Beautifying Taiga Lily

15 06 2014

Couple of details fixed in mid-May in our 1976 VW microbus Taiga Lily: Worn out inner door handle of the passenger door replaced with an original part found on Ebay (guess they are still being produced in Brazil). Heater tubing system under the dash board finally put back in (never got around to do that after buying the bus in 2010 and replacing a broken windscreen in 2011). Aged black plastic covers for the air vents on the dashboard replaced by new parts (from, part numbers OK17099 and OK17086). And a pair of in-sets in the warm air channels through the dividing wall behind front seats finally put in. I had re-discovered these parts only after I had already assembled the air channels in 2012.

Worn out door handle.

Worn out door handle.

New original part.

New original part.

Original air vent cover (lower section) and new repro part.

Original air vent cover (lower section) and new repro part.

New air vent cover in place.

New air vent cover in place.




Taiga Lily on a sunny Sunday afternoon.

Taiga Lily on a sunny Sunday afternoon.



New Front Axle, Part II

14 03 2014

Yay! Taiga Lily is back from the Beetle Clinic and as good as new! The new front axle has been installed, and with it many worn out parts of the steering mechanism have been replaced. New ball joints (German: Traggelenke), a new drag link (Lenkschubstange), a new steering dampner (Lenkungs- daempfer), new shock absorbers (Stossdämpfer), new tie rods (Spurstangen), a new wheel bearing (Radlagersatz) on one side, and a new set of four needle bearings (Nadellagersatz) for the four torsion arms. Hope I translated that all correctly. Will add snapshots of the respective pages of a VW repair manual below, for those who want to look into the details. Also check out this informative blog post by ZeroToSixtyEventually on the steering system of late bay buses and its maintenance. Finally, the main brake cylinder was rebuilt from the old to the new front axle beam and some aged brake lines were replaced. As a result of this operation, a wobbly steering experience has changed into quite a solid feel. Nice! And she also got her new road worthy certificate (German: “TUEV”), so she is legal again for the next two years!










A New Front Axle!

25 02 2014

I used the sunny weather last Sunday to wake Taiga Lily up from her winter sleep and brought her to the garage yesterday. Was very happy that the engine started immediately, after almost 3 months of being put aside. Background is that her front axle beam (German “Vorderachskörper”) was rusted through. This is an old kombi disease, at least here in Germany with lots of rain and lots of salt on the roads in winter time. Water gets into the hollow outer sections. If the openings at the lower end are blocked with dirt, the water stays in there and the panel rusts from the inside to the outside, as seen on the sad photo below. Once rusted through, the traditional stand of the German Technical Surveillance (TÜV) is that this part may not be welded but needs to be replaced as a whole. Not easy as front axles are not available from Volkswagen anymore, so one has to find an original one in good condition.
I was lucky in December and found one on Ebay for a reasonable price. It was delivered from Freiburg in South Germany to my local garage, the Beetle Clinic, in January. According to the Ebay ad, it was from the same year as Taiga Lily, 1976, and was put aside about 20 years ago for future use. It turned out to be indeed in very good condition (big thanks to the honest Ebay seller!). And the guys at Beetle Clinic did a greatjob in sanding and repainting it, with particular emphasis on soaking the insides of the hollow outer sections first with rust converter (Brunox) and afterwards with cavity sealing. The section with blank metal on the photo below is where the attachment plate for the break booster (Bremskraftverstärker) will be welded to the axle. This booster did not come with all models and was not on this replacement axle, but I was told it is no problem to cut it from Taiga Lily’s old axle and weld it to the new one. Most bearings in the steering system were already quite worn out, so the steering had a lot of play when I bought her in 2010. All these bearings will now be replaced by new parts when the new axle will be built in over the next 10 days.

Taiga Lily woken up from her winter sleep.

Taiga Lily woken up from her winter sleep.

Rusted section on Taiga Lily's original frotn axle beam.

Rusted section on Taiga Lily’s original front axle beam.

New second hand 1976 front axle beam  when delivered ...

New second hand 1976 front axle beam
when delivered …

... and after de-rusting and repainting.

… and after de-rusting and repainting.



New Front Seats!

6 10 2013

Well, not really new, second hand from Ebay. And not in brilliant condition either, but importantly with head rests, which Taiga Lily’s original seats do not have. Both seats are from late bay buses (1974-79). The brown one is for the passenger side and hooks into eyes at the panel separating the driver’s cabin and back section. It should fit directly. I already have the corresponding driver’s seat, same brown and with head rest. I also bought replacements for the inner horse hair paddings, two new ones for the two seat sections ( and an old one in good condition for one of the back rests (Ebay). Once built in, this brown pair of seats would be original VW and from the right period, but not in black as the “leatherette” vinyl that Taiga Lily was delivered with. But for the sake of finally having head rests, they will do.
The green driver’s seat from a Westfalia camper comes with green-yellow-orange plaid similar to the material I am using for the mattress cushions in the back. I got the material as reproduction from Below is a snapshot showing how it fits to the original pattern. Not really sure yet what I will do with this seat, but it may be a template and starting point for a restoration of two seats with this repro plaid. So all more the beginning of a new project, to be started after the next winter break.




Dividing walls completed

3 10 2012

I got the last details sorted out with the dividing walls behind the driver and passenger seats. Taiga Lily‘s interior was mostly disassembled when we bought her, and I only slowly get all pieces back into their places. Now I cut out round openings into the plywood panels (added in June) to fit two shutters for the heating vents. The shutters (imprinted VW part number 211 259 473) actually are too small for the openings of the original panels. They are the same as in the left and right air channels in the dashboard and probably come from the second dashboard that came with the van. Anyway, they look good and do the job. I also finally attached the connecting pieces (part number 221259205) which bridge the gap to the hot air channels on the front doors (added in May). Finally the two original rubber mats, with some cracks but clean again after a thorough scrub with lots of soap water, were put back in place. Looks all quite neat and authentic again. Nice!

Dividing walls before…

… and after: Air vents added and rubber mat at base back in place.

Rear Fog Light Installed

27 08 2012

My main birthday present this year was a full day of working on the kombi – with my lovely wife taking care of our baby-daughter all day so that daddy can play with the car. Time becomes precious with a baby. So Saturday morning I started the day with a visit to the car wash and the petrol station. With all dust and dirt washed away Taiga Lily was beaming again in the sun of a beautiful Berlin summer day.

Taiga Lily all shiny and clean. Extreme parking in Berlin – sliding door as the only way to leave the car…

Most of the day then went into installing a rear fog light. I bought an old-school looking one to go with the car, a beautiful little Hella fog light with a chrome-coated heavy metal casing. I also dug out an original VW bus rear fog light switch which I had carried around for the last 15 years. I believe I got it in the mid-nineties at a local Volkswagen dealership as a regular spare part. Has “Made in Germany” on it and not “Made in West Germany”, so must be post 1990. I was told these switches have become quite rare in the meantime. It happens to be from the same German company Hella, but has a VW spare part number on it, too (111 963 105A). It is a simple on-off switch with three connections, labeled “A”, “30” and “31”. “A” goes to the fog light in the back, “31” is connected to earth. I connected it to the central “earth point” under the dashboard, in front/under the windscreen wiper motor. “30” comes from the left front low beam. This way the rear fog light can only be switched on when the front lights are on, which I believe is the legal requirement in Germany. Following a repair manual, in a 1976 kombi with a 2L engine like Taiga Lily this is the yellow wire coming from/going into the left front lamp.

Hella Rear Fog Light

Volkswagen fog light switch, with instructions from the Hella fog light.

For the connection from the front switch to the back of the car, I used the second wire of a seven-core cable installed some two years ago between the dashboard and the engine bay. So I just had to extend it to the light: I drilled a hole in the floor behind the left rear lights to get the cable out to the fog light, and rust-protected the fresh metal surfaces. There was already a hole in the rear bumper under the left rear light, so no need here to add more holes to the car. In the engine bay I threaded the wire through a black cable sleeving so that it all looks a bit neater and cannot rub on the metal where it goes through the floor. No need for any connection to earth. The light’s metal body is in direct contact with the metal bumper and thus the car. Et voila – we have fog light!

Fog light installed and connected.

At the end of a long day: It works!

PS: If you wanted to add a rear for light to front fog lights you would need combination switch. A beautiful work-around for that one is the main light switch of a T2b with its two positions, parking light and low beam, which can be used as switches for “front fog lights only” and “front and rear fog lights”. A friend and electrician helped me set up that solution in the Old Lady in 1995.

Rock And Roll Bench, Part 3: Final Steps

26 07 2012

Now the seat board is complete, with an opening cut out as a handle for when the bench is pulled into a bed, with two brackets attached which will keep it horizontal when in bed-position, and with it being sanded and coated with varnish twice. All the other boards will be treated at some point in the future. Now there was just not enough time because the bed has to be functional for the Berlin VW Bus Festival starting on July 27.

The final positioning of the bench in the bus was as far forward as possible to get the maximum bed length (in the end 186 cm). But that meant that that an attachment point at the rear end of each of the hinges was not touching the tilted front wall of the engine bay, but showed a gap of about four to five centimeters. Ideally, it would touch the panel so that one can drill a hole through it and attach each hinge firmly to the car. The final solution will be to take the hinges out again and get an extension welded to them so that they do touch the wall. As a quick solution, I now bridged the gap with a wooden bar that runs from the left to the right hinge, with a screw that goes into a 6mm drive-in nut on the back of the bar. The bar is then fixed to the engine compartment via two existing attachment points which are for the back rest of the original back bench (red arrows in last photo below). So at least there is no extra hole drilled into the body.

Unwanted gap between hinge and back wall (front wall of the engine bay) highlighted by red arrow.

Side Wall Panels Finally All in Place

30 06 2012

I completed the last wall, opposite the sliding door: The usual procedure with two layers of Reimo 2cm Xtreme insulation mats, then a plastic foil as moisture barrier and the plywood panel. Hidden in the insulation mats are the cables for future loudspeakers in the back, and two cables to provide a 12V connection for the water pump of the future kitchen block. I added attachment points for the kitchen block in the middle of the side wall, by using two vertical metal cross bars which originally were the attachment points for an side arm rest for a middle bench. I placed a piece of wood behind these, with 8 mm holes and 6 mm drive-in nuts hammered into the back in the right distance so that the original holes in the metal bars can now be used to bolt the kitchen block into these drive-in nuts. They can also serve as attachment points to lash the dog transport box to the wall when the kitchen block is not in use.
I also got the plywood panels for the walls behind the driver’s and passenger seats installed, the back bench in and also a third safety belt installed for the middle seat of the back bench (2-point belt from JustKampers). I still need to cut out the openings for the air vents in the panels behind the front seats, but that has to wait a bit. Next bigger projects are getting the radio in and building the rock-and-roll bed/bench combination for the back.

Wall opposite sliding door without wall panel.

Piece of wood with two drive-in nuts…

… and in its place in the side wall, with two bolts screwed in.

Side wall with insulation in place.

With plastic foil added as moisture barrier.

Now with plywood cover panel back in place.

Wall to the front cabin, without panels…

… and now covered with plywood panels.

Inside walls finally complete!

Back bench back in the bus, and all walls covered.

Porta Potti Box Installed

27 06 2012

Now the box for the Porta Potti is properly installed in the bus as well. I borrowed this box from the Old Lady, our first bus which currently has a time out and waits for better times and a restoration. It also doubles as a seat opposite the future kitchen block. It is made from 1cm birch multiplex plates and fits so tightly around our Porta Potti that one cannot pull it out but has to pull the box up instead. This made the fixing to the car not easy, but in the end I went for two wooden bars which are bolted with M6 stainless steel machine bolts through the floor plate into drive-in nuts. And the box is then bolted to these bars with two M6 machine bolts on each side. Should keep it in place when we roll the car in an accident, but I still have to add some solid lock or bolt to the lid so that it can not not open in an acccident. In the Old Lady, I had placed the box directly against the back wall of the right wheel housing, behind the passenger seat. Now I have left about 12 cm of space which I will block off with boards left and right. The section between box and wheelhousing will then serve as storage space, e.g. for water bottles which can be reached from the driver’s seat. Let’s see how this will work out.

Added Feb 5, 2015: Just saw that another web site has linked to this blog post: If you want to learn more about the Do’s and Don’ts of camper toilets, click to (though in German).

Wall Panels And Floor Plate

26 06 2012

Last year I got all plywood side panels into the van. In June 2012 I now finally got the nitty gritty bits done which I generously skipped last year. All holes drilled for the screws which hold the panels have now been rust protected (painted with rust converter, then primer and white paint).

Big opening is for clips keeping the original wall panels in place. Smaller hole is for my plywood panel, now rust protected.

The side panels left and right of the back bench got two layers of Reimo Xtreme insulation mats behind them and a layer of plastic foil as moisture barrier.

Naked side wall, left of back bench.

Now with Reimo Xtreme insulation mat in place.

With plastic foil sticky-taped on top as moisture barrier.

And closed with plywood panel. Already started to develop some patina where the sunlight hit it.

Underneath the floor panel is a central ventilation outlet of the auxiliary heating Taiga Lily came with. The heater did not work anymore and is difficult/expensive to fix, so I got it taken out and will perhaps install a more modern campervan heater at some point in the future. For the time being I closed this airvent opening by stuffing it with pieces of Xtreme insulation material and sealing the surface with acid-free silicon, to prevent moisture from coming in under the floor panel. Another set of air ventilation openings, in the floor between the front seats, probably also belongs to the non-functional heating system and was blocked with insulation mat as well, sealed with acid-free silicon and then closed with the original metal cover. I painted this in shiny black before just so that everything is rust protected and in its place, but most of it will later be covered by the floor panel itself.

Ventilation outlet in center of floor panel, closed with insulation material.

Ventilation outlet at back end of walk way between the front seats, covered with freshly painted metal cover frame and closed with insultation material and plastic foil.

The floor panel, last year just placed on a layer of Xtreme mat, was now bolted with four 8mm stainless steel machine bolts and large 4-cm-diameter stainless steel washers in each corner through the floor panel to the car. The bolts were sealed from underneath with Sikaflex sealing paste. Before fixing the floor panel to the car, I drilled holes into it for the attachment points of the back bench, a wooden box which will hold the Porta Potti and for a kitchenblock and hammered drive-in nuts (German: Einschlagmuttern) from underneath into the floor plate: The four clamps for the back bench are now attached to the floor panel with eight 6mm machine bolts, the future kitchenblock has attachment points for five 8mm bolts, and the toilet box will be bolted to two wooden bars which are each fixed with two 6mm bolts to the floor plate. In the end all this effort is for the hopefully never to happen event that we roll the car in an accident. All the furniture should then hopefully stay in its place and not hammer into us. Finally, all edges of the floor plate were sealed to the car and to the side wall panels with acid-free silicon to make sure no moisture will get under the floor plate if water is spilled in the car. Better safe than sorry.

Floor plate in: Edge to side panels and wheel housings sealed with silicone and plate bolted through floor panel of the van with 8mm bolt (large washer). Clamps are to fix original back bench to the floor panel, now bolted to it with four 6mm bolts.

Floor plate bolt from underneath the car, behind left front wheel housing: 8mm bolt, 4 cm washer, sealed with black Sikaflex. The complete undercarriage needs a work over – will happen later this year.