VW campers get back their va-va-voom
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