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Fergal, the VW star of Twitter; QUIRKY CAMPERVAN HAS A CULT FOLLOWING ON THE NET.

Byline: JONNY GREATREX

MEET Fergal, the Volkswagen campervan with its own Twitter page.

The 18-year-old motor has only five followers so far but expects a whole lot more when people learn of his exploits.

In fact, he's just had the summer holiday of a lifetime.

Since setting out of his travels in June, Fergal has clocked up more than 3,000 miles and taken in two music festivals.

And all because his owner lost his job as a marketing manager in January.

The intrepid campervan belongs to dad Sam Roberts, who decided to press the VW into action and start his own business after being laid off.

Sam, 35, from Selly Oak, Birmingham, needed cash to support his six-month-old daughter Maya and partner Chrissy Brown.

He had his beloved van refurbished and started 25sevencamperhire, offering Fergal for rent and hoping to attract people looking for cheaper domestic holidays during the recession.

"It was something I'd had at the back of my mind but being made redundant was the catalyst to go and do it," Sam told the Sunday Mercury.

"It couldn't have gone better. Since July,. Fergal has not been home - he's had a better social life than me.

"He has done 3,000 miles, been up to Robin Hood's Bay and down as far as Newquay.

"That sort of mileage is incredible for just two months. The feedback from everyone who hires him has been fantastic. People have genuinely had a good time."

And the new entrepreneur believes the friendly nature of Volkswagen owners has helped his business grow.

"I tell people they will need their VW wave when they leave," he smiled. "They don't know what I mean at first.

"But within a few miles they realise what's going on when people are waving at them all the time.

"That's part of the reason it has been so successful. The VW scene is very friendly and people get part of that with Fergal.

"We went away for a week and looked behind us. There was a fellow VW owner in convoy, waving at us."

Fergal offers mobile accommodation for up to four people and comes equipped with a gas cooker, fridge-freezer and heating, plus an awning to offer extra living space.

The van, which is a T25 model, has begun to get its own cult following from people who have had "staycations" with him and want to find out where he has been on his latest adventure.

Dafydd and Helen Gibby, both 31, from Malvern, Worcestershire, took the van on an epic two-week 1,000 mile round trip up to Hadrian's Wall and back.

Reliable "It was brilliant! My wife and I are going to have him for a long weekend soon," said engineering manager Dafydd. "He is a really good van and reliable. It is the kind of van we would like to own but this way is more cost-effective."

Owner Sam was getting so many enquiries about Fergal that he set up a Twitter page so devotees can keep track of him.

The last entry reads: "Fergal's just returned from the Reading Festival, where he had a great time despite the not so good weather."

Demand has been so high that the budding businessman is set to launch 25sevencampers' second vehicle - a yellow VW campervan with a white top called Cadbury.

"He is 28 years old and gets his name because he looks like a Creme Egg," said Sam.

"I've had him for three years. It's an investment for me because it means he will get a longer life.

"He is in the paint shop at the moment for a respray then he'll be ready to go. I've already got a booking for October."

Sam is hoping interest in his vans will continue into next summer when he plans to expand with another van.

n To follow Fergal go to www.25sevencamperhire.co.uk or visit www.twitter.com/Fergal25seven jonny.greatrex@sundaymercury.net

CAPTION(S):

HOLIDAY: Sam Roberts has turned his VW camper van into a business. Sam with partner Chrissy Brown and daughter Maya. Inset, inside the campervan is cosy and homely E080609CAMP-2
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Publication:Sunday Mercury (Birmingham, England)
Date:Sep 6, 2009
Words:689
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