Buying a van

On Buying a VW Camper Van

by Nick

London2Sydney are proud to announce the arrival of the latest addition to their team—a 1977 VW Camper. The purple two litre Type 2 signed (with a wheel mark) on the dotted line yesterday and, at the ripe old age of 26, becomes the oldest member of the expedition. She has already become a firm favourite, gaining the affectionate nickname ‘Squiffy’ due to the ill-fitting headlights which give it a slightly cross-eyed squint!

Squiff's quarter profile

The L2S team have been on the look-out for suitable transport for nearly three months now and, the pressure to obtain a van had been mounting, particularly as we will need time to overhaul the mechanics and alter the interiors to our specifications. This said however, the overall quality and roadworthiness of the vans we take with us is absolutely paramount to the success of the expedition and we are not prepared to jeopardise this by jumping on the first bandwagon that comes along. With a well-defined and carefully-chosen specification always in mind—namely a ’77-’79, 2 litre, air-cooled VW Type 2 camper—the decision to buy ‘Squiffy’ was not taken lightly.

The advert for Squiffy was placed just four days ago (11th June 2003) in Chilcompton, Somerset. As a van which appeared to fit our exact requirements, we decided it was one we just had to see, especially as several others which we had enquired about had already been snapped up. Having been told that the van was due to be viewed at 10am on Saturday 14th by another interested party, we agreed that we had to get there first. Thus on Saturday 14th June, Nick and Andy left Cambridge at 05:15 to arrive in the West Country at around 8am.

Squiffy from the front

Our initial reaction would probably not be described as ‘love at first sight’. Perhaps we were too quick to compare it to the immaculate Devon ‘Hi-Top’ conversion parked next to the one we’d come to see (which was also several thousand pounds out of our budget). Yet the more we examined it, the more we felt that this could be the van for us. Checking a classic VW for faults is Andy’s speciality and he certainly left no stone/bolt unturned as he went over it with a fine-tooth comb, jacking the van up at both ends. The 2 litre air-cooled engine started sweetly with the VW throb that any enthusiast could sense at a range of three miles with a blindfold and ear plugs. Having recently had a new clutch and overhauled gearbox, the transmission was smooth and the brakes were incredibly solid for a van of its age. The sills and arches were rust-free and although most of the rubber seals around the van were beginning to show their age, the body work was in very reasonable condition. Mechanically and structurally sound, it was the interior which troubled us most. Possessing a fairly dilapidated, home-made conversion, the inside will need a significant overhaul during the summer. It is a project which we are already relishing, giving us the chance to design and create a living space which will suit the nature of our expedition.

Squiffy’s purchase was celebrated with Coca Cola at a service station on the A303 near Andover.