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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Let there be curtains!

12 07 2018

What a difference a few curtains make! I bought this curtain set already in 2015, from an Ebay seller (Volksrent24) who (at the time) seemed to have specialized in sewing these sets on demand.  They cover all 8 windows of a late bay bus and were offered in green, yellow and orange. I bought the green set for Taiga Lily.

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It took me another year to get around ordering the REIMO curtain rail installation kit (product number: 56251). For each window in the back, two holders for the wire at the top and two curtain holders left and right of the window have to be fixed with screws to the side walls. The curtain for all three windows in the front cabin comes in one piece with a rubber band sewed in at the top and is then attached to the wall via 6 push buttons (which were also part of the REIMO set).

Image_11The REIMO set was delivered in November when Taiga Lily was already in her winter sleep. So when she came out into the sun in May, it finally happened. The curtain holders look a bit like cheap plastic on their own, but do their job very well. The wrapped up curtains are quickly folded behind them and stay in place. Also, I am very happy with the color, works better with the sage green of the car and the green plaid of the bench cushions then I had expected.

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Soundcheck: Taiga Lily goes to the movies!

20 05 2018

Or at least her engine roar will… Some three weeks ago a friend asked me whether I would be willing to help another friend who needed to record the engine sound of an old Volkwagen bus. Turned out he is a professional movie sound specialist and is currently working on a Brazilian road movie that stars an unusual looking campervan. It took them some time to figure out it was a Karmann Safari, a motorhome built on the base of a Volkswagen T2b pick-up truck. And here enters Taiga Lily, not a Karmann Safari, but at least a T2b with the authentic Volkswagen boxer engine sound.

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So this is what the original Karmann Safari campers looked like (photo from Wikimedia Commons, Rafael Ruivo., Kombi Safari, CC BY-SA 3.0). I learnt only recently that the German car maker Karmann built such motorhomes based on the T2b. Its successor, the T3/T25-based Karmann Gipsy, is more common on the road in Germany and I portrayed one of them here. According to this Wikipedia page, Karmann started making the T2b-based ones in 1974 and built only 1000 in total.

So a few days ago said friend of a friend, together with a sound assistant, arrived at our home and we spent 4 hours, first gearing Taiga Lily up with microphones, then practicing drive-bys at various speeds, starting and stopping the van, driving fast and slow on the autobahn (fast being 85 km/h, slow being 65 km/h…), then slow and fast stops, and finally banging the drivers doors. All was recorded from the distance by the assitant and additionally with five microphone in an don the bus: One on the back window, another on the tow bar, yet another in the engine bay itself, another directly next to the exhaust, and finally one on a tripod in the middle of the car, pointing to the driver’s cabin, to also record the sound in the front of the car. Gosh, that was a fun evening! Will keep you posted when the movie is finished. Hope it will make it to the movie theaters in Germany!

 

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Summer 2018, here we go!

18 05 2018

On April 22, a sunny Berlin Sunday morning, we put Taiga Lily back on the road. The battery was not in its best shape, but the engine started after a couple of trials. Great to be back behind the wheel of a kombi! More to follow soon!

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Sunliners of Melbourne

6 04 2017

I stumbled about this beauty yesterday during a visit to Melbourne: A T2b late bay window Volkswagen campervan, probably from between 1976 and 1979 (see the engine lid hinges), in what could be Neptune blue (L50K). The campervan conversion is from Sunliner, a company based in Melbourne and still active, but nowadays converting various non-Volkswagen buses. Here is a link to a beautifully restored Sunliner late bay camper we spotted in 2015 in Geelong. This bus here comes with roo bars in the front and rear, spare wheel on the front, a pop-up roof in the rear with a luggage section above the driver’s cabin, and nice wooden furniture, with the kitchen block with gas cooker and fridge behind the passenger seat and a compartment for the gas bottle behind the driver’s seat. Funky 1970ies white and blue stripe design on both sides.

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This van seems to be parking in this spot and in the harsh Australian sun for a while already. The lining of the driver’s door is peeling off from the heat, the plastic glasses of the front indicators have gone blind, and there is extensive rust on the roof. Usually you will never see this type of surface rust on campervans in Germany. With the long German winters with salt on the roads, the buses have rotten away from rust in the wheel houses, the sillboards and the complete underfloor, years before any rust on the roof can develop. The wheel houses on this one, however, are in an amazingly good condition. It is a bit of a sleeping beauty and will need some work to fix all the little problems and conserve it for the future. But great to see it has survived so long, in probably pretty much original condition!

Jumping two decades forward in time, another Sunliner parked just around the corner. This one a campervan based on a Mazda E2000 van, probably from the mid- to late-1990ies. It also comes with a roo bar with spare wheel on the front and a small bar in the rear. Here the gas cooker and fridge are placed behind the driver’s seat while the sink and a microwave are behind the passenger seat. Fiamma awning on the left side, solar panels on the roof. And the long wheel base allows for a large bed in the rear that turns into two opposing benches and a central table. Not the coolness factor of a Volkswagen kombi, but also a very nice campervan.

 





The Berlin VW Bus Festival 2016!

28 08 2016

We spent last weekend at this year’s Berlin VW Bus Festival, on an old airfield about 60 km south of Berlin. It was the first camping event for us this year, and also the first one as a family, with parents and now two children, in the small bus. We set up the big bus tent we bought last year and used it a bit as veranda, but mainly as a shed to put away all the kid’s related equipment. We had mixed weather with great sunshine and also some serious rain, but all doable when there is a dry tent and bus. Wonder-daughter enjoyed her very special bunk bed above the driver’s and passenger seats and discovered two routes to climb up to the roof rack – via the passenger door window and via the sliding door, using the Porta Potti box as base camp. Great to see her so happy and excited about the bus!

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With a one-year-old and a 4-year-old on board, we skipped the four-wheel-drive syncro trial on Saturday morning and instead took part in the kid’s program, bouncing castle and kombi painting. Turned into a whole-family event, with a beautiful hippie buy as our joint outcome:

Over the years the mix of buses at this meeting has slowly changed from almost exclusively T3 to now still mostly T3, but with large numbers of T4s and T5s thrown in the mix, while there was just a handful of late bay window buses and only one T1. So my slightly biased selection of fotos below shows basically all the air-cooled buses that attended.

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On the T3 end, again very many of the four-wheel-drive syncro buses, and many of them trimmed for serious all-terrain action. Here is a truely awesome one, from a visitor from the Netherlands:

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The Czeck Syncro club came with around 9 of these monsters. Very cool!

And there was something I haven’t seen before: A T4 syncro with a seroius all terrain attitude – cool!

We had a great weekend – thanks to the crew from the Berlin Kombi club for organizing such a great meeting! See you again next year!

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Happy 40th Birthday, Taiga Lily!

3 06 2016

Forty years ago to the day, Taiga Lily started her life on the road! She was first registered on June 3, 1976 to her first owner in West-Berlin. And her M plate reveals that she already was delivered as a sage green and pastel white microbus which she still is today. It also says that she is a 1976 model, but was built already in November 1975 (“planned production date: 25. Nov. 1975”), at the time already for a customer in “Germany, West-Berlin”. Over all forty years her home base kept being Berlin, although she changed hands seven times in those 4 decades: After 2 years she was sold the first time. Owner No. 2 kept her for 21 years and sold her only in 1999. Owners 3 and 4 each kept her for only one year. After almost 27 years on the road, owner no. 5 de-registered her in May 2003. At some point between 2003 and 2010 she was bought by a friend (owner-6) who kept her off the road, took her apart and gave her a fresh paint job (in the original color scheme).

We finally bought her in July 2010, partly disassembled and with an engine in very bad condition, but with a mostly rust-free body. Which was already very rare at the time. It took more than a year until she was fully up and running again and passed her exam as a historic vehicle in Nov. 2011. Her mileage over her first 27 years is lost in time. When we bought her in 2010 the speedometer read 79810 km, but it turned out this was totally meaningless since the whole instrument unit is from April 1979, so is not the original one any more. In the 6 years we have her now, we added only 16.000 km, so she really has an easy life with us. And she spends half of the year in winter storage anyway. Hope you will stay with us for a very long time. Her is to you, Taiga Lily!

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PS: Fotos from last week when we started into a camping weekend. Nice random encounter with another T3 Joker campervan.