[singlepic id=104 w=250 float=left] When our friends & colleagues heard that we were starting a surf campervan rental company in New Zealand they instantly assumed we’d have Volkswagens. ‘Volkswagen van’ is almost synonymous with ‘Campervan’ yet VW have never made a campervan themselves.* They just make vans & other people turn them into campers. So when we said, ‘No, we’re getting Toyotas’, they were surprised. Here’s my explanation (sorry, it’s quite long).
My first car was a Volkswagen Beetle. An original air-cooled VW: Engine at the back; not one of these new-fangled Golfs in drag. Even if it hadn’t have been a ‘Wizard Roadster’ conversion it would have been awesome but because it was it was the most awesome thing (to a 17 year old) in the world. Awesome? Yes. Reliable? No. OK, it was 20 years old & driven by a teenager but it was still about as trustworthy as weasel trained in investment banking.
[singlepic id=107 w=250 float=left] [singlepic id=106 w=250 float=right]
My first Toyota was an old, neglected, nearly dead MK1 MR2. I got it cheap (£300 cheap) because it was rusty & had been unfortunate enough to be in a shed when the shed fell over. But it still worked & it worked well. Its eager engine & pin-sharp handling encouraged me to drive like a teenager again, the engine rarely below 3000 RPM & the tyres usually complaining. Despite this it was reliable. True, it was only 17 years old but those were 17 hard years*. My second Toyota was another MK1 MR2, nearly 20 years old, boy-racered up with stiff suspension, racing steering wheel & a bit of on-track history. It cost twice as much as the first – yes £600! – & I kept it for several years. In this time it was worked hard. It went hard around the Nurburgring’s Nordshleiffe (16 laps & one trip over the kerbs in a weekend,) & survived. After getting it a tow hitch & then starting a scrapyard I regularly used it to tow other MR2s around the country.
Despite all of this it never once missed a beat, never used oil or water, never let me down. It finally died when a friend crashed it on track at a drifting event. I’d still have it now but for that.
[singlepic id=102 w=250 float=left]
Back to VWs.. I bought a T25 (aka T3 aka ‘Brick’) Westfalia as my first campervan. My old friends from my early Volkswagen days said it was the best one to have. I loved the ‘camper’ side of it but I got sick of the fact that the ‘VW’ side of it meant I had bought a hobby not a vehicle. Oil pressure issues, gearbox issues & finally a cambelt tensioner that stranded me on Christmas Eve just outside Freshwater West (after a surf session that bagged my best ever wave there 🙂 ). I got a ‘short engine’, rebuilt it & sold it. Enough VWs for me!
[singlepic id=103 w=250 float=right]
Next, with my girlfriend on holiday in New Zealand & needing a camper for 4 months. We found a Toyota HiAce that seemed perfect except for its 410,000 kms (that’s 255,000 miles). We take the leap& hope for the best. It was absolutely perfect! No oil or water leaks, nothing wrong for the 10,000 kms that we owned it.
So when it came time to buy a fleet of vans to rent out it was a no-brainer to choose Toyota over Volkswagen. That’s before taking into account the scarcity of VWs (& therefore parts & mechanics with the right experience) in New Zealand. To Volkswagen enthusiasts & especially those who are (were?!) my friends I’m sorry but that’s just how I feel. Of course, if there’s enough customer demand we may have to get VWs, the customer is after all always right. Paying for a travelling mechanic in your van may erode your holiday budget though!
*Yes, they do sort of now but I believe it’s still built by Westfalia.
*I sold it to a friend who got plenty of good use out of it before (I think) turning it into a track-car.