What would you think is a typical company vehicle?
I’d guess the BMW 3-Series. Most of those you see zipping up and down our motorways are driven by corporate types. Many are stuffed with options, designed to put an individual stamp on these cars, but their very popularity makes this a bit hard to achieve.
Move really up market, into the rarified world of Ferraris and Bentleys, and personalising these things is for many part of the pleasure of buying them in the first place. Thus, showrooms have the feel of boutiques, with swatches of cloths and leathers, a lumberyard’s worth of wood veneers and a slew of exotic materials like carbon fibre for very wealthy fingers to caress.
These things are bespoke, but inevitably in a slightly off-the-shelf way, thanks to all the safety and design parameters that modern cars are subject to. Anyone wanting a Continental GT’s dashboard topped off with hand lacquered porcupine spikes is likely to be given a very polite short shrift.
So if you want truly personalised wheels, you’ll more or less have to design and build it yourself, which is exactly what engineer Tim Davis has done. His company vehicle is a VW Camper, based on the T4 Transporter van, and there’s really noting else quite like it. Davis is effectively an environmental consultant specialising in narrow boats. His main gig involves fitting solar panels them, but he’s also kept busy advising on low energy lights and battery-friendly fridges that are less likely to leave boaters up the creek without a frozen pizza.
Davis started out as an RAF engineer before becoming a consultant, working on huge projects. Eventually he tired of the huge egos and huge stress levels so swapped that for a boat building business, which he left at the tiller of a narrow boat that had become his permanent home. Davis sometimes potters up a canal to visit a client, but as some of them would take weeks to reach by inland waterway, having wheels has become a necessity, hence the VW.
‘I designed the interior,’ he said. ‘There’s a workshop, space for stock and a sleeping area. Sometimes it makes the job possible.’ He converted it to run on biodiesel and had the engine mapped so that it produces 170bhp so it’s a pretty quick motor home, but thanks to it consuming re-cycled chip fat, the thing has become known as ‘the green machine.’
Davis will concede that the sleeping quarters are compact and bijou, but if there’s enough room to swing a tool bag, the bed itself is actually more comfortable than the one in his boat.
Vehicle makers often talk about making their products dovetail with individual lifestyles, but even the most accessory-obsessive new car owner would probably struggle to make it fit into the way they live as Tim Davis has with his venerable van.