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PH Service History: Let Me Be Your Vantasy

Vans are cool, as evinced by the Transporter used to lap the 'ring. What more excuse do we need to find some cool old ones for sale?

By Alex Robbins / Sunday, September 16, 2018

I don't know about you, but I've got quite the soft spot for a van. Now, of course, I'll grant you that this is probably because I don't have to spend my working day in a slightly knackered Transit that emits more black clouds than a coal-fired power station. But still, whenever I do get behind the wheel of a van, I have to admit to a childish exuberance at helming something big, clunky and - when not fully loaded - actually quite quick.

Indeed, that latter fact has been proven already, first by Sabine Schmitz lapping the Ring in a Transit a la Top Gear, and latterly by this video of touring car ace Rob Austin doing the same sort of thing in a VW Transporter. And frankly, that's all the excuse I need to go ferreting around in the classifieds for some cool vans to show you lovely people.

First up, what if I wanted to do a Nurburgring lap record of my own? Well, because I'm rubbish at driving quickly, I'd have to cheat a bit. Enter this sporty little Fiesta Sport Van. In black, and furnished with the accessory bodykit, it's already ticking my boxes, and while it isn't exactly cheap at £10,499, it's covered just 18,000 miles - which means it stands out in the usual, leggy Fiesta van crowd.

Under the skin, of course, you get the same chassis that made the Mk7 so brilliant, and a reasonably peppy 95hp engine. That's not enough, obviously - but it's only a quick chip away from 120hp or so, or if we really wanted to go all out, whap a bigger turbo and some ST suspension on there. The result should be something capable of going Bridge to Gantry in less than 10 minutes - even in the hands of a complete klutz like your humble correspondent. And, let's not forget, a deeply cool little van.

In awesome van world, mind you, it's not always about going fast. In fact, sometimes it's just about looking good. For which you'll need something like this utterly fabulous Volkswagen Type 2 splittie. Granted, you might have to do something about the current livery, if you don't want to drive around promoting the people you've bought it from, but then again there are few things cooler than a gently patinated split with a giant 'Porsche' logo emblazoned down the side of it.

Inside, it's anything but patinated, with a full retrim and some basic camping accoutrements out back; in short, this sounds like a cracking van that can double as a camper and will turn heads anywhere you take it. It's also an original right-hooker, which only adds to the appeal, plus there's a new engine with twin 40s and a selection of other knowing tweaks. The want is strong for this one.

What else is there? Ah yes, here we go. Now, rarely do the words 'cute' and 'van' go together - but I think this Mini combines them about as well as I've ever seen. I'll grant you that we've now moved rather far from the Nurburgring lapping territory from whence we came - indeed, were you to try such things in this, I suspect you'd topple over as soon as you tipped it into Tiergarten. But the Nurburgring isn't everything - and come on, who couldn't fall in love with this adorable ice cream van?

It looks to be in immaculate nick, with period-correct graphics and paint job - and under the skin it's only done 61,000 miles. Frankly, I can't imagine you'll find a cooler ice cream truck going. If that's your sort of thing. Ahem.

From one piece of British Leyland history to another. And this one's quite different - but I felt like throwing it in simply because I love a survivor. They don't come more survivor-y than this Austin Maestro van. Imagine, if you will, how few Maestro vans survive at all; how many were tools, to be used rather than cherished; how few were therefore cared for; and of the proportion that were, how many would still have fallen prey to rubbish build quality, rust, sinking values or theft.

Through all of that, this terrifically beige, achingly utilitarian 1.3L has survived. And not just survived, but done so in immaculate fettle, with just 23,000 miles on the clock. Crikey.

Obviously, an artefact like this should be preserved just-so, a piece of history the like of which you won't see again. And yet... and yet there's a little part of me that can't help but imagine it with a Rover 220 Turbo lump and diff up it, combined with proper suspension, a roll cage and a set of black Compomotive THs all round. On which note I think it's time to draw this week's installment of Service History to a close, before I get any more stupid ideas.

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