Test Match Special is back for the summer! YYYES!! In case you are wondering what I am on about, Test Match Special is the BBC’s legendary radio coverage of England’s international cricket matches. I am a TMS addict. In fact I am listening to England’s one day international against Ireland as I write this. All this puts me in mind of a delightful day out late last October when I delivered a Volkswagen Transporter Kombi to Clevedon just south of Bristol. Why was this such a delightful day out? Well, four reasons:-
- I was driving one of my favourite vehicles. I enjoy driving vans and the VW Transporter is the best, particularly (as far as I am concerned) in Kombi configuration.
- Summer had forgotten to turn into autumn. Unusually for Britain at that time of year, it was pleasantly warm and the sky nothing but blue.
- I was able to listen to TMS on the van’s DAB radio – the first day of England’s test match against Bangladesh. This added to the summery feel although for England this was a winter tour match in far away Bangladesh!
I know, that’s only three reasons but I’ll come to the fourth shortly. For the uninitiated, the Kombi is a version of Volkswagen’s Transporter panel van (the direct descendent of the famous Type 2 van) with windows in the side doors and a second row of seats. The rear third of the vehicle reverts to pure van, being a big empty space and no windows in the side panels.
I had a breeze of a journey westwards then down the M5 motorway to Clevedon (about 140 miles) and a very pleasant train ride home, starting at the charming station of Yatton. With its picturesque stone-built cafe on the sun-drenched platform (had time for a cuppa!), this tidy little country station seemed a throwback to the heyday of rail travel. All that was missing were milk churns on the platform and a steam engine pulling elegant, glossy green or burgundy carriages. I also had the satisfaction of being able to split tickets to save about £20 on the train fare back to Leicester (if you missed it, learn about splitting tickets here!).
Coming back to the subject of driving vans, I find them more comfortable on long journeys than a lot of cars. I like the upright seating position in a van compared to a car’s feet-out-in-front posture. Also, sitting high up looking out over most other vehicles just makes you very relaxed. In addition, today’s vans generally offer a good ride and easy, refined cruising at motorway speeds. And the VW Transporter is the best of all with its slick gear change via a short lever which sprouts handily out of the dashboard and a confidence-inspiring ability to go round corners. The particular Kombi I was driving had a lesser engine option (102hp) and only a 5 speed ‘box but that didn’t matter as it was more than up to the job. It also came in a high spec (“Highline”) with such creature comforts as air conditioning, cruise control, leather-covered steering wheel and, best of all, that DAB radio (you can only listen to Test Match Special on DAB or Long Wave). The Transporter is a smart looking machine especially in the dark blue metallic paint sported by this particular Kombi.
But I haven’t got to the best bit – the fourth reason why this was such a good day out. It was the customer. To this day, he is still the most excited and enthusiastic customer I have yet delivered to. And with my liking for vans, I can understand why. Friends have asked me, of all the vehicles I have delivered, which one would I like to keep for my own. Well, it would be this one. Actually, that’s not true. It would be the Bentley Mulsanne Speed. But I would sell the Bentley and buy a Transporter Kombi and a house by the sea.
The customer’s enthusiasm made me jealous of a new vehicle owner for the first and only time since I have been doing this delivery work. He very kindly offered to give me a lift to Yatton station (in the Kombi of course) and all the way we talked with a shared enthusiasm about the vehicle. The conversation was interspersed at regular intervals with excited exclamations of “this is brilliant” and “this is awesome” from the customer. I learned that he had a young family and this was to be his family transport as well as the vehicle he would use for his small business. The Kombi was to replace an old Mercedes E-class estate with which he was not very enamoured. He and his family were into beaches and surfing. Forget what car companies try to sell us as “Sports Utility Vehicles”, the Kombi is a true SUV. Room for six people and a whopping load area for all sorts of sporting, leisure and/or holiday paraphernalia. There would even be room for an ironing board should you wish to indulge in a bit of extreme ironing, which as you all know (having read the post “Bradford and a Stormtroopin’ Evoque“) was invented in Leicester.
So don’t you get all that with a large 4×4? No. Most 4x4s could not match the Kombi for load or even passenger space. And don’t think that this is a huge unwieldy beast – it is shorter than a Mercedes E-Class estate and a Range Rover. In my view, the Kombi is a much more honest, down to earth vehicle than any 4×4/SUV (many SUV’s not actually being four wheel drive despite appearances). The vast majority of families are far more likely to make use of the people and load carrying capabilities of a Kombi than the four wheel drive benefits of a 4×4. Think of days out with house guests, trips to the tip, holidays, picking up that new fridge and pastimes involving really big things. Compare that with the only real advantage of a 4×4 for most people, which is the ability to get to work on the 1 or 2 days a year that it snows. So 4×4 owners can feel really smug about getting to work while the rest of the population get an extra 1 or 2 days holiday (er, I mean they get to work at home).
So, is the VW Transporter Kombi the ultimate family transport?