WHO IS BLISS N ESO?
If you’re unfamiliar with Bliss N Eso, you must be one of the unfortunate ones who missed out on the switchover to the digital age. Bliss N Eso are one of Australia’s most successful music acts and are national hip hop royalty.From humble beginnings in the early 2000s, MC Bliss (Johnathon Notley, right), Eso (Max Mackinnon, far right) and DJ Izm (Tarik Ejjamai, below) released their first full-length album in 2004 to wide critical acclaim. Fast forward 10 years, and the trio are now unstoppable, smashing records and entertaining thousands of people at each show.
Their latest album Circus In The Sky debuted at number one on the ARIA album chart and trailed only legendary electronic act Daft Punk in total Australian album sales in 2013. As well as significant international success and multiple ARIA number one singles, their recent 16-show Circus Under The Stars national Australian tour was the biggest local hip hop tour of all time!
The Kombi is one of the most recognisable vehicles of the last century, with a cult following that has expanded from the flower power surfer to really just about anyone. There are some absolutely insanely modified examples both down under and overseas – the Kombi is somewhat of a sheet-metal deity in Germany – and this House of Kolor Limetime Green example definitely holds its own not only against elite Volkswagens, but elite modified vehicles of any genre.
This 1976 stunner belongs to one of Australia’s most loved music acts, hip-hop trio Bliss N Eso, and is the star of its own YouTube video. Having toured Australia as part of BnE’s national Circus Under The Stars tour, it was officially unveiled to the general public at Meguiar’s MotorEx Melbourne 2014 as a headline attraction. As well as being a big hit with the crowds, the dak-dak also impressed the finicky MotorEx judges, snagging four medals in the prestigious Street Elite category; Gold in Engineering, Bodywork and Design & Execution, plus a Bronze for Paintwork. Unlike many show stoppers, BnE’s Kombi is no one-trick pony or trailer queen. It combines unprecedented levels of fabrication and engineering with comfort and technology that enables it to pull road duties before transforming into a mobile stage prop complete with DJ scratching console and two MCs belting lyrical gunshots out in front of thousands of fans.
Jonathon Notley, aka MC Bliss, owned a Kombi several years prior and dreamed of having something truly remarkable up on stage as part of the Bliss N Eso experience. “Bliss N Eso approached me with a concept, renderings and a brief of what they wanted,” says Link, proprietor and fabricator at Brothers Speed Shop on Queensland’s Gold Coast, who spent three years turning BnE’s dream into reality. “We were given creative license for the build, and we were all on the same page from an ideology and creativity standpoint, so it really made for a smooth build process in that respect,” says Link.
Once Brothers received the Kombi, it was all go. A rear chassis clip was made from scratch and grafted into the rear of the bus. This was necessary to create sufficient suspension travel, as well as to allow the rear control arms and driveshafts to move freely. A top cradle section which ties both sides of the chassis together gives the Kombi significantly more structural integrity, while also serving as mounts for the airbags. To ensure the van comes within a gnat’s breath of the pavement when the airbags are fully air’d out, the air-cooled VW motor, transaxle and fuel tank were all lifted by around 250mm.
For driving duties, re-inflating the ’bags raises the bus to an acceptable ride height. To facilitate these extremes of travel, Brothers engineered custom driveshafts complete with slip joints to negate any binding. The front chassis rails also received extensive structural surgery to lift them 60mm to help get the front sitting lower. The front suspension was also narrowed to allow the 18x8in Intro Smoothy wheels to go lock-to-lock without fouling the body. “The suspension set-up definitely had its challenges as the Kombi is not a conventional live-rear axle with independent front,” explains Link. “And also because the motor is rear mounted as well. But it all came together quite smoothly; it just took a lot of time. The suspension and the roof were definitely the most challenging aspects of the build, but they’re both standout features.”
The lid of the Kombi glides open thanks to two electric actuators that pivot from inside the bus. “With the roof coming up and to the passenger side, it created a huge weight imbalance. We had to create a rollcage which essentially became the skeleton of the Kombi, which helped spread the load throughout. It also helps give it substantial structural integrity,” states Link. Getting the roof to open and close square was a particular challenge, with Link hooking up with an engineer to create a formula to map out the roof’s travel and to get the actuator pressures and timing just right. With the roof popped, Bliss N Eso’s dream is realised. Beneath is a full DJ set-up that is used for live shows, featuring turntables, mixer, microphones, laptop and a couple of GoPros to capture the audience.
The interior of the bus features two televisions and enough loud gear to please even the deafest of gig junkies. This includes eight amps, 12 speakers, 12 tweeters and four thumping subwoofers. Daltrim on the Gold Coast was handed the Kombi to stitch their magic into the seats, door cards and roof lining. “We crafted the dash out of billet, along with the handbrake lever, gear knob, gauge cluster, pedals, door handles and trim pieces,” says Link. “The concept of this build was form over function, but it definitely had to work as well. It’s a show car that works and performs as it should – it is the centrepiece of an international act.”
story Todd Milham photos John Churchill & Cam Pianta