The journey it takes to get a kombi from farmyard to expo attraction

We visit and attend a lot of promotional events and expos every year. Sometimes we get so tired of packing shelves and unpacking them that using rock, paper, scissors to decide who gets to set up does not calm us all down. This is partly where the idea of using a classic VW Kombi as our stand started.

The complete journey of the GiftWrap Trading 1972 Volkswagen Kombi, with its original engine, is one that is both amazing and certainly fantastic to hear. Therefore, we are writing this, it’s a great story, not necessarily filled with action and drama but it does have lots of random twists and surprising helpers. Our advice is to sit back, plug some tunes and enjoy the journey.

1. Where the idea started

Here’s something that we are sure most people don’t know. Benje, our Marketing Director (and this writer’s boss), loves the classic Volkswagen Kombi. From what we could gather he has been in love with it most of his life and he has been talking about getting one for well over 10 years. This is probably the biggest motivation for the kombi.

Kombi at the beginning

However, there’s also the fact that he saw a similar kombi in Nike promotions last year (2018) when he visited Hong Kong. To help the idea of our kombi gain traction a recent movement and surge in popularity of these kombis being used for both camper vans and decoration spurred on his idea of having the perfect mobile showroom.

In the loading dock

The nail in the head came when 2019 loomed and the usual shows were scheduled, we needed to have something at shows that set us apart and having RGB LED’s wasn’t going to cut it. The idea to take a classic Volkswagen Kombi and convert it into the perfect show room that has all our promotional items, corporate gifts and branded products properly took hold. In not just Benje, in everyone in the GiftWrap office.

We knew what we wanted and what we needed to do to it, all we needed was find the perfect Kombi for the job.

2. The options that we had

When we properly started looking for a kombi to refurbish into our showroom, we found that the options were wide and varied. In more ways than we could have imagined. There were Splitty window Kombis barely able to move that cost next to nothing. We found several bay window kombis that had been through too much to mention and once we found two kombis for sale that were both in need of serious love.


Eventually, as our deadlines loomed over head, we started considering kombis that have already been refurbished and fixed. Here we found a greyish underbelly of barely running kombis, green monsters with hidden secrets and rebuilt machines that have barely any classic value left. Through our searching we eventually learned what to look for and which options were important to have.

Mostly, we learned that a kombi that already drives is more important than most people would realise.

3. What we wanted

Aerial view of Cape Town

We got all of our options together and narrowed down what we wanted to get out of our kombi. It had to be a classic, it had to be drivable and most importantly we needed it to have actual seats. These things may seem simple and basic to have in a car, but when the car is almost 50 years old it can be surprisingly difficult to find.

On the farm still

Throughout all of this we learned what it is exactly that we wanted, we narrowed down the aspects that would make for a great kombi and what exactly is was that would not work for us. One of the first things we realised was that keeping the kombi as classic as possible was an absolute must. An original engine with as little as possible damage to the actual bodywork is what we chose to add in to give some flavour to what we were looking for.

Finding something that was not about to rust away or disintegrate on the highway is the last thing that we added to our list of must have’s.

4. The way we found it

Our search for the best kombi was starting to turn into an irritating and slightly confusing endeavour. Luckily, someone in the office came forth with a slight surprise. Not only did she know someone who could help but she’s worked with them before.

Driving through the streets of wine country

In a matter of days, a search that had taken us months was resolved. We chose a classic 1972 Bay Window kombi, arranged to have it painted, fixed and changed into a full panel fan. The iconic blue and white of our kombi had been added with the insides being painted black so that we could truly have a blank canvas for our own modifications.

On the road to PTA

However, there was still one slight issue that we had to overcome. While it did indeed have the classic blue colour, as well as a working engine none of this would mean anything while it was still more than 1 000 km away in Cape Town. Our head office is in Pretoria, Gauteng, along with almost every major expo and event that we attend.

This is when the true journey started, getting the Kombi to Pretoria where we could add our modifications to it.

5. Bringing it to Gauteng

This is where the adventure started for us properly, mostly because we had to go down and fetch it. Now, if you’ve ever driven one of these classic kombis you will know that driving it for 1 000+ km is not the best of ideas. This is why we went in with a rough plan of what we were going to do.

Blouberg Strand

Plans one was to drive through over the course of two to three days. However, once we saw the Kombi, and remembered that this thing was twice as old as most of us, we decided to rather tow it up. After two weeks of waiting and preparing, we flew down to Cape Town to see our kombi in person for the first time. She was only hours away from being fully completed.

Somewhere cold and filled with coffee

However, we still had time to go see some of the good things all over Cape Town. Which luckily had just turned green after a week of rain. We went to Blouberg Strand, saw some seagulls, picked up a rock and pulled the kombi onto a trailer.

At around six that evening we started our journey up to Pretoria, armed with a bakkie full of food, sweets and lots of coffee.

6. How we changed it

After our journey back the additions and slight modifications that were already lined up. The inside cabinets had to be built and installed, the inverter with a battery to power literally everything had to be mounted and our stickers on the outside had to be added. Luckily all of this would happen at one place.

The first Sticker applied
Markex, the first completed stand

Unluckily we wanted the Kombi to make its first appearance at the Markex show in the Sandton Convention Centre in Johannesburg only five days later. Our engineers got to working and started measuring, adding, building and screwing everything into place wherever was needed.

Our vision was becoming a reality and things were taking place faster than we could ever expect.

7. The completed Kombi

The front look at SAITEX

So, this is it, more or less. Like all project cars we will never, ever truly be done with it. After its first show at Markex, we already had a few things to refine. Then we took it to Saitex and the Hotel Show and already we have a few more ideas of how we are going to keep improving it.

However, the kombi stands, and runs; the sheer brilliance of how it looks is something we are still trying to get used to. While we may be the ones that are setting it up each time, getting everything to play correctly, seeing it each morning at a show still blasts us away.

8. What we learned along the way

The sheer amount of experience we picked up along the way is amazing. We certainly learned what to do and what not to do. For example, if a kombi down in Durban looks too good to be true then it probably has hidden rust spots all over it.

The rearview at SAITEX

Similarly, we learned too late that there are Volkswagen specialists around Gauteng that could also have helped us build the Kombi and refurbish it to look brand new. Further, we learned things that few people would actually know about a 1972 Classic Volkswagen Kombi.

Aerial view of SA

One of these is that parallel parking can be a nightmare, once it gets moving it can be hard to stop and standing on your knees for hours on end while packing paper cups onto a shelf can hurt like hell. Throughout the two shows we learned that bags will be grabbed by more people than you think possible, t-shirts and caps are surprisingly popular items for people to buy and that a kombi is the perfect thing to hide away a mountain of empty boxes.

The last thing we learned, probably the most important thing, is that being able to say we have the stand with the kombi on it is probably one of the greatest eye-catching things you can say at any expo.

9. How we are going to use it in the future

Our delivery man for the long haul upgrades

First off, this is going to be our go to feature of any expo stand that we have.  The ability to drive it wherever we need it and not have to worry about any damage, rot or stability damage that could have been done to it is simply invaluable.

Here she is going on a long haul journey for some extra upgrades

Further, reusing a stand means that our costs for any future expo’s will be down by a lot. We are currently adding a few more features to the kombi that will ensure that it will always be in style. In the future it will make an appearance at expo’s across South Africa, including a visit to Botswana and Gaborone during August.

So be sure to watch this space as the promofessionals will keep innovating what it means to have the best promotional items, the latest corporate gifts and the grandest of displays at any expo in Africa.

Just being here looked amazing
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