Getting ready for the summer!

31 07 2015

In preparation for the summer trips to come Taiga Lily got kitted out: The bike rack and roof rack re-emerged from the cellar and went onto the van. With the spare wheel now on the roof, my beloved roof box with stickers from former camping trips does not fit there anymore. So this year I tried something new and fixed it to the bike rack on the rear. A first ride in Berlin showed that this added some annoying new noise to the cacophony that is traveling in such an old and very badly noise-insulated car. The box apparently reflects some engine noise back towards the car. But a day later, when the space behind the back bench was packed top to bottom with luggage, additional mattresses and bedding, the regular engine noise and the new vibration were all nicely quietened down.

Image_2

Image_1

Image_3

Image_4

Image_5

Fully packed, at a break on the Autobahn.

Fully packed, at a break on the Autobahn.





20 years of kombi mania!

24 07 2015

It all began on July 24, 1995: On that day I bought my first kombi, a 1978 late bay panel van from the German Red Cross, with a 50 h.p. 1600 ccm flat four/boxer engine. It was 17-years-old, cost a friendly 3500 DM (1500 Euro) and came with only 40.000 km on the clock. Top in original ambulance white (Ivory White), lower half re-sprayed by a car dealer in Volkswagen Classic red. The rear was completely empty except for a crude metal shelf which the Red Cross had installed. I remember I was sitting on the first evening in my bus and tested the very limited number of switches and lights on the dashboard. The best one was the blue light for the high beam. Not much else there – the Red Cross had ordered the no frills version. I started rebuilding her into a campervan, with adding fold-up campervan windows on both sides in the back to bring more light into the rear. I thought I could get the complete conversion (bed, kitchen and cupboards) done in six weeks, in time for the first trip with my two brothers through Switzerland in September. In the end it took 12 years until it was a fully functional campervan. So the Switzerland trip was still with matrasses thrown into the back, no kitchen block at all and a portable battery-powered radio-cassette player instead of a car stereo. But it was a great trip.
In 1997, a porta potti and a fold-out bed (my own construction) were added. I rebuilt the bed to a conventional rock-and-roll bed in 2005. Less sophisticated mechanism, easier to use. In 1999 the spare wheel went from under the front bench to the front of the car. A very basic kitchen block was added in 2000 when the bus was officially re-registered from a truck/delivery van to a campervan. In 2002 a catalytic converter was added. The kitchen was replaced by a much more refined version (including a 5L gas bottle, gas cooker and gas/12V/220V fridge) in 2007. In 2007, also the dividing wall between driver’s cabin and rear area was removed and driver’s seat and double passenger seat-bench were replaced by two caravan pilot seats, with the passenger seat on a turn table. The van accompanied me when I moved from Freiburg to Dortmund and later on to Berlin. It was vehicle and home for many trips through Western Europe and Scandinavia and my daily driver for all that time. Its active duty ended with 225.000 km on the clock in 2010. Rust in many hidden corners required a full restoration. I did not have the money to do this right away, so we retired her and put her into storage. Our second bus, Taiga Lily, came into our life in 2010 and was road-worthy in 2011. While the first bus was most of the time simply called “the Bulli” (German nickname for the kombi), it transitioned into “Old Lady” when the much more youthful and less rusty Taiga Lily entered the stage. But today this is to you, Old Lady! May you be back on the road some time in the future!

The beginning: a naked panel van.

The beginning: a naked panel van.

Random meeting with another late bay.

Random meeting with another late bay.

A few weeks later: Windows added in the rear, additional high beams at the front.

A few weeks later: Windows added in the rear, additional high beams at the front.

First trip, somewhere in the Swiss Alps.

First trip, somewhere in the Swiss Alps.

Random kombi meeting in Switzerland: Girls from New Zealand with rented kombi from London.

Random kombi meeting in Switzerland: Travellers from New Zealand with rental kombi from London.

1999 in Dortmund: Even more front lights, front spare wheel and a cool registration plate.

1999 in Dortmund: Even more front lights, front spare wheel and new number plate.

Image_6





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!

Image_5

Image_3

Getting all shiny and clean!

Getting all shiny and clean!

Image_2

Image_4





Now we are four!

23 05 2015

Long time without a blog post. We had some interesting times over here. It started with me catching the measles back in mid-April. That was actually quite frightening. But things then changed from very bad to very good when two weeks ago our second baby-daughter was born! Which makes Wonder Daughter, our three-and-a-half year old, now officially The Big Sister. The first ride of our little one, from the hospital to our home, was in our kombi, together with her mum and sister. Gosh was I driving carefully, with my three ladies in the back. All is good now, we are enjoying a month of joint parental leave and are slowly getting used again to life around a new-born. And we are looking forward to going to Australia later this year for three or four months, to meet the family over there. Hurray for German parental leave laws!
Image_1

PS: The child seats in the back require three-point safety belts. Our 1976 microbus did not have any belts in the back, but it came already with factory-built in attachment points. I bought the belts from Just Kampers (JK Part Number J10652). Here is a link to the posts on the installation. Each belt came with a 40-cm-extension (photo below) which was not required when using the belts with the original back bench of our VW microbus/window bus. However, I later replaced the original back bench with a rock-and-roll bed which is positioned about 10-20 cm further forward than the original bench. With this set-up, the belts are too short and the extension is required. In my case, even with the extension the belts are only just about long enough, but it works.

Image_2





Sleeping Beauties

8 03 2015

Last weekend I went over to the garage where our two kombis are asleep. Taiga Lily (sage green and white) just for her winter break, the Old Lady (red and white) taken off the road permanently and waiting for better times and a full-blown restoration job. I had placed some dehumidifier bags into each bus some 4 weeks ago. Luckily they had hardly changed (i.e. were not dripping with water) so the place is indeed quite dry. I finally got myself a flexible spanner (can be adjusted to size 31) to start a new tradition of turning the engine manually once per month. For the 1600 ccm (50 h.p.) AS engine in the Old Lady this is quite easily done by turning the central screw on the crankshaft clockwise, with gearbox in neutral (see photo below). Some 4 years ago I was told that the best way to keep such a VW bus engine happy in storage is to take out the ignition sparks, fill a tea spoon of engine oil into each cylinder, put the sparks in again and then turn over the engine manually once per month, to make sure that all parts are permanently covered in oil and rust is not starting anywhere within the engine block. I last started the Old Lady’s engine when I relocated her into this garage on a tow truck which is almost three-and-ahalf years ago. To my relief, the engine still turns over easily, no obvious signs of rust. Will take care of this job more regularly from now on.

Image_1

Image_2

Image_3





New Kid On The Block

7 03 2015

Some months ago a friendly fellow with a VW T25/T3 campervan moved into our neighborhood. Now I pass by this van once or twice per day when I walk Leon dogwonder, and enjoy the occasional chat when I bump into the owner. The batch on the back lid says Atlantic Vanagon. The exterior parts (side panels, bumpers and front spoiler) look like those of the Bluestar/Whitestar/Redstar special editions built from 1989 to 1990, the last years of the regular T3 production. In addition, the Atlantic comes with a hightop and a complete Westfalia campervan interior. The German Wikipedia entry on the VW T3 describes the Atlantic as a “further upgraded campervan conversion” that followed on the “Camping” model (1980-83), the Joker, Club Joker and California. This one is a daily driver and also on the road in winter, but in quite good shape. My knowledge about T3 campers is not great, but there is a lot of information on the Atlantic campervan conversions on the Westfalia T25 / T3 / Vanagon Buyers Guide. The Atlantic campers were converted by Westfalia in their factory in Germany. You ordered them as factory conversions from Volkswagen. Volkswagen then delivered a certain body type (“253 kombi shell”) to the Westfalia factory where the campervan interior was installed. This particular van here was also the bus that welcomed 2015 in this earlier post. Welcome to the neighborhood!

Image_1

Image_2

Image_3

Image_4

Nutzfahrzeug (German for utility vehicle, also VW's Commercial Vehicles division)

(German for “utility vehicle” and also VW’s “Commercial Vehicles” division)





Travel Book: Around the World in a Kombi

26 02 2015

There is a kombi travel book that just stepped into my life for a second time in 20 years. It is the German book “Im VW-Bus um die Erde” (Around the World in a VW Bus) from Sigrid and Wil Tondok, first published in 1977. It starts with the actual travel report – quoting from the introduction: “five continents, six oceans, 49 countries, 250 000 km, highest height: 4.800 m (Peru), lowest point: 120 m below sea level (USA), 2 exchanged gear boxes, 3 exchanged engines, 16 brake pads, 18 shock absorbers, 36 tires, 85 flat tires, one accident, one attack, one war, one broken leg, one break-in, many insights”. The original early bay high roof bus used for all these adventures and shown on the book cover below was later donated to the German Museum in Munich (not sure whether on display or in storage at this moment in time).

CIMG8764

CIMG8765

After the travel report comes a section on travel tips and recommendations, and finally one third of the book on how to rebuild a late bay window VW bus into a campervan, with many plans on how to build the bed, storage space and kitchen section. This became something like a bible when in 1995 I bought and started rebuilding our Old Lady, an empty 1978 VW panel van. At that time one could not buy the book anymore and hunting for second hand books on Amazon was still far away. I remember that I finally found a copy in the public library in Dortmund in 1996 and photocopied the complete book to have it as a guide for building the Old Lady. Now, twenty years later, an old friend contacted me and asked whether I was interested in this book – she had just found it amongst the books of her brother who had passed away many years ago and way too young. So now I am sitting here with an original copy in my hands, of the fourth edition from 1981.
Her brother had in some ways been like a big brother to me when I bought the Old Lady. An electrician by trade and generally a very gifted craftsman, he had helped me to install a radio, extra fog lights, additional high beams, and additional instruments for battery and oil temperature. He welded a rusted through section (under the passenger seat) and helped me to clean and repaint the underbody, using his pressure washer and lifting platform. He re-built an original VW bus main light pull switch into a two-step fog light switch (front and rear) which served me well for 15 years and is still installed in the Old Lady. Thank you, Anke, for sending the book to me. And it is an honor to receive this book of yours, Holger. So sad that we did not have more time together. You would have enjoyed what a kombi nerd I have turned into over the last 20 years. And I could have done with much more advice and help from you over those years. Thank you for all the help you gave me.

PS: Today, the authors run their own publishing company for travel books which started with this book, “Im VW Bus um die Erde”. And while the book is not in print anymore, they were generous enough to make the complete sixth edition from 1989 available in the web! How amazing is that! This edition also includes rebuilding recommendations for the T3 VW bus from the 1980s.





Rio De Janeiro Box Truck Kombi

25 01 2015

A friend of mine just returned from a four-week-trip through South America. Here is a kombi he spotted in Rio de Janeiro. Interesting mix of very old type of car with what looks like a pretty new box truck conversion. The bull bar seems to be attached only to the front bumper. Looks a bit less stable than the roo bars in Australia which are bolted to the main frame under the van. Also note the vintage VW bug parking directly behind the truck. Thanks to kombi correspondent Horst for sending the photo!

Image1





Sad News from Last Edition Kombi 0222

23 01 2015

I am in pain. Look what my daily Ebay search just found. Number 0222 of the Brazlian Last Limited Edition kombis made it to Germany, but is very badly injured. Looks like someone drove her into an obsticle at head height. How very, very sad! Anyone out there who would want to bring her back to life? Then please go to this Ebay auction and rescue her!

$_57

$_57 (1)

$_57 (2)





1978 New South Wales Microbus

1 01 2015

Let’s start the New Year with this beauty! It is a 1978 Volkswagen deluxe microbus with the 2L engine and automatic transmission. Photo sent by Tony from New South Wales, Australia, who bought this bus from the first owner in 1980 and owned it ever since. The color is Marino Yellow/Pastel White. There is more information on the bus and also more pictures here. Thanks to Tony for the picture! We hope to be over in Australia again towards the end of the year. Greetings from a wintery Berlin to all our friends in Australia! Hope you are having a great and not too hot summer!

Image_1