Martin Gurdon

Why the camper van craze is here to stay

  • From Spectator Life
Image: iStock

Britain’s staycation charge has seen thousands of people buying campervans for the first time, not least the classic VWs beloved of hippies, surfers and generations of families whose definition of a good day out is a Thermos flask of tea.

These clattery, engine-in-the-back vehicles already had cult status, but it seems the pandemic has supercharged their appeal, with demand for VW campers soaring both before and after lockdown. But what’s it like living with a box on wheels originally conceived seventy plus years ago?

Fun, according Midlands-based Graham ‘Dougie’ Douglas, who owns two 1966 and ’67 vans, the latter, a retired Austrian police minibus, bought on a whim in 2006 when his wife and family were out and he had nothing but eBay for company.

She wasn’t enthusiastic, but if we lost everything, my wife would want it to be the last thing to go,’ said Dougie, who reckons one of his van’s great virtues is that it slows everything down.

‘You don’t really do more than 50-60mph. People rush past on the motorway, and you think: “what’s the hurry?”’

A practical sort, Dougie kitted his out as a camper, but recently ripped out all the cupboards (‘It took an hour to load and I kept losing stuff’). Now there’s just a foldaway ‘rock ‘n roll’ bed (‘it’s bigger than the one in our house’) and 2ft x 3ft plastic storage boxes for cooking utensils and clothes – a world away from the showers and TVs found in some modern vehicles, but Dougie appreciates the simplicity.

‘It’s very basic, the way camping was when I was a kid, but you can be away in twenty minutes.’

Kent-based Len and Christina Kay bought their 1979 Danbury VW camper about a decade ago. Although it’s been mechanically reliable, one of the door windows fell in the first time he drove it, and after four years of patching, it required some serious work. Now

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