Daniel Morris meets the Bebb family, whose Shrewsbury business specialises in restoring VW campers and other classic vehicles to their former glory.
For decades they have stood as some of the most iconic vehicles on the planet, and these days they are amongst its most beloved.
Ever associated with the California surf scene and the free spirit of the 1960s, the classic Volkswagen camper van, or Vee Dub, is a poster child of pop culture that today is one of the most sought-after motors in the land. Yet you don’t have to venture beyond our county to see them in all their glory; they are being given a new lease of life right here in Shropshire.
Based on their family farm in Halfway House, Shrewsbury, Marc and Michelle Bebb have been running Border Restoration for over 15 years.
Specialising in the restoration, repair and modification of Volkswagen campers, this family-run enterprise prides itself on making all of its customers’ classic dreams come true.
For Marc and Michelle the business was born out of a passion and a love for the VW camper. “We bought our first van in 2002 – a 1972 bay window,” said Michelle. “It was painted citrus green – the brightest colour you can imagine. We travelled around Ireland. I couldn’t believe how many people were staring as we drove through the towns and cities, and then I caught our reflection in a shop window! We have had some fantastic trips travelling around in our van.”
After owning the old boy for a few years, time came for Marc and Michelle to get some work done on their van. “This proved difficult to get someone to commit to doing the van,” remembers Michelle. “As Marc is a welder fabricator by trade, I encouraged him to do the van himself. This is when we decided that there is an opening here for a great business.” It was then that Border Restoration began. Marc and Michelle had just had their third child, so setting up a new business was quite a big risk.
“Marc set up a workshop suitable to take on our first restorations,” said Michelle. “I remember these vans well. The customers were fabulous, and we remain close friends to this day. Dave bought a van for Jayne for her 30th birthday. He wrapped the door up with a bow and presented her with what was probably the only solid panel on the van.
“The van was in a poor state with lots of panel replacement required. We had a conversation with Dave and Jayne and recommended they go and see if they could purchase a better base vehicle to use to restore. We posted them their payment back along with a note and sent them to one of the biggest VW shows in the UK. After searching the ‘for sale’ area at the show they made the decision to put their money into what they already had and know that they would have a fully-restored van the way they want it.”
Border Restoration soon outgrew its premises and moved to its current base, featuring two large workshops – one for fabrication and one in which to build.
“The business has gone from strength to strength, with a waiting time of 18 months for a restoration to come into the workshop,” said Michelle. “There is no ‘I’ in ‘team’ here at Border Restoration. We are only a small business and believe work should be a nice place to be with some fun along the way as well as the hard work.”
Along with Marc and Michelle, Border Restoration is made up of two more enthusiastic and driven team members.
“Connor has been with us over four years now and is a credit to the team,” said Michelle. “Connor joined us as an apprentice, having not worked in this trade. We got chatting about the vans, and he had a natural enthusiasm for classic cars, so Marc asked him if he’d like a career change as we were looking at putting a young one on. In restoration it is difficult to get someone to do the work the way you want it done. We have had guys that have worked in mainstream body shops come to us, but restoration is a different skill set completely. Connor took the leap and joined us. He is an asset to our small business and is much more than someone who works for us; he’s one of the family.”
To complete the family business, Marc and Michelle’s son Billy has just joined the team. “Billy left school in July and joined us,” said Michelle. “With any apprentice it will be a long time and many hours showing Billy the different techniques required in restoration. Luckily, Connor is also on hand to guide Billy.”
Although Border Restoration’s mainstream work is Volkswagen campers from the late 1950s to the late 70s, the team also work on a variety of other classics. “It’s sometimes refreshing to mix it up and work on a Porsche 911 or a classic mini,” Michelle said. “We currently have a 1959 Beetle in and a Lancia Fulvia.”
Border Restoration take vans in from all over the UK and abroad in various conditions. “You must remember that these vans are now of a certain age and most require a full restoration; most have been previously repaired and patched to keep them going,” said Michelle. “Sometimes we have a van in that looks OK from a distance, but once you get to see it up-close and feel the panels you know that you’re going to unearth a can of worms. Once the layers of paints and fillers are removed then we can truly see what we are working with.
“When a vehicle comes into the workshop we completely strip it back to a shell, media blast it and then start the fabrication and panel replacement. How long the van will be here depends on the level of work required. We say that you can expect it to be with us for six months, but depending on what we find, and customer’s requirements, it can be with us longer.”
The team at Border Restoration pride themselves on working closely with their customers. “Having them from all over the UK and abroad it is important to keep in touch,” said Michelle. “We set up group chats via WhatsApp, sending photos and videos of the progress in the workshop. This gives customers a feeling of being part of the restoration without being in the workshop.”
As well as restoring customers’ vans, Border Restoration can also help source a vehicle when a new client comes to them with a project in mind.
“We had a guy contact us from London,” remembers Michelle. “He owned a wine bar with his wife. He had always wanted a split screen and wanted a van built so they could drive to France, Italy and Spain, visit the vineyards and buy the wine directly from the suppliers.
“We sourced him a van and got it back to the workshop. It needed a little bit of work; most vans do. We completely stripped it back to a bare shell and started from the ground up to restore this van. When we were ready to talk paint, the customer couldn’t decide on what colour to choose. He liked blue but then changed to red but also liked yellow. After getting about 15 samples sprayed out, he decided on yellow.
“Within a few months of him receiving the van, they went on their adventure through Europe to source the wine they wanted to stock in the wine bar, sending us photos from the vineyards.”
The popularity of classic VW campers is now is huge, with this having accelerated in recent years due to more people choosing to holiday in the UK.
“When we first bought our van over 20 years ago, although they were popular they hadn’t got the following they have now,” reflects Michelle. “There has been a noticeable shift in the customers buying the vans as an investment.”
With the business having restored lots of vans over the years, many builds have been memorable. “We did a beautiful right hand drive Samba,” remembers Michelle. “The Sambas are one of the most sought-after models. With the small windows in the roof and full opening sunroof they come with 21-23 windows.”
For Marc, Michelle, Connor and Billy, the only way is up, and the team are looking forward to working with more and more great customers as the future moves forward.
“We are very fortunate to have built a solid business with some great suppliers,” said Michelle. “But with any restoration it is the customers that make the restoration, and we have been incredibly lucky to have met some wonderful people and build some interesting projects. To the friends that become family!” For more information on Border Restoration, visit