Campers, Campers, Campers…cool as they may be, if they’re your bread and butter and you deal with countless pastel-coloured variations on the theme on a daily basis, sometimes you just need to get out there and try something a little different.
And that’s exactly what the highly-skilled team at Danbury MotorCaravans has done with this vehicle – an exercise in just what can be achieved with a little imagination and a touch of fun. Project 1 was assembled in 2011 as a kind of demonstrator-cum-concept vehicle for the business. The guys decided it was time to put together a more ‘hardcore’ street Bus… the kind of thing that would most certainly stand out in a crowd.
Starting with a brand new Brazilian Bay window Kombi, the guys first set about sorting the bodywork. The exterior is actually pretty much factory spec, with a couple of minor exceptions, namely the engine lid, which has had the number plate holes filled in and smoothed over, the rear bumper, which was dropped and notched to fit around the custom exhaust tail pipe and a rear view camera, which was fitted just above the tailgate.
Yes, it may have been brand new, but the decision was made to repaint the entire Bus to achieve a ‘better than new’ finish. The black and white hues chosen are both from the current VW range, whilst the one-off orange and black vinyl graphics were designed in-house, and certainly draw the eye to this wild ride.
What followed was a good deal of colour-coding and detailing. The front radiator grille, upper grille and headlight rims were all painted white, while the handles and bumpers received a coat of gloss black. Only the mirrors were painted in the contrasting orange colour (which was matched to the interior trim).
Upon reassembly, the orange front indicator lenses were replaced with clear items and the stock rear lenses were swapped for some US-spec, red tinted items. The headlights also came in for an upgrade in the shape of some modern HD units, which are a revelation in comparison to the stock Bay-window lights! The only other mods are the reverse-parking sensors in the rear bumper and the shark-fin aerial on the rear of the roof.
Next, the front windscreen was replaced with a heated version, whilst the rear-and side-windows were professionally tinted with’ limo black’ film.
Of course, any self-respecting street-custom worth its salt wouldn’t be seen dead wearing steel rims, hubcaps and commercial tyres, hence a set of 17-inch Fuchs-style rims were promptly ordered up. However, the silver finish simply didn’t suit the modern styling of this street Bus, so the rims were sent off to be powdercoated in gloss black, then finished with an orange stripe on the outer rim, fitted with extra-load, low-profile tyres, the styling was right but the ride-height was way off! The front end has been fitted with a Danbury-built 3-inch narrowed beam and set of dropped spindles, which really tuck those big wheels in nicely beneath the arches. The rear end has been dropped thanks to a pair of stepped springplates, while a full set of uprated Spax shock absorbers take care of the damping duties.
By now you will probably have noticed the right-hand drive conversion (a popular option on these Brazilian-imported vans), but we should also mention the rack and pinion steering conversion, complete with Danbury’s own speed-sensitive, power steering system. Coupled with the servo-assisted brake system and the punchy, fuel-injected 1.4-litre ‘Total Flex’ motor, this Bus is a true pleasure to drive. It’s a world away from the old, air-cooled Bay-window driving experience, and the 80bhp, water-cooled motor is surprisingly nippy both around town and out on the motorway. Oh, and that throaty, centre-exit exhaust was built in-house and retains the factory catalytic converter and lambda probe… very cool!
With the exterior looking the part, the ride height dropped and the rolling stock perfected, it was time to tackle the interior. And, we have to say, this is where this one-off project really shines.
Starting at the front, the most striking modification is the colour-coded dashboard. With the heater vents, ashtray and factory switches deleted and smoothed over, the dashboard, glovebox lid and speedo-panel were painted white. Note also the ‘double-din’ Kenwood multi-media unit mounted in the centre of the dash. This is far more than just a ‘fancy’ audio unit – we’re talking about DVD output, SatNav, Bluetooth, wireless iPod connectivity… oh, and when reverse gear is selected it automatically switches to ‘rear-view’ camera model. Coupled to an amplifier and a full range of Kenwood speakers (including a subwoofer), this really is an impressive sound system and about as high-tech as they come.
Other changes in the cab include blue illumination throughout, a ‘start’ button mounted where the ashtray once lived, a Momo steering wheel and a pool-ball shift knob. There’s also a custom-made cowl beneath the steering column (covering the power steering mechanism) and a matching, leather-clad centre console, which now houses the aluminium switches, which control all the interior and exterior electrics. Note also the carbon fibre kick panels and door cards with stainless fixings and orange ‘webbing’ pull handles.
Black carpets are fitted throughout, whilst the headliner and sunvisors have been flocked in black for a suede-esque appearance. And, of course, there are those huge race-style seats, which have been trimmed in orange leather with the fibreglass backs painted white. They are mounted on swivel seat bases and feature Williams 3-point harnesses to hold you firmly in place.
Moving to the rear, you instantly realise that this is what this project is all about! The flock headliner continues all the way to the rear, but there are twin electric sunroofs fitted to add a little ambient light. And when the sun goes down, there are a number of interior lighting options to choose from. As well as a full range of individual LED spotlights spread around the interior, there’s also a good spread of neon-like striplights, which provide a funky glow. Of course, you can mix and match the lighting to suit your mood!
But it’s the mid-mounted pair of seats that immediately grab your attention. These are the same as the front seats, yet are mounted on swivelling T5 seat bases, which allows all four seats to face rearwards. There’s a good reason for this, in as much as that’s where the huge, 32-inch Sony Bravia LCD screen is mounted! Powered by the Kenwood head unit, the screen is mounted to a custom frame powered by an actuator, which lifts and swivels at the push of a button. Once up, it dominates the rear of the vehicle and makes for an intense cinema-style viewing experience, with full surround sound, of course!
But there’s more. Yes, the rear cushions lay flat to provide a full, 6-foot double bed, but there’s also a custom-built utility unit, which features some nifty tricks. First of all, the front panels are removable and double as table tops for the rear passengers. And with the panels removed, you have access to a twin burner stove/grill unit and, on the other side of the van, a sink with powered running water. In-between is a large fridge while a 240-volt inverter powers a pop-up electrical socket pole. The unit also doubles as storage space, and also contains the water tank and a huge leisure battery.
As you can see, this is one serious party Bus, yet doubles as an overnight Camper if you wish. It’s just the sort of thing any festival-goer would die for! And, having proved that Danbury can turn out a show-class custom ride, the Bus has served its purpose and is therefore currently for sale. Give Danbury a call if you’re interested… we just can’t wait to see what they build next!