The big rebuilt: Turning a campervan back into an 8-seater!

13 07 2018

With the Australian parents-in-law coming over and a trip to the Czech Republic ahead, we needed one more seat than Taiga Lily in her campervan deck-out could offer. So it was time to convert her back to the 8-seater people carrier that she originally had been when she left the factory in 1976. The operation started with getting out the toilet box and the rock-and-roll bench in the back. This is how Taiga Lily looked before (kitchen block already taken out last autumn):

While I was at it, I also added the roof rack and the bike carrier for the big trip. Now that the bed goes out, the spare tire can go into the back of the van. The spare tire holder on the roof rack had to be removed again to make space for the roof box.

 

Then the floor plate I had built in in 2012 was taken out again. Luckily there was no serious rust underneath. This operation brought to light the factory-built-in anchor points for the safety belts for the middle bench. And I also found anchor points for safety belts on both sides in the C columns, hiding behind the wall cover between the windows:

The little yellow arrows indicate the safety belt anchor points in a 1976 T2b VW window bus (L version). The blue arrows show the attahment points for the bolts holding the middle bench.

The anchor points on the floor were still covered with the original plastic screws which I had painted over in 2010 when I de-rusted the back section. I think I was not even aware what they were at the time.

In went two Volkswagen T2b back benches: The rear in black came with Taiga Lily when we bought her in 2010.  So this is the original black upolstery Taiga Lily came from the factory. It was installed for a short while when I attached the rear safety belts and before I built the rock and roll bench. The middle bench was an Ebay purchase from 2013, but had never been installed properly in the bus because the anchor points had not been accessible under the floor plate. At that time I had to take what was on offer. Which was a middle bench in Volkswagen basket weaven in gray, not black.

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The screws to bolt these two benches into the anchor points in the floor plate are different for the two benches: The ones for the rear bench come with a little nob that slots into a hole on the foot of the bench. I luckily found these two bolts still in the pile of things I got from the previous owner. The ones for the middle bench I purchased via Ebay in June this year. Based on the packaging they come originally from Brazil where the T2 bus was built till the end of 2013.

Although made for the T2b bus, these ones from Brazil did not quite fit to this 1976 bus: The thread stopped too early so that I could not tighten the top screw far enough to get the bench solidly fixed to the floor. The work-around was a set of 4 stainless steel washers (A4 10.5) form the local DIY store for every screw:

Another couple of hours went into installing two more seat belts for the new middle bench: I bought two 3-point-belts from JustKampers (JK part no. J10652), and both come with a red extension belt extender to make up for the long distance from the cabin floor to the bench. For the anchor point in the left C column I only had to cut away a bit of the lining on the wall and move my curtain holders some 10 cm higher. The two other points on the floor took some time because the plastic lids had been covered so thoroughly with paint: After lots of scratching the paint off and letting WD40 soak in, I could finally screw the lids out of the anchors points and screw the safety belts in.

The red extension (see photo below) is indeed needed so that the buckle reaches up to the bench. For the middle seat I used a 2-point hip belt (also from JustKampers) which had to be extended with one of the red extension pieces as well (borrowed from a second 3-point belt I had ordered from JustKampers). For the moment I did not install the second belt on the right seat on the middle bench: With one anchor point in the C column and the second point just behind the middle bench, a 3-point belt for this seat would block the way for anyone who wanted to enter the third row. Not good. Will order a second two-point hip belt to have at least some safty belt on that seat.

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So, for the first time Taiga Lily is now a real eight-seater, and six of these come with a safety belt! All is ready for the trip to Czech!

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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.