The 10th Berlin VW Bus Festival!

27 08 2017

Last Friday saw our little family packing up and travelling some 70 km out of Berlin to an old airfield near the small town of Juterbog, to the annual Berlin VW Bus Festival. This year was the 10th anniversairy, and times are changing: While this meeting was and has always been pretty much dominated by the T3/vanagons, this year there were astonishing numbers of T4, T5 and even T6 buses attending. On the other end of the range there were about two handfuls of bay window T2 buses and one single split window T1 campervan. All these air cooled beauties dutifully photographed by the slightly biased author of these lines. We arrived on Friday afternoon, in time to set up our bus tent while the sun was still shining. Friday evening was then pouring down with rain, but Saturday and Sunday were beautifully sunny and dry. The activities were the usual ones, a 1/8 mile race down one of the old runways (the fastest buses made it in 11-12 seconds, but a bicycle rider got an impromptu extra trophy for making it in 38 secs – faster than some of the slower buses); a driving skills course for the 4WD Syncro bus lovers (this year an obstical course on the runway as the sandpit was sadly closed, for environemental reasons); kombi picture painting sessions for the small ones with a big handing over ceremony of certificates and bags with presents for all the participants, lots of life music on stage on the two evenings and a show and shine competition on Saturday night. This year I took the plunge and for the first time took part and presented our bus Taiga Lily in all her beauty to the expert audience! We did not win, but it was lots of fun. The winner of the show was a perfect shiny T3 fitted with a 12-cylinder (W12) engine which Volkswagen usually sells in Bentleys and the Phaeton. Hard to win against such competition 🙂 Hope you will enjoy the pictures below!

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This beauty is a 1977 T2b bay window bus from Switzerland. Love the color, ocean blue!

A reoccuring theme were ex-army buses, which are auctioned off by the German Army when their time is up. In the past these have usually been T3s, this year the first T4s showed up:

Another theme were ex-german postal service high roof vans. They originally came in (West-)German Postal Yellow, as panel vans (no side windows in the rear)  and with permanent high roofs where the sliding door extended into the roof, to allow quick access to the packages in the back without having to bend down while entering. Today these buses are usually re-sprayed in other colors but you can often spot the original yellow on the inside.

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A mint green and a blue ex-German postal service camper.

And then there was this very special late bay window camper from 1979 (probably with the 1600 ccm 50 h.p. engine) which started its life with the Swiss Postal Service: The usual high roof panel van, also with the sliding door extending into the high roof, this time on a T2b base, but with right-hand steering in a country where cars usually come with left-hand steering. This set-up made it easier and safer for the post man to hop out of the car and empty the post box. Lots of nice original details on the dash board (1050 kg cargo capacity, original pull switch for the Webasto additional heater, reminder that the allowed maximum speed was 100 km/h).

There were a couple of buses that came with a QEK Junior, a caravan from East Germany which was developed to be light enough to be towed by a Trabant, the east German equivalent to the VW beetle. They were apparently produced in two versions were which weighed empty 360 and 400 kg, with a maximum weight of 400 and 500 kg, respectively. This is light enough even for our late bay window bus, so we keep thinking of adding one to our Taiga Lily when the kids get older.

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Also very cool: Volkswagen LT trucks, designwise to me always the big brothers of the T3s, built between 1975 and 1995, here rebuilt into camper vans with high roofs and as the 4×4 versions. Hadn’t noticed these at all in previous festivals, and here there were two of these giants. Pretty cool beasts!

Here is the only split window that made it to this show: A panel van from 1961, with doors in the back on both sides, which came up from South Germany. Wonder if this van was originally used by a fire brigade, with the red top, the red bumpers and the coat of arms on the driver’s door?

And a couple more beautiful bay window T2bs: A sage green (Taiga Gruen) bay window Westfalia camper in great condition:

This next bay window started its life as a red delivery van. Later, one of the previous owners welded in an original T2 window frame on the left side in the middle so that a louvered window could be installed:

And another sage green sage green Westfalia campervan beauty:

A few pictures from the 1/8 Mile race track and the Synco Trail:

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Doing the dishes with a few on the race track!

And a few pictures from the Syncro Trial and some more impressive T3 Syncro buses:

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And an impressive campervan conversion from the German manufacturer Bimobil:

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And finally, Taiga Lily’s 5 min of fame, with her and us on stage at the show and shine competition:

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Taiga Lily’s big moment!

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The winner of this year’s Show and Shine: T3 bus with a W12 engine.

 

 





Hire-a-Kombi on the Bellarine, Victoria

16 04 2017

Last weekend was a special treat for me as the kombi fan in the family. Our friends Jodi and Campbell rented a campervan from Hire-a-Kombi and we spent a camping weekend together on the Mornington peninsula. So last Saturday, we picked up the camper together. Hire-a-Kombi are located on the Bellarine highway (1830 Bellarine Hwy, Marcus Hill VIC 3222). On that day, three of their eight kombis were getting ready for pick-up: In addition to our campervan “Clancy”, an orange-and-white 1974 Westfalia camper, two eight-seater buses were ready for use as wedding limousines: Layla is a mustard-yellow T2ab hybrid from 1972. Harriett is a cream white T2b late bay window bus.

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Clancy, our 1974 Westfalia campervan

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Layla (mustard yellow) and Harriett (cream white), the two wedding limousines

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And there was another beautiful kombi that looked ready for action, an orange Sopru campervan (see this older post on another Sopru). The color could be Riverina Orange (Australian VW color code CLR722). She is not yet on the web site of Hire-a-Kombi, but perhaps about to join the fleet soon?

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The Sopru campervan

In addition to these ready-to-drive kombis, there was an amazing armada of old kombis and campervans, lined up along one side of the property. Some are future projects, some others may serve as spare part supplies. We had stumbled over this kombi parade already at the end of 2015, see this older blog post, but it was, again, an impressive sight. Great start into our “kombi weekend” – more to come soon!

 

 





Awesome Australian T1 Campervan

14 04 2017

Cool split-window bus spotted yesterday on the ferry from Sorrento to Queenscliff in Victoria, Australia. Minimalistic camper with pop-up roof and rock-and-roll bed/bench, but no furniture in the back. With the larger rear window and rear lid of the late T1 buses, this kombi is probably from between 1964 and 1967. Safari fold-up windows at the front and US-style double bumper bars as nice extras. Wonder if the double sliding window in the rear right is original, or if two smaller windows have been combined here? Makes this a 12-window instead of a 13-window bus. Cool sticker: “I did my bit, I saved a split”. Good on you!

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Sunliners of Melbourne

6 04 2017

I stumbled about this beauty yesterday during a visit to Melbourne: A T2b late bay window Volkswagen campervan, probably from between 1976 and 1979 (see the engine lid hinges), in what could be Neptune blue (L50K). The campervan conversion is from Sunliner, a company based in Melbourne and still active, but nowadays converting various non-Volkswagen buses. Here is a link to a beautifully restored Sunliner late bay camper we spotted in 2015 in Geelong. This bus here comes with roo bars in the front and rear, spare wheel on the front, a pop-up roof in the rear with a luggage section above the driver’s cabin, and nice wooden furniture, with the kitchen block with gas cooker and fridge behind the passenger seat and a compartment for the gas bottle behind the driver’s seat. Funky 1970ies white and blue stripe design on both sides.

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This van seems to be parking in this spot and in the harsh Australian sun for a while already. The lining of the driver’s door is peeling off from the heat, the plastic glasses of the front indicators have gone blind, and there is extensive rust on the roof. Usually you will never see this type of surface rust on campervans in Germany. With the long German winters with salt on the roads, the buses have rotten away from rust in the wheel houses, the sillboards and the complete underfloor, years before any rust on the roof can develop. The wheel houses on this one, however, are in an amazingly good condition. It is a bit of a sleeping beauty and will need some work to fix all the little problems and conserve it for the future. But great to see it has survived so long, in probably pretty much original condition!

Jumping two decades forward in time, another Sunliner parked just around the corner. This one a campervan based on a Mazda E2000 van, probably from the mid- to late-1990ies. It also comes with a roo bar with spare wheel on the front and a small bar in the rear. Here the gas cooker and fridge are placed behind the driver’s seat while the sink and a microwave are behind the passenger seat. Fiamma awning on the left side, solar panels on the roof. And the long wheel base allows for a large bed in the rear that turns into two opposing benches and a central table. Not the coolness factor of a Volkswagen kombi, but also a very nice campervan.

 





1972 Australian Post Delivery Van

2 04 2017

This is something like one of those famous „barn findings“: A 1972 Volkswagen panel van that started out as delivery van for the Australian Postal service, at that time (and until 1975) still called the Post Master General’s Department or PMG. In 1975 it had an accident, was put aside and forgotten. When I saw the van at a VW garage in Geelong in December 2015, the owner had bought it still with the accident marks (rear right corner bumped in), but otherwise in very original (and very dusty) condition, and the plan was to keep it original as well. The damage to the rear right corner was fixed already. A different engine was built in as a temporary fix (not sure if the original engine was lost or beyond repair). The van was already registered and roadworthy, with a “Victoria club permit” for classic cars. The speedometer showed 35.935 miles which may really have been the true mileage, seeing that the van was only on the road between 1972 to 1975. It also showed hardly any serious rust, and what rust there was looked like surface rust rather than a deeper problem, e.g. on the roof in the rear right.

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This kombi is one of the “T2ab hybrid” buses from 1971/72 with a mix of features from both of the early bay window T2a buses (indicators on the front still down, front bumper still of the rounder type and end serving as door steps) and the late bay window T2b buses (more rectangular air intakes on the sides in the rear, rectangular and not oval back lights). Not sure if the T2b hub cups here are original, thought that the T2ab buses still came with the cups from the early bay buses (see e.g. this early bay van) . The letters “PMG” for Post Master General on the front doors were probably officially removed when the van was taken out of service, but they are still faintly visible on the front doors.

Some interesting details: Aluminum-coated insulation mats on the walls in the rear. Wonder if this was original at the time? Perhaps for the Australian market with the local hotter temperatures? Nice and probably also original feature: Little plate with “Accident free driving is our aim”, white on postal-red background, in the center of the dashboard. Otherwise no frills, probably typical for vans bought for the public service: Glove box without lid, no radio and the slot still closed with original cover. Small triangle windows in the front doors cannot be opened. In Germany, at least for the late bay window busses, such minimally equipped panel vans came with the outer rear view mirrors and the wheels and hub cups sprayed in the same color as the car (instead of chrome or silver color coat).





Back in Australia!

28 03 2017

We are back in Australia! We made the long trip from Berlin to Melbourne two days ago, this time with a stopover in Abu Dhabi instead of Singapore. Now we are slowly getting over the jetlag. And we have four weeks ahead of us to visit family and friends, in Geelong and Melbourne. Australia gave us a warm welcome, with late summer temperatures in the mid- to high twenties. First time this year that we are all wearing sunscreen, sunnies and T-shirts. And kombi-crazy Australia did not let me down either, with a first T2 Westfalia campervan sighting already on the way from Melbourne airport to Geelong. Looking forward to seeing many Volkswagen buses in the next couple of weeks!

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Late summer day in Geelong.

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First Aussie kombi spotting in 2017 🙂





Costa Rica Kombi Billboard

18 03 2017

My old friend and kombi correspondent Siggi has been traveling Costa Rica again and has sent these cool photos: A bay window bus serving as an advertising sign for the restaurant Patrón’s in Dominical, Costa Rica. Seems to be not unusual to re-use old buses as billboards over there in Costa Rica: check also this older post, also on a bus spotted by Siggi.

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Interesting how they got it in place up there. From the photo showing the underfloor, it seems there are two strong iron beams running the length of the car from the house to the front axle. They appear to carry the whole weight of the car and probably end in the column behind the bus. With a European eye, this VW bus looks very much like a T2ab, a hybrid between the early bay window buses (1967-1971, front indicators down, roundish bumper bars and front bumper extending into the step for the front doors) and the late bay window buses (1972-1979, front indicators higher up, rear lights bigger and more rectangular, and air intakes in the back not crescent-shaped anymore). Following this German Wikipedia entry, the T2ab hybrids (or, in German, “Zwitters”) were built between August 71 and July 1972. But the various VW bus generations manufactured by Volkswagen in Brazil and Mexico were built a lot longer (production of the T2 ended only in 2013).  And they mixed different parts from T1, T2a and T2b buses. So I am not sure at all how old this bus may be. Siggi organizes trips to Costa Rica – if you are interested, check out his web site. Thanks for the great photos, Siggi!