Can you think of a better way to win trophies and hang out at the slopes than in your daily workhorse? This T5 is both family wagon and vital business tool in one.

Today’s desktop wallpaper comes in the form a lovely 2009 Sportline T5. Unlike our previous desktop wallpaper offerings, this set concentrates on just the one vehicle. And, because we are feeling generous, the full feature about the T5 can be found below to accompany the VW T5 desktop wallpaper in the gallery above.

The Sportline was featured in Issue 7 of VWt Magazine but seeing as this is now off sale, we figured a freebie feature was in order.


Words: James Wallace

A liberal splash of alcohol, a campsite, charred meat and your friends and family – we’re pretty sure it’s the same recipe that Shakespeare, Plato, Confucius and even our esteemed governor, Mr. Peene, has stuck to throughout the centuries to make a right ol’ weekend of it.  As someone who grew up hankering after a Karmann Ghia to join in with all of his pals at the VW events he was attending in his late teens and early 20s, while at the same time grafting playing professional hockey, Richard Mears certainly hasn’t missed out on any of the best bits our humble scene has to offer.

Yet having a ‘toy’ car at his disposal for high days and holidays would have meant making compromises that simply weren’t worth thinking about.  “I always fancied a Ghia as a younger man but, as my business started to take priority, various other factors always meant one was just slightly out of reach,” he revealed.  “I’ve had a few nice Golfs over the years, including a supercharged left hooker G60 that I bought from one of my customers, but it wasn’t until I got my current Apal 356 Speedster replica around 15 years ago that I really felt part of the air-cooled vibe.  I’d still love a Split Screen Bus though,” confessed the 45-year old from Wokingham.  Yet the question remains, how does an extensively modified, 2.4-litre, twin 44IDF-fed, flat four-powered street machine translate to life with a top spec, sexy, trophy-winning T5 you see here?


George Formby?

The answer is during the day time, Richard can be found doing his part as a shiner for his Keep It Spotless window and stone restoration business, a firm that over the years has built up a reputation for keeping large scale, high class domestic and commercial property portholes squeaky clean.  Getting to and from work therefore requires a solid, classy and super-reliable runabout, with enough grunt to tow just over a ton of water on a trailer with ease.  And for Richard, there was only ever one choice to fire his synapses.  “I had a Mitsubishi Warrior before and, while it was up to the job, it was no T5.  When my mate, Tony, from Bodytone spray shop just down the road from me said his ’09 plate, 174 Sportline Kombi was up for grabs I had to go and take a look.”  With just 15,000 relatively stress-free miles on the clock, buying it really was a no brainer.  “Tony had used it as a runaround for work to collect cars, and now and again to trailer one back to the spray booth, but his fleet of cars is massive so it was rarely used.  Coming from a body shop also meant the Flash Red [LP3G] paintwork was immaculate when I went to look at it.”  That was a couple of years ago now and the changes since, while not massive due to the already impressive 174 Sportline spec, have been cool, classy and easy on the eye throughout.

Like the old school Split Buses where originality and unusual factory options are über desirable, so this trend continues with the new wave water pumpers.  With that stonking 5-pot, 2.5-litre, TDi lump, chrome-adorned deeper front bumper, grille and splitter, and with chrome sidesteps already fitted into the bargain, styling-wise Richard was already onto a winner.  A quick splash of aftermarket R8-style LED headlamps freshen up the pointy end nicely, while a similar update aft sees 2010 onwards Sportline lights slotted into place.  “I didn’t want to go overboard because I don’t think it’s easy to improve upon the Sportline styling personally, other than getting them as low as possible on some massive wheels.”  To that end there’s a set of Lenzo’s finest Granzo alloys in 8.5 x 20 inches, wrapped in wafer thin 245/45 x 20 rubber bands.  “I’d be lying if I said the ride quality is the same as standard, but it’s only lowered around 75mm to try and maintain some semblance of bump absorption and compliance.  It’s surprisingly good fun to throw around and never feels like it’s about to run out of grip,” Richard tells us.  “And I’ve still got the standard wheels and tyres for hitting the slopes with when the winter comes around.”


Simple simplicity

Combined with a set of bolt-on, colour-coded facelift T5.1 mirrors and a real carbon fibre bonnet that’s since been wrapped in 3M Di Noc vinyl to mask a few imperfections, the whole package is understated yet attention grabbing, in the finest VW tradition.

Maximising the useable performance of the venerable 174bhp motor, Richard has added a Revo stage 1 software upgrade to the ECU via the onboard diagnostics (OBD) port.  “I never realised quite how much potential is hidden within this engine, and it’s absolutely perfect for towing our 1,250-litre water butt now.  I tend to pull away in second gear because, with the extra power and torque on offer, first is done and dusted before you even think about it.” Little wonder really when you consider that she’s now pushing out 235bhp and 369ft.lbs of torque for gains throughout the entire rev range with exceptionally smooth power delivery. Some even say that due to the extra mid-range grunt available with such an upgrade you spend less time at higher rpm and therefore actually make fuel efficiency savings of around 10%, depending upon your driving style of course.  “It’s certainly sharper and more responsive at
all revs, and I’ve been seriously impressed by the difference it has made,” mused a clearly stoked Richard.

Yet a cast of top actors doesn’t necessarily lead to a great film.  You always need a good director to bring things together.  And that’s how VWt regular, Dan Lewis from VisionTech in Essex, was drafted into this story.  With the company’s background, Richard knew his Van was in safe hands from the start.  “It’s always worrying handing your pride and joy over to someone you don’t know that well, but I had a good feeling about Dan and he came highly recommended by a friend of mine as well.  I wanted a useable space that we could spend the night in if needs be, but also have enough room to stow my snowboarding gear for our trips to the slopes of Europe.”

When a trip to watch the Superbikes at Imola came his way, Richard took the opportunity to have Dan collect the Van and work his interior magic while he was away enjoying himself.  “As a works vehicle it was vital that I got it back after my 10 days away, and Dan was confident the transformation would be complete in that time.  I didn’t want a full Camper conversion and, to be honest, not many of the other firms I spoke with believed what I wanted was even possible.  They said I could only have that if I had this as well, and I didn’t want ‘this’ as well.”

The funky, fresh look Richard was after was something Dan had already achieved with his cream and red LWB demo T5, and opting for such a bespoke service fitted Richard’s needs perfectly.  Entertainment and luxury were at the top of his list, not a cooker, because, like many, cooking in a Van isn’t his idea of a break.  Starting out with a lightweight Nidaplast floor helped matters, and the customary ply lining allows for plenty of insulation thanks to some baby sheep and their sustainable fluffy coats.  But it’s the limo-esque, diamond stitched, wraparound sofa area – something of a Visiontech trademark these days – that really commands your attention out back.  With the added functionality of a Waeco chest fridge that’s seamlessly integrated beneath the rock ’n’ roll bed, the beverages remain almost as chilled as the occupants.  It’s a palatial, lavish and somewhat extravagant setting, twinkly LED roof lights beaming down their lumens from a brand spankers headlining, while the in-cabin entertainment has also received a more contemporary update.

Richard’s five-year old lad, Jacob, enjoys nothing more than kicking back on the rock ’n’ roll bed with a movie on the go thanks to that 19-inch fold down display.  Fed audio visual signals from a 6.1-inch Kenwood double DIN DVD and sat nav-equipped head unit, the interior is purposeful and efficient without being overly fussy, or packed to the rafters with unnecessary trinkets.

Ultimately, the Van suits Richard’s needs, and those of his outward-bound family, to a tee.  Whether it’s rocking up to a customer’s house to make their windows wonderful, or kicking a large part of continental Europe into submission visiting the Winter X Games, this is the perfect helm at which to do so.


Photos: Daniel Pullen

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