Johannesburg, South Africa to Port Macquarie, Australia is quite a journey – well over 11,000 km – in fact, but Magnolia the 15 window Kombi now calls the Hastings area home. Proud owner Mitchell Montgomery of Love Bus Kombis has spent countless hours restoring this beautiful vehicle – it’s been a true labour of love! You, too, can experience the love, when you book Magnolia as your ride to and from your next special function or event. Mitchell shares the story behind Magnolia’s history and restoration …
What does Love Bus Kombis specialise in?
Weddings are our main focus, along with formals, but we do special occasions like wedding anniversaries and birthdays visiting our local breweries and wineries. We also provide a special package, offering a ride in the Kombi to one of the many special spots our area has to offer, where a gourmet picnic by “Huddle and Graze” will be beautifully set up. It could be a wedding proposal or a group of girlfriends getting together!
Introduce us to “Magnolia”. She has a very interesting backstory! How and where did you find her … and how did she end up in Australia?
I had been looking for a 15 window Kombi, which is the rarest of all Kombis, so my search included other right hand drive countries. I found a VW forum online and located the Kombi in Johannesburg, which resulted in negotiations and the decision to purchase.
The Kombi was previously used by a South African orphanage to ferry children to and from school each day. It had been personalised with hand painted flowers and hand prints by the children of the orphanage. It also came with padlocks and chains on the doors!
This history and the solid condition the Kombi confirmed my decision to purchase it.
The Kombi arrived in Sydney three months later, after a journey which involved a train from the highlands in Johannesburg to a shipping port in Durbin, where she was put in a container for a six week sea voyage. The Australian quarantine service steam cleaned her and processed her through Customs. This is where I picked her up and drove her north, which was a long and slow trip that included an unexpected overnight stop on the side of the ride just outside of Kew … She had run out of steam! I slept in the Kombi with trucks steam rolling past me … A scary experience.
How much work did you have to do to Magnolia to get her to her present beautiful, showy state?
I spent seven years slowly completing a full nut and bolt restoration, where everything was replaced with new parts sourced from all around the world. It took a lot of research to find original parts.
I was involved in every aspect of the restoration, learning what I didn’t know and seeking advice from a lot of fantastic people around me. I was very fortunate to have an experienced VW mechanic in town … Brendan Barnes has played an integral role in the restoration, along with Alan Adams, a retired spray painter who assisted me with the body work.
Of course, Magnolia is not your only Kombi! Describe the other vehicles you own …
We have a 1971 Lowlight Kombi Micro Bus that has had a similar restoration.
We also have another beautiful grey split screen that is contracted in from another local Kombi enthusiast, Darren McLaughlin from McLaughlin Smash Repairs; he has also been part of the restoration process for both Kombis.
How far and wide will you travel with your “love buses”?
We travel from Forster to South West Rocks.
Weddings can be a very stressful time. How do you help ensure your part in a wedding day goes as smoothly as possible?
COMMUNICATION! Behind the scenes my wife has established very efficient booking processes, to ensure the bride and groom are across everything BEFORE the day. We incorporate things like communicating with the photographer about the agreed time frames with the Kombis. We have written documents that are filled out, so there is no room for any errors, and this makes the couple feel confident that everything will run smoothly.
We also offer to pick up any drinks before the day and have them on ice, so they have one less thing to think about on the day. We supply golf umbrellas and clear umbrellas for any weather.
We have been driving brides and grooms around for five years now and have never had any problems – everyone is relaxed and happy!
How did you come up with the name “Love Bus Kombis”?
We wanted the Kombi to provide a service that continues to support and connect people through happy occasions, while honouring the history of what Magnolia was used for in South Africa with the orphaned children. It is also a reference to the old “love bug”.
Where can we contact you/find more info?
Mobile 0413 277 563.
Thanks Mitchell. Interview: Jo Robinson.