Doing Up Dolly (Part 1): Our VW Camper Conversion

August 12, 2018

Doing Up Dolly (Part 1): Our VW Camper Conversion

In June, we decided to put into action something that had been bubbling away in my brain for a while.  Just imagine ... a mobile fabric shop built inside a vintage VW campervan. 

Yes, a classic camper, fitted out like a shop, and filled floor-to-ceiling with all of our gorgeous fabrics. 

We could then bring our shop directly to you, be it at craft shows, fairs, craft markets, or even at home.  The possibilities are endless, and if our Googling is correct, then it has never been done before. 

Unsure if it was bonkers or brilliant, we decided to go for it, and thus we needed a van! 

I began an online search through classic car websites, ever aware of my lack of knowledge of classic cars (!) and the high risk of me buying a lemon.

And then I found this.  Ta dahhh!!!

A 1974 VW T2 Bay Campervan, owned by a family in Tooting who had enjoyed her for 5 years but needed to part ways.  She was just what I was looking for, and she was even blue. 

Mechanically she seemed pretty sound, having recently had a new engine along with all sorts of other bits and bobs (technical term) replaced, I went for a test drive and instantly loved her.  Having run some online checks, and looked through her MOT history, I felt pretty confident that she was a reliable runner.

However there was rust.  Quite a lot of it.  And the owners were very honest about the fact that she needed lots of work. 

After some research and advice-seeking, I decided to follow my gut and go for it.  And so a few days later, she was parked up on our drive and Theo was was giving tours to his school friends at every opportunity.  The boys loved it almost as much as I did. Turns out you can fit a pretty awesome wooden train layout on the floor, amongst other unforeseen perks! 


Why Dolly?

My lovely Nanna (Dorothy) was largely responsible for teaching me to sew as a child, and so I wanted to name it after her.  And it seemed fitting to shorten it to Dolly, as it sounds so perfect for children's fabrics.  Also, randomly, a slight nod to Miss Parton and her 9 to 5!


We need a guy!

We found the man for the huge job of turning her into the fabric store of my dreams, and took Dolly off to meet him.  Guy was brilliant and very honest... there is a lot more to fix than I had realised, which was probably inevitable.  So much rust that bits are crumbling off in places, and the door trims are literally coming off in our hands.  Also the pop-up roof is broken (which I knew) and that will be expensive to fix. 
However Guy was confident we could do it, and we booked her in for the start of August to be renovated.

A few bumps in the road

So for the next couple of months I pootled around town in my new motor, soon becoming quite infamous around Leatherhead.  Everyone loves a camper, and I got lots of encouragement from all sorts of people when I explained my new project. 

However it turns out she's very noisy (my next door neighbours can hear us coming from the other end of the street), she cannot be rushed (20mph is standard), and a friend informed me on the way to school that she could smell us coming!

Amongst other things, it came to light that my brake lights didn't work, and my reversing lights didn't exist (they didn't install them as standard back in 1974.  Who knew!)  These 'blips' were quickly fixed.

But, all in all, me and the boys love our new mode of transport, and I just can't wait to keep you posted on our journey to making her the World's First Mobile Fabric Shop!

Watch this space!

Sarah x

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