The VW Transporter. A love/hate relationship

Is there a more customised and 'unique' vehicle on the road?

6d ago

Two years ago, I was preparing to say goodbye to my beloved BMW 320 e46. The 2004 ES basic turbo diesel saloon had been a loyal and enjoyable servant as I surfed across the county of Cornwall's moderately sized 'motorway' in the A30. With a clutch that needed replacing, and ball joints/lower arms starting to 'rot' and the infamous BMW 3 series wheel arch rust, I knew that the time had come to change vehicles, and so I'd be bidding farewell to a car that was always a pleasure to drive, irrespective of a growling thrust bearing on the clutch and engine mounts that may as well have been two lumps of granite.

I'd always had a VW Transporter in mind. This was never going to be my first SWB van. In 2015, I had a Mercedes Vito, but sadly the stop start commute from Central Bedfordshire into Greater London each day, meant the Mercedes spent more time under Shell fueling station forecourts than it did my garage driveway.

The Vito was a bit of a lump and even with a Stage 1 remap, accelerating felt as if I was towing a couple of milk floats.

The T6 facelift, has become common on the Transporter range.

So, my vehicle of choice, which has such a huge community of fans, enthusiasts and so many versatile business forms of transportation, is this grey and black Raptor painted 1.9 TDI T5 (which currently has a T6 facelift on it!)

The heading of this article is about the marmite nature of this vehicle, and being part of several forums on other social media outlets, it is clear to see why these vehicles can be the jewel in the driveway crown and simultaneously, be left to rot in salvage yards.

The individual who sold me this vehicle, clearly had something to hide. I don't believe for one second that you coat an entire vehicle in truck bedliner unless the paintwork has a mild form of 'vehicle rust acne'. It's not everyone's cup of tea, the best way to describe it, would be to imagine touching the skin of a crocodile covered in gloss paint. Raptor paint finishes with a textured, grain like effect that according to some, make the vehicle 'bulletproof'

It's fair to say this van has a keen eye for the end of the month when the payslips arrive, because the running costs of these vehicles will always coincide with regular withdrawals from your bank account. For a vehicle that is 15 years old, and with 146K on the clock, you could say it is 'normal' to replace things such as intercoolers, batteries, alternators, oil changes etc. The consumable. In 2 years of ownership, I've also changed strut top bearing mounts twice, lower door hinges, and 2 blower motors and resistors too. Tomfoolery from the vehicle or perhaps just circumstantial bad luck!

Reversing sensors , spoilers, plate trims, and roof bars were all added as per the 'mods'

Reversing sensors , spoilers, plate trims, and roof bars were all added as per the 'mods'

One of my biggest regrets, is not showing the stages of development and craft I've put into this vehicle, by logging and photographing the progress before I was aware of DriveTribe. Such progress has been, installing my own floor, as it was sold with just the metal frame in all it's glory. A fully carpeted interior with rock and roll bed takes up the rear of the cabin, which really do give the vehicle a 'camper feel'. Other jobs include installing electric windows, which sees you try and get your wrists in behind some truly narrow dashboard gaps, and trying to replace rotten sliding door seals can be a stubborn and pesky task.

One of the more major pieces of work I've had to do, is 'Raptor' touch ups, which are a result of a poorly prepped vehicle in the first place which leads to inevitable bits of flaking. So every now and then, trying to paint match and exact the outer shell with a fine brush can be an arduous task. Having said that, I regularly breeze past other Transporter owners who've got a white cloth and some form of gaffa tape located somewhere on their vehicle, which would indicate the VW Paint By Numbers Society membership.

Installing dashboard speakers can really test the 'How does this even..." mind

The current job, is trying to replace the dashboard speakers, which sit at a somewhat 'ridiculous' angle underneath the windshield, underneath two flimsy pieces of plastic that will accumulate a fair amount of dirt and debris! Make sure you get an angled socket wrench for some dusty T20 screws!

I could go on, but then I'd run out of content to talk about, but there seems to be no end of jobs that come with ownership of these. Everything from stereo upgrades, remapping, door handle replacements, sliding door runners, rust prevention, thermostat cables, dash vents. You name it, this vehicle will invent the fault!

You'll also notice on motorways just how noisy they can be, although that could be down to tyres and wheels. I'll take a moment to pay respect to those T4 owners with no turbo trying to labouriously climb the cornish landscapes who must surely have perforated ear drums as the engine works itself into an early grave!

There isn't a day when I don't look at it as I approach to turn on ignition and wonder 'what are you going to do next?' but the stark reality is, I love this vehicle and I love the challenge of how I can improve it. It's come a long way from clearly being a gardeners landscape vehicle ( on removing some plastic trim, I found a few pine needles and leaves!) and is now a well respected family wagon!

One thing I have noticed in the last year, when holidays have been effectively become 'criminal activity', is just how much the value on these things has increased! There are models way older than my 2006, perhaps even akin to 10 years older, that are fetching around the £4000 mark!

They're a sought after vehicle, and they'll always command respect. They'll put a hole in your wallet but if you're anything like me, you'll think to yourself 'Could be worse; could be a Ford Transit' ;-)

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