The Berlin VW Bus Festival 2021

19 08 2021

Beautiful trip to the VW Bus Festival Berlin last weekend! After 13 years in Jueterbog, 80 km south of Berlin,  the event moved a little closer to Berlin this year, to the little village of Kallinchen, 40 km south of Berlin. The new site is a narrow but beautiful valley in a forest. Much less spacious than in the previous years,  but at the same time much more cosy. And everyone happy to finally be at a kombi meeting again, after the 3rd Corona wave in Germany. Less program than in the last years, simply a very nice camping weekend, and with a good selection of food trucks with fair prices. We had to leave after the first day to make it school enrollment of our younger daughter to primary school, back in Berlin. But I thouroly enjoyed a lovely summer evening with my girls, and meeting some old friends that I hadn’t met in a while. Hope you enjoy the pictures!

Couple of beautifil T3 four-wheel drive Syncro buses




Bus Upgrades 2020: Reflecting Contour Marking

4 08 2021

As parents we have become a bit worried about the pretty mediocre rear lights of our VW campervan, especially when driving at slow speed in the night, on the Autobahn, on the right lane between huge trucks who often need to overtake us. To make us more visible, I bought reflecting contour markings which became mandatory for trucks about 10 years ago in Germany, probably also in the European Union. They are pretty impressive sights, clearly outlining the rear of a truck in the dark when you approach it and your headlights shine onto it. I bought 3 meters of “Orafol ORALITE contour marking VC104+ CG” (in white, for truck tarpaulins) with Reflecto GmbH at www.reflexfolie.de.

5 cm wide Orafol contour marking tape

The traffic laws in Germany seem to allow these markings only on police cars, ambulances, fire trucks etc. but not on private cars. So I went for a relatively dimmed down version where I cut the 5 cm wide reflecting tape into two 2.5 cm stripes. These now fit very well to the white part under the rubber band on the rear bumber of our VW T2b bus, and are not much visible at day time. The other stripe I taped once around the lid of our aluminum box on our roof rack. The white tape here is also hardly visible at day light. But in the night it is probably pretty effective. Check out the evening light versus flashlight photos below. I am pretty happy with it.





A month at the Coast: Ruegen 2021

1 08 2021

This summer I have been taking two months of parental leave (for our now six-year-old youngest daughter) and we are spending the second month of it on the island of Rügen on the German Baltic coast. So in early July, we packed our kombi Taiga Lily and our little QEK Junior caravan Henrietta and started northwards.

Henrietta and Taiga Lily, half way up to Ruegen

Rügen is the biggest German island and we are at the most northern tip of it, about 340 km distance from Berlin. We have been staying on this particular campsite, Regenbogen Nonnevitz already twice, in the summers of 2019 and 2020. The place is quite large and stretches out over a long area of pine forest directly along the coast. So the walk from our caravan to the beach is just about 100 meters.

The site is strictly no cars. You are only allowed in with the car on the first day to get your caravan or tent gear in, and then out again on the last day. Campervans are a bit of an exception, but are also meant to stay on site and not being driven out daily. This year we came with the kombi, the caravan and its little annex and additionally with our large bus tent. After testing the camp set-up for a while, we decided to use the bus tent as an annex for the caravan, have our two girls sleeping in a separated inner tent in this annex, and use the caravan as the parent’s bedroom. The welt line above the side door of our bus tent fits into the welt rail on our old East German caravan, so the two are connected in a nice and rain-proof way.  The bus stays on the park site outside the campground this year and is being used for day trips to explore the island.

Rügen is meant to be generally 10°C colder than Berlin which, with climate change in the making, makes it a very pleasant corner of the world: In our first three weeks we had temperatures between 23 and 29 °C, sunshine most of the time (and with some kick in it), and water temperatures mostly between 18 and 20°C. Shame our 4 weeks will be over already in a few days.





Bus Upgrades 2020: Roof Rack Extension

30 07 2021

Another 2020 update on our Volkswagen bus Taiga Lily: I used the Corona lock-down in April 2020 to extend our roof rack so that now both the spare wheel and the roof rack box fit onto it. We bought a first large wooden roof rack with three metal bows from JustKampers (JK PART NUMBER: J12629) in 2006 for our first T2b bus, the Old Lady, and used it for many years with an aluminum box bolted to it that held all kinds of luggage. When we bought Taiga Lily and built in a rock-and roll bed with a matrass covering the full width of the van above the engine, there was no space for the spare wheel any more in the back. We moved the spare wheel to the roof rack, but now there was not enough space to also hold the roof rack box. So we have now bought a second, shorter version of this type of roof rack from JustKampers (JK PART NUMBER: J12628) and connected the outer rails of both to form one large roof rack:

There is a gap between the wooden platforms of the two racks, and it would be even nicer if I had bought longer wooden slats to cover the full length of both racks. But hey, this works, and it uses the wooden slats we have already, so less waste. And now both the box and the wheel fit on it – hallelujah!





Bus Upgrades 2020: New fridge and fridge housing

22 07 2021

Again a long time without any blog post. The Corona pandemic is still running. We are spending a month on the island of Rügen on the German Baltic coast. Finally time to look back and fill you in on what happened in the meantime to our late bay window bus Taiga Lily and our caravan Henrietta. So here we go: In August 2020 I got a camping equipment voucher as a birthday present from my colleagues at work (thank you guys!!!) and used it to buy a fridge-cooler box for Taiga Lily. It is a Dometic ACX40 absorber fridge which it runs on 12V, 230 V or on gas. For the moment we have no gas in this van, so we run ithe fridge via 12 V when we drive and via 230 V when we are on a campsite with electricity. When the first lockdown in Germany started in mid-March 2020 and we had to spend the Easter vacation in April 2020 at home, I made a wooden housing to fix this new fridge safely in the kombi. For the moment we want to keep Taiga Lily as a people carrier and not convert it to a full campervan. So there is no kitchen inside. Instead, we have a toilet box for our Porta Potti, and for most of last year I had my aluminum roof box installed inside the van, to store tools, oil and a petrol canister safely in one place. Both were bolted via drive-in nuts to the wooden baseplate, which is bolted in all four corners through the floor of the van.

Status at start of work

The new plan saw the toilet box move back behind the driver’s seat and the fridge taking the place behind the passenger seat:

To fix the fridge safely to the baseplate I built a box and re-used the bolting points used previously for the toilet box.  Due to the Corona lock-down the choice of wood in our DIY market was quite limited, but I found pre-varnished 1.2 cm birch multiplex which came in large plates. A bit thicker and thus heavier than I had hoped but that was what was available. I used some aluminum profile from my stash to re-inforce the joints, so the side walls and base plate were glued and additionally screwed together. The base plate of this housing is fixed to the base plate in the van using 4 drive-in nuts that were already in place and so far were used to fix the Porta Potti box.

To be able to take the box easily out of its housing, I designed the wall towards the sliding door in a way that it hooks into two screws at the bottom, is kept in place left and right with a piece of aluminum profile and is bolted to both  side walls at the top with two bolts:

The lid is can be closed with two latches and has a ventilation grille to let the hot outgoing air from the fridge out.  And here we are, the new fridge box:

On to the Porta Potti box and its new place behind the driver’s seat: I added a new base plate which can now be fixed to the base plate of the van using drive-in nuts already installed under this plate. This new base plate, in turn, holds two rails onto which the Porta Potti box slides and can be bolted to:

Here comes the Porta Pottoi and its box:

And finally all in place:





Costa Rica T2a/b Westfalia camper

13 02 2021

A longtime without blog entries. Difficult times everywhere, with the COVID19 pandemic. Hope you and your loved ones are all well. Here in Berlin in Germany, we are in a relatively relaxed lockdown since mid-December. Now the infections numbers are finally coming down. But schools and day-care are still closed and will be, at least for a couple more weeks. So balancing working and family life with home schooling is tough for the parents, and the kids (now 9 and 5) dearly miss playing with their friends.

So I was very happy about a mail from by old friend and kombi correspondent Siggi who is, once again, travelling Costa Rica. He spotted this beautiful Westfalia Camper in Quebrada Ganado, Costa Rica, and met the very friendly owner who allowed us to look into his van: It is a Volkswagen T2 bay window bus, but right from the period in 1971/1972 where they changed from the early T2a bay window to the late T2b bay window model. Today this would probably be called a major face lift. At the time, they bridged this transition with an in-between model that still had the lower front indicators and the more round bumper bars of the T2a, but already the more square and less crescent shaped rear air intakes and the larger rear lights of the T2b. In Germany, this is called a “Zwitter”, a mix between the two, in English probably a T2a/b hybrid.

The large reflectors on the sides are US spec (never produced like this for the German market), but this Westfalia campervan conversion bus was indeed manufactured in Germany, in 1971, at the Westfalia works in the town of Rheda-Wiedenbrück, as the brown little plate above the right front wheel proudly announces. The green plate below indicates this bus was once registered in California in the US. The current owner is a Costa Rican who kindly allowed us to have a look into his beautiful van. Many thanks and greetings from a cold snowy Berlin to you guys in sunny Costa Rica!

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The Berlin VW Bus Festival 2020

14 09 2020

Three weeks ago we made it to the 14. Berlin VW Bus Festival! A very big thank you to the organization team to make this happen despite the COVID19 pandemic. It seems most other German VW Bus festivals had been cancelled this year, so everyone was even more excited that this one was happening. The number of participants was limited to 500 and the big Saturday night party had to be dropped, but it was fantastic to have a long camping weekend with so many friendly and relaxed people and their beautiful busses. For us it was the second Berlin Bus festival with our little QEK caravan Henrietta. And we are now a well-practiced team, with our two kids (5 and almost 9) and one of their friends sleeping in the kombi and us parents having their own space in the little camper.

Taiga Lily and our little camper Henrietta, ready for the Berlin Bus Festival!

Below are some photos of the amazing bunch of buses at this meeting, with the usual bias towards the air-cooled ones. Ten years ago this meeting was almost exclusively T3. But this year I noticed it has clearly shifted to T4 buses. My selection below is, again, biased towards the air cooled T2s and the one T1, but it is cool to see the different generations of VW buses mix and mingle.

Big thank you again to the organizers that they made this fbestival possible in difficult times! And now on to the photos!

Very cool early bay window T2a Westfalia camper imported from the US last year, which we also saw at last year’s Berlin Bus festival. This year it has received four layers of clear varnish to preserve the beautiful patina burnt into the white paint job by 50 years of Californian sun:

 

 

The next one is a T2a early bay window in great shape and with some unusual rebuilds: The engine has been swapped to a water-cooled VW 4-cylinder engine from a 1970ies Golf (perhaps a GTI, approx. 1.9 L). To enable the water cooling, the engine bay has additional air vents in the rear right corner for a first water cooler, and in addition a second water cooler installed under the car. The cool looking orange seats are from a SMART:

And the only T1 split-window bus visiting this year, a 1962 model with the (in Germany quite rare) Dormobile roof from the UK which folds sideways.

With the air-cooled fraction sorted, now to a number of beautiful T3 and T4 buses:

 

 

 

Here is a T3 with another one of the East german QEK Junior mini caravans, like our Henrietta:

The next one is a T3 Vanagon with an unusual story: This beige 1985 window bus was originally sold to the father of the current owner, in 1985, in East Germany. Being able to buy a West German car in East German when the Iron Curtain was still down must have been extremely rare. But apparently a series of T3 busses was officially imported by East Germany and sold this way, often to tradesmen as work vans. This bus was officially meant to become such a tradie van, but instead was from the start only used for holidays, always parked in a garage, and already in the last years of the DDR self-converted into a campervan (except for the pop-up roof which was added only a few years ago). As was custom in East Germany where cars had to last very long, the first owner properly sealed all cavities and the under floor area so that the car now, 35 years later, is still in very good condition. The front grill with the double front lights is a later addition. A reminder of the East-West-German past is the cover plate on the dashboard in front of the passenger seat. It is from an old Trabbi and covers the place where in 1985 the original East German-sized radio had been built in.

“My house – my car – my kombi”

The next one is not a Volkswagen bus, but still a very unusual and impressive campertruck that started its live as an East German army truck: The unit in the back is called LAK for “Leicht absetzbarer Koffer” (German for “easily removable unit”). Apparently this unit was, when taken from the truck, a self-sufficient and fully sealed base (with its own electricity generator and heating unit) that was “ready” to survive in nuclear, chemical and biological warfare. Or so they hoped. Here it is mounted on an IFA L60 truck which according to Wikipedia was introduced only in 1987 and so was built just in the last three years of the DDR, from 1987 to 1990.

Next to it was one of its smaller East-German brothers, a Robur truck. The Robur was originally introduced in 1961, while this model here, judging from the Wikipedia article, looks like a Robur LO 2002 A, an all-wheel-drive variant from the 1980ies:

Let’s end this beautiful camping weekend with a few overview pictures – thanks for popping in and having a look around!





Clamps of Berlin

23 05 2020

In the last few years, wheel clamps (German: Autokralle) have really taken off here in Berlin. Modern VW buses have been in the top-ten of cars most stolen in Germany for many years. But recently, also the older VW bus generations have become the objects of car theft, and the owners have geared up accordingly. Now many buses feature wheel clamps, and often additionally steering wheel locks. So here is a little collection of wheel clamps of Berlin!

T3 Joker with pop-up roof and Nemesis clamp

Nemesis clamp from FullStop Security

A high roof T3 Joker, also with a Nemesis clamp

T4 high-roof camper with a different clamp…

… and a serious-looking steering wheel lock (“Disklok”).

Similar yellow clamp on a T5 panel van camper.

T4 window bus with a Nemesis clamp.

T5 California Camper with a smaller clamp.

 





The Beetle Clinic is no more

21 05 2020

My favorite Berlin VW workshop ceased to exist. The Beetle Clinic is no more. And it left already some long time ago. The end came quietly, at least for me. In May 2016, they still helped us bringing Taiga Lily through the TUEV, the German bi-annual roadworthy certificate. In 2017 we did not need a pit stop all year. With only short-distance camping weekends around Berlin and at the coast and the occasional shopping, we nowadays drive Taiga Lily not more than 3500 km per year. So only when 2018 came and she needed the next roadworthy certificate, I noticed that the Beetle Clinic had closed shop, probably already at the end of 2016.
The Beetle Clinic was situated on a mostly empty industry space in Wilhelmstrasse in the Western suburb of Berlin-Spandau. As with so many places in Berlin, this area has an interesting history. It was the site of the former Spandau Prison where in Nazi Germany Hitler locked up critical journalists and opponents, and where after the end of World War II and the Nuremberg trials, a number of Nazi top brass were imprisoned by the British, American, French and Russian forces. In my childhood in the 1970s and 1980s the bizarre situation was that it was kept in action only for one last prisoner, Rudloph Hess. When he passed away in 1987, it was demolished.
Sometime later the Beetle Clinic must have started out. I met them first in 2000. I had just arrived in Berlin and was happy and releaved to have found a workhop with knowledge, love and enthusiasm for air-cooled Volkswagens. They knew the cars, and they knew where to get the parts. And over the years they did some good work for me. The Old Lady received an egine overhaul  and a catalytic converter in 2002. In 2007, they took out the partition wall behind the front seats and installed two pilot seats. When Taiga Lily entered our family in 2010 and the front axle body was rusted through in 2014, they installed a new front axle body (here and here), and in 2016 a beautiful tow bar. They understood these old cars, and they did good work. And each time I dropped one of our buses off, it was exciting to look around what other cars and buses were around, like this T1, this early bay window brewery van or the beauties below. It is a sad this place with all its expertise is gone. All the best to Georg and Micha for their next adventures!

Taiga Lily with a Wulle Brewery van, 2014.

Karmann Ghia convertible, 2016.

 

Georg’s 1985 Karmann Gipsy T3 Campervan, waiting for its “H registration”

Volkswagen Type 3 notchback, photo taken 2015 at Beetle Clinic Berlin

 

Pre-1956 23-window barndoor Samba Bus under restoration. Photo taken in 2016 at Beetle Clinic, Berlin.

 





The Berlin VW Bus Festival 2019

14 10 2019

In mid-August we rigged-up Taiga Lily, our 1976 Volkswagen bay window camper, with the bike rack in the back, an extended roofrack on top, and Henrietta, our 1981 QEK Junior mini camper on the tow bar, and started the 70-km-ride to Jueterbog, south of Berlin, to the Berlin VW Festival 2019. Henrietta has now been upgraded with a nice little awning and we bought a foldable outside kitchen block.

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Next morning, we joined a convoy of 31 buses and a beetle through the nearby villages. Pretty exciting to ride with so many buses, with six motor bike guards driving in front and behind us to block all crossings, so that we could pass through in one group. All completed with a final group photo, back at the festival side, in front of one of the big old hangars of this ex-German and ex-Russian military airport site.

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Notice the prominent position our Taiga Lily who was kindly manouvered into the front row. As always, there were loads and loads of T3 and T4 buses at this meeing. But with my excitement for the aircooled earlier generations, I will start with a completely biased selection of almost all of the T1 split window busses and T2 bay window busses that were also around. So here they come!

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T1 split window single cab

The T1 Samba Bus below, from between 1964 and 1967 later on became the winner of this years show and shine competition!

Here comes a 1978 late bay Westaflia camper in Taiga Lily’s sage green (Taiga grün L63H):

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Here comes a beautiful 1975 late bay camper which is, for once, not a Westfalia:

And an impressive semi-rat look 1970 early bay window (T2a) Westfalia camper, at some point re-imported from the US, with the weathered original paint job conserved with a layer of Owatrol:

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On we move to the T3 vanagon buses of the 1980s and early 1990s. As a start a cool family group shot: On the right a 1978 air-cooled T2b, in the middle a 1980 T3 pick up truck which is also still air-cooled (in German: a “Lufti”), and on the right a later and water-cooled T3 syncro all-wheel drive camper:

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And some photos of the many T3 campervans and the many impressive four-wheel-drive T3 Syncro buses:

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Again a very nice summer weekend. And like last year, the goodies-bag for every participant contained this very cool VW bus biscuits pack – the organizers apparently had asked the cookies company Leibniz and they kindly produced another batch of these bisquits explicitely for this bus gathering – how very cool is this!