20 years of kombi mania!

24 07 2015

It all began on July 24, 1995: On that day I bought my first kombi, a 1978 late bay panel van from the German Red Cross, with a 50 h.p. 1600 ccm flat four/boxer engine. It was 17-years-old, cost a friendly 3500 DM (1500 Euro) and came with only 40.000 km on the clock. Top in original ambulance white (Ivory White), lower half re-sprayed by a car dealer in Volkswagen Classic red. The rear was completely empty except for a crude metal shelf which the Red Cross had installed. I remember I was sitting on the first evening in my bus and tested the very limited number of switches and lights on the dashboard. The best one was the blue light for the high beam. Not much else there – the Red Cross had ordered the no frills version. I started rebuilding her into a campervan, with adding fold-up campervan windows on both sides in the back to bring more light into the rear. I thought I could get the complete conversion (bed, kitchen and cupboards) done in six weeks, in time for the first trip with my two brothers through Switzerland in September. In the end it took 12 years until it was a fully functional campervan. So the Switzerland trip was still with matrasses thrown into the back, no kitchen block at all and a portable battery-powered radio-cassette player instead of a car stereo. But it was a great trip.
In 1997, a porta potti and a fold-out bed (my own construction) were added. I rebuilt the bed to a conventional rock-and-roll bed in 2005. Less sophisticated mechanism, easier to use. In 1999 the spare wheel went from under the front bench to the front of the car. A very basic kitchen block was added in 2000 when the bus was officially re-registered from a truck/delivery van to a campervan. In 2002 a catalytic converter was added. The kitchen was replaced by a much more refined version (including a 5L gas bottle, gas cooker and gas/12V/220V fridge) in 2007. In 2007, also the dividing wall between driver’s cabin and rear area was removed and driver’s seat and double passenger seat-bench were replaced by two caravan pilot seats, with the passenger seat on a turn table. The van accompanied me when I moved from Freiburg to Dortmund and later on to Berlin. It was vehicle and home for many trips through Western Europe and Scandinavia and my daily driver for all that time. Its active duty ended with 225.000 km on the clock in 2010. Rust in many hidden corners required a full restoration. I did not have the money to do this right away, so we retired her and put her into storage. Our second bus, Taiga Lily, came into our life in 2010 and was road-worthy in 2011. While the first bus was most of the time simply called “the Bulli” (German nickname for the kombi), it transitioned into “Old Lady” when the much more youthful and less rusty Taiga Lily entered the stage. But today this is to you, Old Lady! May you be back on the road some time in the future!

The beginning: a naked panel van.

The beginning: a naked panel van.

Random meeting with another late bay.

Random meeting with another late bay.

A few weeks later: Windows added in the rear, additional high beams at the front.

A few weeks later: Windows added in the rear, additional high beams at the front.

First trip, somewhere in the Swiss Alps.

First trip, somewhere in the Swiss Alps.

Random kombi meeting in Switzerland: Girls from New Zealand with rented kombi from London.

Random kombi meeting in Switzerland: Travellers from New Zealand with rental kombi from London.

1999 in Dortmund: Even more front lights, front spare wheel and a cool registration plate.

1999 in Dortmund: Even more front lights, front spare wheel and new number plate.


1978 New South Wales Microbus

1 01 2015

Let’s start the New Year with this beauty! It is a 1978 Volkswagen deluxe microbus with the 2L engine and automatic transmission. Photo sent by Tony from New South Wales, Australia, who bought this bus from the first owner in 1980 and owned it ever since. The color is Marino Yellow/Pastel White. There is more information on the bus and also more pictures here. Thanks to Tony for the picture! We hope to be over in Australia again towards the end of the year. Greetings from a wintery Berlin to all our friends in Australia! Hope you are having a great and not too hot summer!



25 05 2013

A sad night for Dortmund. The BVB, the local football team, lost in the Champions League Finale against Bavaria Munich. First time that two German teams were in the final, an exciting and quiet balanced match, all happening in England. And Munich wins – what a shame. I moved to Dortmund in 1995 and stayed for four good years. Great people, and an infectious excitement everywhere for the football club. I had bought the Old Lady, my first kombi van, just before I moved to Dortmund. Below is a snapshot from 1999, proudly taken on the day I had installed the spare wheel on the front. Nice Dortmund registration. Triggered the occasional smile with custom officers…


Late Bay Instrument Wiring

13 05 2012

Now this is more something for me when I am not sure anymore how all the wiring looked before I took it apart. Hope it will also be useful for someone out there when they have already started disassembling things and realize too late they did not take photos before. Taking the main instrument block of the late bay out is quite easy – you loose the four screws (counter metal pieces will fall down), pull off the red and blue plastic grips of the hot and cold air, reach under the dashboard and up to the speedo and unscrew the central speedometer shaft. Then you can slowly lift the whole block up and out. I once took off the steering wheel before to have space to maneuver the instrument out more easily. But it also works with the steering wheel left in place. I took the instruments out now several times within the last year because I switched dashboards between my two buses. Interesting: Volkswagen stamped production dates on their instruments. And the one of my Old Lady, stamped 1978, fits to the car while the one from Taiga Lily is from 1979 (speedo) and 1978 (clock), respectively – several years older than the bus itself which is a 1976 model and was produced in Nov. 1975.

Front of Taiga Lily’s instrument unit.

Upper instrument unit (stamped 4.79) is from Taiga Lily, a 1976 microbus, with VDO clock as built in by Volkswagen. Lower instrument, stamped 7.78, is from the Old Lady (1978 panel van), with a clock from Motometer added in 1995.

Detail of the Old Lady’s instrument wiring.

This photo and below: Details of the wiring of Taiga Lily’s instrument block.

The Future is Waiting in the Background

6 08 2010

The two buses at the workshop hall in East Berlin. The past in front, the future waiting in the background…