Can you please tell us a little bit about your background
and the background to Outermotive?
My husband Colin is the expert on VWís and from when he
was born he inherited his dadís love of Beetles
particularly. He was under the bonnet of Beetles, whether he
liked it or not. But not so much on the camper side of
And what were you up to?
Me? I used to work at the courts in Warwick, a completely
separate kind of thing until I had my children and what have
you. But I always wanted to have a camper van and I remember
my parents saying I shouldnít have one because I
couldnít fix it if it went wrong. (Laughs)
Fortunately you didnít take their advice.
No, but I did wait until I met Colin. (Laughs) It was
something that really came together when we got together and
Colin was an engineer at the time for the British Touring
Cars and Porsche GT Club and those kinds of things. The work
on those is very seasonal and each year youíre looking for
the next job. So we started to think about doing something
of our own. And then the idea of having a camper came back
And you both bring different skills to it.
Yes, mine more admin and business and that kind of thing.
And then Colinís got the practical Volkswagen and other
historic cars from his historic rally cars experience. So we
could have a camper van ourselves (Laughs) we thought weíd
perhaps start hiring them and have a workshop for fixing
them for customers.
You have a few campers?
We have three.
Itís good for people to have a choice. What sorts of
packages are you offering?
Basically for weeks and weekends mostly but one thing we
like to try to do is to be flexible with our hire dates. I
know a lot of places are much more rigid where you have to
start it on a Friday. Whereas we like to start on a Friday
because itís simpler (Laughs) but because we know
peopleís lives are so different now and they work in all
kinds of different jobs at different times. So we try to be
a bit more flexible and if someone wants to do Tuesday to
Tuesday then they can.
Digger: My girlfriend and I tend to be like that Ė we try
to avoid the busy times and the obvious times. People tend
not to fit into moulds as you say.
As long as it works for you.
To be honest, it doesnít seem to make too much difference
in the end. Each year we said ďShall we change it?Ē but
you can end up booking in short trips for people at short
notice and it doesnít seem to make too much difference
overall so we carried on that way.
What makes Outermotive stand out?
Weíre fussy and quite particular. As far as the hireís
concerned weíve tried to keep the vans weíve got as
original as possible. Although the latest one weíve done
weíve made a completely new interior but weíve made it
in the same style exactly as the old one and itís all hand-made by a carpenter. Some people just like to strip all that
out and put a more modern bed in there and thatís about
it. What weíve done Ė we quite like them how they were
back in the seventies and even with our house weíre
probably the same.
People canít expect any real modern concessions?
They have the same things that another van would have.
Itís got new curtains and nice and fresh upholstery and
what have you. Itís just that weíve done it keeping the
retro style which I think is important for us and for the
clients. To keep it in the style it should have been in, I
sort of clients are you getting and where are they coming
All sorts of clients. It really is actually. I donít know
what we expected when we started, perhaps mainly younger
people but it really is every age which is great actually.
We have younger couples heading off to festivals or groups
of four girls going off for a weekend somewhere.
What are the best things about what you both do?
I suppose itís making people happy at the end of the day.
Itís really nice when young kids see the camper going
along the road too and they say ďOoh look, a camper
van.Ē And the excitement when they arrive and when they
come back they donít want to give the camper back.
Yes. It is things like that which really make you want to do
it. From the workshop side of things for my husband
itís somebody bringing along something that either
doesnít work or is looking a bit worse for wear and
sending it out fixed and shiny. We fix a lot of customer
Beetles and other vehicles in our workshop and weíve got
all sorts in there at any one time. Thereís no denying
that Germans are good at engineering.
Thatís right. Most of the mid-range managersí cars these
days are either Audi, BMW or Mercedes. Why is retro, and why
are VW campers and Beetles, so enduringly popular?
I was born in the seventies so I might be biased but I still
love all things seventies Ė flared trousers and so on. But
I think it was a simpler time.
It certainly was.
I love the bright colours of them and the fact that you can
just get into a camper and just head off. Itís so
different from your sort of constrained lifestyle generally
speaking whenever you go to work. Itís a feeling of
Technology allows us to do things but it also saddles us in
Yes, true. I think really I should be living back then.
You never know! What sort of feedback are you getting
Itís really positive. Thereís the occasional person that
it doesnít suit, to be honest. I think people often like
to try the campers if theyíre thinking of buying one as
Yes, like a test drive.
That can be useful and most people love it but there can be
the occasional one that it doesnít. One client found the
bed in the roof to be not enough room and didnít enjoy it
but most people love it. If we had more campers to sell,
which is something we can expand on, we could sell plenty of
them to hire customers who come back and want to buy them.
(Laughs) People just canít wait to do it again.
What things should clients consider when booking a VW camper
Practical things Ė pack light because itís really
important for fuel economy and comfort in the camper. It is
still camping at the end of the day albeit a more glorified
form and a bit drier if it rains. (Laughs) So itís good to
think about campsites ahead of time as well. What weíre
hearing is that camping is experiencing a big revival and
obviously that means that campsites are a bit busier in peak
seasons and itís good definitely to think of where you
might want to go and book ahead. Some people are not worried
about that and just go off, so it depends on the individual.
At the moment, certainly in the summer holidays, Iíd suggest
Pack light and plan ahead.
Yes, but really our campers do come with most of the things
you need. Pots and pans, kitchen sink, torch, first aid kit,
Youíve thought of it all, havenít you?
Yes, absolutely. Thereís a table and a couple of chairs as
well. And a hob.
So you just need to bring your bedding along?
Bedding, clothes, food.
I think most people would have that sussed, wouldnít they?
So what are your retro passions Karen?
Apart from campers and flairs (Laughs) I also love vinyl.
Are they in good condition?
Yes. Iíve got all kinds of bits and pieces but Iíve got
some Technics record decks so I like to play records as
well. I know itís more and more difficult to get hold of
them but I like them. I donít know if I ever want to get
rid of them. I like having that big stack of records.
The album cover artwork and the sleeve notes are sadly
missed in these digital days. And itís all going east,
our vinyl heritage, apparently. A few of my vinyl clients
tell me itís going to ex-Soviet countries and Russia and
Turkey and even the middle-east. There goes our heritage!
these things have a way of finding their way back
We love lots of older music.
Nice to hear that coming out of a VW camper. Where do
you see the future for Outermotive? More vans?
Possibly notÖ I think we're going to keep it to
about the level we have now. The reason being that we can
maintain them better, we know what we've got. They do take a
bit of maintenance and I guess that's something we can offer
above some other places. Because we have the workshop we are
able to maintain them correctly.