Renee and I bought our 2003 VW van sort of by accident. Renee had a 9-3 Saab I bought her when I was toasted. She never felt safe in the car, for good reason. In heavy rain it used to drift. It never felt glued to the road in snow. We get a lot of both up here, it was time to get rid of it.
So I call a guy at the dealer in Glenwood I got stoned with. He tells me, “Paul. I gotta VW Van here, it just came in the other day. It won’t last long, you gotta see it.”
One of my favorite movies is The Love Bug. I always thought VW Vans were groovy. So off to the dealer I went — with an open mind and some really great weed.
It was love at first sight. I came home stoned, in our new van.
A few years ago I started dreaming about what I could do to our van. Then my boy Justin made me a VW Lego Van for Father’s Day. It’s been in my office since.
Last year I started looking around, looking at pictures of VW Vans. Once I did I couldn’t stop. I had to do what I’d been dreaming of, redo our van. So I called Max Gerson @ 303 Motor Sports in Denver. BTW. If you need custom work to your Audi, call Max. He’s done us right.
I asked Max if he knew anyone who could customize our van. Score. Max turned me onto Cole Ford, CaveVan. Cole’s website is here:
Called Cole, good vibe. He seemed like a guy I could work with. Not just now, for the long run. I went down to Denver to meet Cole. He was even better in person. Cole is a car guy, he loves what he does. He loves cars, he loves VW Vans. Not only that, him and I are in alignment on a lot of stuff. Cole sent me some pics of his work, I was sold. I found a guy who does great work, who could be a friend.
Here’s an old pic of Cole (he’s much better looking now), his work, engine’s he’s built. Cole likes Lego vans too.
Cole worked me up a quote. I emptied out the piggy bank, dropped off the van to him 2 weeks later. Cole got right to work. Just about each day until the van was finished I’d get pictures. My tech addiction got worse, checking for new pics from Cole.
I wanted the van to be old school and new. The inspiration was the Samba Van and looking at my Lego Van. Cole sent me this picture (two vans). Perfect.
Notice that in the newer van there’s no v look on the front. So I decided to bring the paint down lower, to create the look I was after.
Cole started working out the little details that add up to a kick ass van. But first, the van had to have a name. All of Cole’s vans have names and I wasn’t going to do anything to change the creative groove Cole was in. Cole called it Snap Dragon. The name didn’t mean much to me then, it means a lot now.
Cole is big on details and we’re forever grateful. It’d be tedious to list everything here. We’re still adding more. Check out the custom cubby hole, Wolfsburg wheel caps, and yellow brake calipers. Cole was on a roll.
The first big change was the paint. Here’s the first pics of the van back from the painter. The painter did some hack work. But Cole stood behind his promise, redid some of what the painter fucked up. There’s still one more fix on the way.
Cole recommended we lift the van. Great suggestion. Cole recommends this to all his VW Van customers and I can’t recommend it enough. Lifting gives the van tough and style. Cole makes his own lift kit, it’s bitchin.
Cole’s suggestions to do the top and table in beetle kill, cover the bumpers, top, and mirrors were right on. Doing so recycles, saves wear and tear. We have some beetle kill furniture bought from Etsy. Doing the top and table in beetle kill is in sync with what we believe in, an easy decision. The beetle kill wood is from here in CO.
Doing the floor was also a great idea, because it makes it super simple to clean. We would have replaced the plywood but Cole said it was fine. BTW. I talked to a guy at the Phish show who had the floor done is his VW Van. The guy he took it to put the flooring on over the carpet. Now he has to have it redone. I gave him Cole’s number, hopefully he’ll get in touch. Cole took the van down to plywood then applied the new flooring — which is the right way to do it.
A lot started happening, this was so on. I needed to jump ahead, so I could see the finished product — or at least conceptualize it so I could make sure I was on the right track. Cole was skeptical of the curtains Renee picked out and so was I. I also wasn’t sure the color scheme or the yellow tent top would flow right.
Here’s the 1st photoshopped pic.
re: curtains. Even though the concept picture looked right, I wasn’t completely sure about the curtains until they were on. Renee designed them. Renee’s vision for the curtains was a picture frame look. She nailed it. Every woman who’s ever seen the van loves ’em. Most men too. Way to go, Sweetie. I love you more every day.
Once I saw the picture I was sure I was on the right track. In fact, I thought the van would turn ever better than I had planned. I was right.
No hippie van is complete without good music. Cole upgraded the stereo, changed out all the speakers. He also saved us a lot of money. I wanted to go much bigger on the stereo, get a bigger sound. But then Cole showed me his bluetooth speaker. Cole has a good way of explaining simple ideas to complicated people like me. Our Ultimate Ears Megaboom speaker is La Bomba. And it doesn’t need any power. So we have good tunes while driving, hanging out having coffee. Cole gets it.
We believe in solar, so does Cole. Cole installed a solar panel on top and a super cool battery to store the power the panel generates. Now we’ve got enough power to charge all our gadgets wherever we are. Check out the custom brackets Cole made for the panel. Cole is c for custom.
The solar also powers the fridge Cole recommended. The fridge kicks ass. It stored 9 days worth of food when we took our first trip to the left coast a couple of weeks ago. The fridge is good for the environment, because we don’t have to buy ice. It’s good for us, because we bring food from our kitchen when we go somewhere.
And the solar powers all the interior lights.
We wanted a bike rack and an awning, Cole delivered. We love both. The bike rack is lightweight, holds 3 bikes. The awning provides a lot of shade.
Cole scored an 11 on the interior. He found the perfect upholstery – marine, soft. Everyone thinks the interior is leather. Cole designs a custom thingy that turns the stock seats into swivel seats. Yellow seat belts are in progress. When they’re in I’ll post a pic.
When we dropped off the van to Cole the 1st week in June we told him we had to have it back on August 8th, to leave for our already-paid-for left coast vacation on August 10th. No van, no vacation. Crying boy + pissed off wife = pissed off Paul.
The van was ready on August 8th. We picked it up on August 9th.
When we dropped off the van the 1st week in June we told Cole we need it back on August 8th, so we could leave on-time for our already-paid-for vacation. We picked up the van on August 9th, left on August 10th. On schedule.
A car guy that delivers an upgrade of this scope on time??? OMG.
There’s two words for the trip we’re on — hippie van. But they only give you 7 letters for a license plate. As karma would have it, we got the plate we wanted. I’ll never forget the look on Renee’s face when she saw her van. Oh. It should be noted that this is Renee’s van. And that she married a hippie.
Now it was time to take a trip – “not taking a trip”. Off to CA we go, to take the boy to Disneyland. But our hippie van isn’t going anywhere without stickers. Not just any stickers, stickers we believe in. The right stickers, in the right place. Cole is a purist, he doesn’t like stickers on his work. I get it. I spent hours agonizing which sticker goes where.
We left on August 10th. We got to the Canyon 5 minutes before it closed.
On the way, we stopped at the world’s largest solar install. It was so beautiful. We also took a tour of the Patagonia headquarters. I’m a Patagonia guy, they’re a great company.
VW Vans are for sleeping in. But our boy didn’t have a sleeping bag. So I took him to REI, a company I believe in as much as I do Patagonia, bought him his first sleeping bag. Our first night sleeping in the van was when we got back. We slept in our driveway.
No hippie van is a hippie van unless it travels to concerts. Time to take it to a festival, to see a band I love — Phish. So off to Phish @ Dick’s we (the van and I) went.
No matter where you are, there you go. I can’t say enough, how much we dig the trip we’re on. I wish it for everyone.
As you can see by my blog, I don’t believe in social media. I don’t think it’s real. What I do believe in, is telling real stories about real stuff and real people. Have I said real enough?
A relationship is about the long run. So far Cole and us go back to May 016. He’s been righteous. Thank you Cole
Cole does his thing to Type 5 VW Vans and Sprinters. If you want something done, my advice as of this post is to call him.
The hippie van was designed by Americans, done by Americans. Instead of buying something new we fixed up something old. We kept our money at home, we helped our neighbors prosper. It is completely in sync with what Renee and I value.
I don’t smoke or drink anymore. I haven’t since 4.16.07. Neither does Renee. But we still get high. Every day. Au natural, by living.
What up? More coffee, hanging out, concerts, doin’ it, in the hippie van. More real friends and stuff. Moving our feet more than our lips. Praying for world peace.
If it all goes South? We’ll sleep in our hippie van.
May everyone live their hippie life, in their hippie van.
What a great living story about your “HIPEVAN” and Cole Ford. I really enjoyed reading it, especially since he restored my van also. It is the teal one with white trim in the photos. Everything you said about him is true. He is a great guy, great to work with, and very creative. I love my van. He took it from a clunker/donor van to a beautiful mobile art studio that attracts a lot of attention everywhere I go.
I think you and I talked once.
It’s beautiful that you posted on the blog. Many thanks.
I am guessing you the one who called me to see if I would recommend Cole after he restored my van. I gather from your article….I was telling you the truth about how good he is. ?
Yep, that was me who called.
it seems to be working out well. ;-)