The Art of Kombi-nism – by Mike Shackleton

merryEverything old is new again, in Batmania.

This is demonstrated by the Batmanian’s desire to seek out vintage clothing, furniture and electronics.  Perhaps these desires indicate that we are a nostalgic people. Or maybe we’ve realised it’s fun to have a few things around that have demonstrated their ability to withstand the test of time. The vain hope that we won’t feel the urge to discard them 18 months – obsolete with the next release of an iObject.

I’m the proud owner of a 1979 Kombi campervan called Meredith. To be honest, none of these postmodern ideals ever factored into my decision making process.  I just love Kombis. But, if you are a person with above mentioned desires, and a hankering for a brick shaped vehicle that sounds like that vintage sewing machine you acquired at Camberwell market, and smells like Revolver on Sunday morning, then I hope I can impart some wisdom from experience before you outlay your hard earned Quatlooms.


1.  Be prepared to get your hands dirty.

The Kombi is a functioning museum piece.  As my mechanic bluntly put it to me once, “Every time you drive her, she gets older.”  So don’t be surprised to find yourself lying under your Kombi on the side of the road, trying to fix the broken gear linkage, only to find you have effected a fix that only gives you forward gears.


2.  Don’t expect to arrive at your destination on time, or indeed, ever.

Remember, there are no such thing as a breakdown with a Kombi, only spontaneous camping events.  With that in mind ensure your van pantry carries snacks at all times in case you have to wait for a tow truck, and a sleeping bag if you have to stay with her overnight.


3.  Find a mechanic who knows Kombis, and be nice to him.

I find bottles of Captain Morgan can soothe even the crankiest mechanic.  Be prepared to pay in cash, many times.


4.  Give your Kombi a name.  

Meredith was born to me in late November 2010, just before I went to a certain music festival.  But you can call her Merry.  In a past life she was named Madeline, after the French cartoon character who likes to get into adventures.  The naming process enables you to to develop a bond with your Kombi which in turn, allows you to rationalise handing over cash to your mechanic, many times.  You can also anthropomorphise your van’s behaviour by saying things like, “Oh, she’s an old lady, she’s entitled to get a bit stubborn from time to time.  Once I’ve handed over some cash to my mechanic again I’m sure she’ll be OK.”


5.  Wave to other Kombi drivers.

It’s bad form not to, and in an instant allows the other driver to instantly assess how long ago you got your hands dirty.


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