The Simple Things

Last night I received a picture from Emma at The Gift Shed with a message telling me that I might want to go and buy a copy of The Simple Things Magazine :

The Simple Things Magazine Issue 13 with pictures of Splitscreen Campervan noses.

Issue 13 has a feature on camper vans, and the accompanying photo feature contains one or two very familiar looking noses, including our very own Ruby:

The Simple Things Magazine Issue 13 with pictures of Splitscreen Campervan noses.

Original photograph copyright Tim Gainey/Alamy.

Turns out that when Ruby and other vans from the SSVC were lined up at Stanford Hall, they were immortalised on film.

The article gives a potted history of the VW Transporter, prompted by the news that Brazilian bays will soon no longer be produced and has some nice photos to accompany.

It does suggest that splitty owners are elitist wankers who look down on drivers of newer VWs (this maybe happens a bit, but I will wave to *anyone* in the van, and don’t think we’re better than anyone else just because we have a split, but I personally would rather have a split than any other van, whereas I know people who feel the same way about bays) and that we all sneer at T25s (nope, love me a good Wedge) and Brazilian bays (again, no sneering, but not my cup of tea). But it also explains about Westies and Sambas for those who might not know (which included me 6 months ago!) and that love you end up developing for a large brick-shaped vehicle that uses up all your money.

Yes, we talk to our van. I say goodnight when we’ve put her cover on her. We pat her dashboard when she starts first time, or manages to get up a hill, like a clever puppy, and she will never, ever fail to make me smile, even when we’re jacking her up for the 3rd time in two days to hit her starter motor with a lump hammer. Everyone deserves something that makes them feel like that, and it doesn’t matter if it’s a barndoor, hi-top, samba, bay, wedge, T4 or T5, shiny show winner with lots of windows and chrome or a ratty panel van. Your van will always be the best, because it’s yours.

The Simple Things  issue 13 is available in supermarkets and WHSmith now. Unless you live in East Lancashire, where I would abandon all hope of finding a copy in Asda. Although somehow I walked out with this month’s VW Camper and Bus instead, which is no bad thing.

All opinions are my own. I have not been paid to write about The Simple Things, although if they wanted to give us a copy of that picture of Ruby’s nose for saying nice things, I wouldn’t complain.

First time reader?

Hello to anyone who might have just recently come across the blog, perhaps because they’ve just been given a wedding thank you with the web address on:

Photograph of a wedding invitation with wedding photographs and pictures of a red and yellow splitscreen campervan

So now you can see what we’re up to! Leave us a comment and say hello!

Wedding photos by the amazing and wonderful Susie Forster. Van photos by me, thank you cards from Vistaprint.  As always, all opinions are my own, and I haven’t been paid for any of them.

Deva Dubs and Rods

We took a day trip to Shrewsbury in the car to look at some dubs. The weather was scorching, and it was a bit expensive for a day ticket given the traders who were there, in my opinion, but a good day was had nonetheless! Gutted that we missed out on Rocky Horror themed partying the night before though.

Lots of lovely Beetles to look at:

Yes, yes you are.

And some that really displayed their owner’s tastes:

The MK. 1 Golf Owners Club had some cars that were very much to Rooobarb’s taste:

As well as some more modern VWs:

And of course a collection of air-cooled vans:




And some special guests made a flying visit!

Yeah!

The Rise and Fall of Ruby Woo

So, after buying Ruby, we asked around on the SSVC forum to see if anyone knew her. After all, there are a finite amount of splitties in the world, so it stood to reason that someone on the forum might have owned her previously. Also, she came with an SSVC sticker in the windscreen, so we knew her previous owners had been members.

We soon had a message from Glenn, who bought her in 1994:

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He told us: “I bought the van in 94 from Spencer Ballis, it had suffered from a 70’s camper conversion complete with devon pop top and long bay window style windows, so that lot was first on the list to go, Spencer kindly had the gear box with the reduction boxes re-built before I bought it, I bolted up a Kadron equipped 1641, lowered it on polished Porsche Fuchs and tooled around it it for the next few years.”

Here’s another picture of her at Run to the Sun in 1997:

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And more photos with friends’ buses from around 1986-87:

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This picture shows the reason for Ruby’s previous name – The Mambo Bus!

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Ruby with pop top, and the owners of the bus behind her also came and said hello in our thread.

As well as asking on the forum, I also wrote a letter to Marc, who restored the bus and sold her to Pat who we bought her from. We were made up to get a reply from Marc and Nikki, who sent us some brilliant photos of her restoration.

Before:

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She was in need of some TLC. Well, welding actually. Lots of welding.

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All stripped down and ready for rubbing:

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Rusty parts cut away:

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New parts welded into place:

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In primer:

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Being resprayed:

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Gearbox:

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Steering rack and bits:

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Engine:

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So, wow! In some ways she has changed so much, but in other ways, she is recognisable straight away as the same bus. We’d love to see photographs of her in her earlier days. We’ve contacted the DVLA to see what other information we can find about her. We know from her M Plate that she was due to roll off the factory line on 14th February 1967, was light gray and was destined for Ramsgate. She was first registered in the UK in March 1967. I wonder what she did before she became a camper?

Do you have a bus with an interesting past?

Are you one of Ruby’s former owners?

Let us know in the comments!

Shining Star

Unfortunately, because of the aforementioned starter motor issues, we didn’t get to shine Ruby up the way we’d hoped. However, when we got back from Stanford Hall on the Bank Holiday Monday, we had a few hours before she needed to be back in the garage, during which Rooobarb got handy with a range of Autoglym products and some muscle.

Rooobarb’s guide to making a shiny:

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First of all, jetwash the van to get all the dust and road dirt off.

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Whilst still at the jetwash, use hot shampoo and then rinse again with clean water.

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Then use Autoglym Bodywork Shampoo Conditioner with some kind of microfibre wash pad to rub each panel down and remove any stubborn dirt.

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Then, using clean water and a clean pad, rinse the shampoo off.

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Once you’ve done that, use a Meguiars Microfibre Drying Towel to dry the van off.

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Then, the fun begins.

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Apply a coat of Autoglym Resin Polish, following the instructions on the back of the bottle carefully; start with small circles and finish with longer straight lines to prevent swirl marks. Leave to dry and then buff off with a microfibre cloth. Do this twice.

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Now, using Autoglym Extra Gloss Protection and a microfibre applicator pad, apply the sealant to each panel and allow to dry (which takes about 30 minutes, weather dependent). Buff off, using another clean cloth.

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Next – to the windows! Apply Autoglym Fast Glass with a microfibre cloth or kitchen towel, allow to dry for a few moments and take off with a clean cloth. Do this both inside and out. If you and your camper buddy do this at the same time, you can also amuse yourselves by pulling faces through the windows, and spot bits that the other person has missed. Don’t forget to do your mirrors too.

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There are many products out there that are designed for cleaning car interiors. Custard is a big fan of Pledge Wipes as you don’t have to wash a duster out afterwards, and they smell very nice. Ruby smells lovely inside whenever you get in her, thanks to Custard’s overzealous wiping of every flat surface.

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For upholstery, we both recommend Autoglym Interior Shampoo, applied with a nail brush, then wiped away with another microfibre cloth. Ruby’s vinyl came up a lovely bright cream after a bit of attention with a nailbrush, and the cloths came away filthy as it brought out years of camping grime.

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A neighbour came out and offered to treat our tyres, and discussed the best way to renovate Ruby’s tired alloys. Watch this space.

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Finally, climb in, go a for a cruise and enjoy all the admiring glances!

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(Warning, your shiny van may now attract people who want to kiss it, as it is so gorgeous.)

Retailers have apparently reported a marked increase in the amount of car detailing products sold over the past two years, with Halfords noting a 70% increase the amount of specialised cleaning products they sell. Some of this is put down to people keeping their cars for longer, so wanting to keep them looking good, as well as wider availability of specialist products online.

This clip from You and Yours, originally broadcast on Radio 4 on 20th May 2013, explores the world of car detailing and meets some of the people who love to keep their cars looking like they’re about to enter a Show and Shine.

How do you get your van looking shiny? Let us know in the comments!

All opinions are my own. I was not paid for any mentions of products. I just really like Autoglym, Meguiars and Pledge Wipes. Clean freak.

Stanford Hall 2013

We arrived at the Hall, parked up with the SSVC display and then went for a good look around:

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Starter motors – seen enough of them this weekend!

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We were blessed with sunshine, and after a wander, went back to the bus for a cheese and ham sandwich (so good!) and a pint of cider:

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We made a few purchases, including an awning to replace the ill-fated gazebo, a purple bay magnet for a friend, a new shiny VW badge keyring and an ammo box and stickers:

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Which has become the new storage container for our food in the van. This weekend was somewhat of an experiment – finding out what worked for us in terms of storage and what we needed to take with us. The first night was a real revelation for us – the van was absolutely packed with stuff and we had nowhere to put it. If we’d had an awning, I think things would have been much easier. Also, the awning would have hopefully been easier to put up, and more resilient than the gazebo. We also decided that modular storage would work better for us than random carrier bags full of food and clothes. Hence the suitcases, the cooler and the ammo box. It looks neater and it’s easier to pack things in the van with less gaps.

We were also foiled by the weather – I packed for cold – jumpers and DMs, and ended up in a vest top and flip flops – with sunburn. So I think next time I would pack for all eventualities, but not so much. Did I need three jumpers? Probably not. Did I need suncream? YES.

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Since Stanford, our awning has arrived, which will make storage and cooking much easier. The rain and wind on Friday night and Saturday morning meant that we didn’t cook – as we don’t want to cook inside the van and make it greasy and smelly. This meant that we were both very hungry and grumpy! Also, getting changed inside the van was possible, but did require some acts of contortion, and taking it in turns.

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New awning!

The awning seems massive – but hopefully when in a field rather than a school hall, perhaps not so much. Since Stanford, Ruby has also had her rightful start motor refitted, and new window seals from Custom and Commercial, which will with any luck mean that the rain stays outside where it belongs!

Alas, our campervantures over the next few weeks will be sadly limited – Rooobarb has just had his cruciate ligament reconstructed – so no driving or camping for him for a while. Hopefully though, the sunshine will manage to overcome the inclement weather (I got hailstoned on during the school summer term charity jog for goodness sake!) and this summer will be one of sunshine, good tunes, sunny evenings, cooking outdoors and, of course, cider.

Stanford Hall Convoy 2013

After a good night’s sleep, we were woken by SSVC display coordinator Rikki James and his loud hailer, calling out registration numbers and admonishing the occupants of the vans for not getting up!

We were soon up, dressed and ready to join in the convoy:

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Marvin

Marvin

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The convoy was simply amazing to be a part of. Here are two videos which, in my opinion, sum up the experience perfectly:

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The thrum in my chest when everyone around us started their engines – priceless.

Victoria Farm 2013

One of the main dates in any split screen van owner’s calendar has to be Victoria Farm. Vicky Farm hosts the AGM of the Split Screen Van Club, where hundreds of members get together to camp, eat, drink, be merry and admire each other’s vans over the May Day bank holiday weekend.

One of the highlights of the weekend has to be the convoy to Stanford Hall VW Show on Sunday morning, where splitty owners line up and drive a few miles down the road to take part in the club display.

Vicky Farm was our first weekend away in the van. It nearly didn’t happen for us, as when we arranged to pick up Ruby from storage, we found out that she wouldn’t start. The guy storing her offered to charge her battery, but then had his power cut off due to work on the local substation! After some tinkering, panicked phone calls to our mechanic, precise hitting of things with hammers and a visit from the RAC, it turned out that Ruby’s starter motor was borked, so after getting her started, the RAC man waved Rooobarb on his way with a cheery “Don’t stall – you won’t get started again!” as he headed off to Accrington Beetles and Campers where Dave examined the offending starter motor, diagnosed it as buggered, and fitted one on loan whilst he had ours reconditioned – what a star!

Following that, Rooobarb then picked me up from work – having not had a chance to wash the van or even grab a bite of lunch, and we quickly loaded the van and set off on our way.

The view might not be great, but we have the best seats in the house

The view might not be great, but we have the best seats in the house

As we approached Vicky Farm, we were joined by some fellow splitties on the motorway (apologies for poor quality pics – bit of camera shake from looking out the back window of the van):

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And had a very small convoy, until we had to pull off to refuel all three of us (Ruby with unleaded, us with coffee!) but caught up with them at Vicky Farm later:

We caught up with them later

We arrived at the campsite, chose a place to call home for the next couple of days, tried and failed to put up our gazebo to cook in, decided we had far too much stuff in the van, stacked it all in the cab, put the bed up and then went for an explore. Please note: never let the person who has decided to start drinking be the only one to wear a head torch, as you will be trying to see where you are going, and the torch beam will be swinging wildly up to the sky as Custard imbibes her first cider of the evening 😉

The next morning we woke up to this lovely view from Ruby’s back window:

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And had another wrestle with the gazebo, in between downpours of rain. It turned out all the poles were mislabeled, so after a bit of swapping, we got it up – but the wind then blew the rain through the sides, making the chairs inside a little soggy. I decide to remedy this by drinking more cider, and sitting in my chair, trying to enjoy the sunshine. We then realised that we needed more fuel before the convoy on Sunday, and to pick up a lighter for the gas stove (we’d not used it for a few years, and forgotten that it didn’t have a piezo lighter) so we went off site for a “splash and dash” and came back on to find… a collapsed gazebo, smashed by the wind. We were very relieved that it had just fallen down where it stood, and hadn’t blown away and hit a van. It was unceremoniously dumped in the bin, and we vowed to buy an awning at Stanford Hall.

Thankfully in the afternoon, the sun came out, so we had a stroll around the site, meeting the other vans, before heading up to the AGM itself to see who had won awards for their vans.

Ruby in the sunshine

Ruby in the sunshine

Bradley Badger, and a Barndoor we convoyed with on our way to Stoke the other week.

Bradley Badger, and a Barndoor we convoyed with on our way to Stoke the other week.

Gorgeous van - I'd follow you anywhere!

Gorgeous van – I’d follow you anywhere!

Loved this van, it had a great packing case interior too.

Loved this van, it had a great packing case interior too.

Pop top and sunshine

Pop top and sunshine

Airstream and a twin cab. Heaven.

Airstream and a twin cab. Heaven.

Bleedingmoody's bus. Love.

Bleedingmoody’s bus. Love.

A very worthy winner.

A very worthy winner.

Headlight detailing.

Headlight detailing.

Eddie's single cab.

Eddie’s single cab.

Line up of champions.

Line up of champions.

Smiley Trekker.

Smiley Trekker.

Beetle bums.

Beetle bums.

High top. Yum.

High top. Yum.

After the day’s adventures, we enjoyed the sunset, then had an early night ready for the convoy:

Sunset and smiles.

Sunset and smiles.

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Night night!

A run to the coast

The promised gorgeous weather held, so after the liberal application of Autoglym Interior Shampoo to the seats, we headed off to Blackpool for a drive.

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The trip started with a bit of excitement, as we realised that the key we had left with the garage owner who stores her is the only one that opens the petrol cap. So we had to take a trip back to swap keys. Ruby has many keys, all opening a different door. Whilst stopped at traffic lights in Preston, a guy took Ruby’s photo with a big grin – could she be a Instagram celebrity?

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We started at North Shore and drove down the front. Even off-season, Blackpool was fairly busy with people enjoying the sunshine, and lots of people, particularly children, giving Ruby a big smile and wave. We got lots of smiles and waves, particularly from other VW drivers. We saw a T25 on the front and a couple of T5s in Lytham. On the way home we saw a gorgeous beige Beetle near Lostock Hall, but no other splittys today.

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We parked up in Lytham to enjoy the late afternoon sunshine and take a few photos whilst the light was nice. Cowardy Custard here also took the opportunity to drive Ruby in a very gentle circle of the car park, around an RAC man with a wry grin on his face, who probably  could imagine the conversation going on in Ruby’s cab: “Wow – this steering is something else, isn’t it?!”

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Unfortunately, due to my age, and a hefty insurance claim after vandalism and airbag theft from my Fiat 500 a couple of years ago, I cannot get cover on classic car insurance. Yet. Which means that it is up to Rooobarb to do all the driving, and I get to be in charge of music, refreshments and photography. However, I am going to take the opportunities to drive on empty car parks and campsites when I can, so that when the insurers consider me a risk worth taking, I can hop behind the wheel with a little confidence.

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We finished the trip with another brief stop near Fairhaven Lake to get some photos of Ruby wistfully looking out to sea. Rooobarb reminisced that he has photographs from the same car park of him and a friend kneeling in front of Barney the 1976 Beetle many years ago. He was happy to stay inside the van on this occasion.

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Then, it was back home to load up the last of the camping gear that has been sitting in our dining room all week, a quick trip to the jetwash to blast off the road grime, and then we snuggled Ruby back safe in her garage, to rest for our next adventures.

Happy days!