The big rebuilt: Turning a campervan back into an 8-seater!

13 07 2018

With the Australian parents-in-law coming over and a trip to the Czech Republic ahead, we needed one more seat than Taiga Lily in her campervan deck-out could offer. So it was time to convert her back to the 8-seater people carrier that she originally had been when she left the factory in 1976. The operation started with getting out the toilet box and the rock-and-roll bench in the back. This is how Taiga Lily looked before (kitchen block already taken out last autumn):

While I was at it, I also added the roof rack and the bike carrier for the big trip. Now that the bed goes out, the spare tire can go into the back of the van. The spare tire holder on the roof rack had to be removed again to make space for the roof box.

 

Then the floor plate I had built in in 2012 was taken out again. Luckily there was no serious rust underneath. This operation brought to light the factory-built-in anchor points for the safety belts for the middle bench. And I also found anchor points for safety belts on both sides in the C columns, hiding behind the wall cover between the windows:

The little yellow arrows indicate the safety belt anchor points in a 1976 T2b VW window bus (L version). The blue arrows show the attahment points for the bolts holding the middle bench.

The anchor points on the floor were still covered with the original plastic screws which I had painted over in 2010 when I de-rusted the back section. I think I was not even aware what they were at the time.

In went two Volkswagen T2b back benches: The rear in black came with Taiga Lily when we bought her in 2010.  So this is the original black upolstery Taiga Lily came from the factory. It was installed for a short while when I attached the rear safety belts and before I built the rock and roll bench. The middle bench was an Ebay purchase from 2013, but had never been installed properly in the bus because the anchor points had not been accessible under the floor plate. At that time I had to take what was on offer. Which was a middle bench in Volkswagen basket weaven in gray, not black.

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The screws to bolt these two benches into the anchor points in the floor plate are different for the two benches: The ones for the rear bench come with a little nob that slots into a hole on the foot of the bench. I luckily found these two bolts still in the pile of things I got from the previous owner. The ones for the middle bench I purchased via Ebay in June this year. Based on the packaging they come originally from Brazil where the T2 bus was built till the end of 2013.

Although made for the T2b bus, these ones from Brazil did not quite fit to this 1976 bus: The thread stopped too early so that I could not tighten the top screw far enough to get the bench solidly fixed to the floor. The work-around was a set of 4 stainless steel washers (A4 10.5) form the local DIY store for every screw:

Another couple of hours went into installing two more seat belts for the new middle bench: I bought two 3-point-belts from JustKampers (JK part no. J10652), and both come with a red extension belt extender to make up for the long distance from the cabin floor to the bench. For the anchor point in the left C column I only had to cut away a bit of the lining on the wall and move my curtain holders some 10 cm higher. The two other points on the floor took some time because the plastic lids had been covered so thoroughly with paint: After lots of scratching the paint off and letting WD40 soak in, I could finally screw the lids out of the anchors points and screw the safety belts in.

The red extension (see photo below) is indeed needed so that the buckle reaches up to the bench. For the middle seat I used a 2-point hip belt (also from JustKampers) which had to be extended with one of the red extension pieces as well (borrowed from a second 3-point belt I had ordered from JustKampers). For the moment I did not install the second belt on the right seat on the middle bench: With one anchor point in the C column and the second point just behind the middle bench, a 3-point belt for this seat would block the way for anyone who wanted to enter the third row. Not good. Will order a second two-point hip belt to have at least some safty belt on that seat.

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So, for the first time Taiga Lily is now a real eight-seater, and six of these come with a safety belt! All is ready for the trip to Czech!

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Let there be curtains!

12 07 2018

What a difference a few curtains make! I bought this curtain set already in 2015, from an Ebay seller (Volksrent24) who (at the time) seemed to have specialized in sewing these sets on demand.  They cover all 8 windows of a late bay bus and were offered in green, yellow and orange. I bought the green set for Taiga Lily.

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It took me another year to get around ordering the REIMO curtain rail installation kit (product number: 56251). For each window in the back, two holders for the wire at the top and two curtain holders left and right of the window have to be fixed with screws to the side walls. The curtain for all three windows in the front cabin comes in one piece with a rubber band sewed in at the top and is then attached to the wall via 6 push buttons (which were also part of the REIMO set).

Image_11The REIMO set was delivered in November when Taiga Lily was already in her winter sleep. So when she came out into the sun in May, it finally happened. The curtain holders look a bit like cheap plastic on their own, but do their job very well. The wrapped up curtains are quickly folded behind them and stay in place. Also, I am very happy with the color, works better with the sage green of the car and the green plaid of the bench cushions then I had expected.

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Soundcheck: Taiga Lily goes to the movies!

20 05 2018

Or at least her engine roar will… Some three weeks ago a friend asked me whether I would be willing to help another friend who needed to record the engine sound of an old Volkwagen bus. Turned out he is a professional movie sound specialist and is currently working on a Brazilian road movie that stars an unusual looking campervan. It took them some time to figure out it was a Karmann Safari, a motorhome built on the base of a Volkswagen T2b pick-up truck. And here enters Taiga Lily, not a Karmann Safari, but at least a T2b with the authentic Volkswagen boxer engine sound.

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So this is what the original Karmann Safari campers looked like (photo from Wikimedia Commons, Rafael Ruivo., Kombi Safari, CC BY-SA 3.0). I learnt only recently that the German car maker Karmann built such motorhomes based on the T2b. Its successor, the T3/T25-based Karmann Gipsy, is more common on the road in Germany and I portrayed one of them here. According to this Wikipedia page, Karmann started making the T2b-based ones in 1974 and built only 1000 in total.

So a few days ago said friend of a friend, together with a sound assistant, arrived at our home and we spent 4 hours, first gearing Taiga Lily up with microphones, then practicing drive-bys at various speeds, starting and stopping the van, driving fast and slow on the autobahn (fast being 85 km/h, slow being 65 km/h…), then slow and fast stops, and finally banging the drivers doors. All was recorded from the distance by the assitant and additionally with five microphone in an don the bus: One on the back window, another on the tow bar, yet another in the engine bay itself, another directly next to the exhaust, and finally one on a tripod in the middle of the car, pointing to the driver’s cabin, to also record the sound in the front of the car. Gosh, that was a fun evening! Will keep you posted when the movie is finished. Hope it will make it to the movie theaters in Germany!

 

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Summer 2018, here we go!

18 05 2018

On April 22, a sunny Berlin Sunday morning, we put Taiga Lily back on the road. The battery was not in its best shape, but the engine started after a couple of trials. Great to be back behind the wheel of a kombi! More to follow soon!

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Another Barkas!

30 04 2018

So here is another Barkas, the East German equivalent to the West German Volkswagen bus. This one is an ex-ambulance I saw at the Berlin VW Bus festival 2014. The color is certainly not original, but the interior still was. The massive spot light on the ceiling in the back was actually still the light used if a medical operation had to happen in the back of the ambulance. This type of bus was built between 1961 and 1991, but with the plastic-y dashboard this one was probably one of the later, 1980ies models. A pretty amazing van.

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Barkas B1000 – The East German Kombi

14 04 2018

The Barkas B1000 was the East German answer to the West German Volkswagen bus. It was built from 1961 till 1991, just after the end of the German Democratic Republic, so similarly long as the T1 and T2 kombis (built in West Germany from 1950 to 1979). With the round overall body shape, the sliding door on the right side and the round head lights it comes with a similar face and set up as the T2 bay window bus. In contrast to the VW buses of the time it came with front wheel drive and had the engine in the front which (as the English Wikipedia entry points out) made it easier to load and allowed more body configurations. For most of its production the engine was a 45 horsepower three cylinder, two stroke motor. Amazingly, the overall production numbers over 30 years were just below 180.000, whereas the VW T1 split-window bus was manufactured 1.5 million times (1950-1967), followed by 3.3 million T2 bay window buses (1967-1979). Nowadays, 27 years after the end of production, these Barkas buses have become a rare view on the road. I stumbled over the one below in Berlin in Dec 2017. Good to see that some of them are being kept alive!

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Early Bay Window Campervan

6 04 2018

Here comes a self-converted campervan, spotted in Sep 2016 here in Berlin. It is based on an early bay window bus (T2a), so from between 1967 and 1971. Beautiful dark red paint jobs that looks as if it was redone not long ago. The bumper bars and wheels and also the wall between driver’s cabin and rear compartment come in a yellowish-white color (ivory white?). Perhaps the last signs of the original paint job which could mean this van once started as an ivory white red-cross bus. The pop-up roof looks quite unique and self-made. Must have been quite some work to get this accepted by the German TUEV (technical surveillance organization). On the inside it comes with a rock-and-roll bench/bed in the back and a self-made kitchen block behind the passenger seat. The 80 km/h sign on the rear window – I have gotten used to travelling with 80-90 km/h, too, with our 1976 bus. It is just a relaxed speed where you feel good about not stressing the old engine too much.

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