The Cool Flo Cave

Posted on January 01 2015

In 2013, VolksWorld Magazine visited the top-secret Cool Flo Cave, described as “an old school lover’s dream garage”. Their write-up went on to be chosen as one of VolksWorld’s features of the year.

“I really liked this feature as it was handled differently to the way we usually do features. Normally we would focus on the car but this feature more about the lifestyle and the people behind the cars. Plus the Cool Flo boys have a really cool collection of Volkswagens, which made for interesting reading and great eye candy”. – Adrian Vaughan, Marketing and Events Manager

With a blindfold firmly over our eyes, team VolksWorld were led to a top secret London location where the Cool Flo cave awaited.  It’s an old school lover’s dream garage. Check it out.

The ’54 Barndoor (nearest) came over from Sweden. It’s had a full resto by Graham Dean and runs a 1914cc engine, straight axle gearbox, CSP discs and genuine Fuchs.

How often have you heard the old chestnut, you only get back what you put in?  It’s a truism that has never been more apt than when used in connection with the Carter brothers, Scott, Darren and Jamie, who are perhaps better known to you as Cool Flo.  This cool collective have been hitting the VW scene hard for a number of years with a choice array of  Buses, but who are they and how is it they’re always surrounded by a fantastic display of old school VWs, scooters and BMXs?

Their tale is the best sort, as there are no rich fathers or private investors bank rolling them here, nor any offshore bank accounts or shenanigans of that nature. No, what we have instead are three brothers who’ve put their collective incomes, knowledge and enthusiasm together for the last 22 years in order to fund their automotive passion.  Scott: “We’re huge VW enthusiasts, so always messed around with them in our spare time.  My first car was a 6-volt ’67 Beetle, Jamie started out with a ’64 and Darren’s first VW was a ’62 Split.  I’ve worked with Darren and Jamie for over 20 years, so we’ve always pooled our resources.  We do it in the workplace so it makes sense to do it when it comes to our VWs as well.  We just save up to buy everything together, which means everything we own today is the result of a three-way split.  It’s the only way we could afford to have what we have now.”

The latest addition to the fleet is the Cooler. Based on a ’68 Bay it offers more space to sleep and draws a crowd wherever it is taken to.

Being a Londoner, Scott harks back to the days of the Battersea Cruise, when only three VWs would turn up – his, Julian Hunt of large-thumbed photography and Karmann Konnection fame and Rikki James.  Being into Split Screen Buses marked you out as something of an oddball  back then, even more so if you had a predilection for Commercial variants as the Carter brothers do.  It was a love of Dove Blue Split Panels that, quite simply, spiraled out of control.

The gnarly ’52 Barndoor came first, but three brothers, no matter how close, sharing only one kick-ass Van would never work, so it’s since been joined in the Cool Flo cave by the ’58 Race Bus and another Barndoor, a shiny, Swedish ’54.  The lads have nothing against peaked roofs, so there’s also a Sealing Wax Red ’64 Panel Van with a Westy interior hidden inside (not present on the day of this shoot) and the latest arrival is the Cool Flo Cooler, which is based on a ’68 Bay.

Born out of passion

The unifying factor for each of these Buses, aside from how they were funded, is the livery.  Scott: “It was first applied to the ’52.  We wanted something cool that wasn’t a library font, so drew it ourselves on a piece of paper.”

Much like Ben Pon’s legendary sketch that went on to give birth to the Transporter, it was handed over to the experts to turn into something that struck a chord with the masses, in this instance Neil and Mandy Melliard at Prosign, who honed and refined it before applying it to the sides of the Barndoor.  There’s no argument about it being a cool-looking logo, but there’s more to it than that, as Scott explains.  “People just seem to like it.  Perhaps it’s the simplicity, or the old school look, but from the first time we drove to a show with it we had people coming up and wanting to know what it was all about.

“The reception we got really excited us.  We went away from that first show wondering if we had something that could turn our passion into a business, whilst at the same time giving something back to the scene we love so much.

“I think we’ve hit upon something that people can identify with at shows, something anyone can come along to and feel part of, whether they’re into the cars, the scooters, the BMXs or even just the music we play.  It’s a total lifestyle thing.  We’d be going to all the shows even if we didn’t have the stand, just listening to music, having a beer and a BBQ with our families.”  Talking of which, if you’ve seen the Cool Flo stand at any show, you’ll know how much of a family affair the outfit is.  Scott again: “We couldn’t do what we do without our families.  The stand is always full of Cool Flo kids, there’s five of them in total, but it can feel like there’s more running around at times.  Then there’s our wives, they’re a massive part of it, sending out mail order stuff and helping run the stand, so I have to mention my wife, Shelley, Darren’s better half, Ellie, and Jamie’s wife, Lisa.  There’s also Uncle Roger, as he’s known to all, and our mum and dad, Joe and Rowena.”

Known as the Race Bus, the ’58 VW on the right is powered by a solid mounted, 2276cc IDA engine and gearbox built by Auto Technics. It also runs a Concept Racing rollcage and went up in flames a while back. You can find footage of the near catastrophe on YouTube and the Bus still proudly wears its battle scars to this day.

Old gold

You can’t fake enthusiasm like this.  The crew put in so many hours driving to shows, talking to customers and being involved in the whole process from design to bespoke manufacture of their t-shirts, hoodies, stickers, keyrings etc.  “We all work 16-hour days but, when we come home, the toys come out.  We service and work on the Vans ourselves and use them all the time.  We also design all of our Cool Flo merchandise, and this totally reflects our old school influences, from ’80’s beatboxes to BMXs, but all given a VW twist.  We’re just so inspired by what we do and the reaction we get.

“We work on a 24-hour turnaround time from order to despatch and send stuff all over the world.  It’s so inspiring seeing people enjoying what we do.  Like the surfer in Hawaii wearing one of our t-shirts, or the club in Brazil that bought a load of our window stickers, but our favourite is the guy who came onto our stand in Germany wearing a fake Cool Flo t-shirt.  We were gobsmacked someone would rip our designs off.  We gave him a beer and had our pictures taken with him!”  What’s that they say about immitation being the sincerest form of flattery?

When all’s said and done, the Carter brothers are all about VWs, and the lifestyle that surrounds them.  The Cool Flo cave sums them and what they do up perfectly.  It’s just an awesome place to hang out, full of awesome machinery.  Loads of people strive to turn their passion into a way of life, but few achieve it and genuinely still enjoy it.  We doff our caps to these boys for following their dream and making it work.  We’re pretty sure their collection represents most people’s dream garage, wouldn’t you agree?

Words: James Peene  
Photos: Dan Du Cros

You can read the original article and even download some shots from the Cool Flo Cave over at VolksWorld.