The VW Transporter T4 and T5 model range is synonymous across the world. Here is a well designed, robust and functional van that most hardened motor critics across the world struggle to criticise.
No wonder then that such models find their way into fleets and small businesses across the planet. It is simple and practical and most of all, can take the pounding of everyday light – and dare we say – heavy usage.
But the VW Transporter T4 and T5 range doesn’t just stop there. In fact there is an increasing “cult” spreading around the globe where auto-stylists just have to get to grips with such vehicles and convert them into a vehicle that turns heads when cruising down the street.
So what is it about these vehicles? Well, in this article we take a trip to visit Vee Dub Transporters based in Leicestershire, UK.
Simon Jones, the owner of this small family run company – is dedicated in the transformation of the common and highly reliable VW Transporter T4 and T5 range – and is responsible for putting art, sophistication, style and grace back onto our roads.
The story starts with me being asked to drive out to a farm in the backwaters of Leicestershire. Seagrave is the place and at first taking in the scenery around me on a cold and frosty winter morning was simply breathtaking. With the rising sun and the dew glistening from the trees, I just knew this was the first cue for what proved to be a mixture of building excitement and romance all rolled into one.
Upon arriving at my desired location I noticed many small units with people going about their early morning business. A long, gravelled road leads down from the main country road just outside of Seagrave and meets various converted barns and block buildings.
Vee Dub Transporters offer Style & Grace in a complete package
Looking back towards this long road I noticed the gleam of a silver vehicle in the distance as the sun danced across its paintwork. The rumble of a stainless steel exhaust got gradually louder and louder as what can only be described as a work of art gently trundled towards me as low profile rubber met grit.
Here it was: A fully converted VW Transporter T5, faultless polished silver paintwork with styling decals, 20 inch alloy wheels with low profile Michelin’s, chromed side steps and polished grill came to a stop. It was a feeling that forced a lump in my throat as you just know here before you was a vehicle anyone could fall in love with. If anything, Megan Fox had arrived in the form of a VW T5.
So what about the man behind Vee Dub Transporters?
Simon Jones is his name. A powerful looking guy, standing six foot and beaming a smile that instantly put me at ease as I shook his hand. Sportingly, Simon wore a cap with his company logo emblazoned across the top and matching this was a smart fleece like top with his company logo stitched expertly on one chest. You know when you first meet someone what sort of character they are and my first impression as a journalist as well as a screenwriter was knowing this man knows what he wants, how to go about getting it and giving that back to his customer.
The T5 being prepared for new window and interior
We walked to his unit. The shutters went up and inside was a white T5 half stripped.
As previously mentioned first impressions count. That can also be said about a work area. The inside of the unit was neatly set out – with everything from a compressor to adhesive agents, wheels and carpets – all within easy reach. To me that meant everything – if I were to send a vehicle away for a change of brake pads I’d expect the garage to be functional without being cluttered with bits of kit on the floor – so judging by Simon’s work area here was a guy who believed in being safe, clean and tidy. The fact the layout was simple and basic yet fully functional proved to me that whoever’s T5 was in for conversion was going to get a superb vehicle back.
Pride is a prerequisite of delivering a successful product
I was eager to ask Simon about this business – those awesome vehicles that come in a basic T4 or T5 and roll out a week later looking the dogs cojones.
“I take pride in my work”, Simon says. ” To me customer satisfaction regarding the end product is what drives me forwards. Just seeing the smile and look on a person’s face when they come to pick up their Transporter means everything”.
Indeed he was spot on as I couldn’t help but notice framed pictures of past conversions and smiles on satisfied customer faces dotted around the whitewashed walls of his work unit. “I could compare their reaction and excitement with sex”, he quips.
You can sense passion in Simon’s words. Here was a man who loved his job. He lives and breathes T4 and T5 conversions. Those desires are plain to see as I was sucked in by the various photographs of past vehicle conversions. Surely any man who loves his job with so much dedication was blessed by the Gods.
So how long has Simon been at the forefront of Vee Dub Transporters?
Well the story starts from an early age when Simon was an avid fan of the 80’s cult TV Show The A-Team. “I watched the A-Team as a youngster and noticed the “BA” Baracus owned GMC van. That vehicle was simply awesome and I knew one day I wanted something like that.”
Now that doesn’t mean to say that any transporter that roles out of Simon’s unit upon completion is anything resembling the famous van in the A-Team, packing four guys with machine guns, rockets and a fit looking female reporter to boot applying lipstick as she pouts her lips and takes notes. But what you do get is a feel for the desire to “stand out from the crowd without overwhelming” aurora as Simon talks about his love for vehicle conversions.
“I’ve been running Vee Dub Transporters for a few years now. But lately work has suddenly boomed as more and more people are purchasing an already proven vehicle in the T4 and T5 as prices drop. People know buying a second hand T4 or T5 is almost like buying it new. Chances are you will get a reliable and clean vehicle that can go on for years and years”, he says. “The best part of that is you can pick up a basic T4 or T5 for only a few grand.”
Looking at the T5 that was in dock being converted I instantly could see what he was trying to say. Before me was a clean example of a vehicle that was 6 years of age. No rust, clean paintwork, no hints of abuse and a sweet engine that was clean and ticked over like a dream. If anything I could ascertain why millions of satisfied customers return to Volkswagen and purchase another T4 or T5. Company fleets enjoy this model as a form of reliable and well tested transport of light goods. Volkswagen must be proud of the creation they put together when they came out with the T4 and T5 series.
But when asking Simon about the T4 in-particular I already knew that 5 versions of this model existed. I noticed a side of the T5 in the dock had a huge hole cut out the side with a tinted glass window perched on a trestle ready to be installed.
A T4 conversion carried out by Vee Dub Transporters
Volkswagen T4 Versions
The VW Transporter T4 came in five basic models. First off came the Panel Van – the one most commonly purchased by large companies with fleets and also by the small business user. The Panel Van is tried and tested worldwide and even a model with high mileage (over 150 000 miles) pulls strong and like new.
The second version was what is known as the Kombi Van or Half Panel Van. This version had windows between the B and C-Pillars. Their third version was the Caravelle, also known as the Multivan. This T4 had windows all round.
VW also did the Westfalia which was their very own dedicated camper-van and last but not least was the unusual and rare Doka, which was basically a single or double-cab pick up version of the T4.
Volkswagen T5 Range
Introduced in 2003 the T5 replaced the already well publicised and proven reliability of the T4. The T5 came in a variety of styles briefly given below:
- Panel Van – This was the pivotal and well known Delivery van that came without side windows or rear seats.
- High-roof Panel Van – The same as the standard Delivery van but with a raised roof. VW also introduced a third mid-roof height version.
- Half-panel – This T5 Van came with side windows only in the front half of the cargo area. The van also had only one row of removable rear seats.
- Pick-up – This was the T5 Flatbed truck which was also available to the customer who desired a wider load bed.
- Crew Cab Pick-up – This T5 version is a Flatbed truck with double cab and two rows of seats.
- Cab Chassis – (came as both single and crew cab), and sold to coach builders to build special bodies onto.
- Kombi (combination vehicle) – This T5 variant came with side windows and removable rear seats and came with both a passenger and a cargo vehicle combined as one. It was also available with heightened roof.
- Shuttle – This T5 came as a 9 seater minibus.
- Caravelle – T5 camper-van equivalent
There were varying equivalents of the above, but these listed are the most common and sought after variants of the T5 family.
Vee Dub offer unique interior design
So what is the most common conversion at Vee Dub Transporters?
It is usually the basic Panel Van version that finds its way into Vee Dub Transporters docking station. By rights it is the most easily accessible – and affordable of the T4 and T5 models – for the public to buy, with thousands being sold at any one time worldwide on forecourts, car auctions, auto-trader magazines and even eBay.
“The basic panel van T4 and even T5 are the most common transporters that come in for conversion”, Simon says. “You get a great vehicle for relatively little money on the second hand arena. Compared to let us say the Caravelle, which is a dedicated camper, the savings are huge.”
The Difference is the Style & Design
But most people do not want a dedicated camper. So what is the difference between the conversions by Vee Dub Transporters and VWs very own Caravelle?
“Simple”, Simon quips, “The Caravelle is simply a camper-van. People do not want just a camper-van. They want the sporty look, the look that turns heads. The presence you are driving something original, dedicated and totally different. People love a good image and the conversions I carry out give the customer just that.”
He is right. Looking at pictures of the standard Caravelle and Simon’s dedicated conversions there is a huge difference. The fact that here is sex on rubber is the first thought that springs to my mind. Looking at a camper really doesn’t turn me on. Stare at one of Simon’s babies and you start to get that infamous twitch in areas.
“The philosophy is simple”, Simon goes on to add. “Everyone is unique. We are all individuals. We all have different looks. We all have different hair styles. We all wear different clothes. What we are as humans is unique. That is the ethic behind my conversions. I take what the individual owner wants and give them back themselves in the form of their own style.”
So here we have “Style Creation personified” if we were to briefly sum up Simon’s train of thought. But we can all see why and the angle in which he is coming from. After all most of us add our own little bit of “us” to our own vehicles – whether it be an air freshener hanging from the rear view mirror or a full body kit and set of smart alloys. We want to add ourselves to our cars in which to be unique. A car to call our own – something we can say belongs to you and only you.
So on that thought pattern Simon delivers. And deliver he does as the phone rings and its one of Simon’s past customers raving about how even 6 months from taking delivery his vehicle is still the talk of his local bar and community. From that Simon smiles as this customer has just informed him two more of his friends have just purchased a T5 each and are heading Simon’s way in which to obtain quotations for conversion with their own unique styling in mind.
Vee Dub Transporters offers much to the customer wishing to customise their T4 or T5. From something basic such as a nice set of alloy wheels through to a dedicated full conversion that involves a full re-vamp inside as well as out is day to day business for Simon.
He has his own on-line shop as part of his website. Here people can browse anything from bulbs, interior carpets, suspension right through to a selection of stunning wheels and tyres. The beauty of Simon’s online shop is that Simon has been able to negotiate a great deal with his suppliers which means he can pass this onto his customers, saving them a small fortune along the way.
Simon backs this ethic up:
“High street suppliers can be expensive. At Vee Dub Transporters I am able to pass on savings I make when purchasing from my supplier directly to my customers. It cuts out the middle-man so to speak and the added costs of purchasing from a large shop with huge overheads.”
So what else can Vee Dub Transporters give the customer who wishes to transform their T4 or T5 into a jaw dropping beauty that graces our streets?
VW T4 Interior Upholstery Services
Lots is the answer to that. Apart from expert craftsmanship, competitive costs and an impending desire to deliver only the very best of the best, Vee Dub Transporters also offers a dedicated interior design and upholstery service.
Situated not far from the unit in which I admire Simon’s craftsmanship and set-up, is a dedicated “in-house” re-upholstery unit. It is here where the interior of a customer’s T4 or T5 is totally transformed into one that compliments the stylish exterior of Simon’s conversions.
Steve “Foggy” Fawcett is the man responsible for turning a T4 or T5’s interior on its head and giving back that uniqueness and comfort one can only expect when adding a complimenting interior. I met Steve and was taken aback by this man’s expert professionalism and equal dedication when it comes to reupholstering interiors of the T4 and T5.
From vinyls to dralon and a sumptuous range of leather hydes are on offer to the customer. Simon knows too well that it isn’t just what a vehicle looks like from the exterior that counts. The inside of a conversion is able to reflect a customers own unique style and Steve “Foggy” Fawcett takes that ethic of Simons and gives that to the customer.
“I’ve known Steve for many, many years. He is simply the best upholsterer in the UK – and there are a lot of great upholsterers out there no doubt”, Simon confidently adds.
Seated on a work bench was a double seat that folds down into a bed. It was being prepared to be fully leathered with a complimenting piping. I looked around and saw the matching front seats. Yes, they were the ones from the T5 sitting in Simons dock about to have the side window fitted before being insulated and boarded and carpeted in a check design.
So what cost for perfection?
No doubt a lot of heart and expertise goes into Vee Dub Transporter conversions. I swallowed forcefully as I tried to weigh up the cost of such work. I just had to ask Simon about costs. After all, we all dreams of having something unique and stylish to call our very own – but affording that dream and driving it down the local high street looking simply cool is another reality, especially in today’s economic climate.
“Our costs aren’t cheap”, Simon says. “But what I will say they are extremely competitive with other VW Conversion Specialists out there”, he adds. “I don’t deliver a cheap job. I deliver customer satisfaction and like anything in this world you tend to get what you pay for. My company doesn’t cut corners and it doesn’t cater for anything sub-standard.”
I can see his point as just looking around at those photographs, the way he works, the excited call from a previous customer and the materials he uses, plus the stunning upholstery from the unit behind his docking bay, I knew in my heart of hearts that Vee Dub Transporters was built on the highest quality and dedication money could buy. That could only stem and grow from the owner itself and Simon doesn’t know how to deliver a poor job. That’s why he is so sure of himself when it comes to cost. He knows the market and he knows the standard of workmanship his company offers to a customer is of the highest pedigree.
“I urge anyone who wishes to have a T4 or T5 go under conversion to come and see me. Forget about the cost for now. Bring me your dream. Bring me your desires. Bring me your passion. You may be pleasantly surprised just how much all of that will cost you to bring them all to reality.”
Moving back to the unit in which the T5 was situated I noticed Simon was in deep thought. He was simply eager to get back to work and continue with his passion of converting T4s and T5s. So, as a gentleman I moved to one side and stood by and admired as this man went about his business converting an already work of art into a piece of art that would make any rich man want to sell.
“If people want the best conversion of T4’s and T5’s then come and sit down and talk with me”, Simon calmly says as he looks me in the eye. “After all, I can give them their dream.”
At that I shook hands and thanked Simon for his time.
As I pulled away in my car I found myself continuing to marvel at the silver beauty of Simon’s T5 in my rear view mirror. When I lost sight of it I found an overwhelming sense of loss. But then I smiled as that sadness was replaced by the remarkable memory and beauty of a T5 conversion at Vee Dub Transporters becoming engraved on my mind – and no doubt an image that will last for an eternity and then some…
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