The Story Of Rusty The Kombi Van

Meet Rusty, a restored 1961 T2 model Volkswagen Kombi bus with an incredible story to tell. When Chris Appelkamp first laid eyes on Rusty, he saw adventure. He had a vision for the beat-up Kombi and, after 2 years and a lot of hard work, he made it a reality. We caught up with Chris to learn a little more about Rusty and their journey together so far…

Knowing how much work he would need, what made you decide to purchase Rusty a couple of years ago?

The first time I saw a Kombi was in about 1999. A black and white splitscreen was parked at the end of Jibbon Street in South Cronulla. A long haired bloke was drying himself off after a surf at Sandshoes and I remember seeing it packed with all his worldly possessions including his push bike. He was on a road trip of a lifetime. I loved the look of his Kombi but also what it represented. He was living an adventurous free lifestyle and from then on I was hooked.

When I saw Rusty for the first time in late 2013, he looked terrible but at least he was registered and driveable. This was one of the requirements as I was living in a single garage villa and without a workshop. I also had minimal mechanical experience and I knew I would be struggling to build a car up from scratch.

I had a vision for Rusty and for over two years it was my mission to make that vision a reality. Late nights, power tools, blood and burns, I was having the time of my life teaching myself new skills and building a piece of driveable art which I could only hope people would understand and appreciate.

I never thought the response would be this overwhelming. I relish in reactions like ‘how is that thing registered’ or ‘does it actually drive’. It’s reactions like this that make me laugh and the years of hard work worth it.

When Rusty came into your life, were your plans always to hire him out for weddings and special events?

I never had any plans to hire him out. It was a project for me to learn new skills on and a means for my girlfriend (now my wife) to have some fun in on the weekends. We try to have as many weekend adventures as we can in Rusty, exploring our local areas while we dream about him on road trips to the Great Ocean Road and around Tasmania. It wasn’t until I was approached by several people interested in hiring the bus off me that I considered offering him for weddings. It so turns out that I love doing weddings and events as I get to join in on other people’s special days and talk about the car all day. It’s great fun and people seem to appreciate my hard work and enthusiasm on their special day. We all end up having a lot of fun and laughs.

Do you have a favourite event Rusty was hired for?

Each wedding or event is different but they all share a place in my journey. The first wedding I ever did was a highlight – the most amazing couple who married in a rustic barn on an apple farm complete with onsite brewed apple ciders.
Where is the most remarkable place you’ve driven to in the van?

There’s two main road trips that stand out in my mind. The first was a month-long adventure with two of my best mates from Sydney to Maroochydore and back over the summer. Many memories were made on this trip, like discovering amazing surf spots every day, meeting plenty of friendly locals and enjoying camp fires most nights. I actually built a temporary bed in the back section and made him into a real camper van for the trip.

Most recently Cat and I drove Rusty up to Byron Bay for our wedding. We camped on the way up at some of the most amazing beaches the east coast has to offer.
What’s on the cards this year – where can we expect to see Rusty?

Everywhere! I didn’t build Rusty to be left in a shed. I built him to drive and that’s what I intend to do. Drive, maintain, repair and repeat. I can’t stand people that build a car to leave in the garage. Get it on the street and let others enjoy it as much as you.

Is there a Rusty 2.0 in the works? 
Ha ha, yes but not quite a 2.0. Check out the pic below. I’m excited to be working on another Kombi project, this time a 1970 lowlight. This build took me 7 months to almost fully restore and was filled with trials and tribulations. Two weeks ago, I was about to finally register the bus, a major milestone complete!

When I rescued this Kombi it was actually spray painted matt black with quite a bit of rust in the lower nose, side steps and window sills. I stripped the Kombi back to a bare shell and spent many months welding in new sheet metal. I also ended up stripping back the black paint using acetone and steel wool. What I found was the original white paint with grey primer showing through. This task alone took 4 months but was worth it to restore it to its glory days. It’s not quite finished but it’s very close.

We’ll open this bus up to weddings sometime in 2017 but more excitingly we’re hoping to take it on a road trip adventure around Tasmania before the year is out.

Chris hires Rusty out for weddings and special events in Sydney, so you can experience Rusty’s charm first hand. To find out more about Rusty and follow his adventure with Chris, head to the website or follow along on Instagram.

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