Vintage camping: 1964 Kombi

By: Rebecca Williamson

Rebecca Williamson meets an Ashburton couple whose ambition to do up a Kombi van has resulted in a head turning and a multiple award-winning vehicle

Vintage _Kombi _1

There are two things in life that Kiwis are well-known for – an undeniable devotion to the open road, and a penchant for DIY.

So when an opportunity arose to integrate these two traits by way of a classic Volkswagen Kombi do-up, it was a dream come true for Ashburton couple Dean Farr and Lisa Scammell.

The project was not without its challenges. When they first laid eyes on the 1964 van it was adorned with hippie-style green and purple flames but they saw its potential from the start. Today their award-winning, eye-catching black and white vehicle is a testament to all their hard work.

"We bought it in Sydney in 2007," explains Dean. "We were living on the Sunshine Coast at the time and found it on eBay. So we went down and had a look at it. It was only a shell – it had nothing in the interior apart from the seats chucked in the back of it."

With bare bones, the Type 2 split-screen van needed a lot of care and attention. Yes, it would require many hours of time – and money – spent on it, but it also provided a blank canvas for Dean and Lisa to work with.
Deciding what to tackle first was one of the trickiest parts of what was to be a mammoth do-up.

The original plan was to paint the exterior green and white, but when the pair couldn't agree on a suitable shade of green, Lisa suggested monochrome, a clean combination that's stylish, both contemporary and traditional, and less likely to date.

"I thought, why don't we just go black and white on the outside, and have a colour on the inside? I don't think we'll ever get sick of black and white," says Lisa.

"With the interior, continuing the black and white could have made it a bit too plain. I've always liked red and thought the combination would work quite well. Kombis aren't the warmest of vehicles and the red gives it a bit of warmth." 

Vintage _Kombi _2Dean and Lisa chose a scarlet red vinyl as a cost-effective, easy-to-maintain and long-wearing option for the panels and upholstery, and they added a unique touch by installing a skim-board as a table that sits in front of the back seat.

"We used an off-white piping around the seats and through the panel work to give it a more retro look, rather than just plain red seats and panels. We wanted to keep the look in the era of the Kombi but we still went with what we liked over keeping it strictly traditional like the original," adds Lisa.

A charcoal, hard-wearing marine carpet covers the floor of the van, the walls and ceiling have been sound-proofed with Dynamat lining, and a custom-made awning can be erected over the two side doors.

When it was finally ready for the road, the finished van turned out to be "pretty much spot on" with the Kombi picture Dean (a self-confessed VW enthusiast) ripped out of that magazine all those years ago.

With no bedding or kitchen facilities, the purpose of the five-seatbelt van, complete with a DVD player, was never intended to be a home away from home. Instead, the couple take their three-year-old daughter Matilda on day trips and weekends away, staying in cabins or hotels.

They made the trek to New Plymouth for the NZ Volkswagen Nationals where they won the Best Modified Bus up to 1979 award, an accolade they have received for the last three years.

Dean and Lisa didn't set a budget for the do-up, instead they chipped away at it over three years, with Dean completing most of the work himself during nights and weekends.

So what advice does he have for other ambitious DIYers?

"Buy a van with as little rust as possible – it's pretty expensive to fix. And try to do as much as possible yourself to keep the costs down. The more you can do yourself, the cheaper it will work out."

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