Meet Henrietta, our new 1981 QEK Junior caravan!

31 08 2019

In late May 2019, we had registered our new caravan in Berlin, got the number plates  and went back to Frankfurt (Oder) to pick her up. In the meantime, she has also been christianed, so the new family member is now called Henrietta! She is a 1981 East German mini camper trailer with a fiber glas hull mounted onto a metal frame. She was produced by the Qualitäts- und  Edelstahl Kombinat (German for “Quality and Stainless Steel factory”).  According to Wikipedia, the QEK Junior model was manufactured in three different factories, in Schmiedefeld in Thuringa, in Staßfurt and in Leipzig. Her paper work lists Henrietta as made by Schmiedefeld ISOKO, so she comes from the Thuringa factory.

The rear of the QEK houses a central table and two long benches, which cover the wheel houses and some storage space in the back. The table can be unhinged (two hinges below the rear window) and lowered to bench-level so that, with two additional boards, a very large bed area is generated (about 1.90 m in width and about 2  m in length). The previous owner has bought new matress cussions, new cussion covers and matching. The curtains will go, but nice to know that this is all fresh and new.

Image_11_20190514_193538.jpgImage_12_20190514_193401.jpgImage_13_20190514_193038.jpg

The kitchen block along the front of the caravan is as minimalistic as it can be: There is a mini sink on the right, but no water tab (and no opening for one in the bench top). The sink empties via a hose directly to the outside, onto the ground. The cupboard under the sink has a holder for a gas bottle, and there are openings for a gas tube to run from this cupboard to the platform on the bench, on the left, where originally a removable gas cooker had its home. Unfortunately that was already lost when we bought this QEK. On the outside, in the front of the caravan, there is an additional storage unit with holders for two gas bottles. There is some storage space under and above the kitchen bench and there is a wardrobe on the left.

Image_21b_20190514_193230.jpg

 

The floor in front of the kitchen bench is lowered by about 10 cm and there is a little pop-up roof above the kitchen gallery which can be lifted by about 5 cm, using four unusual, QEK specific screwing appliances. They seem to be made from stainless steel – together with the stainless-steel main door hinges, they are the only obvious stainless steel features that hint towards the “quality- and stainless steel” mother factory:

Image_26_20190514_193329.jpg

One of the previous owners had started to pretty her up and to update her a little: The four extractable feet, in each corner of the caravan, look like solid new versions. The electricity has received a modest overhaul, with a modern exterior wall socket to plug it into camp site electricity, which connects to two new wall sockets on the inside. The connector to the pulling vehicle is already the new 16-pin version and the front wheel looks more modern than 1981. The two tires are from 2016. And as mentioned above, the eight matrass pieces feature very new cushion cores and new covers, with new matching curtains.

On the negative side, some previous owner had used the wrong kind of paint to repaint the inner ceiling, which now comes off in large flakes and looks pretty shabby (see the roof hinge photo above). The original electric system (lights above the table and above the kitchen and a control board outside the wardrobe) does not work and may have been switched off by a previous owner. And the original gas cooker and the yawning were missing. But hey, she is also not meant to be a museum piece but a working camper. So in the last months we have further upgraded Henrietta a little bit and have started using her for this summer’s camping adventures. Soon more on this progress! And if you like, you can follow Henrietta on Instagramm (@henrietta.qek)!





A Caravan for Taiga Lily!

30 08 2019

Earlier this year, with our second daughter about to turn 4 and space getting a bit tight in our campervan without a fold-up roof, we decided to look seriously into buying a caravan. Our 1976 Volkswagen T2b bus  comes with the “large” 2L engine which still provides only a modest 70 horse power. The tow bar we installed three years ago allows us to pull 1.200 kg max. We have been looking around over the last couple of years and it seems that under these limitations the German air-cooled Volkswagen community favors either the West German Eriba caravans (e.g. the Eriba Puck, the Eriba Triton or the Eriba Touring or the East German QEK Junior. Original Eribas from the 1960s and 1970s in good condition have become serious collector’s pieces with price tags way above our means. So we started looking for a QEK instead. Berlin is surrounded by the former East Germany where the QEKS are still available in large numbers. So off we went at the end of April and found this little fellow at a caravan dealer in Frankfurt/Oder, close to the border to Poland:

It is a QEK Junior. I  have now learnt from Wikipedia that QEK stands for “Qualitäts- und  Edelstahl Kombinat” (Socialist German for “Quality and Stainless Steel Factory). Interesting discrepancy between the (West German) official papers which list its first year of registration as 1989, while the plates on the caravan itself give its production date as 1981. I assume 1981 will be the true date of manufacturing. The QEK Junior weighs only 600 kg, light enough to be pulled by the light weight Eats Germans Trabants (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Trabant), and therefore hopefully no problem for our bus.

There are two variants of the QEK Junior, with and without brakes, and this one is the one with brakes, which allows a maximum speed of 100 km/h instead of 80 km/h. The overall condition looked ok.  The shell, made from GVK (Glasfaser-verstaerkter Kúnststoff – glass fiber reinforced plastic), looked undamaged and without any obvious water leaks. So we signed the papers and arranged that we can pick it up with a new road-worthy certificate three to four weeks later!





The 10th Berlin VW Bus Festival!

27 08 2017

Last Friday saw our little family packing up and travelling some 70 km out of Berlin to an old airfield near the small town of Juterbog, to the annual Berlin VW Bus Festival. This year was the 10th anniversairy, and times are changing: While this meeting was and has always been pretty much dominated by the T3/vanagons, this year there were astonishing numbers of T4, T5 and even T6 buses attending. On the other end of the range there were about two handfuls of bay window T2 buses and one single split window T1 campervan. All these air cooled beauties dutifully photographed by the slightly biased author of these lines. We arrived on Friday afternoon, in time to set up our bus tent while the sun was still shining. Friday evening was then pouring down with rain, but Saturday and Sunday were beautifully sunny and dry. The activities were the usual ones, a 1/8 mile race down one of the old runways (the fastest buses made it in 11-12 seconds, but a bicycle rider got an impromptu extra trophy for making it in 38 secs – faster than some of the slower buses); a driving skills course for the 4WD Syncro bus lovers (this year an obstical course on the runway as the sandpit was sadly closed, for environemental reasons); kombi picture painting sessions for the small ones with a big handing over ceremony of certificates and bags with presents for all the participants, lots of life music on stage on the two evenings and a show and shine competition on Saturday night. This year I took the plunge and for the first time took part and presented our bus Taiga Lily in all her beauty to the expert audience! We did not win, but it was lots of fun. The winner of the show was a perfect shiny T3 fitted with a 12-cylinder (W12) engine which Volkswagen usually sells in Bentleys and the Phaeton. Hard to win against such competition 🙂 Hope you will enjoy the pictures below!

Image_004

Image_005

Image_006

This beauty is a 1977 T2b bay window bus from Switzerland. Love the color, ocean blue!

A reoccuring theme were ex-army buses, which are auctioned off by the German Army when their time is up. In the past these have usually been T3s, this year the first T4s showed up:

Another theme were ex-german postal service high roof vans. They originally came in (West-)German Postal Yellow, as panel vans (no side windows in the rear)  and with permanent high roofs where the sliding door extended into the roof, to allow quick access to the packages in the back without having to bend down while entering. Today these buses are usually re-sprayed in other colors but you can often spot the original yellow on the inside.

Image_026

A mint green and a blue ex-German postal service camper.

And then there was this very special late bay window camper from 1979 (probably with the 1600 ccm 50 h.p. engine) which started its life with the Swiss Postal Service: The usual high roof panel van, also with the sliding door extending into the high roof, this time on a T2b base, but with right-hand steering in a country where cars usually come with left-hand steering. This set-up made it easier and safer for the post man to hop out of the car and empty the post box. Lots of nice original details on the dash board (1050 kg cargo capacity, original pull switch for the Webasto additional heater, reminder that the allowed maximum speed was 100 km/h).

There were a couple of buses that came with a QEK Junior, a caravan from East Germany which was developed to be light enough to be towed by a Trabant, the east German equivalent to the VW beetle. They were apparently produced in two versions were which weighed empty 360 and 400 kg, with a maximum weight of 400 and 500 kg, respectively. This is light enough even for our late bay window bus, so we keep thinking of adding one to our Taiga Lily when the kids get older.

Image_008

Image_009

Also very cool: Volkswagen LT trucks, designwise to me always the big brothers of the T3s, built between 1975 and 1995, here rebuilt into camper vans with high roofs and as the 4×4 versions. Hadn’t noticed these at all in previous festivals, and here there were two of these giants. Pretty cool beasts!

Here is the only split window that made it to this show: A panel van from 1961, with doors in the back on both sides, which came up from South Germany. Wonder if this van was originally used by a fire brigade, with the red top, the red bumpers and the coat of arms on the driver’s door?

And a couple more beautiful bay window T2bs: A sage green (Taiga Gruen) bay window Westfalia camper in great condition:

This next bay window started its life as a red delivery van. Later, one of the previous owners welded in an original T2 window frame on the left side in the middle so that a louvered window could be installed:

And another sage green sage green Westfalia campervan beauty:

A few pictures from the 1/8 Mile race track and the Synco Trail:

Image_057

Image_056

Image_058

Doing the dishes with a few on the race track!

And a few pictures from the Syncro Trial and some more impressive T3 Syncro buses:

Image_063

And an impressive campervan conversion from the German manufacturer Bimobil:

Image_062

And finally, Taiga Lily’s 5 min of fame, with her and us on stage at the show and shine competition:

Image_102

Taiga Lily’s big moment!

Image_103

The winner of this year’s Show and Shine: T3 bus with a W12 engine.