A Transit for the nine to five and a T5 TDi for the weekends – just goes to show that having the best of both worlds always involves a Volkswagen somewhere along the line

Us soft southerners typically stereotype people who reside north of Watford as being pigeon-loving whippet owners, [You might Mr. W, but I’m from the Midlands and get that, too! – JP] but the reality couldn’t be further from the truth.  We’re all the same at the end of the day, with family, friends, beer and VWs uniting us all.  And as cool as the vehicles may be, this modified Van lark is as much about the people as it is anything else.

Tom Pickering is here to prove that you can have it all, and a short chat to our northern protagonist proves nothing less than inspirational.  He’s a fairly laid-back kind of guy – hard working, up front and full of the joy that expecting a littl’un brings as we discuss the story that surrounds his ’54-registered Black Magic Metallic (LC9Z) T5 TDi Panel Van.  What comes across most of all from his story is that if something needed doing, he had a bash at it himself, yet there’s a slightly bittersweet twist to this tale that will undoubtedly leave you with a lump in your throat.

” This one-time Dagenham dustbin fan was converted to a higher plain of automotive thinking “

As the main man at Tom Pickering Plastering, the 28-year old Doncaster resident had become rather familiar with a life that involved nothing but Ford Transits (the shame!) for his day-to-day business.  That’s right, a blue oval, a Fix Or Repair Daily for chucking all of the plasterboard and mucky render in.  Tom’s introduction to the world of VWs came with some truly awful news. “We’ve actually owned the Van from brand new. My dad, Dave, bought it to ferry his Airedale Terriers about to dog shows up and down the country, so it had dog cages fitted into the back of it and he used it all the time for that, driving all over the place.  Then, in 2010, my dad passed away, and my mum gave me his old Van.  He used to love it to bits and never wanted to part with it, so it’s got enormous sentimental value to me, and I couldn’t just let it fester,” Tom revealed.

For the first 18 months or so the Van remained largely untouched, with the exception of the chrome side bars that Tom’s dad had fitted during his tenure.  Tom kept it ticking over and maintained the full service history of the 2.5-litre 130ps TDi lump, until the epiphany finally hit him one day.

Tech info:
2004 T5 TDi Panel Van

Stock 2.5 TDi 5-pot, 130ps
.5 x 20-inch Fox RS GT wheels, 255/30 x 20 Falken tyres
50mm lowering springs
Factory Black Magic Metallic paint, custom homemade front bumper, 2012 Sportline lower spoiler, Audi R8-style headlamps, chrome mirror covers, chrome grille, Tidy Transporters chrome side bars, Van Styling rear bumper, Sportline rear spoiler
Fully ply lined, insulated and carpeted, DIY carpet and headlining with 12v switchable spotlamps, custom made cabin mat, billet aluminium gear knob, re-trimmed captain’s chairs in burgundy and cream diamond stitched quilted leather

“The wheels came up for sale on eBay and I had to have them.  For £350 they were too good to miss.” Measuring in at a pretty obscene 9.5 x 22 inches, the Fox Racing RS GT rollers bless this ride with a bit of a ‘donk’ quality, though Tom has addressed the big foot look with some frighteningly low profile rubber.  “Little did I realise that I’d need 255/30 x 22-inch tyres to go with them.  They’re the lowest profile I could find and you really have to grit your teeth before you hit a bump now, or just avoid them altogether.

“The tyres wound up costing twice what I gave for the wheels.”  Nevertheless, with that impulse buy Tom had lit the modified fuse, and this one-time Dagenham dustbin fan was converted to a higher plane of automotive thinking – not that we’re biased at all, of course.

50mm lowering springs were soon ordered up to try and bring the whole shebang a bit closer to terra
, but Tom seems keen to press matters and reduce the tyre-to-arch gap further still with a planned switch to coilovers in the not-too-distant future.  The possibility of doing the popular strut-through-hub mod also looms on the horizon but, to be honest, the ride quality and rubber band tyres already cause some concessions to driving style along the bumpy blacktop of our fine isle.

“Then I started looking for ways to modify the front bumper, “ explains Tom, “but really didn’t want an off-the-shelf solution.”  The problem he found was that with so many aftermarket and top quality OEM parts on offer, doing something a little different was more difficult than he imagined.  “In the end I got a Sportline front spoiler off a 2012-plate Van and fibreglassed and smoothed that into the bumper.  Then I bought some stainless steel mesh from a company in Leeds who supply Bentley and Jaguar and bonded that in as well.  My plastering skills came in handy for all the GRP and filler work that weekend,” he chuckles. Being a bit of a perfectionist though, he wasn’t 100% happy with his first attempt, so set about doing the whole job again, ready for Custom Paint to colour code in that pesky metallic hue.

While this DIY approach can all too often turn out a little on the chavvy side, we think Tom’s pulled it off on this Van.  It’s pretty in your face, yet blends with the factory lines beautifully.

Joined by a Sportline tailgate spoiler, Van Styling rear bumper, chrome-effect grille, R8-style devil eye headlamps and those Audi S3-style chrome effect mirror caps, it’s a pretty bling affair that definitely stands out next to your average, shoddily treated builder’s barge.

” I got quotes for some crazy prices, so thought I’d have
a go at it myself “

Inside is where the magic happens though. Again Tom set to work himself, though this time with the help of his better half, insulating, ply lining and carpeting the entire cabin area to a very high standard, and not in the usual grey or black either, but in burgundy and cream.  “I got quotes for some crazy prices, so thought I’d have a go at it myself.  Along with my fiancée, Kerry, who set to work on the cabin area, we spent a couple of nights cutting carpet on my driveway in the freezing cold between Christmas and New Year 2012, with a little heater in the Van and a hairdryer to make the glue go off.  We’d never done anything like it before, but we just set to and had a go. I reckon in materials I spent less than £200, which saved me a fortune all in.”

As if that wasn’t enough, Kerry then paid for the captain’s chairs to be re-trimmed for Tom’s birthday, with his logo in the headrest and diamond quilted stitching to make it look more bespoke Range Rover than derv delivery van.

While he was at it Tom also ran all the wiring for the headlining spotlights, but left the loom splicing up to his mate, Steve Watson, due in no small part to being colour blind.


What at first sight may appear to be quite a conventional Van now serves as the ideal crash pad for the shows Tom is now a regular attendee at, along with his Hull Transporters club mates.

With his first nipper due in 11 weeks as we go to press, plans are to keep spending on the interior, rigging up a crash tested rock ’n’ roll bed and fitting a diamond stitched baby seat
so his imminent arrival can travel in style. “Don’t worry though,” he quips, “I’ll always have some baby wipes to hand to deal with any mishaps.”

In between moving house, having a littl’un and completely renovating his new gaff, he’s even thinking about buying a Bay Window or a Split Screen Bus for the future.  For someone who started this article as a Transit man that’s quite a turnaround, though we don’t think he’ll be heading in that direction during his recreation time for quite some time yet.  “I used to swear by the old Mk1 and Mk2 Transits, but now I think I’m a fully fledged VW lunatic.”  And that, ladies and gents, is why we think Tom Pickering rocks.


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