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Firm creates dream VW camper vans

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For many camping enthusiasts the ultimate holidaying experience will always be getting behind the wheel of a WV camper van, and the vehicle's fan base is still increasing today.

The iconic T2 model rolled off German production lines in 1950 to become 'the' must-have option to carry your surfboard around on in the 1960s and 1970s. Because of its popularity during the Swinging Sixties, it became known as the 'Hippie Van'.

Production of the modern T2s ceased in Brazil in December 2013. VW Transporters first originated in 1950 as the Type 1 followed by the T2, T3 (or T25), T4 and T5, the latter of which is still being made. The split-screen version was built until 1967, when it was replaced by the bay window design.

It wasn't long after the T2s hit the road back in 1950 that conversion companies began to spring up. VW Camper Dreams of Wem is one such example. Run by Ron and Sue Candlin, together with their son Steve, the company has been going for about four years, based at Wem Business Park.

Ron had worked for a similar company in Shrewsbury before branching out on his own.

Sue does the upholstery while Steve, one of the couple's three children, soon came on board. And the firm has definitely got the right name, judging by the reaction of clients arriving to pick up their conversions.

Ron said: "We had one woman screaming (she was so excited) and another man, we had to help him into the building because his legs had given way. One bloke took us down the pub and got us drunk and gave us a £100 tip!"

A lot of private clients become friends and regularly pop in for a cup of tea. Then there are the dealers from across the UK and Northern Ireland, who bring their latest investments to Shropshire to be beautifully transformed.

Ron said: "Not only will the vans keep their value but they will make money. A dealer will buy a van for around £6,000, spend £4,000 to £5,000 to have it converted. So it owes him say £10,000 or £11,000, and then they will go and sell it for £18,000 or £19,000.

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Dealers represent 20 per cent of VW Camper Dreams' custom with private customers travelling from as far afield as Glasgow and the Isle of Man. Bristol and Cardiff are big areas for camper van fans.

So we already know how much it's going to cost, but how long does it take and what's involved?

Ron said: "What happens if a private client wants a van is they will ring us up and we ask them what they need from a van and make some suggestions. They buy it and bring it here to convert. It can take two to three weeks for a full conversion."

Ron said that camper van owners are like members of a special club and they like to compete to make their van as unique as possible. "This is why we call ourselves Camper Dreams because our motto is 'If you can dream it, we can make it,'" he said.

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An unconverted van will normally just have a single and double seat at the front and an open compartment at the rear. Windows are put in and the walls get carpet-lined and vinyl flooring installed.

There's a basic layout that needs to be followed.

"You've only got a small van. You can't get a great deal in them," said Ron.

In order to register your vehicle with VOSA you need to have installed a full-length bed, cupboard space, water (that's your sink), two hobs and a fridge. This is to avoid fraud, as some people have written off a van in the past and then tried to claim it was a camper van to get more money back from their insurance company.

Flat screen televisions, spotlighting and heating are also popular options, as well as titanium and wood-grain finishes. Vans also get fitted with electrical systems and solar panelling if required.

The firm doesn't touch the exteriors of the vans, but concentrates on the interior. So just how do you decide what you want your camper van to look like? Checking out VW Dream Camper's website www.vw-camper-dreams.co.uk is a place to start. It features photographs of past jobs -– all different and all stunning.

I dare any real camping fan to view them without drooling in front of their computer screen.

Ron said: "We'll show them (the clients) a load of our photographs and they'll cherry pick the things that they want. Of course VW camper van owners are known for being a little intense over their pride and joy.

"People live it," said Ron.

The firm doesn't just work on VWs, but other vehicles as well. And the most unusual conversion they've ever done? Answer: A World War One German army ambulance in camouflage.

By Sharon Walters

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