The weekend wasn’t looking great weather wise as we approached our first two nights of camping in our new VW LT Westfalia campervan. The forecast was correct with long spells of rain.
The first night was a night of confusion as we tried to establish a practical working solution in foreign territory. What came second nature in the smaller campervan, became a challenge in the larger van. We are seasoned campers now, and can quickly ascertain what may be a long term working proposition, and what will not stand the test of time. The second day we had a list of things to move or alter. Everything else will be minor tweaks as we work towards a long term package that will make time in this vehicle as seamless as can be.
It’s very strange to find ourselves in this position after feeling that Wolfgang was the be all and end all of campervans. We know that the T3 camper is one of the most versatile and coveted campers to have been produced in Wolfsburg, Germany under the VW marque. It’s internal space has never been matched by any van with its footprint (old or new), because of its rear engine format and 1970 design.
Our T3 was made in 1990 but there was another offering at the time by VW as a factory conversion that offered more space. This was based on the LT chassis and the coachwork was still undertaken by the very well respected partner for all of the factory VW installs of the time, Westfalia. More in depth information can be found at the following link…
Both mandy and I would be lying if we said we hadn’t cast the occasional eye over an LT Florida, more out of curiosity than anything. We have been impressed with what we have seen with the layout and quality, still apparent after 30 years or more. But it seemed like owning one was for the future, and in no way anytime soon.
That said, and by a total fluke, a friend asked us to collect a part from a person not that far away from us because we were local, and she lived some distance away. The part was a component used on the smaller campers like Wolfgang, and on the larger LT. As it turned out the previous owner was just about to advertise the van when Mandy collected the part. This was just one of those “right place right time” kind of moments. After some discussion regarding our ability to finance such an investment, we decided that this opportunity was too good to miss.
I know from experience how much it costs to take a van in a poor state of repair, and turn it into something that is as reliable as a modern vehicle. Wolfgang has had the best attention to make sure he is just about as reliable as he ever could be. The thought of taking on another project that required that degree of time and investment meant it wasn’t something I could consider again. It’s the unknown, and when your hit with a failed holiday because the gearbox has packed up, and a £2,000+ bill for a repair, that always takes longer than it should, you tend to err on the negative side of things!
So no way would consider buying a van that would effectively put me back into a situation where I was chasing my tail financially, just to have a vehicle that we would one day believe in. On reflection I feel that those negative experiences have given me a reality check.
But if we go back to the chance meeting, this Florida had been owned by the previous owner for 2 years. He is a trained mechanic by trade, has a love for VW vehicles, and has left no stone unturned in making sure this van into one of the best and most reliable examples of a Westfalia Florida on UK soil. It’s a shining example of a vehicle that has had everything thrown at it. check out the list below. Truly awesome! We are very lucky!
Fully rebuilt engine including brand new cylinder head in 2017 (including new injector nozzles and new turbo CHRA)
• Factory Power steering
• Opening front quarter lights
• Full engine undertray
• Westfalia Towbar
• Double glazed windows
• Factory fitted curtains and blinds
• ISRI captains high back front seats
• Electric windows
• Full roof rack with ladder access at the rear
• 4 Berth Camper (2 double beds) (can be 5berth with a bunk in the cab if needed)
• On board LPG tank for cooker and hot water boiler (around £5 to fill from empty)
• Truma Gas hot water boiler, supplies hot water to kitchen tap and shower
• Wet/ shower room with hot shower (absolute blessing when camping!!)
• Eberspacher diesel night heater with timer
• 2 ring burner
• Vitrifrigo compressor fridge
• 100L fresh water tank on board
• 70L waste water tank
• Porta-potti in bathroom (included in the sale)
• Large wardrobe with shelves
• Under seat storage
• 220ah leisure battery and solar set up for off-grid camping (CTEK equipment used)
• 2 lap belts in rear and there is included in the sale a 3-point belt which was fitted to the centre bench for use with a child’s seat (I removed due to only being my partner and I using the van)
• Fiamma F45 wind out awning
• Large roof top box for extra space and storage included with the sale of the van
• Included in sale is pair of LHD headlights as well
• Cab window thermal screens included with sale
• Original VW owners manuals (in German) also Have translated version in english
Below Details the work carried out in my ownership
• Complete Engine Rebuild carried out by AW Engineering including: Complete Brand-new cylinder head, brand new pistons and rings, brand new Bearings throughout, Re-Bored and Honed, new oil pump, new water pump all new Gaskets (See receipt for proof)
• All 6x Injectors Rebuilt with Brand New Monark Nozzles and Pressures set correctly (155Bar)
• Turbocharger Brand new Mellett Core Fitted and turbo charger rebuilt
• Brand new radiator fitted
• Replacement Header tank fitted
• Brand new WAHLER 87degrees thermostat fitted
• Brand new Mocal oil cooler fitted
• Brand new exhaust silencer and tailpipe fitted with new hardware as well
• Brand new clutch kit fitted at the same time as Engine Rebuild
• Brand new viscous fan unit fitted
• Timing belt, fuel pump belt and water pump all brand new at time of engine re-install
• New Starter battery 2017
• New alternator voltage regulator
All Above work carried out Winter 2017
• Complete new brake pipes throughout out in copper
• Brand New master cylinder
• Brand new rear brake drums and brake shoes
• Brand new rear wheel cylinders
• Front brakes fully stripped and rebuilt with a new TRW fitting kit
• Brand new Monroe LT35 Heavy duty front springs fitted
• Brand new Monroe Van-Magnum shock absorbers fitted all round
• New tie rod bushes and hardware
• Wheeliams 3” lift kit fitted
• Full wheel alignment after suspension lift fitted (including camber and castor)
• All oils in axle and gearbox changed for brand new correct grade oil
• All gear linkage bushes replaced with genuine VW items (precise gear change now)
• VDO gauges installed to monitor oil temperature, oil pressure and boost pressure while driving and a VDO rev counter fitted as well
• Turbo downpipe heat wrapped for engine bay heat management
• 4x New rear leaf spring buffers
Wheels and Tyres
• Full Set of 5x (4+1 spare) Ford custom 15” Steel wheels fitted with correct wheel bolts
• Full set of brand new Hankook Dynapro All Terrain Tyres fitted 235/75R15
Camper Conversion Repairs and Improvements
• Onboard Propane tank removed and stripped and checked and then repainted correct colour with red identifying stripe and pressure tested
• Stainless steel LPG valve cover with key lock as well
• All waste pipe replaced with fresh re-enforced pipe
• Brand new Whale Elite kitchen tap installed
• Both sink and kitchen hob removed and resealed to worktop
• Original Westfalia fridge removed and replaced with a vitrifrigo C50i Compressor fridge for better refrigerating and increased battery life
• Brand new 150Watt solar panel mounted on the roof
• 2x Brand new 110Ah Leisure batteries fitted
• CTEK Smartpass120 fitted alongside a CTEK D250sa to give a complete leisure/ off grid power system
• New fuse panel fitted to allow fitment of blade fuses as compared to original ceramic fuses
• Original Eberspacher D2L re-commissioned with all new fuel pipe, new heater ducting pipe externally and internally of the van and new exhaust pipe
• Truma 10L water heater removed and checked for condition and thoroughly cleaned prior to re-installation all working correctly (red hot for showering!)
• New Micro Heki Skylight fitted in the bathroom due to the original westfalia item being previously damaged
• Bathroom sink removed to make more room for showering
• Brand new Reich shower fitted for better showers than the original westfalia item
• Brand new Oceanair dry roll toilet roll holder fitted in the bathroom
• Brand new Hansgrohe shower hose
• Brand new TRUMA boiler external vent fitted to roof
• Brand new 12v and USB sockets fitted using high quality CBE parts
• Genuine VW westfalia control panel repaired with 2x new fuse holders fitted
• All interior lights converted from fluorescent tubes to LED lighting
• Shelving made for the wardrobe to utilize the space the best
• 2x brand new fire extinguisher installed
• 1x fire blanket installed
• Front bench seat latches repaired to aid correct operation
• Carpet matting custom fitted one piece in the rear of the camper
• Bathroom/ wetroom completely re-sealed
• Brand new fresh water tank drain valve installed
• Internal blinds fitted to roof side windows with flyscreen’s and blind
• New clips on seating area blind
• All front panels replaced with genuine VW panels in winter 2018/2019 and front end resprayed original white with all new decals (common issue on LT’s around windscreen, all rot cut out and repaired with new metal.
• New right-hand side cab step welded in place, all rot removed
• New windscreen seal fitted after respraying (original VW windscreen re-fitted)
• Wheeliams Spare wheel carrier fabricated, and powder coated to fit the rear door using the hinges and allow proper use of the door and rear window
• Brand new Hella Rear fog light fitted into rear bumper and re-wired to original VW switch located on the dash
• Pressed aluminium plates fitted
• Roof mounted 150Watt solar panel fitted
• Dubflecta wind deflectors fitted
• Pressed aluminium number plates fitted showing correct UK markings
• RHD Genuine VW headlights fitted for UK roads (Also have LHD headlights, included in sale with van)
• Brand new genuine VW front indicators fitted all with new seals
• 2x new 3 jet windscreen washers all with new pipe work behind dash
• Headlights all re-wired to now run through individual relays and fuses for optimum lighting when driving at night
• Fiamma F45i wind out awning fitted (winding handle clips internally inside the camper out the way)
• New pair of wing mirror lenses to replace old units
• New rear mud flaps and brackets
• VDO gauges mounted in dashboard to monitor engine performance while running (RPM, oil temperature, oil pressure and boost pressure)
• Sony CDX-G1200 CD player fitted (can run from starter battery or leisure battery when parked up)
• Blaupunkt windscreen mounted amplified aerial fitted
• Additional 12volt and USB sockets fitted in dashboard all powered from leisure battery
• All dash lighting replaced with new brighter bulbs
• Drinks holders mounted to dash
• Lower dash section fitted from facelift model LT Florida
• Heater matrix removed and back flushed, and heater box rebuilt with new insulation for better heating during those winter months
• Heater rheostat replaced and modified to use an Audi 80 unit rather than the problematic LT rheostat, so now has all working fan speeds
Being in the campervan fold for the best part of 5 years you can’t help but feel there is a little something for everyone. Both Mandy and I have done our fair share of travelling and we almost feel like veterans in the field. Some people dip in to the scene and move into other areas never to be heard of again. I will be the first to admit I have other distraction and have been guilty of taking my eye of the scene to focus on other things. That said, we always look forward to time away in the van.
There are certain perks to sharing your travels with others. The feedback is seldom met with anything other than positivity. That longing to be in the shoes of the person relaying those amazing pictures can only serve to inspire and lead others to follow. We have done this on numerous occasions, purely because we fell in love with a location we had no idea existed prior to that electronic telegraph on a social media post. And the reality is, we have rarely been disappointed!
All of this said, there are less than a handful of people that I feel really embrace this lifestyle. The restrictive nature of the small format campervan can offer an element of achievement to anybody that is used to the luxuries and trappings of bricks and mortar. To be able to enjoy yourself with a vastly limited array of everything compared to a what most take for granted is a major buzz for the casual campers. But a safety net is there for most in the form of home, which is quite often only just a short drive away, if the need should arise.
There are few in this world that take that leap of faith and remove any option of returning to what we would call the norm, by selling up and deciding that life is better enjoyed on the road. No fixed abode and no fixed income are surely going to offset any illusion that this is going to be an easy ride. But the memories will stay, and the harder the journey, the longer those memories will last. Who would do such a thing…?
Michael and Steph chose life on the road because they both had busy lifestyles, and hardly ever saw each other due to the long hours worked, and opposing shifts. Mike is a seasoned chef, and Steph has a love for animals with previous employment in the veterinary fold. Both were unhappy with the work life balance, and made the decision years ago to try and re address issues to give them a better quality of life.
The Westfalia T3 Atlantic syncro is one of the most capable campervans ever made. True 4×4 off road capability, twin hob, great internal layout are stock on this very rare van. But complemented with a raft of other outdoor cooking options like BBQ, Cobb oven, or just a plain old big fire for roasting all manner of things, has been inspiration to all in the fold on social media for years in the form of video blogs, instagram, facebook and twitter via Chefcampers unique branding.
So having known Mike and Steph via our click on social media for some time, both Mandy and I were amazed that we had been offered a ‘Golden Ticket’ for DINING AROUND A WOODLAND CAMPFIRE. To actually experience Mikes cooking, with his best friend at his side Keiren who is also a professional cook, was just too good an opportunity to miss.
We arrived late afternoon at the campsite. The venue for dining had been a work in progress for the previous two weeks. The forest surrounded the encampment giving it a really cozy feel.
Hay bales were dotted around, and a long gazebo offered dry seating from what turned out to be a night of rain and drizzle .
Music played to enhance what was already an amazing evening, and each soundtrack complimented every one of the seven courses.
We were truly gifted to experience this night out. We have camped in our van in some amazing locations, but this evening had everything. Close friends, great food, good music, amazing location, and of course our home on the road. Fantastic!
Quote below from one very happy Mike ( Chefcampers )
What an evening!
Last night, we hosted a banquet in the woods. We served up 7 courses, all cooked over fire. The time invested into pulling this off was insane. There were moments when I sat up late, asking myself, “why?!”
Last night, that question was answered. Our guests brought their absolute best to the experience. As we inhaled the flames, we heard laughter, corks popping and a sense that we were at the heart of something special.
Our food got amazing feedback and it made the whole experience worthwhile.
The tasting menu was a chance for us to showcase what we can do, using the best produce from the local areas, challenging the limits of open fire cookery.
For those who took a chance and booked a ticket, thank you. You said “yes”. You didn’t hesitate and you took a chance to pursue a food adventure. You guys are now ChefCampers and welcome to the crew.
Shall we do it again in the Summer?!
Our September break always used to be the one we focused on as our main holiday. That said, the last three years we have taken advantage of extended holidays earlier on in the year to make the most of the good weather, but also avoiding high season. We have the luxury of being able to skirt the rush of the school holidays, and taking breaks after schools starts the new term in September, has always been a blessing to us as the usually extortionate prices plummet.
Lots of things have happened since our amazing and blissful getaway in June. Mandy’s Mum became seriously ill, and I have had to take some time off work with anxiety, stress and depression. We both considered cancelling this holiday for all of the reasons mentioned… but the treatment for Mandy’s mum looked promising, and we both agreed we could do with time away to just chill.
We set off with a campsite booked. It was my job to sort this, and I was overly chuffed that i had found a camp site that I felt would be perfect. The Caravan and Motorhome sites usually offer some of the best amenities, and the webpage pictures looked perfect, but it seemed remarkably cheap!
However, after a late start and obviously late arrival as a result, we were a little confused when we were asked if we had a toilet by the campsite reception. Mandy questioned this, and we found that the lower price was reflected in the lack of amenities. Electric was included, but no shower and toilet block.
So we spent a little time on our mobile phones trying to get another pitch local. We found one that looked like it would tick the box, but the phone went dialed with an out of hours message, and everything was looking like we wouldn’t be able to arrive late notice. our options were limited and the campsite was only a short drive away so we took a chance and drove half an hour to Puddledock Farm.
Fortunately, on arrival we were greeted by the wardens and given a healthy list of available pitches. We parked in a very roomy corner pitch a short walk from the shower blocks. We were really pleased as the website photos didn’t really do this campsite justice. Pleasantly surprised!