When it comes to retro, anything based on a classic Volkswagen is going to be cool. Turn an old Kombi into a thoroughly modern motorhome and you’re onto a winner.
When my dad was growing up, his family used to tour around the country in a VW Kombi camper. It was a fairly basic affair with not much more than a bed, a table and a couple of small cupboards, certainly no fancy amenities like you get in a modern motorhome. What dad did remember about the old Kombi was that travelling in it was heaps of fun. That sense of fun carries through today where retro campers based on VW Kombis are more popular than ever.
Enter Phil & Jess Hoken who are the owners and founders of RETRO RV. They are also the founders, co-owners and franchisors of Australia’s fastest-growing mobile bar franchise business ‘Kombi Keg’. Phil is 40 years old and a qualified automotive technician with 24 years of experience and has always been passionate about restoring old cars.
Outside of ‘Kombi Keg’ Phil always dreamed of building motorhomes out of Kombi vans so when Covid-19 hit he figured that would be the perfect time to launch RETRO RV. Since there were restrictions on international travel, Phil anticipated Aussies would be more likely to end up travelling within their own country. His prediction proved right as sales of caravans and motorhomes have skyrocketed since the pandemic hit with more and more people turning to RV travel as a family holiday alternative.
So, with that, Phil and his mate Justin started to build the very first RETRO RV in a shed belonging to his in-laws on the Central Coast of NSW.
Phil told RV Daily, “The very first RETRO RV was a 1961 T1 Split Screen Kombi which was purchased from a farm in the middle of NSW for two cartons of Carlton Dry! The framework was made from 25 x 25 x 3mm aluminium tube and clad with an aluminium-composite panel with 25mm thick insulation throughout. This RETRO RV was the first VW Kombi Van in the world to have an electronic automated slide-out kitchen. From start to finish, the project took 10 months to build. Other features include a Subaru Forester EJ25 2.5L overhead cam fuel-injected engine with a reversed 5-speed Subarugears transmission and independent rear suspension.”
After the first RETRO RV was built, Phil put photos on Facebook to advertise that the new venture had been born and that they were offering the vans as part of a franchise business model where the franchisees could purchase the RETRO RV’s and then rent them out to earn an income. Judging by the popularity of RETRO RV’s Facebook page, there seems to be no shortage of people interested.
Within the first 12 days of business, Phil and Jess sold 14 RETRO RV franchises. Since then, they have sold an additional 5 franchises totalling 19 sales. So far these franchises are scattered all throughout Australia including New South Wales, Queensland, ACT, Western Australia and Victoria and the franchisees will be hiring out these iconic RETRO RVs to their clients to road trip and adventure in.
Now, as anyone who has ever owned an old Kombi will tell you, as good as they are, they couldn’t be classed as the most reliable vehicles on the road, certainly not for long-distance touring. RETRO RV has solved this problem by installing brand new mechanicals underneath the vehicle. They also fit EJ series Subaru engines with the option of having a Subarugears reversed 5-speed manual transmission. So, these old Kombi’s aren’t just retro, they’re reliable and very fuel-efficient. RETRO RV also adds a host of other new parts including brakes, clutch, radiator, tyres, steering and suspension components. All this combines to make a much more pleasant driving motorhome that’s lightyears ahead of the original donor vehicle.
To make outdoor life easier, RETRO RV motorhomes are fitted with a side entry door, roof ventilation, 12-volt battery, a sail track awning, awning light and generous rear storage compartments. Options include a bat-wing awning, portable solar panel, air conditioning, water pump with fresh water and grey water tanks, a compressor fridge, 12-volt LED lighting and extra internal storage.
The RETRO RV’s are offered in 2 berth or 4 berth options. The 2 berth motorhomes start at $99,000 each and the 4 berth units are $149,000 each. Phil told us so far there have been two 4 berth motorhomes sold and the remaining orders are all 2 berths.
If you like the idea of owning a classic retro RV and being able to make a bit of money out of it on the side, then go over and visit the guys at RETRO RV on their Facebook page or send Phil an email at firstname.lastname@example.org. Also, check out the video below showing you through the RETRO RV workshop. It is pretty awesome..!
Further reading: New dinosaur bones discovered in Queensland Outback