The Just Kampers Story
In the Beginning
Mark Reynolds founded Just Kampers on his Birthday, September 1st, as he couldn't get motor traders insurance before he was 22 years old.
The business started as a 'one man band' workshop, specialising in the repair of VW Campers, at the Old Pump House in Bagshot, Surrey. The premises were so small that with the doors closed there wasn't enough room for Mark to actually work on a Camper. So the doors were always open which was less than ideal in cold weather and whenever the sky turned grey a tarpaulin had to be draped over the workshop doors to keep the rain off!
The Old Pump House didn't have a land-line telephone connection so Mark had to make use of one of the ironically titled ‘Motorola Transportable’ mobile phones – With a battery pack about the same size, and weight as a car battery, it really wasn't all that transportable!
The Move to Wrecclesham
In the spring of 1990, around the same time that his son Josh was born, Mark moved JK into larger premises at Wrecclesham near Farnham in Surrey.
The site had previously been used as a Rolls Royce service and repair shop and could accommodate up to six Campers. The workshop was situated next to a retirement home and it soon became clear that our new neighbours didn’t share our enthusiasm for air-cooled VWs!
There were a few complaints and while we did our best to be good neighbours we knew it wouldn't be long before we would be looking for somewhere new to move!
24 Hour VW People
The business continued to grow and so did our neighbours cause for complaint. By 1991 JK was running nearly 24 hours a day and we’d begun breaking old VWs in order to sell second hand parts. This was the beginning of our transition from workshop to parts business.
In hindsight a lot of the VWs that we broke would be repaired and restored these days, but it was a different time, and the vehicles just weren’t in such demand twenty years ago and were not nearly so valuable!
Mark and Pete Dempsey (now our Development Director) saw this Bay Window and decided to make their own version of it, which they dubbed “Roofless and Cold-Hearted”!
Becoming a Parts Shop
We finally moved to Farnborough, at the site where Farnborough VW operate from today.
The new location gave us more space, which was great, but our new neighbour was a four star hotel and their residents were no happier with our 24 hour VW workshop than those of the nursing home had been!
We were finding that more and more customers were struggling to find certain parts, so we decided to source them ourselves and sell them from a small shop, which we set up in our workshop.
Whilst on holiday with his wife Kerry in Malta, Mark inevitably took an interest in the local VW scene! Completely by chance Mark and Kerry discovered a closed down VW Main Dealer that had stored all of its parts in a nearby cave! Mark knew this was an unbelievable find and the week after returning from holiday he flew straight back to Malta to buy all the parts and get them shipped back to the UK!
Here's Pete chopping a Bay Crew Cab... Pete loved roof chops so much that every time Mark went out he’d take the hacksaw with him - Just in case Pete decided to chop his car while he was getting a sandwich!
Here's a photo of Ed China, of 'Wheeler Dealers' fame, standing next to the Bay that Pete had chopped - We knew him before he was on TV! Ed once rented the unit next to ours at our HQ in Odiham, and used to amaze everyone at JK with his fantastic and imaginative vehicles!
Here we are at Stonor Park in 1994 - As well as parts, we were also selling the crew cab that Pete had roof chopped!
The Grand Tour
1995 saw an attempt to find another Malta style treasure trove. Having found a 1959 Volkswagen Dealer map with every VW dealer in Europe marked out, Mark began a trip to see if they were still in existence and if they had old treasures gathering dust. A few thousand miles later, it was decided that Malta was a bit of a one-off and running the workshop paid the bills better than treasure hunting!
As you can see from the photo, we expanded our shop and the range of products that we stocked, but were still 95% workshop.
In 1996, Mark and his wife Kerry went to LA to see if they could start importing parts off Volkswagens like doors and front axles back to the UK. They found a few scrapyards that were full of VWs like these, which were scrapped back then but these days would probably be restored!
As you can see from the photo, Mark had already been busy stripping away the best bits to send back home to JK!
The Space Race
In 1997, the first container of VW parts that we'd bought in LA arrived.
We knew we'd soon have to start looking for a new place to store all of these parts, as we were quickly running out of space in our workshop!
We started to stock more and more VW parts, to keep the workshop busy, which led to JK becoming a parts business.
Initially, we ran it from a small shop in North Camp. When we took on the shop we thought we could never fill it, however, it was not long before we had outgrown not only the shop but the four shipping containers we'd wedged into the rear car park, as well as the offices above our shop and the two shops next door too!
Mail Order VW Parts
In ’98 Mark and his young family travelled to South Africa to find parts. Many of the parts we found on that trip we still sell, more than 10 years on. Some of the products we’ve sold over 5,000 of!
The family took some time while they were out there to go on Safari - in a T25!
This was also the year that we found many of our customers preferred to shop via mail order and so we started to extend our mail order offer.
Here's a photo of Mark on the phone in the old Sales Office. He's ditched the Vans, but he still sits like that when he's on the phone!
New Scrapland Yard
Mark managed to find the parts he was looking for, and also leased some land out in LA so that we could run a VW Scrap Yard out there!
We'd salvage the best parts from wrecked VW Campers and ship them back to Just Kampers, to sell second hand in the UK.
In 1999, Mark went back to California, bringing his family with him again so that they could take in some sights while he looked for more car parts. He managed to spare some time to go see some drag racing though!
Once again we started to expand our warehouse and get everything more organised.
We've always tried to keep everything tidy, organised and logical in our warehouse, which is why we now run all of our picking on handheld computers to minimise the chance of errors.
Here's a photo of Mark and Pete at Brighton Breeze 2000!
In 2001 we started to build more permanent offices at JK, because more orders meant we needed more sales staff!
Here's a photo of Mark holding down the fort in the new offices! They're still used today, but they've been used for a dozen different things over the years!
Kamperink-ing it Up
As well as growing the range of mechanical parts and accessories, 2002 was the year we got the JK Kamperink!
We used to fill it absolutely full of stock and take it to all the shows with us, and we used it to test a lot of products, too.
In 2003 our Internet business really picked up, so we had to get ourselves much more organised to keep up with the increase in demand.
New racking went in to our warehouse in Odiham, and we revised the way that orders are processed.
2003 is also the year we started to stock a lot more new parts from places like Empi, as well as selling second-hand parts.
This was a big step for us, and it meant that we were sending more artic lorries down the country lanes of Odiham!
2004 was the year of JK's first VolksWorld Show - We loved it then, and we love it now!
If you've got any photos from old VolksWorld shows, please send them to us, we'd love to see them!
Getting Tooled Up
In 2005 we saw more and more parts becoming obsolete, we began to invest heavily in tooling up to produce the parts ourselves so that people could still get them.
This is an ongoing project as the vehicles become older and the parts harder to find.
We've also manufactured some non-mechanical products, such as our ever-popular melamine sets.
Breezing to Brighton
Mark Reynolds and his son Josh put together their first, but not last, team for the London to Brighton bike ride which included a few JK Staff Members, in order to raise money for charity.
Edd China, of 'Wheeler Dealers' fame, made these Bread Bays in 2006 - We know you love interesting VWs, so we thought we'd share them with you!
It was also the year he relocated, moving out of the unit next to ours at our HQ in Odiham. We quickly took over the empty space, but we left his Cummfy Banana sticker on the door. It's still there today!
Doing it for Ourselves
In 2007 we began to increase our focus on designing and manufacturing our own products, such as our popular melamine dining sets, and our Spacemaker awnings.
How Low Can You Go?
At Bug Jam, Santa Pod, in 2008 we were part of a team that set a record for the world’s lowest campervan, along with Andy Saunders.
It was an amazing thing to be a part of, and although it took all weekend we got it finished in time for a run down the drag strip at Santa Pod!
Throughout 2009 we became increasingly fond of Facebook and today we use the site on a daily basis to stay in touch with customers, colleagues, friends and our VW family. To read about our more recent history and current deals simply head over to our Facebook page.
At the end of 2010 we announced our launch of Just Kampers Australia. Wanting to cater to Volkswagen lovers on the other side of the world, we sought to set up a sister warehouse in Auburn, Australia. By having a partner on the other side of the world, we are able to service customers with the same great products we sell here, whilst also minimizing shipping costs and dispatch times to the VW enthusiast, which would otherwise be unattainable.
In 2011 Just Kampers bought and restored the 'project bus' together as a team. Each willing member of the Just Kampers Staff took a turn at turning the broken bus into a fully functioning one, from new brakes to choosing the interior, everyone did their bit to make the bus the best it could be!
New look JK
In 2012 we launched our brand new website, which featured massive improvements and has made it far quicker and easier for people to find the parts and accessories they need for their VWs.
We also introduced our new round JK logo, which has been just as popular as the new website! Our annual JK Open Day and camping weekend was very popular, the weather was beautiful and hundreds of visitors arrived, in fact our charity BBQ was so popular we had to send people out to get more food!
Onwards and upwards
We brought in many improvements and changes during 2013, and continued to grow as fast as ever. We introduced a range of new offers and schemes to help our customers to save money and further improve the service they receive from us. For example, our Group Buy offer which allowed groups of friends, forums and clubs to join together to purchase larger quantities of more expensive items such and rock'n'roll beds, Propex heaters and awnings at lower prices.
Another great new addition in 2013 was our Free Delivery offer (delivery is free on Mainland UK orders over £35) which combined with our fantastic courier delivery system gives unbeatable service.
Preservation Parts was also launched in 2013. We'd been feeling for a while that there was something missing from the classic air-cooled VW scene, with both mechanics and customers expressing the need for a range of higher quality parts and accessories for their air-cooled 'dubs. We spent months searching around the world and throughout our own extensive range to pick out the very best parts and accessories available for Beetles, Ghias, Type 3s, Splitscreens, Bays and T25s, tested them and combined them into the Preservation Parts range.
It's an ongoing process and we're always adding new parts and accessories to the range based on the great feedback we've had from people worldwide on the existing range.
Celebrating 25 years of Just Kampers!
Just Kampers was established in 1989 so 2014 marked our 25th Birthday, and we've marked this event with 25 fantastic offers at different shows and events throughout the year, as well as releasing a range of limited edition 25th Anniversary merchandise!
As part of the 25th-anniversary celebrations, Mark & Kerry Reynolds, who founded JK back in 1989 embarked on a 5,500+ mile road trip across the USA from Los Angeles to New York in a 1972 Bay Window Camper. 236,960 people followed their trip on Facebook & Twitter pages as they went and Mark would like to thank them, along with all our customers who have supported us for the last 25 years.
We also ran a fantastic vehicle giveaway competition all through the year in conjunction with our insurance side of the business, www.justkampersinsurance.com to give away a VW T4 van. The lucky winner was drawn in December 2014 and was Chris Cayton and his family.
Extending the range
We focused the first part of the year on expanding our T5 range with many add-on parts such as Westfalia tow bars and Sportline products and also introduced our exclusive brightly coloured Camper Shop range of awnings, sun canopies and camping accessories for the summer. Our brand new bespoke design melamine set also proved very popular. During 2015 as well as attending 6 of the larger VW Shows with Trade stands, we also managed to sponsor 50 other shows and events, showing our support for the VW scene. Our JK Open Day has now grown to a large camping event with over 400 plots sold all in aid of Cancer Research, our chosen charity for 2015. We ran several fantastic competitions throughout the year in conjunction with www.justkampersinsurance.com including a VIP trip to the Autostadt factory, Wolfsburg and also a weekend to the themed V8 Hotel with tickets to the Porsche Museum in Stuttgart.
2016 has certainly been a year of surprises, regardless of your political persuasion! But perhaps the disappointing exchange rates will encourage us all to ‘Staycation’ in 2017 and make the most of owning a VW. There are so many great places to visit in the UK and a huge range of festivals, shows and events, you’ll look back and wonder why we all queued up at the airports to go abroad!
For the Classic VW owner, there has also been good news that your investment has risen, according to 2 different reports, by around 10% in the last 12 months, which has to be a better return than money in the bank!
We've developed a whole new range of body panels here at JK, with our on-site workshop going flat out to fulfil orders and Developing new body panels. As with all of our exclusive UK made panels, they've been made to the original specification from the highest quality materials, and have decades of experience and skill behind them.
2016 saw us bring in a whole fleet of rare and unusual VWs from Brazil. We displayed them at the VolksWorld Show in the spring, and they were really well received. Although we'd have loved to keep them all, we've got a lot of VWs already here at JK, and space is at a premium in our warehouse, so they've been bought by VW enthusiasts around the world and are now enjoying new homes.
Our range of parts for VW T5s and T6s has grown once again, with a whole host of new parts and accessories being added to our range. This is one of our fastest-growing ranges, as there are always new products to be tracked down and tested, so it's certainly keeping us busy!
As we're sure you've noticed, the JK website has been updated! We've made a real effort to make it even more user-friendly and to cut out any 'clutter' that was getting in the way. Our improved product pages now clearly display as much information as possible about the products we're offering without being overwhelming, and we've added in a lot of new features to help you get exactly the parts you're after.
The end of summer means the start of us expanding and improving our warehouse. This has become something of an annual tradition here at JK, and this year is no exception. We've added a whole new mezzanine section to the warehouse, effectively doubling the number of parts and accessories we can hold - which is just as well, as we've got a lot of new products coming in over the next few months!
2017 saw the JK team rebuild and then race a 1956 VW Beetle in the covered Mille Miglia race in Italy. https://www.justkampers.com/jkblog/jk-will-be-tackling-the-mighty-mille-miglia-151 This was a great opportunity to truly test the parts we sell. And we were delighted to say that after a 10,000km use in 12 months we can report not one break down. The year also saw us expand into even more warehouse space. One of our neighbours moved out, so we took the opportunity to take on the extra space. The year was also full of some great shows that we attended, in Jack, the Mille Miglia Beetle. Our firm favourite was HO17 in Germany. Read more here
Onwards and upwards
2018 has seen us expand upstairs to allow us to have a retail shop/display area. This shows off the Kampa Air awning range, and many of the JK Conversion parts we have added to our range. Read our Shop Blog In 2018 we have been working hard to bring the customer the very best value for money.
Heralds our 30th Birthday!
On the 21st September, it will be 30 years since a very young Mark Reynolds established Just Kampers. We will be celebrating this important milestone throughout the coming year.
It looks set to be an amazing year and we have a lot to look forward to;
The team take on the great John O Groats – Lands End challenge for charity, our much-loved Open Day and Camping Weekender returns, and, some of the team journey to Bad Camberg in Jack (the JK Oval). We also proudly continue our sponsorship and support of World Champion GB Paraclimber Matt Phillips.
Our business focus will see continued expansion of products across all our ranges, showcasing these items in our new shop area and working in conjunction with JK Insurance to offer new Hire Insurance options.
We’ll also be implementing a new environmental policy as we strive to reduce our environmental impact, through active management in all areas of our business.
A Year Of Covid & Heroes
More than ever this year we have all sought to support our communities and, at a time when so many need help, charities have felt extra pressures. With fundraising events becoming impossible to host, and many household finances changing, it would be easy to be lost along the way.
Each year Just Kampers works hard to support our dedicated charity partner; Phyllis Tuckwell Hospice Care. Our Open Day and Camping Weekender would normally be our main fundraising event to raise funds for the charity. 2020's event was not able to go ahead and left us asking ticket holders, if they felt able, to donate this year’s fee.
So many of our camping ticket holders and traders did just that. Your generosity, when added to the Just Kampers £15,000.00 donation allowed us to pass a whooping £21,480.00 to Phyllis Tuckwell. As far as we are concerned, you are all heroes.
Your generosity will help to ensure that Phyllis Tuckwell can continue to support their patients and loved ones through often very difficult times.
Another Year Of Covid
Another difficult year for many of us around the world, 2021 saw VW shows and events cancelled as lockdown restrictions were phased in and out.
This, sadly, included our own JK Open Day, which we couldn’t reasonably make happen given the state of the Covid pandemic.
Still, it was a busy year for us at JK HQ as orders for camping products and mechanical parts were flying out of the warehouse – it seemed like a lot of our customers were enjoying staycations and getting their VWs back on the road.
We took the opportunity to design a series of new products, including our JK Solar Charging Screen, although many of these new parts and accessories wouldn’t land in our warehouse until the following year.