The 1960s hippie icon has recently made a comeback with the Bigpond TV ad and Little Miss Sunshine movie. Photo Gallery
It's not a case of any old iron for artistic blacksmith Rodney Davis; it's got to be a Volkswagen.
His first car was a 1961 EK Holden he bought in 1980 for $2000. He sold it a couple of years later and ever since he's owned VWs. "I've had VWs all my life," the 46-year-old said. "I just swear by them. They are so reliable."
He has since owned three Beetle variations and four Kombi models, including his current rare twin-cab ute. "I bought it from a lady who'd parked it in the street to go to the markets," he said. "I loved it, so I left a note on the windscreen and she said she had had a hundred people asking her to sell it for years, but eventually she did."
Davis paid $6000 for it and spent untold amounts boring out the two-litre engine to 2.2L, lowering the suspension, replacing the metal tray with aluminium checker-board plate, adding 15-inch wheels and wide rubber, and chroming the front bumper, grille and headlight surrounds.
Inside, it is in original condition except for the re-upholstered seats and the extra bit welded to the 500m gear shift to bring it closer to the bus-style original steering wheel. "I wanted to put a smaller steering wheel in but it gets hard to steer and also you can't then lean on the wheel," he said.
The 1960s hippie icon has recently made a comeback with the Bigpond TV ad and Little Miss Sunshine movie. "Kombis are becoming quite popular because of that ad and also because they are becoming rare," he said.
"I know of a VW Safari Kombi that fetched about $70,000. "I've been offered $30,000 for mine so far which is not bad; it's getting more valuable as it gets older," he said.
But Davis wouldn't part with it. "I'll probably have this the rest of my life," he said. "I use it every day and I've even been to Melbourne in it. My eight-year-old son Ethan wants this so I hope it is still going by then."
Even if money were no object, he would remain true to his Kombi. "I'd probably just do this up with a Porsche engine," he said. However, even that might not happen because Davis is keen to keep his VW as original as possible. This policy has already led to a custom car show award for best original restoration.
He believes the nostalgia it stirs makes the VW so valuable. "Most of my clients are fairly wealthy and have a Lexus or a Porsche in their driveway yet when I turn up in this they get all excited and say `I used to have one of these when I was young'," he said. "People are always taking photos of it at the traffic lights and waving and smiling."
But Kombi ownership hasn't been all smiles, despite Davis's declaration that "there's not much that can go wrong with them". He confesses: "I have had a couple of breakdowns."
"The worst thing that happened was when the accelerator cable broke and the engine is in the back," he said. "I had a guy who leaned out the back window with a coat hanger attached to the carby, operating the accelerator for me."