First off, do not attempt this trip if you are in a freshly-built vehicle with zero shakedown miles under your belt, unless of course you’re this lot!
This expedition to various European gatherings and sight seeing over the course of two weeks in June 2017 was by no means unique to our group; many other UK folk were on similar journeys and our paths crossed numerous times in various places. Their stories may contain more high jinks than ours; tales of dodging authorities and sleeping on the hard shoulder of autobahns are par of the course when you are care-free and enjoying yourselves. As you will see, ours was the story of laughs, exhaustion, ingenuity and a lot of generosity from friends old and new.
Rewind to December 2016 and Gareth Baylis-Smith and his wife Tess were over in Oz visiting family and had arranged to meet up with some like-minded VW folk whilst over there. An Instagram friend Dino, who lives in Melbourne, invited them round to his house for a few beers and some amazing food made by his wife Crystal. George and Nadine Spilsbury were also invited over and George mentioned in conversation that he would love to come back to the UK to take in more shows and go into Europe for Hessisch Oldendorf. He had been over earlier in the year for Skeg Vegas and Le Bug Show at Spa, where he met Gareth - very drunk and dressed in a fish head!
A plan was hatched that involved George and Nadine flying to the UK and borrowing a car from one of our lot to join us on the adventure. The wheels were put into motion and six months later, on Wednesday 21st June at 3.15pm myself, Gareth, James ‘Jim’ Murtough, George and Nadine set off from Redditch to drive approximately 200 miles to Harwich to catch the 9.30pm overnight ferry to the Hook of Holland. I was driving my ’61 kombi, Jim was in his freshly finished ’52 RHD Barndoor, Gareth was behind the wheel of good friend Rob David’s ’63 OG paint kombi and George and Nadine had very kindly been lent Dave Hall’s epic bone stock ’61 Single Cab for the duration of the trip.
This first leg of the journey should have taken 3.5 hours in a normal motor, but being in old Buses with the largest engine being a 1600, we thought we’d add at least a couple of hours to this to allow for comfort breaks and any unforeseen stoppages. We had previously arranged to meet with a group of mates on route to cruise a large portion of this journey in a nice steady, stress free convoy, but of course, that didn’t happen - for one big reason - Jim’s freshly built and drastically untested blahdoor…
If you knew you were about to embark on a 1,800 mile trip around Europe, most sane people would be well prepped and have gone through their chariot weeks, if not months in advance to iron out the inevitable gremlins that will surface. Not our Jim, he’d driven about 15 miles beforehand (dislocating his shoulder en route to us fixing a minor issue) prior to setting off and this showed within one mile of the off!
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