Head Rests, Part III: Finally Sorted!

31 12 2015

Project “Getting-Head-Rests-Into Taiga-Lily” got finally completed this year. When we bought Taiga Lily in 2010, she came with her original vinyl-covered black front seats. The pattern is called basket weaves (“Korbflecht” in German), and the cross lines on the seat and the backrest mean they are from a “deluxe” or “L bus”. But they do not have headrests which I find a bit frightening. I started hunting on Ebay for seats with head rests, but black ones are rarely on offer. Last year I changed tactics and bought a brown passenger seat with a head rest which, together with an old brown driver’s seat from the Old Lady, formed a matching pair. Brown instead of black, but at least original VW kombi seats and both with the basket weaves patterns. This all went to pot when I wanted to install them and learnt that the driver’s seat (from an 1978 late bay) did not fit into the seat rails in Taiga Lily (a 1976 late bay). Turned out some time in mid-1976 Volkswagen had changed the rails in the car and on the seats. So the outcome was a brown passenger seat with a head rest and a black driver’s seat without. I later spent one afternoon trying to re-built the rails from the earlier driver’s seat to the later seat. But the ends of the rails are part of the the hinges that connect the seat to the backrest, and this connection is not identical between the two seat types. I was frightened I would end up with a “hybrid” seat that was not fully stable and may disintegrate in an accident. So I stopped, gave up with this line of attack and built it all back to the original condition.

This year I found a brown driver’s seat on Ebay that was explicitly advertised as fitting only to early bay window buses and to the earlier versions of late bays. Yes! Draw back was that the pattern was not basket weaves but some strange brown textile material. But I bought it, took the cover off and built it up again with the basket weaves cover from the driver’s seat from the Old lady.

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Before…

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… and after.

While at it, I also threw away the worn-out pads and replaced them with a new pad for the back rest (bought a while ago on Ebay, original VW part 211 881 775 G) and a new seat pad (repro purchased new from Bus-OK.de, OK60121). Turned out one of the wire springs of the seat was broken. I fixed it by stealing the corresponding spring from the seat of the Old Lady. So the original driver’s seat from the Old Lady is now in a bit of a sorrow state, stripped of its brown cover and lacking one wire of the springs in the seat area.

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Original black seat (left), newly purchased seat with early bay base (middle), seat with late bay base (from 1978 late bay, right).

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I noticed only at the end of re-assembly that this new seat is actually not from a T2a or T2b but probably from a T3 (explains the non-T2 brown textile cover and the plastic cover of one of the hinges), and  the previous owner had swapped the rails and sliding mechanism to those from an early late bay window seat. When pulled, the sliding mechanism squeezes a bit into the base plate as the corresponding opening in the base plate is missing (red circle in photo below). But well, it is working for the time being.

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Base plate and slider mechanism of an earlier late bay kombi.

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“Hybrid” seat with late bay (or T3) base plate and early bay slider. Missing indentation indicated in red.

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Base plate and sliders of a later T2b (and T3) kombi.

Will add some more photos below which show the different steps of the disassembly and reassembly of the seat. The covers for back rest and seat both have a 1-cm-wide cardboard rim sewn to the lower ends. This folds around a metal rim of the seat and back rest. Disassembly starts with carefully lifting this out with a flat screw driver.

 

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Porta Potti Box 2.0

29 12 2015

Our kombi season 2015 was a very short one. With the arrival of our second child in May, the summer raced by in a blur of busy days and sleep-deprived nights. But I got at least two small projects with Taiga Lily completed. The front seats now both have head rests (will post on this soon) and I upholstered the Porta Potti box in the back to match the plaid pattern of the rock-and-roll bed which I had completed last year. I still had enough of the very nice and strong green-and-yellow plaid material from BUS-OK.de (Item no. OK60072). I had built the box in about 2007 for our first kombi. When the Old Lady was retired in 2010, I borrowed the box for Taiga Lily and fixed it more thoroughly to the base plate. In the meantime I have added an aluminum frame along one edge to protect it from clashes with the pram which is now regularly being shoved in between the box and the back bench. Also, I added two snap lockers to make sure that if the bus tumbles over in an accident, the box is firmly closed and the Porta Potti will not start flying through the van. The foam cushion is 4 cm thick and was bought from the same mattress shop in Berlin where I got the cushions for the back bench. I cut and sewed the material to form a sleeve that slides over the lid and the foam cushion from the front, has the appropriate slits for the snap lockers on each side, and is closed by Velcro in the rear (see the sketch below). Worked out nicely!

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An original Silverfish?

29 10 2015

I spotted this VW bus a few weeks ago in Berlin. At the end of the production of the late bay window T2b bus in 1979, Volkswagen produced a special edition called “Lord of Hannover”. It came with the full trim, including a large sunroof and a silver paint job which later triggered the nickname “Silberfisch” (German for Silverfish). This specimen seems to tick all the boxes, including the sun roof. The eyelids over the head lights are a bit nostalgic, but each for their own. The original silverfish was on the cover of my first kombi workshop book (Dieter Korp’s “Jetzt helfe ich mir selber”) which I bought in 1995 – see the cover photo at the end of this blog post. This one here is not a museum piece, but comes with all signs of everyday use, and the interior has been converted to a campervan. Very nice!
PS: Just saw that you can rent a silverfish directly from the classic car section of Volkswagen Commercial Vehicles, click here for some more nice photos and a lot of technical details. Interestingly they call it a replica. I assume they have recreated a silverfish based on a standard late bay window bus.

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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.

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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.

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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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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!
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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.

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