Our Sheffield scribe is Transported.
British localities often have words unknown to their neighbours; breadcake, tea cake and bap(1) can be all the same thing – or not depending where one lives. But taken collectively, it is always the bottom line that receives the most emphasis – how much? With travel restrictions now lifted, thoughts turn to holidays; dreams of the coast, sandy shores, alfresco dining and catching a crest with your board should you be imbued with good balance.
By observations around my locality, many people have similar feelings. The VW Transporter numbers twenty six within a short radius. The rust on older models suggests hours by the briny. The majority are newer, shinier, two-tone in colour or actually not even Transporter by name. For Wolfsburg by the Sea (but made in the sunny port of Hanover) have seen the desire to head out further – to California, no less.
All named of that region, add 6.1 (sadly, not the engine size) followed by the entry level Beach, and Beach Camper. Next comes Beach Tour. Now to get wet; leaving the sand behind, we enter either Coast or Ocean.(2) Configurable in as many ways as locations can be found, the next part may require a form of ear protection. For that South Yorkshire lament(3), heard from post office to car dealership cries aloud on seeing the prices. The Beach begins at a not inconsiderable £54,655; the Ocean riding the waves from, £66,500 with change enough for a beach ball, or maybe a towel.
From the archetypal original free-love hero with split screen to the T6 which debuted in 2016, over twelve million Transporters have been made in its now 71-year history. Of course not all these have made the annual coastal pilgrimage as most end up carrying parcels or produce other than sand, ice-cream, screaming kiddies and sun tan lotion.
Based on the previous 2009-15 T5 version, these front engined, front wheel drive vans, sorry, campers are all two litre diesel powered generating 150bhp mated to VW’s seven speed DSG gearbox. The one exception being the range topping Ocean which can he had with 204bhp and four wheel drive should those dunes resemble a stage from the Dakar, as opposed to Dawlish seafront. The WLTP figures offer around 36 to the gallon and just over 200 grams of nasties but all Euro 6 compliant should you wish to believe such officious black and white.
As with many of VW’s own wares, the T6’s are steered electrically whilst sharing car-like control systems. Externally, a new grille, headlamps and wing mirrors differentiate from older models. Colour changes induce a £700 hike. Opt for those two-toned effects involves paying for another holiday itself – £2,880. Latest variants now enjoy beefed up internal cupboards and storage areas from previously rather weedy tambour doors. Beach types require physical effort in order to raise the aluminium roof; difficult when wet, a macerated digit is all that’s necessary for Ocean dwellers.
The raison d’etre of these vehicles being a home from home: one has to drive to the best surf so why not eat and sleep there? Luckily, the Ocean provides both. Sleeping room accommodates four, two (presumably the kids but whoever will only get a standard cover – the comfort cover being an optional extra) on the now drop-converted seats with the parents above in the rarefied loft space. Clever springing with reasonable wriggle room. The canopy also has a removable panel to see the stars, or observe who’s lobbing beer cans over the promenade.
Night-time snacking, (unless pre-ordained or provided by local delivery) could prove tricky. Otherwise the campers come equipped with a kitchen whilst, if not up to three course meal range, at least offers the chance of a bacon sandwich or hot soup after a waxhead session. Whoever then lands on the washing up rota is also catered for. Everything stows away conveniently including the camping chairs and table for those moments you need to get outside, away from the confines. Or a place to drip-dry your wetsuit.
To this land lubber, VW seem most at pains informing us of the ease of keeping the occupants informed with the campers’ digital connections, intelligent graphics and next generation infotainment systems. Should I wish to invest my downtime portraying the antics of those best done by those younger and slimmer on Bondai Beach, the last thing on my mind would be the latest share price, the weather back home or anything social media orientated. And this is where my beef lies with such vehicles.
By all means, should you find these van based homes to your liking and can do them justice, fine, please do carry on. May the waves be forever ready, the sun kiss you gently. This tourist prefers water that flows from taps at temperatures I desire in a prefabricated building containing home comforts like a toaster, large fridge, a bed not moved for months, if not years and better still, a view.
My choice is to stay in and watch the raindrops on the window while folk cascade to their campervans. And this is no age thing – I am to camping what most middle aged humans are to surfboarding – hopeless, always have been. I loathe canvas.
The majority of these vehicles that surround my environs hardly ever seem to move to the shops, never mind Cornwall or the Côte d’Azur or indeed a mountain range, for these vehicles have heating, too. Spending that kind of hard-earned on an irregularly used van purely for a weekend or that precious fortnight away from work, seems financially unrewarding.
You could enjoy many different types of vacation for the same sum. Or get a car with a bigger boot, fill it to the gunwales with books, shoes, whatever the missus needs, then drive to the hotel. Wrap up in hat, coat and gloves, enjoying an ice cream on a weather battered sea front – watching the frozen surfers from afar.
(1) In the end, it’s just bread.
(2) One can extend further to the Grand versions but these appear more like emergency vehicles and these eyes have seen none other than online.
(3) A landlocked county, at least sixty, motorway free miles from any coast.