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Posted by Matt Bell on 7th September 2021

If beggars can’t be choosers, then how come Steven Kirkby – the man behind Paintworx in Loughborough – has ended up with this cooler-than-a-penguin’s-arse bagged VW T5?

Feature from VWt Magazine. Words: Gordie Woollacott. Photos: Andrew Thompson

In the interests of full disclosure, this 2005 VW T5 didn’t look anything like this when Steven picked up the phone and convinced Darren Woodhouse from Woodhouse and Carman to sell it to him. “I did basically have to beg him for it,” he admits. “We’ve recently moved in to a new unit that we’ve been able to buy outright and so had to make some adjustments to our own little fleet of vehicles to pay for it.”

Those adjustments included the sale of the company demo van – a very tasty T6 on air with all the custom mods including a bad boy bonnet. “It was really hard to let that one go,” says Steven. “I had it from almost new and spent a lot of hours on it, but it was for the good of the business.” When all was said and done, with the move all paid for and the vans sold, Steven was left with a kitty of little more than £4,000 to get himself a ride. “I couldn’t help feeling like I was taking a massive step backwards,” he recalls. “In the end I got hold of a 2012 Caddy with the intention of building it into something nice and flipping it.”

That’s exactly how it panned out and Steven was able to turn the £4k into a slightly more respectable £9k and get himself back in a Transporter. This is when the phone call to Darren at Woodhouse and Carman took place regarding his 2005 Sportline 174. “I knew Darren was sitting on a good stock of Transporters, mainly because it was him who bought my T6 to go with the T5.1 and this T5 he already had!” laughs Steve. Clearly, his begging skills are on point as the deal was done and he was back in the game.

If you know anything about Woodhouse and Carman, then you won’t be surprised to hear the van came with performance well taken care of in the form of a Pendle remap to 260bhp. A Forge intercooler, hybrid turbo and larger injector nozzles all help deliver the final number. A full PP Tuning stainless steel de-cat exhaust system deals with spent gases, whilst a Sachs racing DMF and heavy-duty clutch handle the extra power. The van also came ready-made in the stance department having been furnished with an ABP Bilstein air ride set up including Accuair e-level management. “I wanted to keep the body stock Sportline look, including the front splitter, so the back is notched, but not the front as any lower and the splitter would be getting smashed up,” Steve explains. Everything that could be poly-bushed has been, along with the addition of H&R anti-roll bars.

The first few weeks were spent fixing all the little niggles associated with a 15-year-old van, including one that invited an engine light on the dash. Steve: “I can’t stand engine lights being on! This was traced to the regulator fan switch being on constantly. It’s right behind the air con radiator and a real pain to get at so most people just leave it as it doesn’t really cause any harm. Not me though – I had to get in there and fix it!” From there he moved to the brakes where he fitted all new Sportline calipers, disks and flexible lines to give himself a known start point. Steve: “It did have a big brake conversion on it, but it takes so long to get the handbrake set right I just reverted back to the original setup to make life simpler.” Hear, hear!

Steve has a confession at this point. “I’d owned the van for three weeks and honestly, I hated it. It had cost so much money up until then and I was still feeling the pain of not having the T6.” It’s okay, Steve. We’ve all been there in one way or another.

However, fear not! This is the moment in the movie where the background music changes to a slightly more upbeat lilt and the lighting moves from grey to an altogether more pleasing shade of, well, not grey. Steve explains, “Once I’d cleared all the little faults and got it driving much nicer, everything started to fall into place. Almost like the van was repaying me for putting in the effort.” How nice would it be if they genuinely responded in such a fashion – hey, maybe they even do?

Just as the country moved into coronavirus lockdown, Steve started getting his paint on. Before the first coats of this special RAL colour, mixed with an eye on VW Flannel Grey, could go down there was the small matter of a little custom touch. Steve had Jay (one of the Paintworx crew) help perform a petrol flap delete giving cleaner, smooth lines. Steve then finished the paint to show-winning standard in just 10 days, outside of the daily hours spent on customer vehicles! Steve admits, “At this point I really started to fall in love with it. It’s the first van I’ve had in a long time that really gives me the ‘look back as you walk away’ vibe.”

As the silver T5, it arrived running on Rolls Royce wheels. He fired up the begging device and got in touch with Andy at Transporter HQ and, a few short moments later he was the proud owner of a set of 20” Radi8 split rims. “I’ve known Andy a long time and I thought I could persuade him to sell me the wheels no problem. I know how much he loves to change them up, so I gave him an easy excuse,” laughs Steve. Wrapped in Nankang 225×35 fronts and 245×35 rears, they definitely complement the paint.

On the inside, things have been kept fairly low-key with a Rusty Lee bed and two single seats upfront trimmed in Golf GTi cloth. “I wanted to keep it very traditional and stay away from the trend for leather,” says Steve. There’s no camping kit to speak of, other than a portable fridge. Don’t let that West Dubs pop-top expertly fitted by Blake at Transporter HQ fool you that this is some kind of camper van. A bit like Will Smith’s ciga-cigar from Cuba-Cuba – he’s just bought it for the looks. Seriously. Steve: “I just think campers when they’re aired out look really cool with a pop-top up!” You have to admit, this is a fresh reason for cutting a hole in the roof of your bagged VW T5 that isn’t just so you can stand up to put your pants on. However, he’s definitely planning some kind of overnighting, otherwise why has he installed an Eberspacher diesel night heater? We’re on to you, Kirkby!

If you want to attract folk to your demo van, other than the delicious paint, throwing out some tunes is up there. Mitch from Alpine has ticked that box with the installation of a Halo 9 head unit and neat combination of 6.5s, a five channel amp and subwoofer tucked up in a custom box by The Sunil Treatment. Steve: “The sub is really small but it sounds out of this world.” Another win in the battle for size doesn’t matter.

This won’t be the last we hear from Paintworx – there’s a secret project on the way and trust us, we’re gonna be all over it for you!

Tech Spec: Bagged VW T5


Full stainless PP tuning de cat pipe, Forge intercooler, larger injector nozzles, hybrid turbo, Forge boost pipes, Sachs Racing DMF and heavy duty clutch and flywheels, Pendle Performance remap 260bhp


20-inch Radi8 r8sd11 split rims, ABP Bilsten air ride, Accuair e level, notched rear chassis, poly bushes, H&R anti-roll bars


Petrol flap delete, Sportline front splitter kit, all correct chrome, (had barn doors) converted to tailgate


Rusty Lee RnR bed, two singles up front, swivel passenger seat, retrimmed with traditional material Golf GTi cloth, portable fridge, pop top from West Dubs pop top (fitted by Blake at Transporter HQ)


Alpine – ILX 5903d Halo 9 head unit, 6.5 components in front doors, 6.5 co axial in rear, SA55V 5 channel amp running system, leisure battery, subwoofer and custom box by The Sunil Treatment

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