The Beetle Clinic is no more

21 05 2020

My favorite Berlin VW workshop ceased to exist. The Beetle Clinic is no more. And it left already some long time ago. The end came quietly, at least for me. In May 2016, they still helped us bringing Taiga Lily through the TUEV, the German bi-annual roadworthy certificate. In 2017 we did not need a pit stop all year. With only short-distance camping weekends around Berlin and at the coast and the occasional shopping, we nowadays drive Taiga Lily not more than 3500 km per year. So only when 2018 came and she needed the next roadworthy certificate, I noticed that the Beetle Clinic had closed shop, probably already at the end of 2016.
The Beetle Clinic was situated on a mostly empty industry space in Wilhelmstrasse in the Western suburb of Berlin-Spandau. As with so many places in Berlin, this area has an interesting history. It was the site of the former Spandau Prison where in Nazi Germany Hitler locked up critical journalists and opponents, and where after the end of World War II and the Nuremberg trials, a number of Nazi top brass were imprisoned by the British, American, French and Russian forces. In my childhood in the 1970s and 1980s the bizarre situation was that it was kept in action only for one last prisoner, Rudloph Hess. When he passed away in 1987, it was demolished.
Sometime later the Beetle Clinic must have started out. I met them first in 2000. I had just arrived in Berlin and was happy and releaved to have found a workhop with knowledge, love and enthusiasm for air-cooled Volkswagens. They knew the cars, and they knew where to get the parts. And over the years they did some good work for me. The Old Lady received an egine overhaul  and a catalytic converter in 2002. In 2007, they took out the partition wall behind the front seats and installed two pilot seats. When Taiga Lily entered our family in 2010 and the front axle body was rusted through in 2014, they installed a new front axle body (here and here), and in 2016 a beautiful tow bar. They understood these old cars, and they did good work. And each time I dropped one of our buses off, it was exciting to look around what other cars and buses were around, like this T1, this early bay window brewery van or the beauties below. It is a sad this place with all its expertise is gone. All the best to Georg and Micha for their next adventures!

Taiga Lily with a Wulle Brewery van, 2014.

Karmann Ghia convertible, 2016.

 

Georg’s 1985 Karmann Gipsy T3 Campervan, waiting for its “H registration”

Volkswagen Type 3 notchback, photo taken 2015 at Beetle Clinic Berlin

 

Pre-1956 23-window barndoor Samba Bus under restoration. Photo taken in 2016 at Beetle Clinic, Berlin.

 





The Berlin VW Bus Festival 2019

14 10 2019

In mid-August we rigged-up Taiga Lily, our 1976 Volkswagen bay window camper, with the bike rack in the back, an extended roofrack on top, and Henrietta, our 1981 QEK Junior mini camper on the tow bar, and started the 70-km-ride to Jueterbog, south of Berlin, to the Berlin VW Festival 2019. Henrietta has now been upgraded with a nice little awning and we bought a foldable outside kitchen block.

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Next morning, we joined a convoy of 31 buses and a beetle through the nearby villages. Pretty exciting to ride with so many buses, with six motor bike guards driving in front and behind us to block all crossings, so that we could pass through in one group. All completed with a final group photo, back at the festival side, in front of one of the big old hangars of this ex-German and ex-Russian military airport site.

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Notice the prominent position our Taiga Lily who was kindly manouvered into the front row. As always, there were loads and loads of T3 and T4 buses at this meeing. But with my excitement for the aircooled earlier generations, I will start with a completely biased selection of almost all of the T1 split window busses and T2 bay window busses that were also around. So here they come!

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T1 split window single cab

The T1 Samba Bus below, from between 1964 and 1967 later on became the winner of this years show and shine competition!

Here comes a 1978 late bay Westaflia camper in Taiga Lily’s sage green (Taiga grün L63H):

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Here comes a beautiful 1975 late bay camper which is, for once, not a Westfalia:

And an impressive semi-rat look 1970 early bay window (T2a) Westfalia camper, at some point re-imported from the US, with the weathered original paint job conserved with a layer of Owatrol:

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On we move to the T3 vanagon buses of the 1980s and early 1990s. As a start a cool family group shot: On the right a 1978 air-cooled T2b, in the middle a 1980 T3 pick up truck which is also still air-cooled (in German: a “Lufti”), and on the right a later and water-cooled T3 syncro all-wheel drive camper:

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And some photos of the many T3 campervans and the many impressive four-wheel-drive T3 Syncro buses:

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Again a very nice summer weekend. And like last year, the goodies-bag for every participant contained this very cool VW bus biscuits pack – the organizers apparently had asked the cookies company Leibniz and they kindly produced another batch of these bisquits explicitely for this bus gathering – how very cool is this!





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!

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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.

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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.

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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:

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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:

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And an impressive campervan conversion from the German manufacturer Bimobil:

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

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Taiga Lily’s big moment!

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

 

 





Back in Australia!

28 03 2017

We are back in Australia! We made the long trip from Berlin to Melbourne two days ago, this time with a stopover in Abu Dhabi instead of Singapore. Now we are slowly getting over the jetlag. And we have four weeks ahead of us to visit family and friends, in Geelong and Melbourne. Australia gave us a warm welcome, with late summer temperatures in the mid- to high twenties. First time this year that we are all wearing sunscreen, sunnies and T-shirts. And kombi-crazy Australia did not let me down either, with a first T2 Westfalia campervan sighting already on the way from Melbourne airport to Geelong. Looking forward to seeing many Volkswagen buses in the next couple of weeks!

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Late summer day in Geelong.

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First Aussie kombi spotting in 2017 🙂





Taiga Lily’s Fifteen Minutes of Fame

27 06 2015

This weekend, all Volkswagen dealers in Berlin presented the new generation of the VW bus, the T6, to the public. To emphasize Volkswagen’s long history of building the bus, they organized that in each showroom an old kombi, T1 or T2, was present as well. And Taiga Lily was one of the chosen ones! So Thursday I had a long summer evening and night of washing, polishing and vacuum cleaning. Friday morning she went to the VW dealer in Berlin Tegel. I picked her up again this afternoon, together with our eldest daughter, and we had some good father-daughter bonding over kombis. Though our little one was most excited about the large box of chocolate kombis we were given at the very end. We came prepared – check out our kombi T-shirts! What an exciting weekeend!

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Getting all shiny and clean!

Getting all shiny and clean!

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More Flea Market Findings!

28 11 2014

Look what I bought myself! Found these three little buses a while ago on a flea market in Berlin. The blue one is an early bay window Dormobile Volkwagen camper from Matchbox (Series 23, © 1970, Made in England) with an English number plate. I guess there may once have been some kind of canvass attached to the fold up roof. The late bay window police bus says it is a Majorette No. 214 (“Fourgon VW, Made in France”, scale 1:60). Fourgon seems to be French for panel van. The other late bay window from the German Red Cross in Nuremberg is from Schuco (Made in Germany, scale 1:66, Model 817010) and proudly announces 60 PS and a top speed of 125 km/h. Love the scratches and how they turn out in these close-up photos. Original patina from decades of hard playing!

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Official Kombi Farewell Video

12 04 2014

This beautiful video is doing the rounds at the moment. Looks like part of an official farewell campaign from Volkswagen Do Brasil, and comes in a Spanish version as well. Also featured on the Viva Westfalia blog. When you look on YouTube there seems to be a whole series of personal farewell videos from Brasilian kombi drivers in the same Volkswagen Do Brasil format, like this one from a food van owner. Thanks to Markus for sending the link!





Até amanhã ?

31 12 2013

unintroducing-thevolkswagen-bus2013

Re-blog of a great blog post. Brilliant summary, with a fantastic VW unlaunch ad, “unintroducing the Volkswagen Bus…”





They finally stop making them…

30 12 2013

Sad news for the kombi world: As you may have read already on ZeroToSixty-eventually or in the newspapers, Volkswagen of Brazil will stop the production of the kombi (aka the Bay Window Volkswagen bus or T2) at the end of 2013, so basically today. In Germany, the production of this version of the Volkswagen transporter started in 1967 and ended in 1979 when the wedge-shaped T3/T25 was introduced, which in turn was succeeded by the front-engine T4 in 1990 and the current model, the T5, in 2003. But production went on in Mexico and Brazil, in Mexico until 1994 and in Brazil up until now.
The body of these modern versions showed only minor differences compared to the German kombis of the 1970ies, like a slightly elevated roof, small differences on the lower section of the driver and passenger door and, most prominently, a large radiator grill at the front as these buses were equipped with water-cooled engines since 2005. The German Wikipedia entry on the T2 has a section on the Mexican and Brazilian T2, the “T2c” for which unfortunately no English translation exists yet.
Production now ends because of increased safety and emission standards. From 2014 on all new cars in Brazil need to feature airbag safety systems. Apparently too difficult to introduce such a complex system in a car where the basic design goes back to 1967. Volkswagen Do Brazil commemorates 56 years of production of the Kombi in Brazil with a beautiful final Last Edition – originally limited to 600 buses, then increased to 1200 buses, see the photos below.
Some links if you want to read more: This New York Times article beautifully sums up why the kombi was so successful – because it was, in a modest and unpretentious way, sufficient. There is an informative article from Automotive.com (“The Bus Stops Here”) where also the photos below are taken from. Here is a link to an article in the British newspaper The Indendent. Finally a gallery of photos, some truely beautiful, on the web site of the british newspaper The Guardian.

Photos below from Volkswagen of Brazil.

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Costa Rica Kombi Van

19 09 2013

Here comes another Costa Rica kombi. Looks like a Brazilian bus, a hybrid with the front of the European bay window and side air intake slits in the back as with the older split-window/T1. Bull bar at the front and bike holder at the back. Cool art work on the side. Wedding couple on a trip through South America? Mexican pyramid in the center? The photo was taken in Nuevo Arenal in the Province of Guanacaste. Big thanks to kombi correspondent Siggi for the snapshot!

Costa Rica Tour Herbst 2013