Bay of Plenty’s Guy and Marieka have a deceptively simple camper. While they have gone for the stealth look on the outside, the inside is lush and cleverly laid out. It’s probably all you ever need for surf missions and exploring NZ.
You guys moved to the UK for a while aye, was travelling around the UK and Europe what sparked the interest in campers?
Yes we moved to Southampton in early 04 intending to basically just do a 2 year sojourn which ended up being closer to 8! The attraction to Southampton came about from being a 10 year old nipper in 1976 watching 2 teams in the F.A. Cup Final and my Dad asking me which team I’d like to back and he would choose the other. Of course as you guessed I chose the red and white vertical stripes – The Saints. ‘We’ won 2 -1 with the winning goal from the legendary Bobby Stoke. Marieka had already done a previous 2 year stint in London so Southampton it was. When we decided to do a 8 month trip through Europe we had seen numerous other epic campervans especially the more iconic VW Kombi’s.
What did you have over there?
We decided to stick with my plastering trades van – a Ford Transit 2.2 litre 5 speed manual. We made a double bed base with comfy mattress. Slung our Andy Jordan/Dahlberg 7.2 and Classic Malibu 9’1 above our heads. One wooden chest for our clothes and a second one for our food provisions with a Gasmate 2 burner with toasting rack attached to a small blue Calor gas bottle. A makeshift awning made from canvas and 2 extendable tent poles.
Where’d you go in it?
We explored 17 countries throughout Central and Western Europe. Some briefly and some for longer periods namely 4 weeks in our favourite Portugal (Great surf/people/culture/food) France; Belgium; Netherlands; Luxembourg; Germany; Austria; Hungary; Czech Republic; Slovakia; Slovenia; Croatia; Italy; Gibraltar; Manaco; Spain; Portugal; Andorra.
So you came home in 2011. Did you get Patch straight away?
Yes we finally returned in 2011. Tossed a coin between living in Waihi Beach or Papamoa. The latter won due to work prospects for us both. No, we waited 7 years to purchase a Jumbo Hiace 2.7 Petrol Auto. Our Ford Transit van that we did our Europe travels in had a wee bit of rust popping up here and there. So with some running body repairs finished with a can of cosmetic spray paint the nickname ‘Patch’ seemed appropriate. We decided to name our new Jumbo Hiace van the same ‘Patch 2’ but affectionately referred to as just ‘Patch’ once more.
Did you want to do the conversion yourself, like was that part of the allure, did you consider buying ‘off the rack’?
We knew we wanted a ‘stealth camper’. Something easy to drive into ordinary everyday places. Longboards underslung on a factory made internal rack system. The extra length for a decent bed where my feet didn’t hang over the end or ending up diagonally where Marieka was folded up into some weird origami type shape.
The Conversion… did Patch start as a blank [empty] canvas…and how’d you decide on the layout?
It was definately fun having a blank canvas. There were literally only three Jumbo Hiaces for sale in NZ at the time. The 3rd one landing at the Auckland Wharf. It was like “How much do you want for a deposit?” Reply “500 dollars” Me “Done – Thanks”. A 2008 2.7 Petrol Auto.
The workmanship is pretty sick, did you do all the work yourself?
Well the design ideas were ours. Marieka having equal input especially the interior finishes like the beautiful retro Resene’s Karen Walker ‘Beryl Green’ cabinetry colour to the nicely contrasting grey of the custom made thermal lined curtains.
After initial rough pencil sketches we soon worked out where we wanted the various items namely the bed with storage underneath. Half of which would open on 2 powered gas struts. The kitchen galley. Where the sink would go. All the electrics. Cable management. Types of batteries which ended up being 2 heavy duty AGM deep cycle ones. 12 volt lighting. We insulated above the ceiling with lagging insulation which has the silver foil on one side with pink batts insulation in behind the walls. The icing on the cake was the beautiful curved sarked type ceiling with long lengths of 90 x 10 pine from our local sawmill. We applied 2 coats of Danish oil to bring out some of the natural wood’s lustre and to preserve at the same time. We went with a beautiful bamboo for our counter tops which we gave a gloss type natural bee’s wax finish too.
Oh we also knew we didn’t need a large fridge so ended up with possibly the world’s smallest one from Burnsco.
We bought some Whisper Bar roof racks to which we attached a 2.5 x 2.5m Sunseeker awning which has been used many a time. There was one lesson learned a couple of Summers ago. Note to selves – Firmly peg and attach guy ropes in case of freakishly strong winds to avoid the whole unit jack flipping over onto the roof!
How have you used Patch since finishing?
We’ve had Patch now for approximately three years and have done numerous smaller trips to places like Hot Water Beach/Raglan/Waihi Beach/Ohope Beach and then in October 2019 did a two week trip through the South Island. From Picton to Milford Sounds concentrating on the West Coast and Central areas.
What’s good about Patch, what would you change?
Well on the whole no complaints at all. Everything’s good although have often said “If only the ceiling height was a tad more generous”. Can’t quite fully stand up inside.
And finally what are Guy and Marieka’s top tips/tricks to anyone thinking about getting a camper?
Think about your space/storage allocation requirements.
Bed layout. If you’ve never quite reached the 5 foot 7 and beyond heights then an East/West bed would be fine giving you much needed extra space in the cabin.
Make sure counter height is generous also with a minimum of 700cm height to allow for the height of the white and grey water containers.
Make sure to get your vehicle self containment certification. While we mostly utilise Camping Grounds, now and again we go off track and it’s good to know we are doing it legally.
See you on the roads. Those well frequented and also those less well travelled to see the treasures that abound our beautiful and majestic Aotearoa.
The couple’s side hustle is Coastal Surf Images, and they are good! Check them out on Instagram HERE