weekender,” explains Darren.

As Johnny set to work sourcing a supplier for what has become the trademark DW gloss-black curved furniture, a few dead ends were inevitably met before a supplier was unearthed who could come through with the goods. During this time the Van was lined, insulated, carpeted and glazed throughout while the Reimo pop top roof was cut in and colour coded in the corresponding Black Magic Pearl (LC9Z) hue. “Roughly six months passed as Johnny was searching for a supplier that met his amazing eye for detail,” says Darrren, continuing, “He even said to me that he felt like he was taking the p**s and that I could come and get the Van and take it away for free if I wanted to go elsewhere.” Of course, just such a statement further reinforced Darren’s belief in the firm and it remained there until all of the work was completed.

Tech info:
2009 VW T5 Sportline

  • ENGINE:
    Stock 2.5 TDi 174 VW T5 Sportline
  • CHASIS:H&R monotube height-adjustable coilovers, 20-inch Image Billet 85 wheels, 255/35 x 20-inch Michelin Pilot Super Sport tyres
  • INTERIOR:
    Retrimmed single passenger seat, dual RIB swivel bases, Dirty Weekender furniture run, Propex night heater, Smev sink/hob, dometic oven, Waeco CD30 draw fridge, 2 x auxliary batteries, RIB ¾ width rock ‘n’ roll bed with headrests and armrests, Karndean beech floor, Sisal overmats in cabin and rear, door tops painted in Audi Cherry Black, Mk6 Golf R steering wheel, anthracite leather-trimmed dashboard and seat bases, handles, levers and knobs, suede A and B pillars, suede headlining. Retrofit VW cruise control, vinyl-wrapped hibiscus roof
  • STYLING:
    Black Magic Pearl (LC9Z), full Sportline bodykit, de-locked drivers side door handle, Reimo pop top roof, VW windows throughout, 80% tint, Reimo multi rail, chrome side bars

Thanks to a Waeco CD30 fridge, hidden Dometic oven, split charge relay and twin leisure battery system, as well as under-Van fresh and waste water skirt tanks that feed a Smev 9222 sink and hob it’s now perfectly kitted out for days away. As you can see the quality of fit and finish is second to none, those sexy sculpted cupboards and curvy worktop delivering on every front. While all that practical stuff is well and good, it’s the hibiscus design Dirty Weekender vinyl wrapped pop-top roof that everyone notices immediately. Matching up nicely with the fully-wrapped engine bay, it’s a key detail that’s exceptionally eye catching. “Johnny had worked on a Bus with a cartoonist called Cookie that was fully in wrapped in Weird Fish graphics. It looked mad, and as I couldn’t stand all the plain grey and dark plastic details it just made sense to sticker mine up in selected areas,” mused Darren.

Aside from the funky vinyl there’s also a shed load of covert leather and suede inside this Van. The entire dashboard, virtually every handle, A-pillars, B-pillars and so much more were treated to some bovine coating, while the double passenger seat was swapped out for a single captain’s chair trimmed in matching anthracite leather to match the driver’s pew, both of them mounted to RIB swivel bases for extra ‘wow’ factor. There’s even a Propex night heater, Mk6 Golf R multi-function steering wheel and the ultimate RIB Altair ¾ width rock ‘n’ roll bed to round out a massive interior specification. And we haven’t even mentioned the Pioneer Double-DIN sat nav and DVD headunit that has been wired back into the cupboards to feed a signal straight through to a stand-alone monitor if needs be.

It truly is a subtle detail fest this Van, Cherry Black door tops drawing your attention from a smattering of Pioneer 6.5-inch component speakers, Pioneer four-channel amplifier and the active slim-line subwoofer that resides under the bed out back.

It’s probably one of the slickest looking installs we’ve seen for some time – the fit, finish and quality really is second to none. If only all mucky weekends could be so civilised, eh?

” The fit, finish and quality really is second to none “

The whole kit and caboodle is hovering some 100mm closer to terra firma courtesy of H&R monotube coilovers. These race-bred items still offer a nice slab of ride quality for the road, insists Darren. “They’re fantastic. I’ve recently bought another Sportline in order to keep the mileage down and it wallows around like you wouldn’t believe compared to this one.” That can be accounted for by those low-profile 255/35×20-inch Michelin Pilot Super Sport tyres, which offer great feedback and immediate response to steering inputs. Wrapped around those very special 20-inch Image Billet 85 rims, Darren had a nightmare trying to extract them from the main man in Dudley, “The wheels were the first set (of two) ever made for a Van. Harry, the owner of Image, initially refused to make me a set for a Van. I had to present the Bus to him before he agreed to knock up what I wanted.” Something tells us the wait was worthwhile as the CNC machined, hewn from a solid block of billet ally testifies.

There’s some £45k in this Van now, but when you think about what a base spec California costs we know we’d rather have a hand-built, made-to-our-spec Bus just like Darren’s.

Many will undoubtedly view it as a chequebook build, but Darren’s continued involvement and utter devotion to his T5 suggests that it’s anything but. “It’s so easy to get carried away with them,” he laughs. “I’d never owned a Bus prior to this one but now I can’t see me owning anything else.” In fact with another Sportline in the making and numerous show trophies under his belt, Darren has every right to kick back in his Van and enjoy a beer or two.

Thanks:
Shelley for putting up with it all, Johnny at Dirty Weekender, Harry for the wheels, Adam for the TPS account and Andy at Cars of Kidderminster.

 

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