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.

 

 





The T3 vanagon arrives in the ads!

26 02 2017

There is a new ad by the Dutch bank ING-DiBa which, for the first time, sports a T3 vanagon! The german line translates roughly into “car loan for people with their own mind”. So far split-window buses dominated ads and TV commercials for many products. Some years ago the T2 bay window buses appeared on the stage as well. Now it seems the T3 has also been recognized for its emerging coolness factor. Seeing that about 99% of the Berlin kombi club members are proud owners of T3s, I have also warmed up to them over the years. With the engine in the rear and the very early T3 buses still with air-cooled engines, they are certainly much closer to the splitties and bays than any of the later generations. In certain parts of “cool Berlin” you would see several T3 vans parking in every street, often as self-made campervan conversions. If only because the T2s are now so rare and expensive that the T3s have become the affordable entry ticket into VW-bus based campervans. Judiging from the high wheel houses, this one is probably a Syncro (4-wheel drive) and also not a factory-built campervan. The roof rack with canoe and ex-army aluminum boxes completes the “camper-credibility”. And it even does not hide the little problems that come with such old cars (rubber sealing at the sliding door is partly out of position). Nice!

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PS: In 2013 ING-DiBa had a TV commercial campaign staring a T1 split-window, along the lines of “Make your dream come true with a car loan. Get yourself a split-window bus.”, see also this older blog post. Below a screen shot and the link to the commercial on Youtube

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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.

 





New Kid on the block: T3 Joker

22 05 2016

A new bus in our neighborhood! It is a VW T3 (or T25 or Vanagon) which was produced in Germany between 1979 and 1992. And it is a Joker, a campervan which was sold directly by Volkswagen, but with a camper conversion from Westfalia. The German T3 Wikipedia page lists the different T3 Westfalia campervan conversions sold by Volkswagen as the models Camping (till autumn 1983), Joker, Joker Plus, California and Atlantic. So the Joker is a predecessor of the first California, which VW builds up to now, and nowadays independent of Westfalia. There is a beautiful blog post by WildAboutScotland on the history of the California. With the extra front grill below the head light grill this bus already comes with a water-cooled engine, so it is rather from post-1982. The early T3s still came with air-cooled flat four engines taken over from the late T2/bay window buses. Wikipedia is not very informative on the different T3 Joker generations, but the Volkswagen Westfalia T3 Camper van site provides a lot of background information. Looking at the available color options at the time, this bus is ivory beige (German elfenbeinweiß, VW color code L567). The high top version here was apparently added to the model range only in the late 1980s (model Joker 3 or Joker 4, depending on the interior set up). The earlier Jokers rather came with pop-up roofs instead of hard tops. Interesting that the head lights are round and not yet rectangular. Anyway, welcome to our neighborhood, good to have more kombis around!

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Awakening!

5 04 2015

We had a couple of beautiful sunny spring days here in Berlin in the last three weeks, so the buses slowly get out of their winters sleep. My kombi mate Jan started with his beautifully restored 1991 T3/T25 Blue Star three weeks ago. A friend got his 1963 T1 Westfalia campervan out on the same day, and last weekend I opened the garage for Taiga Lily to come out and play. Very happy the engine started right away, all seems to be fine. Used the day to upholster and install a new driver’s seat, more on that soon. Welcome kombi season 2015!

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The Karmann Gipsy

17 03 2015

Here is a campervan one sees relatively rarely on the road in Germany: The Karmann Gipsy, a T3/T25-based campervan conversion, built by the German car manufacturer Karmann. The Gipsy actually has its own world-wide fan club, the Karmann Coachbuilts Club, with lots of details e.g. on interior layouts and the chassis construction. And there is this brief summary on Wikipedia on the Karmann Coachbuilts. They come with more space than the normal Volkswagen microbus- or panelvan-based conversions and feature e.g. a shower and room to sleep for up to 4 people, two in the back and two more in the front, above the driver’s cabin. Learnt on the club site that only 741 of these conversions have ever been built. 214 are registered with the club as surviving, 5 as destroyed. If you own a Gipsy and are not yet in contact with this club, you would make the guys very happy by registering your vehicle! Karmann was established in 1901 in the German town Osnabrück and for more than 100 years manufactured cars for other larger car makers, such as the Beetle convertible and the beetle-based Karmann Ghia for Volkswagen or the Mercedes CLK and Chrysler Crossfire for at the time DaimlerChrysler. In 2009 the company went bankrupt and the factory in Osnabrueck was purchased by Volkswagen. VW currently manufactures the Golf VI convertible and the Porsche Caymann and Boxster on this production site (information taken from this newspaper site on the latest news on (Ex-)Karmann Osnabrueck). Greetings to Georg, proud owner of one of these unusual campervans!

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