A VW campervan that has seen three decades of action is usually in one of two states: a rust bucket with a clattering engine that spontaneously combusts over 40mph, or a lovingly restored money pit whose upkeep has rendered its proud owners bankrupt.
Thanks to the Type 2’s legendary status I have – like everyone who ever picked up a surfboard – longed to have one of my own. But I know how impractical they are.
And this is where Danbury comes in. They used to convert the model in the 1970’s when it was made in Germany, and now they’re doing the same to the ones that are still made in Brazil. Nowadays the old Beetle-style air-cooled engine is gone and modern engines are installed in the still-famous iconic bodywork. So Danbury have a new old-look VW Camper that hopefully won’t break down whenever you venture down the M4. And as the water-cooled VW Polo 1.4 engine works on both biofuel and unleaded petrol, you won’t compromise your eco-credentials.
When the opportunity to test-drive one came along I grabbed my board and headed to the Bristol factory. The sight that greeted me didn’t disappoint. A gleaming turquoise beauty, she was my ticket to ultimate kudos on the Devon coast.
The only problem was working out how to drive her. More like guiding a boat, the giant steering wheel is heavy (no power-assist here) and responds with only vague approximation of what you ask it to do.
The other slight hitch was that after several hours of paddling in the water my jellied arms were not up to manoeuvring it out of a parking space. On one occasion the thought of my 10-point-turn departure was so overwhelming that I decided to pick up a coffee and wait for the other cars to leave.
And that is the answer to enjoying this van: patience. There’s no point attempting to rush anywhere in it – part of the attraction is that it forces you to slow down and enjoy the countryside to the soundtrack of rattling pots and pans.
But buying into the Danbury dream doesn’t come cheap. Each one is a bespoke conversion with modern kitchen fittings and back seat bed as standard. There are more than 1,000 colours to choose from and optional extras including a drop-down flat-screen TV, an iPod dock and even chrome “eyelids” for your headlamps.
Sales are up 250 per cent on this time last year and Danbury can’t import them fast enough. But with little change from £22,000 for even the most basic model, it will be quite a while before I can join the queue.