Now we are four!

23 05 2015

Long time without a blog post. We had some interesting times over here. It started with me catching the measles back in mid-April. That was actually quite frightening. But things then changed from very bad to very good when two weeks ago our second baby-daughter was born! Which makes Wonder Daughter, our three-and-a-half year old, now officially The Big Sister. The first ride of our little one, from the hospital to our home, was in our kombi, together with her mum and sister. Gosh was I driving carefully, with my three ladies in the back. All is good now, we are enjoying a month of joint parental leave and are slowly getting used again to life around a new-born. And we are looking forward to going to Australia later this year for three or four months, to meet the family over there. Hurray for German parental leave laws!
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PS: The child seats in the back require three-point safety belts. Our 1976 microbus did not have any belts in the back, but it came already with factory-built in attachment points. I bought the belts from Just Kampers (JK Part Number J10652). Here is a link to the posts on the installation. Each belt came with a 40-cm-extension (photo below) which was not required when using the belts with the original back bench of our VW microbus/window bus. However, I later replaced the original back bench with a rock-and-roll bed which is positioned about 10-20 cm further forward than the original bench. With this set-up, the belts are too short and the extension is required. In my case, even with the extension the belts are only just about long enough, but it works.

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Kombis in the Movies: Rush

30 06 2014

I stumbled over this movie on the flight back from Australia in May: „Rush“ is about the rivalry between the Formula One drivers Niki Lauda and James Hunt in the early and mid-seventies, culminating in Niki Lauda’s gruesome accident at the Nürburgring in 1976, and his come back after that. Most of my life I knew Niki Lauda only from his post-F1 times, as founder of an airline and pilot himself, and later as a F1 commentator. In that year of 1976, I proudly started primary school in August, and our bus Taiga Lily was born in May. The movie is actually pretty exciting, and the mini appearance of an early bay ambulance towards the end also made the kombi spotter happy. Looks like they got this detail quite right – the bus looks a lot like the real Red Cross kombi I saw last year in Berlin. The last of its kind, still in use at the Berlin Red Cross.

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Beautifying Taiga Lily

15 06 2014

Couple of details fixed in mid-May in our 1976 VW microbus Taiga Lily: Worn out inner door handle of the passenger door replaced with an original part found on Ebay (guess they are still being produced in Brazil). Heater tubing system under the dash board finally put back in (never got around to do that after buying the bus in 2010 and replacing a broken windscreen in 2011). Aged black plastic covers for the air vents on the dashboard replaced by new parts (from bus-ok.de, part numbers OK17099 and OK17086). And a pair of in-sets in the warm air channels through the dividing wall behind front seats finally put in. I had re-discovered these parts only after I had already assembled the air channels in 2012.

Worn out door handle.

Worn out door handle.

New original part.

New original part.

Original air vent cover (lower section) and new repro part.

Original air vent cover (lower section) and new repro part.

New air vent cover in place.

New air vent cover in place.

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Taiga Lily on a sunny Sunday afternoon.

Taiga Lily on a sunny Sunday afternoon.

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New Front Axle, Part II

14 03 2014

Yay! Taiga Lily is back from the Beetle Clinic and as good as new! The new front axle has been installed, and with it many worn out parts of the steering mechanism have been replaced. New ball joints (German: Traggelenke), a new drag link (Lenkschubstange), a new steering dampner (Lenkungs- daempfer), new shock absorbers (Stossdämpfer), new tie rods (Spurstangen), a new wheel bearing (Radlagersatz) on one side, and a new set of four needle bearings (Nadellagersatz) for the four torsion arms. Hope I translated that all correctly. Will add snapshots of the respective pages of a VW repair manual below, for those who want to look into the details. Also check out this informative blog post by ZeroToSixtyEventually on the steering system of late bay buses and its maintenance. Finally, the main brake cylinder was rebuilt from the old to the new front axle beam and some aged brake lines were replaced. As a result of this operation, a wobbly steering experience has changed into quite a solid feel. Nice! And she also got her new road worthy certificate (German: “TUEV”), so she is legal again for the next two years!

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A New Front Axle!

25 02 2014

I used the sunny weather last Sunday to wake Taiga Lily up from her winter sleep and brought her to the garage yesterday. Was very happy that the engine started immediately, after almost 3 months of being put aside. Background is that her front axle beam (German “Vorderachskörper”) was rusted through. This is an old kombi disease, at least here in Germany with lots of rain and lots of salt on the roads in winter time. Water gets into the hollow outer sections. If the openings at the lower end are blocked with dirt, the water stays in there and the panel rusts from the inside to the outside, as seen on the sad photo below. Once rusted through, the traditional stand of the German Technical Surveillance (TÜV) is that this part may not be welded but needs to be replaced as a whole. Not easy as front axles are not available from Volkswagen anymore, so one has to find an original one in good condition.
I was lucky in December and found one on Ebay for a reasonable price. It was delivered from Freiburg in South Germany to my local garage, the Beetle Clinic, in January. According to the Ebay ad, it was from the same year as Taiga Lily, 1976, and was put aside about 20 years ago for future use. It turned out to be indeed in very good condition (big thanks to the honest Ebay seller!). And the guys at Beetle Clinic did a greatjob in sanding and repainting it, with particular emphasis on soaking the insides of the hollow outer sections first with rust converter (Brunox) and afterwards with cavity sealing. The section with blank metal on the photo below is where the attachment plate for the break booster (Bremskraftverstärker) will be welded to the axle. This booster did not come with all models and was not on this replacement axle, but I was told it is no problem to cut it from Taiga Lily’s old axle and weld it to the new one. Most bearings in the steering system were already quite worn out, so the steering had a lot of play when I bought her in 2010. All these bearings will now be replaced by new parts when the new axle will be built in over the next 10 days.

Taiga Lily woken up from her winter sleep.

Taiga Lily woken up from her winter sleep.

Rusted section on Taiga Lily's original frotn axle beam.

Rusted section on Taiga Lily’s original front axle beam.

New second hand 1976 front axle beam  when delivered ...

New second hand 1976 front axle beam
when delivered …

... and after de-rusting and repainting.

… and after de-rusting and repainting.

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Time for the Winter Break

1 12 2013

Berlin winter is arriving, with gray skys, miserable rain and temperatures touching 0°C. Time for Taiga Lily to retreat to her warm and dry winter quarter. So a week ago I charged her battery over night and gave her a thorough wash so that she will be all shiny and beautiful next spring. I upped the tyre pressure, checked the oil, drove her into her garage and diconnected the battery. While there I used a 12V electric pump to fully blow up the tyres of the our second kombi, the Old Lady. She is stored away in the same garage, waiting for better times. Seeing both of you again in 2014!

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More Switches!

22 11 2013

I finally got around installing two more switches on Taiga Lily’s dashboard: One for the petrol-driven auxiliary heating system and one for the rear window heating. I had taken both out when I fully stripped the dashboard in July 2011 and had replaced it with one less damaged around the radio slot. Since then I had never gotten around to fit these switches back in again. They were dangling a bit undignified somewhere in the dark under the dashboard. The replacement dashboard came with one extra hole which I now widened a bit to fit the rear window switch. For the auxiliary heating switch I had to drill a new hole. Shame that I forgot to take photos of the original positions of these switches. The wire to the rear window is half a meter too short for where I placed the switch now. So originally it probably sat more on the right, under the glove box. In the meantime the auxiliary heating unit, originally installed under the floor in the back, has gone. Too expensive to update it to the requirements of TUEV, the German technical surveillance, and at the time I thought of fitting a gas heating system anyway. But the heater’s electric wiring is so deeply integrated in the wiring of the rest of the car that I kept all cables in place and have the switch now more for decoration. With the rear fog light switch installed in August 2012, there is now a really nice battery of these old pull switches. Love them!

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Before…

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… and after.

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PS: Will add some photos of details of the original wiring at the switches, in case someone needs to figure out which wires belong to which socket. These are all from a 1976 T2b late bay VW microbus.

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