Since buying ‘Bumblebee’ last Autumn Mark and Lauren have aleady put in a lot of work to make their van ship-shape for the camping season. The helpful advice they found on the T4 Owner’s Forum has been invaluable. So far, their trips and weekends away have been fairly local – in preparation for this summer’s Big Trip to Ibiza and back !
‘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 using the the ‘Get in Touch’ form on the sidebar, answering the standard question format below together with a good photo or two.
1. Introducing ourselves and our van:
Hello ! Myself, Mark and my wife Lauren are the current owners/curators of Bumblebee, an ex-AA Volkswagen 2.5 Tdi T4 who’s getting on a bit but is slowly being brought back to all his former glory and more importantly, reliability!
Being an ex-AA van, the engine has been uprated to 102bhp so there’s a bit more guts which is handy for hills and luggage. In the back there is a full camper conversion with cooking and sleeping facilities plus the all-important beer cooling cabinet (aka the fridge).
We had a campervan before – Cyril, a T25. He was a bit rough round the edges but before we could do any restoration I wrote him off, so Bumblebee is our second bus.
I’m just about to turn 40 and Lauren is in her early 30’s, both born and bred in Croydon, South London. We document our adventures and the various repairs / upgrades to Bumblebee on our blog: http://mashley1975.com.
We’ve done quite a lot to Bumblebee since buying him in late 2014. The entire bottom quarter of the van has had all the rust treated and repainted (it was only ever going to get worse). A lot of the electrics have either been overhauled or made safe, we’ve replaced the front cab seats, installed a swivel base with a safe built in, added new tyres all round and done a good bit of mechanical work. As soon as the weather improves the conversion in the back is coming out and going back in properly as it was thrown in to sell the van by the looks of things!
Do we have any regrets buying a bus ? Definitely not, it’s a great new chapter in our life!
2. How do we use our van ?
We use it a lot, we have two vehicles and the bus gets much more use, not only for trips away but general day to day stuff too. We are both National Trust and RHS members; any properties or sites we visit we tend to go to in the van. A new addition is a bike rack so the bikes get strapped to the back and we head off for some cross country or woodland track cycling, and finish up with a brew in the van. We have camped a couple of times in it but only for one night. However this year I’m taking it to Le Mans for the 24 hour race and in August we’re both off on a three week trip to Ibiza, and hopefully a couple of UK summer festivals.
3. Best thing we love about our van ?
We love that there is always an adventure just around the corner. Having what is effectively a hotel-on-wheels opens up so many possibilities: you don’t have to go away for a week for an adventure in your van, you can always park up somewhere a few hours’ drive from home and wild camp for free. Or if you prefer, most campsites are not that expensive for a single night’s stay. There’s so much to see in this country and our van is helping us see more and more of it!
The other thing we love is just driving it. With most of the mechanical stuff sorted out now the bus is a real joy to drive and being quite a bit higher up than my Audi TT, you get a much different view of the road and surrounding area.
4. Pet gripes ?
I guess the only gripe we could possibly have is finding things that haven’t been done properly by previous owners that we then have to put right. For example a cheapo starter motor that was the wrong size for the van was held in place by dozens of washers and bolts to space it out so it fitted – and then it eventually blew up. The bad wiring for an electric seat melted the earth and adjacent wiring to it and could have sent the van up in flames, and the fridge was wired up to look like it was working but never had a chance of actually firing up. That kind of stuff is pretty annoying.
5. Favourite accessories ?
At the recommendation of another blog we read we’ve bought two things which I’m pretty confident will become our favourite accessories: a Cobb BBQ and a Duvalay. Oh, and the thermal window covers are pretty cool actually – essential if you ask me!
6. Best tip for new owners ?
Whatever type of bus you’ve bought, join an owner’s forum; I’m a member of the http://www.vwt4forum.co.uk/. The forums are a treasure trove of information and in my experience frequented by fellow enthusiasts who couldn’t be more helpful in identifying that bit that just fell off or that weird noise you get when turning left at 30mph!
7. Best trip in our van ?
We only bought the van at the end of Autumn and have been doing a good deal of work on it to get it ship shape for our summer trip so we haven’t been too far. If I had to pick the best thing we’ve done in it I’d pick our trip to Bath. The town is such a great place to visit, and full of history, culture and amazing restaurants. We went in December and all the campsites were fully booked!
8. Favourite campsite ?
As we’ve only had the van a short while we haven’t stayed at that many campsites. However if I had to pick a favourite it would be the Bath Marina and Caravan Park: really well organized, excellent facilities and close enough to town to walk there and back (parking in Bath is a nightmare!).
9. Dream trip ?
We’re doing that in the summer – London to Ibiza and back via some awesome places in France and mainland Spain. The trip will be documented on our blog, then we’ll have to think of another dream trip after that!
10. When we’re not camping we’re …
… getting lost, taking photos, baking awesome cakes (Lauren) and winding the cat up!