VW cam­pers get back their va-va-voom

The Sun (Malaysia) - - SUNBIZ -

AT the back of a hangar in the heart of Florence, Italy, two Volk­swa­gen fans are ded­i­cat­ing their lives to restor­ing its iconic vans from the Swing­ing Six­ties, im­port­ing them from South Amer­ica be­fore fix­ing them up and sell­ing them on. Some are over 50 years old, but once they are patched up by Mauro Al­ta­more and his me­chanic Gi­a­como Nucci, they are ex­pected to chug on for an­other half a cen­tury at least.

“With good main­tenance, th­ese vans are in­de­struc­tible. We have to over­haul a good part of the mechanics, but keep the orig­i­nal en­gines,” Nucci told AFP as he showed off a van that looked like it had rolled off an as­sem­bly line, de­spite its age.

From Ferrari to Fiat, Italy is a car-crazy coun­try, but Nucci firmly be­lieves there is noth­ing bet­ter than a VW camper. He’s been spruc­ing up th­ese clas­sic vans for col­lec­tors for over seven years and th­ese days boasts an in­creas­ing num­ber of busi­nesses and advertising com­pa­nies among his cus­tomers. Fash­ion com­pa­nies ask for “made to mea­sure” vans for photo shoots or cat­a­logues, he says point­ing to a row of shiny red, blue and cream coloured vans, as well as one with a slo­gan stamped on the side. Their dis­tinc­tive VW hood em­blems – which en­joyed a pe­riod of fame as rap­per pen­dants thanks to the Beastie Boys – glint as new.

Cus­tomers can be picky; one purist wants the rust on the body­work kept, even down to craters that look like bul­let holes. An­other wants the orig­i­nal mo­tor re­placed with a Porsche engine.

Al­ta­more, who came up with the idea for restor­ing the vans, says clients come not just from Italy but from all over Europe. About a decade ago, while in Brazil work­ing in the cloth­ing im­port and ex­port business, he de­cided to switch his business fo­cus to the VW vans in­stead. He even­tu­ally ded­i­cated him­self full time to the business with Nucci’s help.

Restora­tion takes around six months and costs be­tween 10,000 to 50,000 eu­ros (RM48,000 to RM240,000), largely be­cause pick­ing up parts, which are out of production, is not al­ways easy. But th­ese ve­hi­cles, which re­main hugely pop­u­lar, can of­ten com­mand prices which are much higher, with a 1955 model go­ing un­der the ham­mer in Ger­many for around 200,000 eu­ros (RM960,000) in Novem­ber 2014.

Man­u­fac­tured in Ger­many un­til 1979, and in Brazil un­til 2013, the clas­sic cam­pers con­tinue to fas­ci­nate peo­ple well be­yond the “free love” hippy gen­er­a­tion and have be­come a sym­bol of free­dom. - AFP Relaxnews

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