1969 US Westfalia Camper with an East German History

30 08 2016

 

Here is another beautiful van from the Berlin Bus Festival 2016. It is an early bay window (or T2a) Westfalia campervan from 1969. I learnt a bit about its history when I had a chat with the owner, a friendly elderly gentleman. The bus was originally built for the US market and also exported to the US. From the paper work he found in the bus, he thinks it was brought to Germany in 1972 by a student from the US who used it to tour Europe. It probably broke down in East Germany – I guess not necessarily a standard tourist destination for an American tourist in the seventies, as you had to apply for visas etc. to get behind the iron curtain. The bus then stayed in East Germany, changed hands three times in the seventies or early 80ies until in 1982 the current owner bought it in East Berlin. He said it was quite run down at that time and needed a lot of repair, which was hard work, with very limited access to spare parts from West Germany. Seven years later the wall came down, and another 27 years later he still owns the bus and proudly keeps it running. What an amazing history!

A couple of interesting details: A sticker in the driver’s door indicates the bus was once maintained by Herb’s Garage in Newark, Delaware, southwest of Philadelphia. The label on the electricity inlet is in English (and expects 110 V instead of 240V) and the speedometer is in MPH instead of km/h, but interestingly the reminder on the steering wheel attachment, below the speedo, is in German (“Fahren nur mit verriegelter Schiebetür” / “Drive only when sliding door is locked”). The original middlewave/MW radio is still in its place in the dashboard. A more useful FM radio is installed below the dashboard. Stick-on headrest for the driver – I actually remember those from a Lada when we were visiting friends in East Germany in the 1980ies! The back indicators looked unusual. Turns out they are made in GDR (label “DDR Ruhla”) and in fact are the front indicators of a late model Trabant, the prototypical East German car. The additional rear fog and reverse lights may also be of East German origin, then.

 

 





The Berlin VW Bus Festival 2016!

28 08 2016

We spent last weekend at this year’s Berlin VW Bus Festival, on an old airfield about 60 km south of Berlin. It was the first camping event for us this year, and also the first one as a family, with parents and now two children, in the small bus. We set up the big bus tent we bought last year and used it a bit as veranda, but mainly as a shed to put away all the kid’s related equipment. We had mixed weather with great sunshine and also some serious rain, but all doable when there is a dry tent and bus. Wonder-daughter enjoyed her very special bunk bed above the driver’s and passenger seats and discovered two routes to climb up to the roof rack – via the passenger door window and via the sliding door, using the Porta Potti box as base camp. Great to see her so happy and excited about the bus!

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With a one-year-old and a 4-year-old on board, we skipped the four-wheel-drive syncro trial on Saturday morning and instead took part in the kid’s program, bouncing castle and kombi painting. Turned into a whole-family event, with a beautiful hippie buy as our joint outcome:

Over the years the mix of buses at this meeting has slowly changed from almost exclusively T3 to now still mostly T3, but with large numbers of T4s and T5s thrown in the mix, while there was just a handful of late bay window buses and only one T1. So my slightly biased selection of fotos below shows basically all the air-cooled buses that attended.

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On the T3 end, again very many of the four-wheel-drive syncro buses, and many of them trimmed for serious all-terrain action. Here is a truely awesome one, from a visitor from the Netherlands:

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The Czeck Syncro club came with around 9 of these monsters. Very cool!

And there was something I haven’t seen before: A T4 syncro with a seroius all terrain attitude – cool!

We had a great weekend – thanks to the crew from the Berlin Kombi club for organizing such a great meeting! See you again next year!

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Amazing 1955 Splittie for Sale

20 08 2016

Very cool 1955 T1 split window bus for sale in the German Facebook group “VW Busfahrer T1 bis T6“. Thought I knew the photo. Turns out it is one of mine, from this older blog post. I had seen this brilliant bus 10 years ago at the 60-Years-Of-VW-Bus Festival in Hannover. If you are willing to part from > 30.000 British Pounds, this amazing bus could be yours! Below the original photo in all its beauty.

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The 9th Berlin VW Bus Festival starting tomorrow!

18 08 2016

It is this time of year again – tomorrow the 9th Berlin VW Bus Festival will open its gates in Jueterbog, a bit south of Berlin. I have just carried a movable kitchen block from the cellar into Taiga Lily and started loading the camping gear. Tomorrow we will start for a two-day kombi party! If you want to join, all details can be found on the festivals web site, www.vwbus-treffen-berlin.de. Hope to see you there!

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Happy 40th Birthday, Taiga Lily!

3 06 2016

Forty years ago to the day, Taiga Lily started her life on the road! She was first registered on June 3, 1976 to her first owner in West-Berlin. And her M plate reveals that she already was delivered as a sage green and pastel white microbus which she still is today. It also says that she is a 1976 model, but was built already in November 1975 (“planned production date: 25. Nov. 1975”), at the time already for a customer in “Germany, West-Berlin”. Over all forty years her home base kept being Berlin, although she changed hands seven times in those 4 decades: After 2 years she was sold the first time. Owner No. 2 kept her for 21 years and sold her only in 1999. Owners 3 and 4 each kept her for only one year. After almost 27 years on the road, owner no. 5 de-registered her in May 2003. At some point between 2003 and 2010 she was bought by a friend (owner-6) who kept her off the road, took her apart and gave her a fresh paint job (in the original color scheme).

We finally bought her in July 2010, partly disassembled and with an engine in very bad condition, but with a mostly rust-free body. Which was already very rare at the time. It took more than a year until she was fully up and running again and passed her exam as a historic vehicle in Nov. 2011. Her mileage over her first 27 years is lost in time. When we bought her in 2010 the speedometer read 79810 km, but it turned out this was totally meaningless since the whole instrument unit is from April 1979, so is not the original one any more. In the 6 years we have her now, we added only 16.000 km, so she really has an easy life with us. And she spends half of the year in winter storage anyway. Hope you will stay with us for a very long time. Her is to you, Taiga Lily!

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PS: Fotos from last week when we started into a camping weekend. Nice random encounter with another T3 Joker campervan.

 





New Kid on the block: T3 Joker

22 05 2016

A new bus in our neighborhood! It is a VW T3 (or T25 or Vanagon) which was produced in Germany between 1979 and 1992. And it is a Joker, a campervan which was sold directly by Volkswagen, but with a camper conversion from Westfalia. The German T3 Wikipedia page lists the different T3 Westfalia campervan conversions sold by Volkswagen as the models Camping (till autumn 1983), Joker, Joker Plus, California and Atlantic. So the Joker is a predecessor of the first California, which VW builds up to now, and nowadays independent of Westfalia. There is a beautiful blog post by WildAboutScotland on the history of the California. With the extra front grill below the head light grill this bus already comes with a water-cooled engine, so it is rather from post-1982. The early T3s still came with air-cooled flat four engines taken over from the late T2/bay window buses. Wikipedia is not very informative on the different T3 Joker generations, but the Volkswagen Westfalia T3 Camper van site provides a lot of background information. Looking at the available color options at the time, this bus is ivory beige (German elfenbeinweiß, VW color code L567). The high top version here was apparently added to the model range only in the late 1980s (model Joker 3 or Joker 4, depending on the interior set up). The earlier Jokers rather came with pop-up roofs instead of hard tops. Interesting that the head lights are round and not yet rectangular. Anyway, welcome to our neighborhood, good to have more kombis around!

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Geelong Sleeping Beauty

17 05 2016

Here is a late bay window kombi we saw last November somewhere in suburbia in Geelong, Australia. It is a Sopru campervan which may have started its life in yellow and was then re-sprayed in light green. Sopru pop-up roof and Sopru roo bars at the front. Front wall panels and bench matrasses in the rear newly upholstered at some point. Furniture in there rear looks a bit self-built, but then I do not know the Sopru conversions in detail. Another customer of “V-Dubs Only“. Looks like put away and waiting for the next holiday season. Hope it has a lot of holiday trips ahead!

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