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February 10, 2014

Jo’s Restoration of Her 1957 VW Splitscreen Campervan “Barnabus” – A Guest Post from Tara Gould

Happy Monday to everyone! RetroRuth here. To help you through the first day of the week we have a guest post from Tara Gould from VWHeritage. Tara is here to show off a fantastic restoration of a 1957 VW campervan. I took one look at the photos she sent and knew you would all love to see this. So grab a cup of coffee and enjoy!

When Jo Hamshaw bought her 1957 Splitscreen campervan it was in a sorry state. It had been abandoned in a workshop and hadn’t seen the light of day or a human hand for 17 years. But she fell immediately in love, especially when she heard its story.

VW before

It had been shipped straight from the German VW factory in Wolfsburg to England in its birth year. In its infancy it was used as a work van by a Hampshire refrigeration company. For a while, after that, it enjoyed a rock ‘n’ roll lifestyle as the tour bus of a British beat band called the ‘Southbeats’ before being left to rust and rot in an old garage.

Jo's VW before

“As soon as I saw it I knew I wanted it, and I knew I could restore it to its former glory” Jo told me. “We paid a bodyshop to do the welding and the paint job” she explains, “as we didn’t have the time or space to do it all. We did everything else, all the mechanical restorations, the chrome fittings…”

Jo spent every spare waking hour mending and restoring and little by little transformed a rusty old bus to a pristine camper basking in the full glory of its original 1950s design. She removed all the parts that weren’t in keeping with the original model and such attention to detail meant that the hunt for certain parts took weeks and sometimes months.

“I would trawl ebay all day looking for parts. My other half didn’t have the patience. It’s great if you love to shop, which I do. I would spend days finding parts from all over the world.”

Jo Split

The dove blue paint work is authentic to the period, but matching the hubcaps exactly was a challenge. Volkswagen manufactured only a short run of those specific hubcaps, so Jo embarked on what at times felt like a wild goose chase, finally discovering a U.S. firm who produced the paint.


Working for Sussex based classic VW company VW Heritage was certainly an advantage because many of the genuine original and reproduction parts were available on her doorstep, plus support with the re-build from enthusiastic work colleagues!

For the interior Jo wanted to evoke a simple, genuine mid-century style with a nod to the vintage surfing wagon, as this iconic bus is now synonymous with retro surf culture:

Interior Barnabus

“The Hibiscus curtains and cushion covers were made by my mum,” Jo explains “I bought the fabric online from Hawaii!”

VWH Spilt 035

Jo commissioned UK classic VW restoration company Smiths of Cornwall to create the interior. It is an exact replica of an original Devon interior from the period in which the van was made. Jo was confronted with a plethora of interior styles to choose from but she didn’t want it to look ‘new’ or ‘modern’:

VWH Spilt 036

“We looked around for ages for an interior which was usable and also looked correct for the age of the van. This one suited the bus and has been perfect for us, both practically and aesthetically.”

To add those finishing touches of authentic vintage flavour Jo used a professional upholsterer with a feel for period design who completed the look with a gorgeous grey fabric and trimming.

Bio: Tara Gould is a writer and vintage design enthusiast with a special love of classic VWs. She writes for vintage car parts company VWHeritage (www.vwheritage.com) who help people repair and restore their classic and vintage Volkswagens.

*Disclaimer: NPR did NOT receive any compensation for this article and we are not affiliated with VWHeritage. We just thought you would all love to see a great restoration!

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3 Responses to Jo’s Restoration of Her 1957 VW Splitscreen Campervan “Barnabus” – A Guest Post from Tara Gould

  1. Janice Reply

    February 10, 2014 at 11:10 am

    What a special treat on this snowy cold morning to get a peek at this VW Camperbus so lovingly restored. I can’t imagine the number of hours it would have taken to source all the materials to bring this back to its original glory. Kudos to Jo for breathing new life into this forgotten treasure!

  2. Andrea Reply

    February 10, 2014 at 11:28 am

    Love your bus, Tara! I’ve been doing a series of posts on the ’73 Westfalia that my hubby and I have been restoring (will finally be paint time come spring!) – it’s always great to see other peoples work, and I am excited to have another resource for VW parts!

  3. Sara In AZ Reply

    February 11, 2014 at 12:18 pm

    Oh wow, the work restoring this campervan is just amazing! Kudos to Jo and all of her hard work, this VW is really something to be proud of!

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