‘Retrofication’ is using old Bus styling cues on a modern Van. Clough Jones tells us about his journey back, way back…

Every Van has an owner, every owner has a story.  No matter how young or old the vehicle, there’s always a tale of late nights, bacon sarnies, plenty of brews and head scratching associated with any project.

Starting with an almost factory-fresh example helps eliminate any welding or hidden paintwork nasties, and when you begin with an early 2012, 61-plate Panel Van, the chances are you’ve already got a solid foundation upon which to build.  And when you’ve transformed your Panel Van from load lugger to long-term liveable in just two weeks, you know there’s going to be a lot more to this metamorphosis than meets the eye.  Either that or its creator, Clough Jones, simply doesn’t believe in sleep.

” It goes together like Custard Creams, fitting perfectly with the high-end components “

Having got into VWs with an early Bay Window Camper at the start of the ’90s, Clough decided to have a few years off until he discovered the day-to-day useability of more modern VW Transporters.  Inspired by them, Clough now works on new wave Campers almost every day of his life from his south coast – Bournemouth to be precise – Überbus HQ.  From here, he works his magic, taking the ordinary and making it anything but.  Yet it hasn’t always been this way.  “My early years were spent building and racing my own kart chassis to compete against the likes of David Coulthard, Alan McNish and Dario Franchitti, before moving more towards design and engineering, which I have always had a passion for.  I’m also a long-term board sports fan – snow and wake – although I’ve not had much chance to get on the water recently due to a young family and so many long hours in the workshop,” Clough explained.

Tech info:
2012 T5 Transporter

  • ENGINE: 102ps 2.0-litre TDi
  • WHEELS: 9 x 20-inch Diewe Sognos; Accelera 275/35 x 20 XL tyres
  • SUSPENSION: FK Highsport height-adjustable coilovers
  • BODY MODS: ABT-style front spoiler; rear lower bumper valance; colour-coded Reimo slimline, extra lift, pop top
  • INTERIOR: Re-trimmed, Westfalia-inspired seats in Muirhead leather and orange plaid fabric; RIB Altair 3P rock ’n’ roll bed; Smev 9222 hob and sink; Überbus CNC furniture; top-fill fridge; Rugs for Bugs cab mat; Propex night heater; Sargent 12 / 240V power management unit; rear-mounted shower; rear door fold-out table
  • ICE: VW RCD 310 DAB head unit, Denison Gateway 100 iPod adapter; Edge 6.5-inch front door and rear speakers; 15-inch drop-down Freeview TV / DVD player

So what of this, his latest creation?  As an ex-lease Van it had been in the careful possession of a discerning builder until Clough stumbled across it.  “I always look for Vans that have been treated well, so have nice seats, solid rubbers and good paint.  Details like these can really make or break a vehicle.  This one had only covered 15,000 miles and came with a full service history as well, so was perfect for what I had in mind.”

Now armed with a bone stock, Candy White T5.1, and a rapidly approaching self-imposed deadline, Clough knew exactly what was on the shopping list to make it the perfect demo ’Wagen to show off his talents. But, having collected the Panel Van in May ’13, customers’ Vans kept getting in the way, so to speak.  But just two weeks prior to the show he wanted to unveil his creation at, he was able to bust out the grinder and cut a whacking great hole in the roof ready to drop the high lift, slimline, Reimo pop-top into place.  In fact, the deadline was such a tight one that the lads were still working on it the Thursday morning of it’s debut at Weston Park.

OEM tinted VW glass followed suit for the load area, while Clough set about lining and insulating the cabin,  but not before running the necessary wiring for the split charge relay and single box Sargent EC155 power management system, fuelled by a 135amp leisure battery.

While the roof was off being colour coded, the ABT-style front spoiler was also sent for a splash of LB9A, a nifty detail touch being the colour matched lower half to tie in with the load rated, Platinum Grey Diewe Sogno 9 x 20-inch wheels.  Keeping safety at the forefront means Clough opted for suitably chunky 275/35 x 20-inch Accelera rubber, so there’s little chance of any stretch coming back to bite him.

If there’s one trend we’ve noticed of late, it’s what we like to call ‘retrofication’ – that is applying older style Bus modifications and styling cues to modern Vans – seems to be catching on in a big way, so Clough’s decision to look at old school trim options for his seats is very en
indeed.  “As our demo Bus for the later part of the season, we wanted to break the mould from all the grey or dark interiors we’d seen, so we chose gloss white units and sidewall panels with Zebrano worktop and table to add some warmth,” he tells us. It’s all CNC cut as well, so it goes together like Custard Creams, fitting perfectly with the high-end components used throughout this build.

Initially, the seats were going to be burnt orange leather but, as a long-term Westy fan, instead he chose an orange plaid fabric, and a plan was hatched to trim the seats in a half-leather design with a nod to both Golf GTi and Westfalia heritage, an accent that was extended to the Porsche-style Überbus graphics.

” It’s a pretty spectacular transformation, and one which Clough is justifiably proud of “

Mid-England Retrims served up the goods on the front pews, while the extremely swanky RIB Altair 3P rock ’n’ roll bed was custom trimmed in France before being whisked across The Channel and dumped into place.Thanks to the bed’s 1120mm width, there’s plenty of space left for the roller shutters and rounded corner storage unit.  Finally, both front seats are bolted to RIB swivel bases for complete cabin interaction. “We’ve christened it the Future Classic Limited Edition,” Clough reveals.  “The reaction it’s had from almost everyone who’s seen it suggests it’s quite a popular look.”  Sliding doors in the kitchen unit and corner tambour door in the wardrobe allow for plenty of clever storage, while the top-loading fridge and handy shelf with recessed, colour-changing LED strip lights lend a very upmarket ambience to the whole deal.

With a couple of young nippers and dogs to consider, there’s even a Propex heater (underfloor-mounted to maximise interior space) and a rear-mounted shower, which lets Clough hose down both man and beast whenever necessary.  With a 25-litre wheelie water tank concealed under the bed, it’s a clever, all-in-one interior solution, with plenty of neat details.

The whole kit and caboodle is dropped a substantial 100mm closer to terra
courtesy of some FK height adjustable Highsport coilovers, yet the suspected adverse ride quality is surprisingly absent, testament indeed to the quality of the FK kit – rumoured to feature Koni shocks with custom rate springs to suit the 1850kg behemoth.

Not only does this Van drive like a car, no stone was left unturned in the search for opulence inside.  Upgraded speakers include Edge 6.5-inch door units and rear panel numbers, which accompany a brand new RCD 310 DAB head unit, sourced direct from VW UK.  The clever use of a Dension Gateway 100 iPod adapter allows the stock head unit to control his MP3s through the steering wheels controls, with visuals dealt with by a drop down / roof-mounted 15-inch DVD Freeview TV, which is piped to the head unit for surround sound movies to keep both big and littl’uns happy.

Given the two-week turnaround, it’s a pretty spectacular transformation, and one which Clough is justifiably proud of.  As he rocked up to his first show, still attaching trinkets like the matching burnt orange gear gaiter, it was clear having the best of both old and new really is über cool.

It would be a beautiful thing if Clough said he’d keep this Van forever, but we can’t see that happening somehow. There’s no doubt he loves the style of his latest creation, but with dreams of a Singer Porsche 911 in the pipeline and new plans forming for the next Überbus demo vehicle, we can’t see it staying with him for long. If you like what you see here, check out www.uberbus.co.uk


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Photos taken by: Laurens Parsons

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