It’s hard to believe now that when Ian Harvey took delivery of this 2010 T5 Transporter Tdi, it looked like it should have kept going, straight to the scrapyard…

Auctions can be a wonderful thing. Whether real life or online, the excitement of potentially finding an undiscovered gem or bargain can bring out the competitive edge in many people.  They can also be a massive risk though.  You can either be incredibly lucky, or you can come unstuck, particularly if you buy sight unseen.

“It was kicked to hell and looked like it had been driven over every tree stump in Scotland”

The second of these options is what nearly happened to Ian Harvey, the owner of ‘Shrek’ here. It’s hard to believe that when his one
time Panel Van, found by Nigel from Transformations in Newton Abbot and bought unseen from an auction with 175,000 miles on it, was delivered, it was absolutely battered.  “It had been owned by the Forestry Commission and had been ‘well used’,” explains Ian.  “There was moss in the back, the dash and door cards were trashed, the upholstery was ripped and covered in stains and there wasn’t a straight panel on it.  It was kicked to hell and looked like it had been driven over every tree stump in Scotland. We soon realised it was going to be a hell of a project…”

Exeter services

After a couple of T4 projects, the idea with his first T5 was simply to line the back out with carpet and use it like that to begin with. However, with the Van in such a state, a more comprehensive sort out was required.  So, with the help of Jeff Moore’s garage in Exeter, the entire interior, engine, transmission, suspension and mechanicals were stripped and rebuilt, before the bare ’shell headed to Abbot Autobodies, where Russ and Jacob got busy with the filler and added the fresh coat of VW Viper Green paint.

The choice here was down to the Scirocco Ian was driving at the time.  It was red but he’d always had a hankering for a Viper Green one and promised himself that, if he ever got a Van, it would be in that colour.

So the stock bodywork was painted and colour coded in the green, before a pair of aftermarket headlights, with built-in daylight running lights, were added.  The stock front bumper remains, but Ian fitted a lower front splitter to improve the aesthetic somewhat, and admits that a Caravelle front end may be next on the shopping list.  Tinted glass was added to the sliding door and the panel opposite, as well as the rear doors, and that was plenty for Ian – he was after a stock-looking Van that stood out.

Different approach

Having sorted the paintwork, Ian turned his attention to the wheels, selecting a set of 20-inch examples from the Atomic range (see  Not a brand particularly familiar to VW fans, they are trying to break into the scene, and looking at Ian’s gloss black rims with machine-cut faces, we reckon there’s a future there.  The Van currently sits on completely rebuilt factory suspension, but Ian is about to fit 30mm lowered equipment all round, unless of course he decides to go for the air ride set up he’s recently been considering.

While the suspension was being replaced, Ian also had the brakes overhauled, a new power steering pump, rack and new water pump fitted, as well as a re-map, all courtesy of Jeff Moore.  However, the re-map showed up a significant weakness in the main drive belt, which promptly self-destructed, so that too was replaced, along with the cam belt. With the DTM-style upswept back box, which Jeff had come across and kept for Ian, the result is now a useful 130bhp.

Moving inside the cab, this was in as bad shape as the rest of the Van, so everything was removed and the door cards and dashboard were re-coloured to bring them back to life, along with some colour-coding to bring the Viper Green paint inside.  The seats were re-trimmed in Bentley leather with green stitching and Ian has kept the double passenger seat for a couple of reasons – firstly, the leisure battery sits underneath so it doesn’t encroach on the interior. Also, the furniture he had planned meant that it wouldn’t be possible to walk through from the front anyway.  As an aside, he’s subsequently learned that it’s possible to get swivelling bases for the double seat and, had he known that at the time, he says he might not have designed the interior to run right up to the back of the seats. Oh well, 20/20 hindsight and all that…

He also added a JVC double-DIN head unit with iPod facility, driving factory speakers in the front and a pair of 10-inch subs in the back.

Tech info:
2010 T5 Transporter Tdi

ENGINE: 1.9-litre TDi, re-map, DTM-style exhaust back box, 130bhp
WHEELS: 20-inch Atomic AT122
BODY MODS: Tinted windows in sliding door, side panel and rear doors, front lower splitter, aftermarket headlights with LED running lights, tailgate spoiler, repainted in VW Viper Green
CAMPING INTERIOR: Upholstery re-trimmed in Bentley leather with green stitching, colour-coded dashboard, bespoke furniture including fold-out bed, internal storage with fridge, slide-out kitchen unit with Smev burner / sink and integral water tank, colour changing LED downlights, LED strip mood lighting, 3g WiFi hotspot, 19-inch LCD TV.

Moving to the back, there’s a very nice day van-style interior.  You’d think it was designed from scratch for Shrek, but actually began life in a different way.  “I bought the cushions from eBay and then designed the interior around them,” explains Ian.  There’s a valid reason for this, and it’s that he stands 6ft5 tall and the average rock ’n’ roll bed would only support him up to around his knees.  To solve this problem, he and Neil from Freespirit Conversions created a bespoke interior in laminate-faced lightweight ply to allow him to enjoy a proper night’s sleep when he’s out and about in the Camper.  The base of the rear seat slides all the way forward to the front of the unit behind the passenger seats, creating a vast bed to accommodate his equally massive proportions.  The framework around the storage locker door slides forward and supports the mattress and the rear cushions fall down to fill in the area up to the ‘headboard’.

The unit opposite the sliding door houses food and gas, as well as the 19-inch TV when Ian’s driving, while the one behind the passenger seats holds a fridge and there’s more storage behind the roller shutter door.  A perfect mini-bar.  Round the back of the Van, on the other side of the headboard is the kitchen unit, which slides out of the rear doors.  Again, there’s a simple reason for this, as Ian didn’t want to fill the Van with cooking smells.  The unit comprises a Smev combination triple burner / sink unit, with the gas bottle secured under the seat and the water tank for the sink within the sliding unit. A cover across the top of the rear doors stops him from getting wet and the cooking smells stay outside.

Wreck to Shrek

Back inside, Ian added a series of colour-changing LED downlights that can cycle through different colours or change in time to the music.  He also recessed several strips of green LEDs into the roof lining and covered the apertures with white Perspex to give some very cool mood lighting.  He then added VanX curtains for privacy and he and Nigel lined the whole lot out with carpet and laminate flooring.

A lot of Ian’s mates are surfers or mountain bikers and this is where he got the idea for his ostensibly day van from.  He admits that he’s tried surfing – “I tend to sink a lot” – but is persevering.  He also attends a lot of VW shows with the Van and is still surprised when people come up to him and compliment him on his Van’s quality and design.  If they only knew what a wreck it was when he began, they would be even more impressed. We were…



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