Dodokas Project

Introduction by Mark Williams

What do you do when you have a beautiful four wheel drive Syncro van, newly repainted and pristine; but also have a passion for off road driving through narrow lanes and over rough terrain? You do it in a different vehicle is what. Here’s how it came about that eleven syncronauts came to the same conclusion. It was on the Isle of Wight in the August Bank Holiday of 2004 that the idea of a ‘club vehicle’ was first suggested.

After a very satisfying day of exploring the woodlands and thickets of Tom ‘Diamond Hell’s’ parents farm, followed by a trip along the Tennyson Trail I’d arrived back at camp and looked with a degree of concern at the scores and marks on the paintwork of my lovely red Tristar and thought ‘it’s not right’.

Later on that evening and after a few beers it was in discussion with other Syncronauts, who shared the enjoyment of getting off-road, but not the damage that accompanied it, that the idea for a ‘Club’ off-roader was first mooted.

We had the skills to repair and maintain, we had the passion needed to make it happen, but I don’t think that anyone then believed for a minute that we would see it come to pass.

Back in Bristol I sent the Tristar to a local bodyshop and had the paintwork refinished for a few quid so it would look its best on display at Vanfest.

Mark's Tristar at Vanfest

Mark's Tristar at Vanfest

It was around about this time that a pair of fairly run down Syncro DoKas appeared on Ebay; they sounded salvageable as a project, the owner having bought one to mend the other, one had a gearbox but no engine and the other had the engine but no gearbox, or so he said!

The photos showed a few other issues to bodywork; but it was not easy to get a real handle on the condition, and there were no members near enough to St Ives who could take a look before the auction ended and there were other interested parties already bidding.

I was at work when I got the first call from Aidan, asking if Id seen the auction and reminding me of the conversation we’d all had in the Isle of Wight.

Numerous calls were made over the next 24 hours; I had a vacant lock-up in Bristol that I could provide as a home for the vans for at least six months and whilst it wasn’t particularly central it was available and free.

Within a couple of days there were eleven of the Syncronauts who had put some money where their passion was and entered into a loose collective to buy and salvage at least one of the vans.

A maximum price was agreed and Aidan took the lead on behalf of the group to put in a ‘snipe’. Our bid won on the day and the DoDoka project was born.

The story of what we bought and what we found on inspection is one for a later chapter. Right now we were quickly faced with the practicalities of the actions needed to follow through on our promises, and the first practical issue was recovering two non-running wrecks back to the project home base in Bristol, where Tom ‘Diamond Hell’ picks up the story.