Nikki and Richard are both self-employed graphic designers and have inherited their passion for VW vans from their parents. Theirs is a five-year story of converting a basic T5 panel van into a ‘no compromise’, unique camper with all mod cons.
‘Happy Campers’ is a series of posts featuring camper vans and their owners. It’s designed to offer advice and inspiration to new and existing camper van owners – featuring members of the WildaboutScotland community. To take part, please send an e-mail to me answering the standard question format below together with a good photo or two.
1. Introducing ourselves and our camper van
Hello ! We are Nikki and Richard, both graphic designers from Skipton in North Yorkshire and we share our passion for all things VW, camping and campervans. Our love of camping comes from our respective parents and their choice of how to holiday whilst we grew up. After university we found ourselves getting in to the VW way of life with a 1966 Beetle. But there are only so many VW shows you can go to with a tent whilst your fellow campers are in vans … it was only a matter of time before we graduated to an early T3 van, then on to our current T5.
Over the last five years we’ve tried to create a ‘no-compromise’ campervan from a totally basic VW panel van – there’s no way we could have stretched our budget to a VW California so the project has been ‘save a bit, spend a bit’ until we reach our goal, blogging the transformation along the way.
2. How do we use our camper van ?
In the early days of conversion it was our only vehicle, so it was a camper, a commuter, and a load-hauler – everyone needs something moving when you tell them you have a van ! Now the conversion is nearly complete the van has become a dedicated camper and occasional spare-room. We try to camp in all 12 months of the year; Christmas Eve camping has become something of a ritual and one of the best of the year.
3. Best thing we love about our van ?
It is so much more than a metal box on four wheels; it is the places we’ve been, the people we’ve met and friends we’ve made along the way. The VW community is one of the nicest to be involved in – everyone is friendly and always willing to share knowledge, advice, a beer or a brew.
As for the van itself, it is unique and built to our own specifications, tastes and standards; it’s the van that suits us perfectly – an extension of our own personalities.
4. Pet gripes ?
Hard to find any negatives. I’d say the T5 isn’t as well put together as earlier VW vans – there’s definitely more to go wrong on a modern camper and it often ends in a sizeable repair bill.
5. Favourite accessories ?
A few of our favourites are the diesel heater, pop top roof, air suspension and solar panel. At the other end of the price scale is a £6 folding toaster, because sometimes only toast will do !
6. Best tip for new owners ?
- Looking to take the plunge in to van-life ? Consider hiring one first – with so many companies offering everything from a classic splitscreen to a brand new California, it would make sense to try-before-you-buy.
- Converting your own van ? Try to have a plan and prioritise what you want from the van at the beginning and what you can live without until later.
- Once you have a van, use it: get out in it as much as possible even if it’s only 10 miles down the road.
- Get on with one another: a van can seem small after 48 hours of constant wind and rain.
- Look after it: keep up with the service schedules, keep it clean, keep it ready-to-go at a minute’s notice – relying on a vehicle for your main holiday of the year can easily lead to disappointment if it breaks down before you’ve got anywhere !
- Pack for all occasions: one of the advantages of this snail-like lifestyle is carrying your hotel room around with you – be prepared for all weathers and embrace whatever you’re dealt on the day.
7. Best trip in our van ?
A week in Cornwall without a drop of rain was certainly memorable, as was a wet weekend in Snowdonia – both stunningly beautiful places regardless of the conditions.
8. Dream trip ?
I’ve a few going around in my head. One is a tour around Europe taking in the Wolfsburg VW factory tour, the Westfalia factory, the Porsche museum in Stuttgart, the Nurburgring and a couple of Europe’s larger classic VW shows.
I’d love to head across Scandinavia in the height of Summer, I’d love to do the long ferry to Spain and then wind our way back through France… There’s island hopping around the west coast of Scotland… I could go on all day, all in good time… I guess the ultimate trip will be the one with no route, no destination and no timescale.
9. Favourite campsite ?
10. When I’m not camping I’m …
… working. I also enjoy mountain biking and cycling, restoring old bikes, photography, walking and sampling as many of the country’s real ales as possible.
Read more about Nikki and Richard’s adventures in their van at on their own blog, http://stone174.blogspot.co.uk.
If you’re a Happy Camper and have a story to tell, please e-mail me and send a photo or two using the ‘Get in Touch’ form.