17.05.18 – Leeds UK
A head-cooks’ vivid VW passion
There are two kinds of stories I could tell. The one about this beautifully built 1973 VW T2 Camper Van, focussing on the technical aspects of it. Or I could talk about its owner, Lee, his great passion for VW and his point of view on oldtimers. And I must say, that after spending a day in his Van, driving all around Leeds, there is nothing I would rather do than to tell his story!
Lee is the head cook of a hotel in Leeds and is extremely passionate about VW. Although he usually drives his Mk1 Golf GTI Convertible to work he decided to take his Van on a rainy day in April. By chance, I was walking past the hotels’ car park that day and I couldn’t walk back home without leaving a little note on his windshield. A day later he reached out to me, we organized a meeting and planned the shoot! As soon as we met I could feel his spirit: oldtimers are made to be driven, they have to be used and they need to work. There’s no point in leaving them in your garage all the time if their purpose was different! Especially when you own a camper van you shouldn’t forget what it was designed for! In other words, the literal meaning of his „ONE LIFE … LIVE IT“ sticker.
When he was waiting for the ferry in France, a few years ago, sitting in his car, being unable to do anything, he spotted a T2 VW Van out front. He told me how he was looking at the owners making themselves some tee and food as they had to wait in line. That’s when he thought that he had to get one himself!
Eventually he found a T2 shell from a 1973 Van without engine, steering wheel or any interior. And that’s when Lee started building it. From doing the engine to the exterior paint and having his girlfriend helping him to stitch the interior sofas. With the help of his family he did it all! Even his daughter was helping by drawing pictures of it at school and eventually his son by taking his girlfriend to prom with it.
What showed best Lee’s way of handling a classic is what happened this day during our shoot. We wanted to drive into this car park to take some photos of the Van in a more urban surrounding. As we drove in we weren’t quite sure if the van was going to fit with its’ extra racks on the roof. Eventually it didn’t fit and we were stuck in the garage after scratching the racks along the roof … Since it was only a matter of a few centimeters Lee’s first idea was to let some air out of the tires.
Unfortunately this didn’t help and we had to get the right tools to take the entire rack off. Within just a few minutes we made it back out of the car park and mounted it back on the van’s roof. Because Lee built the entire van himself he knows exactly how to take it back apart and he easily finds solutions for these kinds of problems.
Concerning the interior Lee told me that he changed it 3 times in total. Currently it’s designed to fit 3 people. During the day they can sit in the front row and at night the back and front row are both being changed into beds. Moreover the Pepsi-Cola bottle opener is an original piece that he found in the van when he bought it. This is, together with the Wolfsburg edition holders for opening the windows one of the details which combine both an original Van from the 70s and a few new upgrades. On top of having a mileage of only 53k another benefit of building instead of buying is that you can do your own little modifications to it!
For example the rear headlights are darker than the original ones. And the front headlights are original Golf lights.
Once we were done shooting in town we decided to drive outside and get some more nature related shots. However, before this article is over I would like to say a few more things about the Van itself. As we were driving around in the van and shooting all day I had the great opportunity to talk to Lee. And he told me how once a year he takes his T2 out for camping with two of his friends and their T1 and T2. I can perfectly picture the caravan of three old VW camper vans driving through the UK. Lee also told me about his van being the „Party Van“ with its big speakers, the mini bar and a massive tent that houses up to 8 people overnight. So yes, of course it’s being used for living on the road. And
Lee is not afraid of any scratches either. Because that’s what happens when you use objects, but this doesn’t mean that you can’t fix it! And that’s what this is really all about, if you break something then repair it again!
Once again I would like to thank Lee for taking me around Leeds all day and letting me shoot his van. It was an absolute pleasure to spend the day with you and talk VW, classics and what life is really about. And thanks for being that cool about the racks on the roof! I really hope to see you soon!