The following post is more proof that I'm a complete and utter geardo.

When the missus and I decided it was time to sell our aging Opel Corsa Utility we knew the next vehicle had to fit specific criteria: 1) fit the budget (of course), 2) be able to seat four people and have enough space left for all our camping gear and my camera equipment for work, and 3) be able to securely lock my camera equipment in the back. A panel van was the obvious solution and we looked at a number of options. Nissan was an option but was instantly crossed off the list when the salesperson casually told me that it was popular with undertakers. The missus didn't like Renault for some still unknown reason (they're yellow, something like that). We then chatted to a local Parys businessman who operates a fleet of VW vehicles and finally we pulled the trigger on a four seat VW Caddy Crew Bus that happened to be on the floor at Unitrans VW Commercial Vehicles in Jhb. Basically a combo of the Caddy panel van popular with legions of couriers and businesses, and the standard Caddy family vehicle.

And we love the Pretbus. From the first day I opened the business I wanted a properly kitted-out production van. For work it has now taken us everywhere from the Northern Cape to Sandton and to every major township from Mamelodi to Boipatong for video shoots without incident. For camping adventures it's taken us on paddling trips to Knysna and Wildernis and on mountain trips to the Drakensberg. It handles great, rides comfortably and has nearly the same fuel consumption as my 800GS adventure bike. 1000km on one tank of diesel, no problem.

The Caddy comfortably seats four, including two sweaty camera dudes, some poor soul from the client's office who was forced by their boss to accompany said camera crew on a day long exercise in manual labour in hopelessly impractical office attire, and a guide from the local community without whom the previously mentioned three would be hopelessly lost and probably get mugged or eaten by packs of stray township dogs. What I like most is that the camera gear in the back, safely packed into Pelican cases and sturdy boxes, is separated by a cargo net barrier from the four tired and annoyed bodies comfortably seated in AC in the front. Nothing spoils the mood of a client liaison as much as having to share a seat with a R100K camera rig and being told that they will replace it if they sit on it one more time (been there, witnessed the arguments and the resulting resentful attitudes afterwards).

Above: Because the gear is in boxes instead of bags we can now toss them in the back on run-and-gun shoots where we're chasing the clock. Invest in protective gear as much as you can. One word here: Pelican.

For adventure we've fitted a split-battery system with an inverter, as well as a National Luna fridge/freezer. The deep cycle battery will keep the freezer ice-cold for up to five days without a recharge. The battery charges from the vehicle battery of course. The same battery system also doubles as emergency power for my edit desk back home when there's a power outage.

Cargo netting makes it possible to use the often underutilized roof space to store sleeping bags, bulky mountain jackets and kayak paddles, while side-mounted canvas pockets store braai equipment, repair kits, first aid, extra cargo straps and tools. A RotoPax water can on a quick release bracket holds about 4l emergency drinking water.

What I'd still like to add is a sturdy permanent roof rack that will a) fit under my low garage door b) carry our two kayaks and c) serve as a camera platform I can stand on when I need an elevated position to film from. Also a laptop tray for one of the passenger seats. Time is money on any project and a lot of it is wasted while traveling. That two hours you spent on the road was probably more than enough to import, transcode and sort all your footage from the day's shoot. But only if your very expensive editing laptop is properly secured for travel, properly cooled from the vehicle AC and powered from stable 220V from an inverter. Also I would love more road clearance. Perhaps a bigger set of tyres at some point. I considered but then abandoned the idea of putting company branding on the vehicle. It would simply attract the unwelcome attention of thieves and bored security guards. 

Above: Back seat of the TDI Caddy is modeled here by my faithful and enormously powerful assistant Ferdi, whom we suspect can also be diesel-powered in an emergency

I can't really write this post without mentioning the service we got from Robin Groenewald at Unitrans Commercial Vehicles. I remember getting really ticked off with the lack of service and useful information (really, how many times do you have to ask for a simple quote?!) we received from a number of other dealerships we approached before we were directed to Unitrans. Robin clearly understands business vehicles and business owners and the way his workshops are jam-packed with DHL and large company vehicles in for service is an indication that he has understood commercial vehicles for a number of years now. What I also appreciate is the fact that I get the same attention the other customers are getting, in spite of being a very small business, something that is getting to be a bigger and bigger problem for small guys like me in Jhb nowadays.

So the next time I deliver a corporate video on time, know that the white van with the oddly shaped roof in my garage had a large role in it. 

You can find Unitrans VW Commercial on the Volkswagen website here