1969 US Westfalia Camper with an East German History

30 08 2016


Here is another beautiful van from the Berlin Bus Festival 2016. It is an early bay window (or T2a) Westfalia campervan from 1969. I learnt a bit about its history when I had a chat with the owner, a friendly elderly gentleman. The bus was originally built for the US market and also exported to the US. From the paper work he found in the bus, he thinks it was brought to Germany in 1972 by a student from the US who used it to tour Europe. It probably broke down in East Germany – I guess not necessarily a standard tourist destination for an American tourist in the seventies, as you had to apply for visas etc. to get behind the iron curtain. The bus then stayed in East Germany, changed hands three times in the seventies or early 80ies until in 1982 the current owner bought it in East Berlin. He said it was quite run down at that time and needed a lot of repair, which was hard work, with very limited access to spare parts from West Germany. Seven years later the wall came down, and another 27 years later he still owns the bus and proudly keeps it running. What an amazing history!

A couple of interesting details: A sticker in the driver’s door indicates the bus was once maintained by Herb’s Garage in Newark, Delaware, southwest of Philadelphia. The label on the electricity inlet is in English (and expects 110 V instead of 240V) and the speedometer is in MPH instead of km/h, but interestingly the reminder on the steering wheel attachment, below the speedo, is in German (“Fahren nur mit verriegelter Schiebetür” / “Drive only when sliding door is locked”). The original middlewave/MW radio is still in its place in the dashboard. A more useful FM radio is installed below the dashboard. Stick-on headrest for the driver – I actually remember those from a Lada when we were visiting friends in East Germany in the 1980ies! The back indicators looked unusual. Turns out they are made in GDR (label “DDR Ruhla”) and in fact are the front indicators of a late model Trabant, the prototypical East German car. The additional rear fog and reverse lights may also be of East German origin, then.



Beautiful Berlin Late Bay Kombi

3 05 2016

Another beautifully restored bay window bus, spotted a year ago in Berlin. Looks like a brand new paint job. Nice light green, but not sure which color this is, or if it is an original VW color at all (Sand green, L311?). Extra indicators on the roof in the rear, usually more common on ex-ambulance buses. Spare wheel and rectangular additional fog lights at the front. The hub caps look like from an early bay, but front indicators and rear lights are clearly late bay, so the bus should be from 1973 or younger. The indicator switches at the steering wheel suggest early late bay, and the little door covering the fuel filler cap was apparently build between 8/71 and 7/73, so I guess it will be from 1973. Wheel clamp and steering wheel lock as theft protection. I had stopped to take some photos and was so focused on the bus that I did not even notice the BMW 2002 next to it. Had to go back and take one more photo when DrJ pointed it out to me.









A New Home for the Spare Wheel

11 10 2014

The original position for the spare wheel in a T2b Volkswagen microbus is upright in the rear left, in a section that protrudes downwards into the engine bay. But with the rock-and-roll bed this now takes away too much bed space. In the panel van it is stowed away under the passenger front bench. Does not work anymore when there is a walk way to the back of the car. I very much like the look of a kombi with a spare wheel on the front, and a previous owner had one installed and got it registered in the car’s official paper work. (Not easy nowadays – the technical surveillance (TUEV) in some German states refuses to accept this modification because crash tests showed it increases the risk of injuries in a frontal crash.) But when I bought Taiga Lily, another previous owner had worked really hard to close those holes on the front again and to give her a new paint job. And I now got a bit attached to the clean and simple look of a front without a spare wheel.
So this year I tried something new and put it on the roof. My roofrack is a pretty solid (and heavy) steel-and-wood construction. Not as elegant as the original one from Westfalia which all the cool kombis have, but way more affordable. I bought it in 2006 from some German distributor, but it turned out they had imported it from JustKampers in the UK where you can still get it (Part number J12629).
It looks pretty cool but the wood suffers from sun and rain. So every two or three years I sand off the loose paint bits and give it another layer of clear varnish. I found a bay window front wheel holder on Ebay and some matching wheel bolts at a local workshop and used both to fasten the wheel securely to the roofrack. On came a plastic bag, and on top an old spare wheel cover I borrowed from our second bus. And there we go!

Front wheel holder after sanding and a coat with rust converter.

Front wheel holder after sanding and a coat with rust converter.

And after adding a layer of primer and a final layer of white.

And after adding a layer of primer and two coats of white.

Wheel holder attached to the roofrack.

Wheel holder attached to the roofrack.

Spare wheel in its new position!

Spare wheel in its new position!

High Roof Late Bay Campervan

10 11 2013

Another Berlin kombi, photos taken in July when this van parked around the corner for a couple of weeks. Front wheel box and cushion covers (green-orange-yellow plaid) look very much like a Westfalia campervan conversion, but the roof is unusual. Not sure whether Westfalia actually installed permanent high roofs on late bays. And on top of the high roof is another pop-up roof. I can see that having head room and extra storage room permanently is useful, seeing how small these campers are.






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…


Early Bays from the Past

11 04 2013

Nice side effect of moving house: You stumble over old fotos which were long forgotten. Here are fotos of two early bays which I took when I lived in Freiburg in South Germany in around 1994. About one year before I bought my first kombi. Apparently I had already caught the fever and started taking fotos of other kombis. Seems that at the time the early bays were still around a lot. You hardly see them anymore nowadays. Both came with the same fold-up roof hinged at the front, so were probably similar Westfalia campervan conversions.



Berlin Westfalia Bus

9 09 2012

We have driven past this bus in our neighborhood on a weekly basis over the last couple of years. Now I finally used a walk with our baby-daughter and pushed the pram over to take some pictures. Turns out it’s not the standard Westfalia campervan I always assumed it to be, but an eight-seater with two original VW benches in the back. So no obvious camping furniture, but a Westfalia fold-up roof. It comes with sliding doors on both sides which is probably pretty rare. The color scheme should be brilliant orange (L20B) and pastel white (L90D). The boxed-in front spare wheel and the extended front bumper are probably also from Westfalia. In some of the German states this box is obligatory to get the front wheel accepted by the technical surveillance authorities (TÜV). In others you get away without the box. When I added the front wheel to the Old Lady in 1999, my “box-free” front holder was rejected in Baden-Wuertemberg and Hessen but went through in Nordrhein-Westfalen.
From close up the bus shows a lot of wear and tear. But it’s good to see it is still in use and on the road!