OUR OG MOBILE SHOP HAS BEEN BUSY EARNING ITS PATINA FOR THE PAST FEW YEARS… BUT NOW IT'S BACK, AND IT'S COMING TO A MEET NEAR YOU.
Our little VW bus, which you may have seen on display, welcoming you to the Auto Finesse Detailing Academy, is quite simply part of the furniture around here. Having been with the company for the past six or seven years, there's a lot of love for Project High Top among the crew, not to mention the thousands of showgoers it has served over the years. It is, after all, our original - and internationally renowned - mobile store.
Originally conceived to make gazebos a thing of the past, our "Camper' clocked up some serious milage, all over Europe, during its tenure. But, as we continued to expand our range, not to mention the size of our product displays, it became more of showpiece, before it was eventually retired from all but the most occasional service.
Taking its rightful place at our flagship Academy Store, it goes without saying that the OG shop has never been forgotten. All sorts of ideas about coffee shops, food wagons and a mobile exhibition vans have been mooted over the years. Some of the newer staff even thought it was some sort of amazing-looking ornament that just happens to get detailed when the need arises!
But, after a good 18-months of pandemic lockdown, there's no denying that we've seen a surge in UK summer events. And, with more and more one-marque and local meets being launched at a moment's notice (and the small matter of multiple events on the same weekend) recently we decided that, as well as our enormous Airstream pop-up shop, what we needed was a high-speed (ish), super-cool response vehicle. A shop that everyone would recognise, which we can pull out at the drop of a hat to show our support. We didn't even have to think about it - what we did next came naturally. A new battery and an oil change later and the T2 fired straight up, ready to be stocked for the summer, starting with the Abarth Festival in late June.
Of course, we realise that the Auto Finesse Camper is actually a T2 Panel Van, but as the Camper moniker has become so ubiquitous with these air-cooled load-luggers since they were introduced in the 1950s, we're hardly surprised that this one has become known as such.
What's more important here is that, even when we first put this one together, these vans come with the sort of cool that only retro-rarity and legendary status can provide. That goes double for early High Top variants of course, nowadays there's only three or four left in the whole of the UK.
But, apart from the fact that these are super-cool (and that we wanted one anyway), the raised roof and sliding side door makes for the ideal mobile shop, most of the staff can even stand up in the back, so that's exactly why this one was sourced and built as a collaboration with the guys at Type 2 Detectives.
Air-cooled specialists, T2D, are the masters when it comes to this sort of thing. For more than 25-years this world-famous firm has been bolting together some of the most jaw-dropping old skool VWs on the scene. You may have seen them on the telly, doing their thing on Salvage Hunters, or For the Love of Cars. But, the point is that there was no better place to help us source and build a T2 van to exactly the right spec… and, clearly there can only one spec here - silly-low.
On locating this (originally green) Bus, the first thing (after the obligatory resto work on the body) was to fit-out the chassis. A custom air ride setup on a narrow beam axle was chosen for the front, while the torsion bar was wound down to the nub on the rear. This may look like it's ripe for ripping up the catseyes on the motorway, but it actually ensures that the van is fully drivable, even when packed to the gills with stock.
Perhaps the most natural choice was the wheels, only a set of true German thoroughbreds would be respectful to this project, and they don't come any more Germanic than staggered Porsche Cookie Cutters… albeit with a thoroughly Auto Finesse-style, fully-polished twist.
Staying respectful to the original vehicle has been a theme on many of our project builds, and for this reason the exterior remains largely stock - this one was deemed pretty enough to begin with, and rightly so! What has changed along the way is the paintjob, it's not only been fully resprayed in a Vintage White hue after undergoing a full restoration, but has also been through the painstaking process of having all of the old skool signwriting and pinstriping hand-painted, too. There's no new-fangled vinyl graphics here - true-blue traditional methods were the only way to do the classic wagon justice.
Under the bonnet, the power plant has received a few performance tweaks, like twin carbs with bigger jets, mostly to ease the 1.6-litre engine around the HGVs on every uphill battle. But that aside, the fully rebuilt air-cooled lump remains pretty much how VW intended, it's by no means fast by modern standards but - for a "70s motor at least - it propels this little van down the road at a surprising pace.
The finishing touches and interior were completed here in-house. This included everything from fitting the freshly re-trimmed seats, to all the woodwork involved in building a full shop display and counter in the rear.
Of course, back in those days the product range wasn't quite the gargantuan size it is now, we develop multiple products every single year after all. But, the T2 offered (and still offers) room to display a great selection of our most popular essentials. The rest of the inside, as you can see, has been clad in wood or carpeted in traditional AF fashion - a shabby chic aesthetic that we've come to embrace just about everywhere else ever since.
Aside from the shop area, the remainder of the interior and cabin has been fully restored to standard specs, the only exceptions being a CSP shifter, and a monster sound system. Just the absolute essentials here then, eh?
And, that's the story of our original mobile shop, where it's been, and most importantly, where it's going.
Rest assured that you'll soon be seeing what is unquestionably one of the coolest mobile detailing stores around, fully-stocked, putting in the miles, and dishing out the products at a car meet near you.
Restored body, full respray in Vintage White, custom hand-painted signwriting
Reconditioned 1.6-litre engine, twin down-draft carburettors
5.5 and 7x15-inch polished Porsche Cookie Cutter wheels, 165/50x15 Bridgestone Potenza tyres (front), 175/60x15 (rear), narrow front beam, disc brakes, custom air ride system, lowered rear torsion bar
Custom counter, hardwood floor and product display, 12V Led lighting, Retro-style Bluetooth headunit, high-level speakers and subwoofer, custom "crate' shelving and counter, LED lighting throughout, additional leisure battery on split charge system