Ironically the rarest vehicle of all my fleet is the one least mentioned in these memoirs and, as thoughts turn to summer, it's about time to rectify that.
Today's episode is brought to you by the letter V.
V is for Versatile: (adjective - able to adapt or be adapted to many different functions or activities.)
V is for Voluptuous: (adjective - curvaceous and sexually attractive. )
V is not for Viano, which is what we originally set out to buy.
It's Summer 2014. The weather is surprisingly good; the soundtrack is suspiciously rapey (Robin Thicke.) At this stage of my life, I had more children than cars - something I was hoping to rectify pretty swiftly. After a near miss the year before we desperately wanted a fourth child, so set about the processes of both making one and being able to transport one (four).
Me being me, I wanted to buy THE BIGGEST thing I could find, so we spent a weekend galavanting across the East of England looking at Extra LWB Mercedes Vianos.
They were all nearly 10 years old, all with lunar mileage, and all taxi'd to within an inch of their monochromatic lives. The ones with lower mileages were also suspiciously worn in the luggage area, almost like they'd had suitcases chucked in and out all day, every day for the last decade.
It was time for a rethink.
I can't really remember how I happened across the Toyota Granvia, it was certainly not a car I'd heard of before. I went to look at one at Chesham that was purple (good start) but had odd sized wheels, two Citroen wheel trims and a dealer who'd accidentally given the keys to a gentleman who'd bought a Toyota Previa the week before. No matter. This one wasn't for me, but the Granvia was.
I found a very promising one on Autotrader advertised for £2,200 in Norfolk. I telephoned the land line to be greeted by an older chap who'd bought the van when it was imported about 10 years previous. He used it to tow his caravan but had recently declared on that front, and I arranged to see it the very next day. It was mintola inside and 90% perfect outside. We took it for a quick spin, did a deal at £2000 and drove home in it the very same July afternoon.
The first job was to tint the glass (more for security than any scene points, as the van doesn't have a designated boot area)
A week later it would take us all to Norfolk and then Devon for one of the most memorable holidays we've all had together.
I laugh now, but I was absolutely terrified by the fuel efficiency to begin with. SEVENTEEN MPG? Then I had a eureka moment when in Devon whilst contemplating that I hadn't spent that much money on diesel for it to be 17mpg, and that my mathematics must be wrong. I then realised that both the Speedo AND the ODO had been chipped and were counting miles - and it was actually scoring between 30 and 32mpg!
We love 'The Van'. When we're in it, it means something's happening. A family day out, day at the seaside, tip run, car collection, holiday, an adventure - whatever.
Enough sentimentality. I better post something that's vaguely helpful just in case you've never seen one in the flesh or even heard of them. The Toyota Granvia is basically the bastard lovechild of a Hiace Powervan and the legendary Hilux. It has the 3.0 turbo diesel engine from the 'Surf', and comes in either RWD or AWD flavour - mine of which is the former. It is as tough as old boots, and a bastion of reliability. Work the turbo and you can make excellent, if slightly noisy, progress - and it'll sit at three figures for hours. Well, about 2 and a half hours when you'll then need to stop to fill the 70 litre tank up!
The seats are all on rails, and the second row rotates, meaning you have a limitless combination of arrangements. The rear two rows also collapse to make a double bed - something I'm yet to take 'full advantage' of nudge nudge wink wink etc blah.
There are, from what I gather, about 500 on the road in the UK - all imported from Japan into Tilbury. Most of the Granvias here now have been converted by Wellhouse Leisure™ into campers, so mine is reasonably rare as a standard 7 seater.
It's now 22 years old and, despite our collective best efforts as a family of 6, still looking great. Have some pictures taken last night. The car has the odd mark here and there, all caused by yours truly and all part of the car's story with us.
Yep, I nudged the nearside corner on a bush.
Aye, I reversed into my own trailer when it jack-knifed. Long story.
If you're looking for a 'Day Van', something you can convert yourself to a camper or just a new 'Dingle Bus' - you honestly can't go wrong. They are very easy to live with, easy to maintain and parts are simple to get because of the Hilux/Hiace running gear. You also get a column shift auto and someone waving at you once a year when you see another one!
My immediate plans for it are to get the wheels refurbed in black (to match the limo tints) and get ANOTHER drop link replaced (it's a heavy old engine!)