I can’t say I’ve ever sat behind the wheel of our Kombi without feeling an overwhelming sense of happiness. Hand to heart, it happens every time.
It’s not just that people stop and smile at me as we drive leisurely by, or that she brings a sense of freedom reminiscent of a Bob Marley number, or that every time I pass a fellow Kombi owner there’s friendly waves exchanged, or that she’s made life a constant holiday, and it’s not even the fact that the big bay window provides a fantastic view of whatever we’re passing (hence why I always take the scenic route, and am thus late to almost everything… yep, let’s blame it on that.)
Actually it’s a little bit of all of those things, but mostly it’s because the day we drove her home, she became part of our little family, and I feel so incredibly fortunate and grateful that she is.
The story of how she came to be ours is a rather lovely one, and is thanks to one incredibly lovely old man.
Owning my own ‘happiness bus’ was always a pipe dream of mine. Occasionally I would scroll through sale ads online, much in the same way one dreams about winning the lottery. Dom, probably just excited that I was paying interest in any type of vehicle (other than owning a van - I couldn’t give a rip what we drive), promised me that someday we’d own one. But, while that wasn’t in the realm of our reality, we decided to look at newer models (because, funnily, with Kombis the newer they are the more affordable they are). It was while scrolling ads for this that I came across Scout… Clearly I wasn’t searching properly.
Most of the vintage VW vans for sale in SA read along the lines of, “great family van, starts sometimes…” or “moves when in neutral”. While these vans sounded like a great time, as soon as I saw the ad for Scout I had to calm my racing heart. A Westfalia campervan in beautiful condition, no rust, a V6 Holden engine that has her running like a dream and strong enough to tow a caravan, a completely original interior, and one owner since the year she was made, in 1972.
I somehow convinced Dom to come look with me, just to look. Just so we know what we should look for one day, I said. He repeated about twenty five times on the way there that I should by no means get my hopes up, as this van was way out of our budget, completely impossible and off the cards.
I fell in love the second I set my wide eyes on her. I tried to act natural and normal as Peter, the kind Dutch-South African owner showed us around, but the fact that Dom whispered into my ear, “control yourself woman, be cool” probably meant I wasn’t doing a very good job. It must have been my huge grin, or may have been my tears.
We left, grateful to have met Peter and his beautiful van, but unable to put an offer in. We shared with him our story, and told him of our dreams to own a van like Scout. And he told us his.
He and his wife, just married, bought the Kombi together in 1972 in Germany. They travelled all over Europe, having wondrous adventures, and then transported her to South Africa where they lived for a number of years. Twenty five years ago they moved to Australia, and couldn’t part with their beloved VW so they brought her too. In Australia they started a family, and gave their daughters a childhood interspersed with Kombi trips and travels all over the country. This van was part of their family, well looked after and very well loved. It had been places, and seen things, he told us, that would make the most seasoned traveller envious.
Just over a week later we received a call from Peter, and he invited us back for a second look. We drove there, with Dom again tenderly telling me not to get my hopes up, we couldn’t afford it right now, and please not to start crying again. If only he knew the waterfall of tears he would behold that day.
Peter told us he had two men make offers for his asking price that week. My heart sunk. Why were we here?
However, he said, he knew both these men were collectors. His van would sit in shed, collecting dust, or on display, or perhaps even have some work done to spruce her up. He asked us, in all seriousness, what we could afford. While I sat at the table silently, my heart racing, Dom said to Peter that he meant no offence, but the most we could spend was around half of what he was asking.
Peter then told us the reason for the sale. His wife, with whom he’d shared every van experience, had recently passed away. His daughters, now adults, had finally agreed and understood why he couldn’t bare to keep the van. Too many memories held within it, and the time had come.
He told us that the idea of the Kombi going to a young married couple, beginning their lives together, just like he and his wife when they bought it together back in 72, meant so much more to him. With tears in his eyes he told us he would accept our offer, but only on one condition.
“Anything...,” I told him.
“You have to promise me you’ll have adventures.”
We both simultaneously nodded our heads and promised, with tears springing from every eye at the table.
“And when you have your own children, you have to take them on many, many adventures.”
That is a promise we could make whole heartedly.
You can see our adventures around Australia later this year in Scout on Instragram @downtherabbitholewines & @elisecook