Everyone knows that the old VW’s are worth a penny or two. Especially if they’re in good condition. This is why everyone is always shocked when we say were doing everything ourselves, including the paintwork.
I’m going to start right back at the very beginning so I can paint you a picture of exactly what Betsy means to me.
From being a little girl whenever we went on holiday to Devon I told my family I wanted ‘One of those vans’ (VW Bay window). I had absolutely no idea of their value or popularity at that age. I remember, they used to be parked all the way up the hill at the side of the beach in Woolacombe. They were all beautifully lined up, the colours were so bright you couldn’t possibly miss them, a vast array of blues, reds, greens and yellows to name a few.
The years passed, so did the holidays and as I grew older I was still drawn to the colourful collection of VW campers.
It came to decision time at school, what did I want to be?
I don’t know, I’m 26 and I’m still not even fully sure now what I want to be. I have ideas, ambitions and goals but whether they become a reality or not, who knows? I have a great career now, but if I was given the option to change it and be absolutely anything in the world, would I choose the same job? Probably not, how about you?
All I knew at 15 was that I didn’t want to go to college. I said I’ll get a job and just work my way up. My parents said no you won’t. That idea was a non-starter. I was then given the opportunity to apply for an apprenticeship. I could be a dental nurse, office administrator, accountant all of which didn’t appeal to me. We reached the engineering section and I thought yep – that will do. Looks pretty fun, I get to make stuff all day and I’ll get paid. Sorted. Basic train of thought for any teenager I guess.
My dad, who was also an engineer (I say was because he’s retired but I’m pretty sure he would argue with me that he still IS an engineer) took the plunge and bought a VW bay window off eBay for £500. The plan was, we would work together on restoring her so when I got to the interview stages of my apprenticeship, I would have something to talk about and demonstrate I have a slight understanding of engineering. The plan executed a little different in reality. I did a few jobs on her but the bulk of the restoration was done by my dad on evenings and weekends. I secretly think he wanted a project to work on and with me starting an apprenticeship the timing was perfect.
18 months passed and Betsy was more or less complete, she was sprayed, rebuilt and had seats in the front and back. She was prom ready. Like I would turn up to my school prom in anything other than my now bright pink VW bay window. I collected my Best friend from her house, but not before seeing my grandparents for a photo shoot. My gran absolutely loved it. Here is one of my favourite pictures of us in the Van. My Gran has passed since then but this is one of many of my favourite memories.
Betsy settled into the family just fine however when I passed my driving test I found it impossible to get insured on her for a reasonable amount. She was mainly used by my parents. They took her to France for 4 years whilst my dad worked there and they spent numerous weekends using her to explore. These are two of my favourite pictures of her taken in France.
When they moved home to retire she did 2 trips to and from the south of France to bring back their belongings which for a 40 year old van is pretty good going!
When I turned 25 I got what I had been waiting for, insurance papers for Betsy! The summer was mine! We spent most weekends from July onwards camping in Abersoch, the Lakes, Yorkshire. Spending time surfing, sitting round a campfire with a few beers and enjoying time with friends. It was this summer that me and Tom got together and he’s been trying his best ever since to teach me all about camping. I love camping and I love spending time in Betsy. She’s opened up a world of freedom and adventure for me that I never really knew existed. Last summer was one of the best ones yet!
Unfortunately, she was starting to look tired this year, the sun in France had washed the colour out of her.
So now, here we are. I’m 12 years older and I can’t wait to get her back on the road ready to explore again.
Betsy isn’t a ‘show van’ she’s a fun van. She gives us a sense of freedom and adventure. We’re proud of her, we made her, how can we not be proud of her? Some people will say that she’s not perfect, but to us she’s perfect. Others, mainly the money-orientated types will say ‘you should have her done professionally then when you sell her she will be worth more.’. Sell her? Are you mad? Betsy is here to stay, she’s part of the family. These people don’t understand the sense of achievement and satisfaction which is gained from knowing you’ve done all the work on your van and that you can say you know it inside out.
So that is why we will be restoring every single little bit of Betsy ourselves. She’s not a financial investment. You can always make money, you can’t always make memories. To us memories are more important than anything money can buy.