Since Canny Campers began in 2009 it never really lived up to its name, being that we started with just 1 campervan and continued like that until 2010. In 2010 instead of buying another campervan we bought ‘Millie’ our 1976 Karmann Cabrio Beetle.
Many years passed and although ‘Millie’ was a lovely vehicle and had many admirers, being a black wedding vehicle, it ended up a fairly niche proposition for wedding couples.
The intention was always to expand the campervan side of the wedding fleet, but it’s not something that can be done overnight if you’re going to do it properly. We maybe got a bit stuck in our ways choosing to improve our current fleet and not make the all-important leap to campervan number 2.
2020 was a strange year for many reasons as everyone will know, and it was also the year ‘Millie’ the beetle was finally meant to be getting a body restoration to bring it back up to its 2000 glory (2000 being the year it was originally restored).
I knew I had to restore the beetle, it was due to be done and it was slightly letting the side down thanks to the massive investment in ‘Little Joe’ our 60s campervan. The only problem I had was return on investment, with a good restoration budget it was going to take a long time to recoup. Unlike our very popular campervan which is busy all season the beetle would be lucky to do 20 bookings and mainly as a second vehicle.
2020 had many down sides, but a positive was to think about life and my business differently and give it a new focus. When I went to pick the beetle up after some welding work and talked about the upcoming restorations, the potential cost was looking even less worth doing from a business point of view (always worth keeping VWs alive on a personal level).
Jay who looks after my vehicles had an idea and it was only a 1 shed walk away. I think Jay may have been excited to show me as it was the perfect fit for my business but better still it was being put up for sale. A slightly tatty around the edges but a very solid example of a 1972 Westfalia Bay Window Campervan.
The Good Points
- I could afford to buy it, do an exterior restoration and try and use a bit of wedding trickery to make the interior presentable as a starting point. You have to start somewhere as these are everlasting projects.
- It is white.
- It’s an actual Westfalia, I like to claim although the interior is no longer original, so I suppose not!
- It was recommended by Jay and he had originally sourced it for the previous owner and maintained it, so it’s a good one.
- The timing was perfect if you ignore the fact 2020 would have financially crippled me, if I hadn’t secured a job in my old profession.
The Bad Points (at the time of purchase)
- I’m not made of money, so I would have had to leave the interior restoration and make the best of it. This is fine for many but it wouldn’t have stood up to ‘Little Joe’ and on a double vehicle booking it would have stood out.
- It takes time to do a restoration and this time costs money both in terms of lost revenue and restoration costs. I always believe that’s part of this type of business, it’s not fair to put photos on your web-site of the vehicle only after its restored, then run it into the ground to save pulling it out of service to bring the standards back up. Social media photos are usually refreshed more often and a better place to look.
- Buying this campervan ultimately meant selling the beetle, it has been with us for 10 years and has been made special to many people as their wedding vehicle.
Where we went from there
As you have probably worked out, we did buy the van and had to decide how best to sell the beetle.
It needed bodywork, it would be fine for a few years but not wedding car standard and I wanted to be honest about that. Everything else on the vehicle was excellent and had received a lot of investment over the years, I asked a couple of friends in the scene but the timing was out for them and then I decided to chance my arm and send it to a specialist classic car auction.
I am sure you will all be aware of the programme Bangers & Cash because as everyone knows it’s the best thing on telly ever. Derek who runs the Auction said it himself ‘I am living the dream’ finding, buying and selling classic cars. Although this looks like my perfect job and for many nights, I had a recurring dream that I worked for Matthewsons Auctions, I can tell it is harder work than they get credit for.
Discussions took place with Matthewsons Auctions and it was booked in for the November sale, which unlike prior Auctions would be online only due to Covid. I had one long last drive in ‘Millie’ the beetle down to the now famous Thornton-le-dale with ‘Julie’ the wife following me down in ‘Sid’ the Citroen Saxo VTR… we are also living the dream.
Side Note: Thornton-le-Dale is a lovely little place, where dreams come true and it has a camp-site so must visit again in the future and buy lots of classic car things from Derek.
That was it, I agreed a very low reserve of £5,000 to get people interested and left it in the capable hands of the team.
The night before the Auction I had a quick look on-line as all the vehicles for the Auction the next day had been loaded on to the system, I was lot 232 (i think). I had a look at some of the earlier lots and noticed some already had bids on and it showed how many people were watching that particular vehicle. Most had around 8 – 10 watchers and hardly any had bids, when I got to my beetle it had 35 watchers and a £4,000 initial bid so I knew it would do well.
Derek ‘Ok, lot 232 nice little thing, all the bells and whistles straight in on the web at £5000’ – Me Nice one I think, it’s going to sell well this is a bit exciting, its already hit the reserve.
The beetle sold for strong money, way over the reserve and I suppose I probably underestimated its true value. If you want a 1303 genuine Karmann Cabrio Beetle you can’t just get one easily and 3 determined bidders knew that. They battled it out all resulting in an exiting auction lot and a very useful pot of money to invest in the 72 Bay.
So that’s the beetle sold and what a great way to do it, I can highly recommend the team at Matthewsons they made the whole thing so easy and added value to the sale, not to mention cutting out all the bad bits of selling a car such as people messing you about.
What does that mean for the restoration of ‘Jules’ the campervan?
I now have the funds to do not only the exterior but completely strip out the old interior and get our friends at All Things Timber to make a really nice job of a new interior.
It won’t be the same style as ‘Little Joe’ but it will be a unique urban, modern look with flavours of an original Westfalia and blended with wedding features all done to the highest standard.
As things stand today 24/01/2021 we have camper, the funds and the suppliers lined up to create our next wedding campervan and I will update this blog in stages. I expect the next time will be after the exterior restoration.
No bookings are being taken yet on the new camper as I can’t be sure when it will be finished. The booking system will be opened up and it will be advertised on our Facebook at the appropriate time, so ideal to follow us if you want to know when it’s available.
STORY TO BE CONTINUED
So haha well ‘STORY TO BE CONTINUED’, ok it is being continued but we are almost exactly 2 years on now, the date being 29/01/2023.
The restoration is now underway and and hence why this blog is only now being updated. Things are now progressing well and we expect to have a stunning fully restored 1972 Bay Window ready for weddings later this year, probably the end of Summer.
The plan for the interior has changed significantly as well as we are now going for a BoHo style camper that will be done with the best quality materials and carpentry. Oak will be the wood of choice and we are hoping to have Parquet Flooring. We are also planning on having a sort of oak mantel shelf which will have a built in speaker where passangers can blue tooth music to for the journey, a wireless charging point for phones and 3 small plants from IKEA… why not!
For a taster of the upholstery that my Wife Julie managed to pull together using photos of the samples and a little bit of trial and error on a design tool check out this link VW Bay Window Boho Style
So all of the interior can’t be done without the substantial amount of work on the exterior. It maybe a great solid starting point but the camper is still 51 years old this year. That means Mike and Jay who are leading the Restoration have plenty of work to do, if only to meet the extremely high standards they set for themselves.
Here are the photo updates for December 2022:
And here are the most up to date restoration photos from January 2023:
Its now February and Mike has completed all of his welding give or take a few bits and bobs.
As he has said himself, ‘this is a very solid van now’. Music to my ears! Having a good solid starting point that just needs improvement has saved me a good amount of money on welding and it keeps much of the 1972 camper with its original German metal.
Here are the latest photo’s:
As we approach spring things are still progressing well, although our VW Splitscreen ‘Little Joe’ has been getting a few small things done as well. This year he was treated to new red lap belts to replace the 60 year old ones in the front cab. They are a perfect match and lift the interior nicely.
Secondly some posh number plates have been produced and fitted, the raised white letters on the black background are much more classic and look great!
So apart from the above our 1960’s campervan just had the usual service, engine tune up and full safety check.
The bay window on the other hand has been a more interesting event as after stripping out the interior, taking off the Westfalia roof and windows we have found out some things and made a few new choices. Firstly we found out that this campervan is a rare sunroof model that was available just in the states, so we are hoping to locate a metal sunroof in the USA and have a more functional and rare vehicle. It will be so good for Wedding parties to get photos popping out of the roof! The issue is that is could take months if not longer to locate this style of roof, so in the meantime we will order a brand new rag top which will allow the same functionality and sell the Westfalia roof to someone who wants a campervan not a wedding camper. Nothing goes to waste and that will also apply to the desirable Westfalia windows, they will be sold on and we will replace with new sliding windows. Its sad to see them go but they rattle and not as easy to open. After years of providing wedding transport you know what won’t work!
The other interesting thing found were a load of leaflets featuring this exact camper. It turns out in 2008 this vehicle was part of a competition as a give away prize for 02 Mobile for the rugby. Check out the old leaflet, its so good when you find a bit of history on these vehicles.
Late March update 2023
Just when we thought the welding was pretty much done, this happened:
Holes everywhere! That is what happens when you decide you want a different roof option and take out the old interior. Looks like a bit of a set back time wise and more cost but if its worth doing its worth doing properly.
Its now the height of summer and the weddings are in full flow and its the perfect time to get the paintwork done on Jules our bay window camper. As I type this I am aware that much of the paintwork has been done but have only received the photos of the camper in primer.
Below are the latest photos I have but expecting more soon as the restoration continues to make progress.
The little BoHo bus is coming together.
What a fantastic paint job Tommy has done on the campervan and this is it before being polished. I know he has put a lot of time and effort into the preparation and it has paid off.
I think this is a proper wedding colour as well in Pastel White (L90D) it has a silky look to it.
The respray is complete and now this get handed over to Jay a well know Legend in the Aircooled scene to rebuild the van and sort the engine!
We have ordered the best quality replacement parts where needed to ensure a factory fresh finish which this rebuild deserves.
Jay has now been handed the baton and after a large batch of new parts was delivered to the workshop the painstaking task of re-assembly has began in earnest. I am not sure how Earnest feels about this!
Here are the latest photos from September 2023, we are having a bit of an issue getting a new front windscreen but we have a couple of options, so shouldn’t delay the build to much.
The engine is now also ready to go after some care and attention. It will be exciting to see how the Type 4 engine differs from the Type 1 in the VW Splitscreen. It has about 20 more horse power, better cooling and apparently very smooth power delivery, they are meant to be able to take a fair amount of abuse. Not that we plan on doing much more than gentle cruising with it.
Its all coming together with the restoration as we head into November and it wont be long until it goes off for the interior.
As you can see all of the new shiny bits are being added and the white wall tyres will really set the van off when the protective blue coating is removed.
We have hopefully managed to track down a proper sunroof for this camper but it is located in Northern Ireland, so is going to mean a trip across the water to check its OK and we can use it. We might as well do the job properly if we can and this is one rare part that we have been very lucky to find, if all goes well and we get it. If not we have options of a vinyl version but I know what I prefer!
The camper is now on the ramps as we speak, getting everything sorted on the underside such as rust proofing, upgrading the brakes, sorting the gearbox linkages etc.
Even after the interior and trimming are complete this will be going back to Jay for some finishing touches but we will report on those nearer the time.
As we enter the new year we have hit a bit of a lull in the restoration but its essentially the calm before the storm.
We had an issue trying to have a new front window made by a local company and in the end we bought on from a company in Leeds. We had to pick it up so we decide to take the motorhome and make a weekend of it as a sort of staff Christmas party. We spent a fair amount that weekend dining out and when we went to pick up the window, it had been sent by courier to a pick up point in Durham. We must have literally passed it on the motorway on the run down to Leeds. Anyway it is now in the van so one hard part sorted.
Next was the sunroof which I was really keen to have but we are waiting on that persons restoration before we could collect the sunroof. After a conversation with Ade from All Things Timber on the quality of the Vinyl Paris Soft Top Roofs we decided to go with this option instead. We are going to go with a black outer and off-white lining which will set the van off and sits well with the vehicle colours.
The sunroof is being specially made and wont be delivered until mid-February so a bit of a brake from the restoration of Julies the 70’s Bay window.
Little Joe the 60’s campervan on the other hand is getting some really cool upgrades with the first being these top quality Creative Engineering safari windows. The photo opportunities this will open up will be a great new feature! The second being beautiful white wall tyres and other features such as the chrome handle, various switches and of course the wooden / chrome steering wheel. All of this is a great ‘tidy up’ of some old parts that were passed there best as many were 60 years old!