There are a number of TV shows both in the UK and the US that take old wrecks and transform them back to their former glory and sometimes make them even better.  Campervans haven’t featured very much but when they have there has been some fun and fanciful creations.

Of course the classic VW Transporter is a popular choice and been the main focus of this type of TV show.

Let’s start in the UK with a show called Wheeler Dealers.  In this show Ed China the mechanic and top salesperson and car aficionado Mike Brewer take cars of all ages and sizes and fix them up with the aim of making a tidy profit.  This show is aimed at the DIY restorer and gives good tips and suggestions on how to complete your own restoration.

Two VW buses have appeared on the show: a T25 panel van and a T2 panel van.  The T25 was converted into a budget campervan with new windows, bed and living area, moon disks and colourful wrap.  The T2 was kept more simple with lots of new parts, new tailgate, complete re-spray and engine rebuild including new carburettors and twin port manifolds.   Both examples show what can be achieved with a reasonable budget and lots of hard work in the garage or shed.


Wheeler Dealers campervan conversion


Next on the list and a show with quite a different approach is Overhaulin.  This show is all about surprises, with the vehicles designed and built by renowned custom car builder Chip Foose.  They usually take someones car and pretend it’s stolen whilst carrying out a complete transformation.  Near the end of the show the vehicle is revealed to the owner which usually brings excitement, a few tears and sometimes complete shock!

In a slightly different format for the VW episode (they didn’t steal the vehicle)  they took a 1965 Samba that was a little worse for wear and started the renovation for the owner Hot Dog Fred.  Chip made a number of subtle changes to the bus which might have had VW purists shake their fists at the TV!

Modifications included: 2 extra skylights, relocated indicators, reshaped bumpers, reshaped wheel arches and lots more.  The most controversial is the replacement of the iconic VW badge with simple lettering.  This complete renovation/custom build produced something quite spectacular.


overhaulin vw bus


Next we take a cockney car mechanic Bernie Fineman and top Canadian salesmen Mario Pacione in the channel five programme Classic Car Rescue.  In this show Mario buys a wreck for as least as possible and then Bernie and team carry out a full restoration.  After a few weeks many arguments and name calling between the pair they usually come up with some great transformations.  However the 1966 Splitty they bought proved to be quite troublesome.

Soda blasting revealed many problems with the bodywork.  After a lot of effort, brake upgrade, new paint job, new interior and rebuilt engine the job was complete only for one of the mechanics to crash it into the garage requiring more repairs!  The finished bus looked great and the team made a tidy profit on the appraisal.


classic car rescue vw transporter conversion


Finally we look at two buses that were converted to serve up tacos and cocktails for a residential resort in Mexico.  The team at West Coast Customs (WCC) took on this challenge and produced a couple of stunning Volkswagens.  Founded in 1993 by Ryan Friedlinghaus WCC has produced vehicles for celebrities, businesses, the general public and also vehicles that have featured in the movies and TV.

This challenge was to produce a taco and a cocktail bus that would be used for entertaining potential residents of the stunning Maravilla resort.  They took two 1960s split screen transporters and with a lot of hard graft produced fully functioning catering vehicles with some great design features.  To overcome the height restriction they literally raised the roof with these buses allowing the person serving in the vehicle to fully stand.

Professional grade appliances with on-board isolated power and water allow these vehicles to serve up tasty treats all day.  The mood lighting, ambient sound, stunning paintwork and other design features certainly make these some of the most unique custom VWs ever.


 West Coast Customs VW Bus conversion

 west coast customs vw transporters


Written by Glenn Adama



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