It’s the 26th year that a group of German LT owners have been meeting up with their vans to share their love and knowledge of our wonderful vehicles, and this year a dedicate group of VOLT-ers (really? how many?!) made what should become an annual pilgrimage over the central northern Germany to join in. Here are Tim’s journal entries.
Thursday 12th May
After a mad dash back from work I jumped aboard the van into which I’d flung the last of my kit as I’d left the house first thing this morning. The girls weren’t yet back so without further ado I fired up the glow plugs, flicked on the radio and the CB and starter her up.
Although there’d been lots of interest in the trip over to the annual German LT meet on VOLT – an event that I’d so keenly been aware of since I got into LT’s back in 2004 – in the end it turned out a die hard group of just two of us were brave enough to attempt what on paper looked like a bit of a crazy dash! And indeed this is the way it started, as, at 6pm on a Thursday night, there was the inevitable worry of heavy traffic on the M25. I needn’t have worried.
I made such good time that as I neared Hythe and rang Ed (the other half of our epic convoy) his phone was unavailable. I pressed on to Dover. We eventually spoke, and after Ed had filled up with LPG he joined me on the docks with time for a chinwag catch up.
Ed’s van is no ordinary LT. In fact we were even slightly nervous that it might not be well received at the German LT meet, as it is in fact now mostly Lexus! I jumped in and onto his comfy leather electric seats and we killed a few minutes waiting to be ushered on to the boat, desperately trying to figure out how his new handheld CB worked (needless to say we never did!)
We had a great curry dinner on board the P&O crossing complaining to each other about the fact that Ed had to pay £50 for his ticket than mine and neither were cheap given the time, day and month of the crossing. However the boat was madly busy with foreign school kids returning home so maybe we’d just left it too late.
We rolled off the ship onto the northern French motorways for our north easterly run at half-midnight. We knew we had a long journey ahead so we’d decided to drive on for a couple of hours before parking up. The roads were bliss and we made it as far as Antwerp before turning off the motorway, driving through a village, finding a lane and eventually pulling up in a large parking area beside a disused barn by a big field before kipping down for a short night at 3am.
Friday 13th May
We needn’t have worried about setting alarm clocks! At 6am there was a horrendous rumbling noise that shook us both from our deep sleeps. Turns out that we’d parked directly at the end of the Antwerp airport runway! By opening up the blind on my new midi heck skylight I could see lowered landing gear on commercial airlines within a few feet of me! Hilarious & terrifying in equal measure.
We leapt up appreciative of the fact that it wasn’t late in the day, that the sun was shining, and that this spot (despite the airfield) was a genuinely lovely one. I cooked a big fry up and we jumped back in our cockpits and fired up our old girls and set off.
Ed’s van has a 300hp Lexus engine in it. It’s also dual fuel petrol/LPG. I say “fired up” but – and in despite of Ed’s concerns of valve timing trouble – it really is the smoothest sounding LT out there in the world today. Even when revved it’s nowhere need as load as the tick over of my diesel D24 engine! As well as that it accelerates like nobody’s business and has a top speed of 90mph!
Ed very gracefully followed me (the slower vehicle) most of the way. The roads started off good but became worse and worse as we headed west through the Belgium, the Holland and into and across the industrial heartland of Germany. There were a few fun overtaking manoeuvres and in one instance Ed decided to give chase to a particularly annoying German driver who’d deliberately tried to run him off the road!
We stopped on several occasions for fuel and grabbed a sandwich at one place where Ed got chased again (this time by an angry security officer as Ed had refused to pay to pee in their loos!). I can go with fuel for about 4 hours at a stint, but Ed was on a mission to find the cheapest LPG and see just how cheaply he could cover the mileage.
The traffic git really bad around first Duisburg, the Essen and particularly Dresden – our most easterly city on the road. We stop-start queued for what must have been a 2 hour delay, and even after the stretch of cities the end of the week traffic reminded me that wherever you are in western Europe on a Friday afternoon you will get stuck in traffic.
However finally we got off the motorway and onto lovely winding, undulating B roads through fields of mustard seed towards our goal. Which we found no problem to satnav, however it turned out as we drove down a narrow winding lane to get there that we were on the wrong side of the river! We could tantalisingly see the LTs but nit get to them!
700 kms later, as we pulled into the campsite we were greeted on this lovely late-sunny afternoon by the big grey bearded figure of Dan, one of the founders of the German LT Freund group. He ushered us in with plenty of interest (or was it amazement?!) from other members of the gathering. Without further ado we got to chatting and browsing. A communal banqueting table was created and sausages and steaks were shared as we got to know our new friends a little better – particularly Andreas & Manuel, but also Mattius, Dan, Andreas (another one), Ruth, Willem et al.
Saturday 14th May
What a great nights sleep, but disappointingly we woke to a much chillier feel and broken rain clouds which remained the story for the day. However we did awake in unicorn-land with LT’s in abundance. Ed & I whipped up another excellent breakfast (we make a lovely couple!) and even treated Mattius to one of Ed’s turbo-charged coconut coffees (I recommend them heartily!)
Then what else do you do but talk vans! We spent most of the day wandering around, listening to broken English, sometimes not being able to communicate at all beyond pointing, but had a good old beard stroking, LT admiring session. We sat in and climbed under, we bought and swapped, and even found some rocket-horse poo spares to take home!
There was much more variety in the wagons than at the UK meets we’ve been to. There were some on-off/home conversions but they were of a very high quality. There were some very limited edition coachbuilts (like Manuel’s) and panel vans with beautifully molded high tops, some minty Floridas and Karmanns, but van of the show went to Andreas (no the other one) LT40 4×4 dismountable. This was a hugely tall rig (he is a big guy) with a £20k+ box on the back which contained a literally enormous over-cab bed, a huge dining/lounge area, nice kitchen, and bathroom with separate toilet and shower across the rear (see the video for more: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=f7HBFHGfiu4)
After a brief (and fast!) trip into town in Ed’s ‘Nellie’ we were back with Bitburger for a communal barbecue or – yes you guessed it – more sausages! Yum. Conversation continued around the campfire into the night, but as Ed and I had agreed that we’d leave dead early to miss the traffic we’d encountered on the way over we turned in early ready for a 5am start.
Sunday May 15th
After a quick turbo coffee we trundled off the campsite and swung the compass needle round to the west and started our weary way home. Thankfully it was a very easy start to the day. We drove until we were low on fuel, stopped for more coffee and a fill up and headed on west. At Antwerp we broke the trip for some lunch and a snooze. Ed had worked out that his rig (which he’d driven mostly on LPG) would have done the trip for £80! The cheapest refill was just 35c per litre! As for me – well I darn’t even figure it out, but at speeds of as fast as 70 I knew my economy was likely to be down towards 22mpg. Thankfully diesel was as low at 99c but I decided not to count anyway!
The trip was ace. It would have been very hard to do with family, and I did really push the van, but I’d do it again with at least a few hours extra each way so as not to have to peg it. It would be good to do it with more vans, and certainly to have the CB working, but we may just have persuaded the Germans to come to us next time!