VolksMagic: More Than Just A Scrap Yard

VolksMagic: More Than Just A Scrap Yard

VolksMagic: More Than Just A Scrap Yard

Today we have traveled to Oldbury in the West Midlands to visit Lee Southerton and the team at VolksMagic. Whilst the business may be best known as a VW dismantler, 30 years on it has become so much more than that. From hard-to-find used parts to brand-new beach buggy builds and classy camper conversions. Let us show you around one of the most incredible customer visits we've ever made.

Beauty And The Beasts!

Located next to the M5 motorway, the VolksMagic emporium could easily be missed by the non-observant motorist. Almost blending in amongst other industrial units and yards, we first spot the familiar-looking cars parked at ground level before our eyes are drawn higher to the stacks of classics behind the metal barbed fences.

Our tour guide is company founder Lee Southerton or Magic to his friends. He unlocks the gate and welcomes Chris Richmond and me into his wonderful world, like some kind of Wolfsburg Willy Wonka without the top hat, cane, or chocolate! On our way to the workshop at the back, we pass through a peculiar juxtaposition of spotless project cars and campers and their dismantled v-dub relatives and Lee explains "although we are best known as a VW dismantler, we have also built and carried our repairs on customers' cars since the start." 

Workshop Duties

Parked in the doorway to their mechanical and restoration workspace is a very clean-looking T4 Caravelle and Lee quickly invites us to guess the mileage on it. Needless to say, both myself and Chris Richmond were tens of thousands out, as it shows just 8536 miles on the tacho, a distance that is supported by the vehicle's service history too. Inside the van is pristine, and amazingly the rear seats appear to have never even been sat in! Apologies, as neither of us took a decent photo of its dark blue exterior. 

Elsewhere in the workshop, there's a custom VW Beetle in a state of undress, a modified Mk2 Golf project that's been brought in for the team to finish after languishing in other workshops for 16 years, and a Mk1 Golf Rivage Cabriolet belonging to a well-known television presenter. Lee tells us "we'll work on anything up to T4 age. We used to do T5s but they are so time-consuming with all their electronics that we'd rather spend our time on the older vehicles." 

The Tour Starts Here...

Surrounding the workshop building are shipping containers, lorry backs and storage units full of pretty much anything you can imagine. We start our tour at the top; a slim set of stairs inside one container lead steeply to the first floor. At the top, there are shelves and shelves of hub caps in front of us and we take a left, and a left again which leads onto the workshop roof. Out in the elements, but one storey higher we get to survey this epic stash properly for the first time. Lee draws our attention to some early sixties cars and an Oval Beetle hidden below, joined by a Mk1 GTI Campaign, a Scirocco Storm, and a Corrado too. He then directs our eyes the other way to highlight the remains of a Karmann Ghia amongst campervan van roof cuts and a largely complete Jeans Beetle. His hoard is incredible, and this is just the tip of the iceberg.

Elsewhere on the roof is a huge stack of bumpers, piles of exhausts, fuel tanks, full quarter panels, and rear body cuts, all being kept just in case a customer might need them. Let me further blow your mind; none of this is computerized or physically catalogued! That job falls to Lee's sidekick 'Sheriff' who has all the parts and their locations saved in his head. 

We come in from the roof, but instead of back downstairs, we head through another container, into a space that is reserved for interiors, and specifically seats. It's a bit messy as they are yet to restock after Bus Fest, but Lee assures us this isn't just a container jam-packed so you can't even move, everything has a place on a shelf so it can be kept in the best condition possible, and can be found easily when required. 

There's A Mk1 Golf In There...

Back on ground level and our curiosity continues to grow. We pass a container space with mostly cylinder heads on shelves down one side. Lee very casually remarks "there's a Mk1 Golf Rivage in there" which naturally piques my interest further. Sure enough, there is a car parked nose in, under piles of stuff, you can just make out the wing mirror beyond the green box. At least it has escaped the elements, being hidden away in there but I'm doubtful it will see the road again any time soon!

Santa's A Gangsta

About 50 metres down the road from the Scrap Yard is an old warehouse that is also in Lee's ownership. Similarly full of all things Volkswagen, although the vehicles are in a far more complete state. One vehicle stands out amongst the others in this crowd, and that is a bright yellow (or is it green) VW Beetle which is being prepared for the company's annual Santa's A Gangsta giveaway. 

I ask Lee to give us the low down on what Santa's A Gangsta is all about, so he explains. "Every Christmas myself and my wife used to buy a boy's toy and a girl's toy and donate them to a local Children's charity so the kids didn't feel Santa had forgotten them. Then we started supporting a local family centre and the guys at work wanted to get involved, then family, friends and contacts through work wanted to donate gifts and they also started fundraising too." From toys to toiletries, the gifts keep coming but are now joined by a classic VW raffle in which anyone can buy a ticket to take part. This year, for just a fiver, you could be driving away in this stunning back to '89-styled Bug. You can buy your tickets or donate through the link here

Many businesses across the VW scene have donated parts to bring this car to life, and we happened to visit the workshop on the day Anthony from AJ Retrims was installing the TMI headliner kit we gifted to the cause. It was great to watch a professional install one of these, they make it look so easy!

Building Buggies

Lee has a fondness for fiberglass kits, especially the iconic Beach Buggy. "We're agents for Doon Buggies," he tells me "and we can build a complete car for a customer from what we keep in stock, from shortened chassis to custom roll cages and everything in between. If money is tight we'll use a rebuilt yard motor and a set of second-hand wheels to bring the project in on budget." Lee also has plans to start reproducing the fiberglass Jeep kits that roll on a Beetle chassis too. "I have the moulds to do it, and I've got a decent guy to make the bodies for me" he reveals, so stay tuned for details of those in the future. 

As Seen On TV: Car SOS

Always keen to help out, Lee has become friends with numerous TV shows over the years, and most recently completed the restoration of a VW Wizard for Car SOS with Tim Shaw and Fuzz Townshend. He told us "The first ever custom VW I built was a Wizard, which I completed in my parent's back garden, so when the opportunity to rescue this car came around I didn't need asking twice." For those unaware of the back story, it belongs to a chap called Andreas who was the tragic victim of mistaken identity and a doorstep acid attack. He grew up around Volkswagens and his Dad was also the founder of Run to the Sun - the iconic VW show of the 80's and 90s, and the car had been purchased to help with Andreas' rehabilitation after the attack, sadly however he needed help as it was far worse than first expected. 

Lee is quick to point out that it was a team effort and not just VolksMagic involved, with suppliers and specialists from across the industry all coming together to complete the build. Just like his Santa's A Gangsta work, it seems Lee is quite a catalyst for getting good things done for deserving people. He also mentioned quite excitedly, that Run to the Sun is coming back in 2023! Order tickets here to be part of it.


Another TV project Lee is particularly proud of is 'Melvis' a campervan completed for a Wheeler Dealer Dream Cars episode. Built for a guy called Scott who longed for a classic VW camper to take his son travelling around Scotland, Lee tells us "we were initially approached to help source a suitable vehicle. It needed to be right hand drive and a Westfalia if possible." As with the Car SOS epsidode, Lee and his network of friends and businesses came together to not only source the perfect base vehicle, but create a beautiful orange and white late Bay Westfalia that would tick all the boxes and more, for Scott and his son. 

In The Darkest Corners

Having had our minds blown at pretty much every turn, we left the warehouse and went back to the yard to discover what lurks in the darkest corners of the yard. It turns out Lee has amassed a huge volume of parts in his 30 years of trading. We unveil gearboxes, driveshafts, axles, and steel wheels in one corner, then Lee says "you'll like this." So, we turn around to follow, still very much feeling like the Charlie Bucket and Grandpa of the story, and we find him standing atop a mountain of parts holding a complete Oval dashboard in his hands!

A trip through the back of the workshop takes us, unsurprisingly to more storage areas - this space isn't on mains electricity, so requires a torch to reveal what lies in store- which only adds to the urban exploration nature of our visit. 

Taking The Bus

Out the front of the yard is a beautiful blue Bay Window, a recently finished project just awaiting the customer coming to pick it up. With twenty minutes to spare we twist Lee's arm and jump in to go take some shots. It'll come as no surprise to those who know me that I'd spotted a nice photoshoot spot on our drive over earlier. 

The whole project is a testament to the VolksMagic team, and from top to bottom, inside and out the level of finish is fantastic. Certainly not what one would imagine rolling out of your typical scrap yard and onto the road. 

So, What Does Lee Drive? 

For a guy who is so prolific in building VW projects I expect him to run me off a list of show cars he has parked up in the garage at home. But he responds with a laugh "the problem is, as soon as I build something people want to buy it! So I take whatever we've just built to the shows, but they don't stick around for long."

We do end our visit on something of a cliffhanger though. "There's another lockup full of cars. It's a bit too far to get to today, but I'll take you there next time..."

We can't wait to see what lies in store. Are they all rusty and in pieces, or will it be like a museum? You will just have to wait and see!

A huge thanks to Lee and his team for their hospitality and for taking the time to show us around. Find VolksMagic online here. 


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