Of Autobahns and Country Roads

12 08 2013

Three weeks of vacation have come to an end. They started with a power weekend for Taiga Lily as she was booked as a wedding limousine in Stuttgart. Stuttgart is about 800 km from Berlin when driving via Marburg where I dropped of the dog with my parents for the weekend. With some stops along the way to fill up on petrol, coffee and food, to walk the doggy and to have dinner, the trip took me some long twelve hours. But the weather was great, traffic not too bad and Taiga Lily drove smoothly all the way, so I enjoyed the ride. The route took me through “Volkswagen country“, with VW production sites along the way in Hannover, Wolfsburg, Salzgitter and Kassel, and towards the end into the homelands of Mercedes and Porsche, Stuttgart and Stuttgart-Zuffenhausen. Pretty amazing how much richer Stuttgart looked compared to Berlin.

Taiga Lily all shiny and clean for the biog day in Stuttgart.

Taiga Lily all shiny and clean for the big day in Stuttgart.

Official maximum speed of the van is 127km/h (70 h.p. CJ engine), and given enough time to ramp up the speed she easily goes 120-125km/h – haven’t pushed her beyond that yet. But on those hot days, the top speed quickly went down to 90 or even 80 km/h as the engine temperate otherwise raised beyond 100°C. Air cooling comes to its limits when its 35 to 40°C in the shade. The new sliding window in the sliding door paid out massively – always a nice breeze on the backbench, no more problem with too much heat in the back as during last summer’s ride to the Czech Republic.
To spare the little one of at least part of the long rides, my lovely wife and wonder baby flew from Berlin into Stuttgart. The way back was then still a long five-hour-ride from Stuttgart to Marburg, some days spent in Marburg and then another eight-hour-trip for the last 465 km to Berlin.

VW Bus Fans - The Next Generation.

VW Bus Fan – Next Generation.

After the VW Bus festival and a week at home in Berlin, we spent the last week in a bungalow on a campsite in the Spreewald, 100 km southeast of Berlin. This time we deliberately avoided the Autobahns and went for the small country roads, both to get there and while exploring the environments. Amazing how much more pleasant it was to drive the old bus at 60 to 80km/h through the forests instead of racing her at 100km/h over Autobahns. Probably this is more the speed for which these buses were designed in the late sixties. Now the holidays are over and it is back to work – what a shame.

Our dog enjoying the prime seat on the porta potti box...

Our dog enjoying the prime seat on the porta potti box…

Back streets in the Spreewald region southeast of Berlin.

Country road in the Spreewald region southeast of Berlin.





Things That Can Break. Today, The Brake Booster

2 08 2013

I learnt a bit about the break booster (German: Bremskraftverstaerker, BKV) in the last few days. Mainly that it is not good when it fails. The first impression is that the breaks do not work at all any more, which is pretty frightening when it happens out of the blue. The breaks actually still work, but need a lot more power on the break pedal to show some effect. Turns out the systems runs under a vacuum which is generated at the engine in the back and is transferred via vacuum hoses to the brake booster at the front axle. My Berlin VW garage, Beetle Clinic, checked everything and found two dodgy sections in the vacuum hose which they replaced: One part with a kink in it and one where one of the previous owners had bridged a short stretch with non-vacuum hose. While at it, they also replaced a vacuum valve, just to be on the safe side. I picked the car up today and so far the breaks have worked correctly. So hopefully it were just these weak points in the hose and not the brake booster unit itself. I was told these are not made anymore and it may take some time to get a working unit second hand.

Taiga Lily meeting a close cousin at the Beetle Clinic.

Taiga Lily meeting a close cousin at the Beetle Clinic.





Child’s Bunk Bed

6 07 2013

I finally got around installing the bunk bed above the driver’s and passenger seat. This reproduction from JustKampers is probably pretty close to the original which came with Westfalia campers in the sixties and seventies. The bed arrived with brackets, screws and the required drill bit. The four holding brackets have to be attached to the A and B columns, each with two screws. And voila, there is an extra children’s bed! Yesterday it passed the first critical inspection by its target person, our little wonder girl. In three weeks comes the real thing – the 6th Berlin VW Bus Festival where the little one will hopefully sleep happily and peacefully in the new bed.

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The end user testing the final product.

End user testing the final product.

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Attachment bracket in left A column.

Attachment bracket in left A column.

Attachment bracket in right B column.

Attachment bracket in right B column.





A Middle Bench!

27 06 2013

Look what I found! Officially Taiga Lily is an eight-seater, but the middle bench was missing when we bought her. Some weeks ago I found one on Ebay and last weekend we drove to Hamburg to pick it up. Turns out this one was taken out of a 1976 VW bus in 1986, put into the attic and forgotten. 27 years later I picked it up from the very same attic. The color is not yet right, gray leatherette instead of black as Taiga Lily’s front seats and the back bench. I will have to buy a new black cover and get the bench upholstered. I also still have to think about how I will fix it to the floor, now that I have covered the fixation points thoroughly with my nice floor plate. I guess all this will have to wait for a while, but it is good to have the piece now.

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Taiga Lily's original back bench, black leatherette.

Taiga Lily’s original back bench, black leatherette.





Go, Speed Racer!

26 06 2013

We used a family trip from Berlin to Hamburg last weekend to do some official speed measuring: From a standing start (from an Autobahn rest place) to 100 km/h, with a warmed-up 70 h.p. engine and, admittedly, without torturing the old machine too much, Taiga Lily did the job in 40 sec! 100 km/h is probably 60 miles/hour. A similar experiment with our Old Lady (50 h.p.) some many years ago ended up with about 69 secs, and our 50 h.p. camper in New Zealand last year made it in 65 sec. Although at that time we needed several attempts and a particular long stretch of even road to reach 100 km/h at all. Probably all the consequence of trying to push a 2m high wall through the wind. Quite an improvement from the Old Lady to Taiga Lily, but all can safely be summed up under “Zero to sixty… eventually” – the header of a very nice campervan blog. Still makes me chuckle each time.

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Accessorising Taiga Lily

17 06 2013

„You may pass me but you won’t outlast me.” Saw this brilliant motto for a kombi first on the back window of an unusual late bay campervan, about four years ago in Berlin. Started hunting for it on the web last year and tracked down one version with Slook Designs in the UK. They do have some cool stickers – I also got Taiga Lily an “Air Cooled” one and “Home is where you park it”.

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Air Conditioning, Old School

8 06 2013

After last summer’s trip to the Czech Republic with very hot temperatures in the back of the van, it was clear we needed windows in the back that can be opened. I now bought a sliding window for the sliding door. Just Kampers offers an original part from Volkswagen (part number J20071, OEM Part Number: 237-845-708/ 4). Turns out it is indeed a new and original Volkswagen part from Volkswagen Brazil. Not as authentic as an original second hand part made in the seventies, but on the plus side it is new and more likely to stay water-proof for a while. Fitting it into the van was quite an effort. A big thanks to my good old kombi mate Jan for his help and advice! Some more details below if you want to learn more.

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Sliding door window before...

Sliding door window before…

... and after the operation.

… and after the operation.

Taiga Lily, upgraded.

Taiga Lily, upgraded.

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We started with cutting the seal of the original window from the outside, then carefully pushed out the old window glass from the inside. The rubber seal that came with the new window and the metal frame on the sliding door were soaked with silicon spray. We then squeezed a 1.5 mm2 electric wire into the inner lip of the new seal (both ends of the wire meeting in the upper center of the window), and pushed the window from the outside upwards into its opening in the sliding door. This became quite messy and frustrating. One of us pushed the window firmly from the outside into its frame while the other one was sitting in the car and, by pulling the wire out of the seal and into the car, tried to let the inner lip of the rubber seal slide to the inside of the car. Sounds easy, but it took us 5 attempts to finally get it in. You need a lot of silicon spray to make sure the seal is slippery enough to slide where it should slide. But that makes both pushing the window from the outside and pulling a slippery wire from the inside rather difficult. When the wire is pulled too strongly or too fast or if the window is pressed too hard from the outside, the rubber lip is cut by the wire instead of being pulled over the edge of the metal frame. In the end we damaged the seal in two places, but from the outside it all looks ok and very tight. So it should be water tight, and we were too tired to start again. I actually had ordered a separate seal on top (Just Kampers part number J19510) because I did not realize the window already came with a seal. If the small damage on the inside will bug me in the future, we can have a second attempt with the extra seal.