BLISS N ESSO KOMBI VAN BOOM-BOX

FOR most of us, a killer car needs a killer stereo. But Sydney hip hop crew Bliss n Eso had slightly different requirements. Instead of a stereo in a car, they needed a car to be somehow embedded into a stereo. And not just any boom-box either. Nope, being professionals, Bliss n Eso needed a full pro DJ console, speakers, lights and multimedia displays, and it even had to have its own stand-alone power supply.

Web Bliss N Esso 13 NwThe original design brief from Bliss n Esso was to build a DJ show set in a Kombi

See, the idea was that the group could drive on stage, fire up the decksand crank out the grooves for a full-length live show – all without leaving the vehicle. It’s a beautiful piece of lateral thinking, but it’s also one hell of a big ask of the engineers and fabricators at Brisbane-based Brothers Speed Shop, who our intrepid trio (MC Bliss, MC Eso and DJ Izm) first approached with the idea about four years ago.

Web Bliss N Esso 8 NwOnce the car is on stage the roof flips open to reveal DJ Izm and the decks

According to Link from Brothers Speed Shop, just designing such a vehicle required plenty of thinking outside the square. And that makes sense, because the two parties involved were coming at the project from totally different directions.

“They wanted a DJ console in a Kombi,” Link recalls, “and we wanted to build a hot rod that we could cram a console into. In the end we had to meet in the middle.”

Even so, Link reckons the boys got exactly what they asked for. “They had the concept and we had to make it function,” Link says. “But once we got to know each other, we all started to understand the project better and they learned to trust us. They knew they wanted a Kombi and it had to be green, but ultimately, they gave us full license on everything else.”

WEB Bliss N Esso 1 NwThe Kombi rides on airbags with AccuAir management system to give the slammed stance

The project started with a 1976 bay-window Kombi, which the lads at Brothers immediately gutted and cut away most of the front structural section, boxing the rails the whole length of the van and adding a tubular X-section for strength. There’s also a handmade set of rear rails, which were built on the bench before being welded in. It’s all beautifully smoothed too, just like any other high-end hot rod.

According to Link, for a build, starting with the basics is the only way to fly: “Whenever I build a car on adjustable suspension I always choose the wheel size and then build the car around the wheels. The rest will fall into place.”

Web Bliss N Esso 12 NwThe retro wheels are Intro Smoothies measuring 18x8 up front and 20x8 at the rear

Speaking of suspension, it’s all airbagged (as you can probably work out from the stance) and it’s controlled by an AccuAir management system with sensors for precise height adjustment. The biggest problem was finding a damper that could cope with the 1:2 lift ratio (the rear airbags are mounted right in by the suspension fulcrum). So Link put his thinking cap on, got creative, and fabbed a cantilever-style set-up – like you might see on an open-wheeler race car – that reduces the shock travel by half but retains the full range of suspension height choices.

Web Bliss N Esso 6 NwThere's enough speaker wattage crammed into this Kombi to make it one giant rolling boom-box

At this stage, the sheer lowness of the vehicle created another drama: the driveshafts would be seriously angled with the engine and trans in their stock position. It might be a sound stage, but it still has to drive between gigs. So, the Brothers team took the drivetrain from under the floor and mounted it on top of the floor. If you look at the gearshift, you’ll see it’s been moved from the floor to between the front seats to better angle into the gearbox’s selector shaft.

Web Bliss N Esso 7 NwIt's no speed racer, but the 2.0-litre VW unit makes enough grunt through its 48mm Webers and custom exhaust to chug along nicely

The engine is a 2.0-litre Type 4 VW unit (standard in these late-model Kombis). It’s been left pretty much alone here, although the boys at Brothers Speed Shop did fabricate, from scratch, a one-off exhaust, including the primaries, and topped the deal off with a pair of 48mm Weber IDAs.

Once it’s on stage, the Kombi’s roof raises to reveal DJ Izm at the decks. The flip-top lid is the work of Rod Collis, who metal-finished the panel before the Brothers boys got busy building the twin actuators (which have to work in perfect harmony to avoid twisting the roof) and then fabricated a rollcage to keep the whole structure rigid and provide a solid mount for all that heavy sound gear.

Web Bliss N Esso 3 NwThe Kombi was built by the dudes at Brothers Speed Shop in Ormeau, Brisbane, otherwise known as ICandy Custom Resprays

The rest of the body mods are a bit more subtle. But only a bit. The front doors have been extended to the wheel arch to eliminate a shut line, and all the body lines have been sharpened (and some of them physically moved). The dashboard is a one-off in metal and incorporates a mount for the all-important iPad that controls all the stereo and airbag functions.

If there’s a more highly modified VW Kombi in the world, we’re yet to meet it, but it’s the quality that shines through just as brightly as the radical nature of the thing. And the judges at MotorEx obviously agreed – they gonged the Bliss n Eso rolling boom-box with a heap of silverware in the Street Elite class.

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