The SEMA show in Las Vegas never fails to impress and while the emphasis is typically on big builds and wild trade-promo vehicles you’ll also finds some unique and funky projects tucked in between those big-buck builds… and that includes the occasional VW of course

The Specialty Equipment Market Association (SEMA) show in Las Vegas is the world’s largest annual tuning convention and brings together the good bad and ugly of the current trends and styles from the world of modified cars… and then some. It’s the biggest and craziest collection of wild rides which range from home-grown and small-shop creations through to mega budget manufacturer-sponsored machinery. Off-roaders track cars hot rods muscle cars modern tuner rides – in fact pretty much anything and everything you can think of – make up the most eclectic collection of modified machinery imaginable which attracts traders and visitors from around the world.

Whilst I wasn’t able to make it to the 2019 event (let’s be honest, justifying a weekend in Vegas to check out a handful of VWs is a stretch, even by my standards…) within hours of the doors opening my phone was pinging away as pictures of some of the best (and worst) cars at the show arrived. Amongst the rods’n’sods was a handful of cool VWs – but the only project that really caught my eye was Randy Grubb’s ’59 streamliner’esque Splitty. Don’t get me wrong there were some insanely OTT cars that literally blew visitors away yet it was Randy’s Bus that made me smile hence I fired off a few messages to request some more pics and any relevant info.

As soon as I clapped eyes on the aluminium boat-tail rear end I guessed this might be something to do with Randy who had previously created a double-decker ‘Magic Bus’ which featured a similar hand-formed rear end on the 23-window Bus that made up the ‘top-deck’ of that crazy creation.

Randy Grubb is a custom car builder (actually more of an artist) and is perhaps best known for being the man who built Jay Leno’s Tank Car. Grubb’s garage has turned out some incredible vehicles such as the B-702 Piss’d Off Pete the Falconer Dodici the DecoPods the DecoLiner and the aforementioned Magic Bus. The Magic Bus project involved a 1947 Divco delivery truck a 1973 GMC motorhome and a 23-window Deluxe which was mounted atop the motorhome-turned-bus (complete with an elevator to reach the upper deck and powered by a 7.5-litre Oldsmobile Rocket 455 V8 motor). The Magic Bus was actually built as a tour vehicle for a San Francisco-based private social club (The Battery). However it seems Randy had a soft-spot for the aluminium rear end he’d fashioned for that particular project hence he went on to create a ‘single-story’ version for himself.

Consequently Randy found a ’59 11-window project and with the help of VW Bus specialist Jeff Gagnon of Grants Pass Oregon he has added Deluxe touches such as the sunroof and roof windows (did you spot the extra glass above the cab?) before extending the sheet metal at the rear of the Van. An extra pair of rear side windows has been grafted in and the gutter/drip rail has been reprofiled to match the swooping lines. However it’s that aluminium tail that really steals the show on this custom Camper.

By the way the lack of engine lid isn’t a problem as the air-cooled motor has been replaced with a 160hp Subaru power plant which can be accessed from above or below. Vintage custom styling combined with modern disc brakes and plenty of power? Well that sure sounds like a winning combo to me.

At the end of the day I think it’s the outside the box thinking behind this retro Camper that really appeals to me. That and the fact that it’s not simply a show car – it’s very much a proper Campervan. I’m told that Randy and his wife were planning to tour the Yosemite and Sequoia national parks following the SEMA debut and as far as I’m concerned the fact that it’s being used and enjoyed very much made this Van my personal star of the show.

Further info can be found here….

Words: Paul Knight