360 miles of smiles along the south coast of England

One of our little dreams about owning a camper, was to be able to get up and go at a moments notice, to get out and go explore. Well the weather looked good, Lorna had a meeting with Joyce Meader (a vintage knitting expert in Dorset), so we thought why not combine both and have a couple of days away camping in the bus in the New Forest? It would be a good way to test the camper as a bit of a work in progress…

When I say ‘work in progress’, we had a functioning bed, some new Fabrik Interior blinds to try out, a fridge (not wired in or working at this stage), a vintage cool box, a cigarette lighter socket … and well, that’s about it at this stage! Fortunately Lorna is (very) patient with me! So we chucked in our sleeping pages, some clothes and our Brit Stops guide and hit the road heading out West…

great stop over in the heart of the New Forest

great stop over in the heart of the New Forest

Heading west, we drove along the south coast of England towards Southampton and the New Forest, a place I hadn’t visited since my childhood, quite excited about revisiting it again! It was good just to be out in the sun and on the road again! After Lorna had caught up with Joyce, we pushed on to find a place to stay for the night. Through our Brit Stops guide we decided to try a pub near Lyndhurst called The Crown Stirrup that had allocated camper stop over spaces with forest views. It also turned out that todays food special was an awesome homemade chilli, this plus a decent pint of beer, a perfect end to the day!

Lulworth Cove, World Heritage beauty at its best!

Lulworth Cove, World Heritage beauty at its best!

After our night staying in the New Forest, we decided to push on early to the coast for a hearty full english breakfast in Lymington. For years we had wanted to visit Lulworth Cove, a World Heritage site on the Jurassic Coast of Dorset, and today was the day we would finally make it! Winding our way through some narrow country lanes, past an Army tank training area (yes, live tank fire was heard!), we seemed to have arrived on a perfect day…

Lulworth cove, not a bad view whilst having a spot of lunch

Lulworth cove, not a bad view whilst having a spot of lunch

Lulworth Cove was stunning and the weather perfect! We spent time wandering around exploring and just soaking in the coastal views and it’s amazing geology before having lunch with a view to die for! After more exploring and random interesting chats with some of the locals, we topped the day off with a obligatary locally made ice cream… delicious! Then off to find another place to stay for the night!

the rugged beauty of Dorset’s Jurassic coast line

the rugged beauty of Dorset’s Jurassic coast line

Although this trip was a brief ‘bare bones’ camping experience, it gave us an opportunity to test out what we wanted or didn’t want out of a camping interior. We got to try our new ‘Bus Eyes’‪ black out‬ ‪‎covers‬ by ‪Fabrik Interiors‬ – so much better than some chintzy looking curtains‬! Combined with their magnetic thermal black out screens for the side windows and the rear hatch screen. Great privacy and light black out for a good nights rest.

whatcha lookin’ at – brilliant ‘BusEyes’‪ black out‬ ‪‎covers‬ by ‪Fabrik Interiors‬

whatcha lookin’ at – brilliant ‘BusEyes’‪ black out‬ ‪‎covers‬ by ‪Fabrik Interiors‬

If you’re not a member of Brit Stops, I have to say it is well worth joining and a great way to explore some of the beauty that Britain and Ireland has to offer, as well as getting to taste the goodies of different farm shops, country pubs, vineyards, and many more interesting sites – looking forward to trying a few more this year! On our last night we bumped into a couple more friendly Brit Stoppers who were on a longer 12 week tour of the UK and actually came from our home town of Hastings, East Sussex – it’s a small world!

the new Brit Stops 2016 guide is out and arrived!

the new Brit Stops 2016 guide is out and arrived!

On our last day whilst heading home, we stopped for a break in Chichester. Good call as we discovered and popped into The Corner House, they serve a lovely breakfast with great locally roasted coffee! I could quite easily get used to life on the road! 🙂 More motivation to get the interior sorted for our next trip out…

interior ideas development

As the clocks go back, the days grow longer and the sun makes longer appearances during the day, I’m looking forward to getting out and about more in the camper this year. I’ve already got some ideas for trips that I’d like to make to different parts of the UK and a little further afield in Europe as well, so with this in mind, I really need to get a ‘working’ interior resolved as soon as…

getting ready for some new road trip adventures

getting ready for some new road trip adventures

Unfortunately, the replica Devon interior option didn’t work out, so the recently installed full width rock ’n’ roll bed will now become part of our longer term plans! So whilst away working in London, I’ve been busy doodling ideas of how we could use the space and what we would actually need to make it work for us. Ideas on paper are good, but always good to actually sit in the space and play around with various elements like the vintage cool box, cooker, subwoofer to see how they fit in reality. It’s like being a kid playing with Lego blocks again – happy days!

sketching out some interior ideas

sketching out some interior ideas

We want to keep things fairly minimal, as the more storage you create, the more you tend to take! The basics in terms of bed, fridge and cooker we already have as various separate items, it’s a case of will they all work/fit in the space? The one thing we don’t have currently in the camper is a table. This is something that Lorna is especially keen on me making again in some form! I’ve always liked the rear over head storage units found in SO42 Westfalia campers or like the one in my old Canterbury Pitt interior. This sort of thing may also be on the cards, so looks like I might be a bit busy making a few bits!

working vintage Coleman 425B stove

working vintage Coleman 425B stove

I need to plan things out so any 240v/12v electrics can be put in place before we get around to putting any units, door cards and floor finishes in place. Then of course I want to get the stereo, component speakers and subwoofer fitted. What was an empty space, soon quickly fills up – always good to have a challenge!

getting ready to rock ‘n’ roll

Apologies, it’s been a while! OK, so having picked up my full width rock ‘n’ roll bed, it was now time to get it fitted into the back of the bus. Having even a basic usable seat (let alone a bed!) in the back will make such a difference. For once there will be an actual visible sign of progress being made on the evolution of our vintage VW camper! 🙂

great quality 2.400 x 1.200 x 17mm sheet of premium hardwood plywood

The plywood side supports that came with the seat were a bit short and the kick panel for the rear seat had some fairly rough cut speaker holes in it. OK for initial rough guides or templates, but not something I wanted to keep. I decided to replace all of these with some new 18mm hardwood plywood, but because of the size needed, this meant getting a full 2400 mm x 1200mm sheet from a local timber merchant.

the R’n’R Bed mechanism gets bolted securely in place

the R’n’R Bed mechanism gets bolted securely in place

The guys at Resto Classics ensured the hinge mechanism aspect of the bench seat/bed mechanism was securely fitted and bolted in place with nylock nuts, then it was over to me to get busy with the woodwork. Time to break out the pencil, tape measure and some pizza box cardboard! The later being the perfect size to create some templates to make some new, better fitting plywood side support pieces, plus a new front kick panel.

more fun with pencil, scissors and cardboard templates for the R’n’R Bed side supports

The kick panel was pretty straightforward, but the side supports that butted up and around the rear wheel arches took a few attempts to get right. I wanted it to have them be a nice snug fit around the wheel arch, so a couple of trial attempts with cardboard allowed me to refine the final shape before committing to cutting the ply with my trusted jigsaw.

Once happy with the fit, it was a case of drilling some locating holes in the side pieces of ply to marry up with the predrilled holes in the metal rock ‘n’ roll hinge, and then bolting everything together. With the side pieces secured, I then fitted some hidden removable corner joint blocks to screw fit the kick panel in place. Now for the moment of truth…

trial fitting the R’n’R Bed… looks good enough to sleep on!

Woohoooo, success, we have what appears to be a working rear seat that magically turns into a full width bed – happy days! 🙂 Not sure if this will be a temporary solution, or the beginning of a longer term interior build, but it’s at least a start and a step in the right direction!

the mobile room with a view…

Now to test the bed out… a room with a seaview, perfect! 🙂

Sometimes things come along at just the right time

When I first saw my bus, I fell in love with its simple originality and the fact it had not been messed about with… that plus its patina perfection! 🙂 However it was a bit of a harder sell to my wife who questioned my crazy logic of buying a camper without a camper interior in it! However, with this blank canvas of an interior (space!) I had a cunning plan to try to find an original interior (hens teeth, really hard to find!) or some kind of reproduction interior to put in the back.

original Westfalia Mosaik interior

original Westfalia Mosaik interior

I narrowly missed out on getting a super rare original SO33 Westfalia Mosaik interior 🙁 and had even thought about adapting an Early Bay Westfalia interior to fit? Then an opportunity came up to get a cool reproduction copy of a UK Devon interior. Unfortunately a week before we were due to collect it, the factory suffered a fire and it looks like that put paid to this as being the dream interior for our bus! 🙁

original Westfalia Mosaik interior

original Westfalia Mosaik interior

At this point we weren’t sure what we wanted to do. However cool the bus was, I had promised to make it into a usable camper for us, and a bus without an interior wasn’t going to cut it! Then on one of my online searches for an alternative interior, I came across someone selling an upholstered full width rock an roll Westfalia style bed and rear cushion for a bargain price!

Rock ’n’ roll rear seat/bed with engine bay cushion

Rock ’n’ roll rear seat/bed with engine bay cushion

I got in contact straight away and a deal was struck and off I drove to go and collect it. Really nice guy selling it. He was removing it from his ’64 panel van as he was about to put a brand new interior in his bus and just wanted it to go to a good home. Great drive out to his village to collect it, you know your place has arrived when there’s an Aston Martin, Bentley and a Lamborghini dealership in it!

Rock ’n’ roll rear seat/bed with engine bay cushion

Rock ’n’ roll rear seat/bed with engine bay cushion

At this stage it might just be a temporary solution to make the bus usable for us, or it could be the basis for building our own longer term interior? Not sure at this stage, but at least we would have some where to sleep in the bus now! 🙂

looking forward to summer on the road

It’s always a great feeling when you hit the home straight of a job, and getting the last couple of sets of new rubbers fitted to the rear pop-out windows will be a big job ticked off my things to do list! Summers coming and I want to be on the road! 🙂 My only reticence was that from previous experiences of fitting new rubbers to pop-out windows, is that they can be a real pain to do! I was also wondering what the condition of the inner recess of the steel frames would be like. More often than not, water can get trapped and they become quite rusty on the insides.

insides of the pop out frames in amazing rust free condition!

insides of the pop out frames in amazing rust free condition!

I needn’t have worried, as once the old rubbers were removed, I was amazed to see just how clean and dry the insides were – still with lots of original factory paint! I so love this bus, it really is in fantastic original condition! 🙂

Since I last struggled with fitting pop-out rubbers on a bus a few years ago, I had discovered the secret for easy fitting, having a can of silicon spray lubricant handy!

Amazing stuff, it not only provides high-performance lubrication when you’re trying to squeeze the rubber into place, but it also helps in terms of corrosion protection as well. Plus it’s safe for use on metal, rubber, wood, and vinyl and also protects electrical parts. Big thumbs up from me as it made fitting the new rubbers so much easier!

pop out windows back in with sorted metal issues and new waterproof outer rubbers seals in place

pop out windows back in with sorted metal issues and new waterproof outer rubbers seals in place

With the new rubbers fitted to both the body window frames and the pop-out frames, it was great to finally get the pop-outs fixed back in place – happy days!

making the most of a dry opportunity

Whilst the bus was getting the broken clutch cable replaced, the guys at Resto Classics very kindly let me use some covered space to tackle a couple more outstanding jobs I had to do. With their previous help, I had managed to replace the front windscreen rubbers, rear tailgate window rubber, both sets of rubbers for the cab doors and all the side fixed glass rubbers. However, there were still two final window rubbers that needed replacing, the two rear pop-out window rubbers!

rear pop out windows were missing the body seal rubbers

rear pop out windows were missing the body seal rubbers

The inside frame body seal rubbers were actually missing off the two rear pop-out windows (might help explain an earlier leak!), and although the frame to body rubbers were in reasonable condition, it made sense to get this changed at the same time. That way I will then know everything had been done at the same time!v

the early stages of some minor rust areas in the pop out window recesses

the early stages of some minor rust areas in the pop out window recesses

Once the pop-out hinges and catches had been unscrewed, it was then easy to remove the two pop-out windows to see exactly what condition everything was in. With the frame removed, I was happy to see that the window frame recess itself was generally in great condition. However there were some small areas of surface rust that would need some attention first before new rubbers get fitted! At least I was in the right place to get it all sorted.

minor rust areas cleaned up and bare metalled

minor rust areas cleaned up and bare metalled

First stage was to borrow a grinder to remove all traces of the surface rust and to take the effected areas back to good clean bare metal.

metal area treated with Granville Heavy Duty Rust Converter

The freshly exposed metal area treated with Granville Heavy Duty Rust Converter

Once bare metalled, the prepared area could then be treated with Granville heavy-duty rust converter. It’s odd stuff in as much as you brush it on thinly as a light blue liquid, but within a few minutes it starts its chemical process and begins to dry and change colour to a dark midnight blue/black colour.

protective top coat of paint to complete the process

protective top coat of paint to complete the process

Once it’s fully dry, the area can be over painted with a tough metal top coat for additional weather proofing and protection. With the metal of the inside frame of the rear pop-out window protected, it was time to repeat the process on the opposite side of the bus.

It’s so much easier to work on the bus in a covered space away from the weather – oh for a garage/workshop space of my own! #OneDay 🙂

some clouds have a stainless steel silver lining

Having got the first layer of 5mm plywood to fit the cargo floor area, the second layer should be a little easier to do now that I have a working template to base things off. This second layer however goes in a 90º to the first base layer to help make a more stable final floor finish as well as covering any joints and provide a neater final finish – well that’s the plan at least!

trial fitting of the top layer of Oak faced 5mm WBP ply layer at 90º to the base layer

trial fitting of the top layer of Oak faced 5mm WBP ply layer at 90º to the base layer

With Lornas brilliant assistance, and her two trusty knitting machine tables for support, we managed to get the second set of Oak finished plywood sheets cut to size before transferring the template details over to them. Not wanting to take any chances, I still double checked all measurements just to be sure before making any final cuts – better safe than sorry! Once the cut outs had been made, the sheets could then roughly be positioned in the bus. Although the colour match between the two boards was terrible, the fit was pretty good for a first attempt!

We didn’t get too much time to stand around and admire our work as the weather once again beat us and it began to rain! So we quickly scrambled to get the tools packed away and decided to call it a day and head back home. Unfortunately as I headed out of the car park, my left foot went to the floor and I couldn’t change gear. Doh, snapped clutch cable!

Fortunately the bus was not that far from the Resto Classics garage, so I called the AA (no I don’t have a drink problem, it’s the UK Automobile Association!) recovery service and arranged to get my bus recovered there. Not quite the perfect end to the day, but at least it was nothing too major!

>>Fast forward a couple of days… the new clutch cable (plus a spare that I ordered at the same time… #BePrepared 😉 arrived at Resto Classics and they got me booked in to get it replaced. Whilst the bus was there, I used the opportunity to bring forward a couple of other jobs I had been meaning to do at some point!

To help add the finishing touch to the floor, plus to hide the edge of the plywood sheets, I had previously bought an Auto Craft Engineerings stainless steel Cargo floor edging strip (Part Nº: 211-801-413). However I didn’t realise the stainless steel edging strip for the cargo floor comes in a slightly oversized length that needs both cutting down to size and profile to fit around the cargo door shuts on the split screen bus.

From previous experience of cutting stainless steel with a hacksaw is a painfully slow process 🙁  and normally involves going through a couple of blades! Fortunately for me, whilst the bus was at Resto Classics, the guys let me borrow their angle grinder with a thin cutting disc on it…

Auto Craft Engineerings stainless steel Cargo floor edging strip (Part Nº: 211-801-413)

Auto Craft Engineerings stainless steel Cargo floor edging strip (Part Nº: 211-801-413)

Having access to the grinder with the cutting disc was brilliant! So once again, with some more careful measuring, double checking, and then double checking the double checking, I managed to get the strip cut to size and with the right end profiling on the stainless steel edging ends to fit around both of the cargo door posts. Happy days! Some clouds really do have a stainless steel silver lining after all then! If it hadn’t been for the broken clutch cable, this job would have been a real pain without the help of the guys at Resto Classics!

notched ends to make the stainless steel cargo floor edging strip fit snuggly in place

notched ends to make the stainless steel cargo floor edging strip fit snuggly in place

Really nice little bit of shiny ‘bling’ to neatly finish off the plywood floor edging! Now we’ve just got to decide what we go for as a floor finish… Danish Wood oil plus wax finish, or get it covered with the more practical option of some lino? #FirstWorldProblems

crisp, clear and cold – a beautiful day for a run out to Rye Harbour

crisp, clear and cold – a beautiful day for a run out to Rye Harbour

Meanwhile it’s great to be back on the road again!

time to get a bit practical and get a floor put in for a new interior

Although it was love at first sight when I first saw my bus, my wife Lorna was a little more sceptical about buying a bus that had no actual usable interior in the back! Where I was seduced by its amazing patina ‘character’ and originality, she was thinking more practicality about actually being able to use the bus for trips, camping, sleeping and cooking in. Clearly I had spoiled her with our last camper with its fully functional Canterbury Pitt interior! 😉

great opportunity to test out our awning

great opportunity to test out our awning

However, I had promised here that we would be able to get, or at least make, a usable interior in the back. So in preparation for getting an interior sorted, first thing first it was time to get a base floor put in the rear cargo area.

One of my friends had a couple of 8’x4′ (2400mm x 1200mm) 5mm thick sheets of nice Oak faced plywood going spare, great for a top layer finish. I just then needed another couple of sheets of 5mm base hardwood ply to make a two layer ‘floated’ floor with an overall thickness of 10mm. I know it seems a bit excessive, but the cargo floor area is just a bit bigger than you can cover with a single 8’x4′ sheet without lots of cuts and a few unsightly gaps!

cardboard makes a useful template for working out the cuts required around the heater pipe

cardboard makes a useful template for working out the cuts required around the heater pipe

To get the ply to fit around the complications of the rear wheel arches and heater tube, I made up a cardboard template. This allowed me to easily trim and adjust the template to get the best fit before transferring the dimensions to the actual plywood! Much easier to cut cardboard with a knife and scissors without worrying too much about making a mistake!

measure twice, check twice and cut once – measurements and cardboard template guide become real

measure twice, check twice and cut once – measurements and cardboard template guide become real

Once the template dimensions had been transferred over to the plywood sheet, and checked a couple of times, time to get busy with the saw! Always best to measure twice and cut once! Working outside in Lornas studios car park is not idea, but at least it gave us room to work, and who would have thought that knitting machine tables would make decent work trestles to support the ply!

the base layer of 5mm WBP plywood is trial fitted for checking and any tweaking required

the base layer of 5mm WBP plywood is trial fitted for checking and any tweaking required

The plywood sheets were first cut down to their overall length before the cut out sections were removed. It was then a case of trial fitting the cut sheets into the bus cargo area to check the fit. Fortunately the fit was pretty good first off, so my time invested in getting the cardboard template right and double checking all the measurements was time well spent!

cool night time illumination of the Art Deco Architectural marvel that is Marine Court in St Leonards-on-Sea

cool night-time illumination of the Art Deco Architectural marvel that is Marine Court in St Leonards-on-Sea

Unfortunately as it’s winter time, the lack of daylight hours got the better of us for the day, but it felt good that we had made a start and got the first 5mm base layer of the plywood floor down and fitted in place! 🙂 Once we had got all the kit packed away, we managed to grab a shot of the illuminated Art Deco Architectural masterpiece that is Marine Court on the way home – so all in all a pretty good day!

get ready, this is not a test, this is real

After all the hard work of getting the new rubbers fitted, there is only one real way of finding out if all the effort was worth it or not? Fortunately this is England… and it’s winter, so it didn’t really take that long before the new rubbers were put to a real world test…

new cab door rubbers fitted and no more leaks inside

new cab door rubbers fitted and no more leaks inside

Happy to say it was worth the effort, the new rubbers from Custom and Commercial were both a great fit and did a great job in terms of helping to weather proof the bus! Always nice to get to the bus in the morning and not find any small pools of water inside!

new tailgate rubbers fitted and no more leaks

new tailgate rubbers fitted and no more leaks

I was amazed at the size of the new rubbers in comparison to the old shrunk and perished rubbers that were removed. It’s not just that the old rubbers were cracked etc. but physically I guess, they had lost the ‘oil’ content in the old dry rubber itself, thus becoming smaller in actual size, and hence a much smaller physical barrier to keep out the rain.

new front window rubbers fitted and working well

new front window rubbers fitted and working well

The new rubbers passed their first test with flying colours 🙂 Another forgotten about benefit that I hadn’t really thought about was even more reduced noise content. I noticed that the air gaps and seals on doors was also much better and it was quieter still when driving. Fewer audible little rattles, no more whistling sounds coming in from the windows in the cab doors – am I still driving a vintage Volkswagen split screen anymore, or is this really just ‘living the dream’?

new window rubbers fitted and doing the job nicely

new window rubbers fitted and doing the job nicely

Great to take the bus out for a bit of a spin as the daylight begins to fade and the rain eases up, always some pretty funky and beautiful cloudscapes living by the sea! Nice to know the bus is pretty much water tight now and such a difference driving along now that the overhead vent also properly seals – no more rain in my lap! Happy days ahead! 🙂

some pretty funky clouds by the sea today

some pretty funky clouds by the sea today

No let up though, still lots to do, onto sorting out some kind of floor for the back of the bus next…

fixing unseen problems, prevention is always better than cure

So the good news was that most of the side window and tailgate window frames were OK underneath the old perished rubber seals. With just the one that needed looking at, but Phil at Resto Classics soon had that sorted and the glass with new rubber back in place again! Meanwhile I cleaned out the other window frames, the glass edges and got the new rubbers on the remaining removed glass. Like watching any professional in action, Phil made the process of getting the glass with new rubbers back in place again look easy, but that I guess is experience at its best! With the fixed side windows now sorted it was time to look at the front windscreens…

prevention is better than cure, time to bare metal the lower edges of the front window openings

prevention is better than cure, time to bare metal the lower edges of the front window openings

Phil had rightly suspected that there was the start of some rust issues going on under the front screen rubbers on the lower front window frames, and unfortunately he was right! However fortunately it was just the early stages, so nothing too major, but prevention is better than cure, so Phil set about making things good as new again.

bare metalled lower edges of the front window openings getting some Granville Heavy Duty Rust Converter applied

bare metalled lower edges of the front window openings getting some Granville Heavy Duty Rust Converter applied

There were signs that the lower edges had been previously treated for rust prevention, so obviously this must have helped prolong their great condition. To continue this, both the lower sections of the front window frame surrounds were initially carefully cleaned up by being taken back to bare metal…

time to apply some Granville Rust Cure - Heavy Duty Rust Converter

time to apply some Granville Rust Cure – Heavy Duty Rust Converter

…before getting treated with some Granville Rust Cure – Heavy Duty Rust Converter – this should then provide great long-term protection moving forward! It kills old rust and stops new rust forming, nothing like having a bit of future peace of mind!

some rust preventative paint applied prior to fitting new rubbers

some rust preventative paint applied prior to fitting new rubbers

Once the heavy-duty rust converter had dried, it was a case of applying some protective top coat over the rust converter before fitting up the glass with their new rubbers and getting the screens back in place – happy days!

Big thanks to Phil and the guys at Resto Classics, they did a great job and even helped me learn a few new things in the process! For once I can now look forward to taking the bus out in the rain!