Welcome to wheels, Damian — you don’t see too many of these camper vans around here! Tell us all about your rare Volkswagen…
Thank you for featuring me in the magazine!
I have always been interested in VW’s and campers especially and I thought it would be a nice change from the weekend brunch scene to get one of these and to start exploring the UAE on the weekends.
After searching for about six months, I found this T4 in Germany. I actually wanted a T3 but this one had low mileage, factory AC, and a full service history and so it seemed like the perfect fit.
I had a specialist complete the purchase and shipped to me via Belgium — but the awning, spare wheel, gas hob, sink and part of the cabinets were stolen and the insurance didn’t cover these items. I learned a harsh lesson, but I found factory original replacement parts through specialists in Europe.
We’re sorry to hear that — but glad you were able to find original parts. How often do you take it camping and what are your most memorable trips?
We try to go every weekend in the cooler months and extend this period by finding camping spots in the mountains in RAK or Oman.
We did a three night trip to Oman over New Year it was amazing, the people were so friendly and there were some great mountain roads there too. We stopped to pick up an old Omani guy in the middle of nowhere; he got in, we drove him about 5km along a dirt road and he got out happy and smiling!
That was good of you. Oman is really nice — and yes, the people are too. Your T4 looks like a lot of fun to drive; how often do you drive it and where do you enjoy driving it the most?
It’s great to drive and with a high seating position it offers a great view of the open road ahead. In fact it always feels like you’re on holiday in this!
I try to drive it once a week and even through the height of summer. I take it on weekend trips for camping as much as the weather allows and my family and I enjoy heading to places with no particular camp spot in mind just to see where we end up sleeping that night and seeing what we find on our adventures!
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That’s very exciting! Tell us about the bulletproof drivetrain...
It has a 2.5-litre five-cylinder petrol engine and apparently the VW dealers used to complain that they didn’t get much work for the service and maintenance department as it was such a reliable motor! It is mated to a five-speed manual and has a rear diff lock on it. I can honestly say that it has never let us down once.
Although it is a rare model, most parts are generally readily available in Europe and I have been using the VW dealership for servicing. I recently had all the brake pads, discs and back plates replaced. We have been meaning to install a solar panel on it; it has a second leisure battery that powers the fridge, water pump for the sink and lighting while camping without draining the main battery.
That’s a good idea. How proud do you feel to own this van?
It has been great in terms of bringing our family closer together to spend quality time with each other in the great outdoors of the UAE. My six year old son Rowan is always telling people he has a camper van and drawing pictures of the trips he has been on, this makes me proud to think we are giving him memories that he will have all his life.
His birthday is in June and so it fell during Ramadan this year and we decided on a beach party. We set up the van, got his favourite PitFire pizza and birthday cake and set up a table behind a wind break screen so all the kids could eat out of sight of those fasting — but the screen fell to expose all these kids chomping through cakes and pizza just as a few Emiratis passed slowly checking out the van! They smiled and appreciated the fact this was a kids birthday — no offense was meant or taken. In fact, ever since we arrived in the UAE, everyone has been so welcoming.
What sort of reaction does it get?
Occasionally someone will recognise it but generally I don’t think most people in the UAE are familiar with VW campers.
People are always surprised to see how quickly it converts to accommodate two adults in the roof and two adults on the rear bed — but my family and friends are never surprised by the news of me buying another camper or car because I have had quite a few. In fact, I would consider selling my T4 as I currently also own a 1953 Porsche 356 which I haven’t driven yet (it’s an incomplete project) a 1965 Split Screen camper (which I bought in 1993, although it’s not been on the road for the last 15 years), a 1953 Beetle, 1968 Beetle, 1987 T3 Syncro Westfalia and a 2002 T4 California Westfalia — but that is nothing compared to my brother; he changes cars like most people change shirts!
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