Air ride. 20” wheels. Sound system. Sounds like a regular bagged VW T6, right? Wrong. Luke Massy and the team at Plush don’t do regular…
Feature from Performance VW. Words: Gordie Woollacott. Photos: Conor Cross.
Here’s a question for you: Do Transport owners become ‘van guys’, or are they born with the condition? If you can switch, or at least become both, what would it take? I remember a lad who used to run around in a Ford Escort van back in my boy racer days (late ‘90s if you’re wondering!). It was Peppermint green, had black windows and an RS body kit with matching wheels. At the time, I couldn’t understand why you’d choose a van. I mean, that was for work men and women. However, a few years on, one night sleeping in a bay window after my tent blew away and I was hooked.
For Luke Massy, owner and founder of Plush Automotive and ABP (Air By Plush) there was a little more peer pressure involved. However, when he finally took the van pill he too was hooked. “The staff kept pushing me into it,” he laughs. “Seeing as we were developing an air suspension kit for the Transporter at the time, I thought I should probably listen. I was definitely hesitant in the beginning but have to admit it is one of the best decisions I ever made. I can now see 100% why there is such a huge following.” He continues, “Having developed the most popular air suspension kit for these now, we have met so many great people from all walks of life using their vans for such different purposes. It really is ‘one van fits all.’”
This innocent Blackberry T6 Kombi rolled out of VW and into Plush back in 2017, complete with a 204hp engine and DSG gearbox. Little did it know how life would look just a few months later. “Owning Plush since 2006 and always trying to stay at the forefront of the custom aftermarket industry, there was no excuse for me not having a van. It’s just a bigger canvas for us to be creative with,” Luke says as he tries to convince himself. “We wanted the vehicle to hold all the bells and whistles we usually fit to cars, but also keep it totally functional and not lose interior cabin space.” With a crew of five working on it at any one time, just three months later (and a £30,000 parts bill) the results are now inked forever on these pages. You’ll find a number of superlatives throughout this magazine, and indeed in the English language. I personally can’t choose one – can you? If you’re down with a bit of OCD, this is your van. It’s flawless.
“The biggest challenge was trying to keep everything compact and not be tempted to just eat up the space inside,” says Luke. “We solve problems at Plush. I think with the custom-built, centrally mounted sub box in the front and by packing all the electronics that power the air and audio into a steel box where the spare wheel would usually sit (if your van comes with one), I think we delivered.” Yes, delivered is certainly one way of understating the point.
Having been exclusively a car guy until that fateful day in 2017, Luke felt compelled to deal with what he describes as ‘a big echoing tin box inside.’ Everybody knows what a carpet-lined van looks like, Plush even offer it themselves as a service. What’s the point of a demo van if the thing it ‘demos’ is already well established? How many Alcantara-lined vans have you seen? To narrow it even further, how many at this level? “With carpet being a thick material, it hides all the dips and troughs on the metal work such as spot welds etc,” explains Luke. “But not so with Alcantara! First, we had to completely smooth all the little details on the inside of our brand-new van before laying down the material. Details like this are pretty much hidden now the vehicle is complete.” All those hours on something only a few people will even know is there. No great genius has ever existed without some touch of madness (first ever Aristotle quote in PVW?).
The ‘next levelness’ continues in the cab area where, rather than simply painting the cream plastics that were not sitting well with Luke’s eye, he took a different approach. “I didn’t like the thought of the paint chipping or getting scratched which is very likely to happen with all the movement around the cab getting in and out,” he says. “Instead, we started the mammoth task of cross-referencing other VW parts that had OEM black fixings such as the seat belt buckles and grab handles. We even went to the extent of buying black Audi sunvisors and grafting an OEM mirror into the bagged VW T6 sun visors before trimming.” A touch of madness.
Finishing off the cab are a pair of Audi RS3 seats. Fitted on bespoke Plush Automotive subframe plates, trimmed in mint Nappa leather and with illuminated rear Plush logos they make this van about as removed from a van as you can get.
In spite of all the rather spectacular trimmings, the raison d’etre of this machine was and is the suspension. “Yes, it was all about the air ride,” Luke confirms. “There were multiple kits on the market that had not delivered the correct results and companies not even delivering the product that was ordered. We took it upon ourselves to create ABP suspension, working closely with our already great partners at Bilstein UK. Like Plush, we only wanted to manufacture a premium product at ABP that would set the benchmark in Transporter air suspension. We’re now selling all over the world, so I think we did a pretty good job!”
This van is kitted out with ABP air suspension struts controlled by Accuair E-level load levelling management system and the new ABP dual noise reduction compressors. A T30 hub swap helps with the lows whilst H&R roll bars and Powerflex adjustable rear inner and outer bushes keep things tight. The battery and airbox have both been raised to ensure the noises only come from the Milltek DPF backbox or your choice of tunes emanating from that custom sub box via an Audison Bit One HD processor and no less than two Audison Thesis 4 channel amps actively powering the whole system.
Almost as loud as the thumping ICE are the Vossen wheels measuring 9×20” in the front and a slightly wider 10” in the back. The deep concave, matt bronze HF5s are dressed in 235×35 and 245×35 rubber, front and rear respectively.
“We tried to keep this project fun, showcase what Plush can achieve and build it for ourselves,” says Luke. “By the time this is published the van will be sitting on our new ABP +35mm lift air suspension kit. It will then be for sale either lifted or lowered, purely so we can build another without tearing this one to pieces. We want to see someone enjoy the hard work put into it. I absolutely love it and it’s probably my favourite vehicle I’ve owned.”
Fancy it or want to give your van the Plush Automotive treatment? Drop the guys at Plush a DM with any enquiries. It would be madness not to, wouldn’t it?
Tech Spec: Bagged VW T6
2.0-litre 204 with DSG, Milltek DPF back with black tailpipes
ABP (AirByPlush) Air suspension struts controlled by load levelling Accuair E-level Management system with the new ABP suspension noise reduction compressors, T30 Hub Swap, H&R roll bars, Powerflex adjustable rear inner and outer bushes, Battery and air box raise, front 9×20 deep concave matte bronze Vossen HF5, rear 10×20 deep concave matte bronze Vossen HF5, Pirelli P Zero tyre front 235/35/20, rear 245/35/20
All interior spot welds and seams smoothed before applying genuine Alcantara, bespoke fabricated starlight ceiling with down lights, OEM bespoke rear floor carpet with matching Caravelle OEM front carpet, Caravelle black front door cards and lower dash swap, interior sliding door and tailgate panels finished in matching Alcantara, Sunken amp and hardline install in rear floor, bespoke Accuair touchpad door mount, complete trim in Alcantara and mint leather
Rainbow Profi 3-way active front end utilising Plush Automotive designed 3D printed mid bass on axis door mounts, bespoke A pillar builds, Rainbow 10” Profi up front centre sub housed in a custom centre enclosure, Audison Bit One HD processor, Audison thesis 4 channel Amplifiers (x2)