the responsibility of looking after an already well looked after vintage VW bus

When I bought this vintage VW bus, it’s originality and the amazing overall unwelded condition were the things that caught both my heart and head. For something over 51 years old, this was a pretty special bus! In part this was due to it having spent the vast majority of its life in the sunny Diamond Springs region of California, USA. However that is not the only reason. A lot of credit must also go to it’s previous owner Gary at Two Larry’s Racing, he clearly used and loved this bus over his 20 plus years of ownership.

As well as finding the nice surprise of the built Rancho Performance gearbox that Gary had previously fitted was still with the bus, it was nice to also have some of the buses earlier history as well. Gary had been kind enough to send me some images of different bits of work he had carried out on it back in the day. The work we had done I’m sure has helped preserve the buses condition to what it is today.

the original cargo floor, a bit grubby, but in pretty good condition overall

the original cargo floor, a bit grubby, but in pretty good condition overall

For example with the rear cargo floor. Although from the pics it looked in pretty decent condition, as a preventative measure and to help preserve it for the future, he had it specially treated with POR high performance rust-preventive coating.

the cargo floor is cleaned and treated with POR Metal Prep

the cargo floor is cleaned and treated with POR Metal Prep

First up the floor was cleaned and prepared with POR Metal Prep to provide a good etched surface, leaving a zinc phosphate coating to ensure chemical bonding of paint and steel, prior to a POR rust preventative top coat being applied.

cargo floor treated with a protective top coat of POR 15 high performance rust-preventive coating

cargo floor treated with a protective top coat of POR 15 high performance rust-preventive coating

Gary did this to both the rear cargo floor and the cab front floor as well to ensure long-term protection. Well the good news is that it’s worked really well! The evidence was plain to see as I removed the cargo floor rubber mat to sweep the rear of the van out, the cargo floor was still looking in great solid condition! I need to make sure I try to follow the example to keep the bus in great condition for years to come as well!

clean cargo floor still looking good with it’s protective top coat of POR 15

clean cargo floor still looking good with it’s protective top coat of POR 15

So with the rear of the bus cleared out a little, it’s time to start looking at sorting out some acoustic and thermal insulation for the camper!

getting it all back together to get my vintage VW bus back on the road again

It’s great to have phase one of the 1641cc air cooled engine refurbish complete and have it back in the bus again! The heads and head studs have now all been sorted by the guys at Resto Classics. To complete the work, the stock 34 pict 3 carb and manifold were both refreshed and set-up for the engine before getting them fitted back in the bus.

new fuel filler neck seal fitted

new fuel filler neck seal fitted

Before the engine went back in, new rear valence and engine firewall rubbers were fitted to seal the engine bay. A new fuel filler neck seal and replacement fresh air hoses were also fitted along with a new air filter.

back on the road after stage one of the 1641cc refresh

back on the road after stage one of the 1641cc refresh

Yes I know it’s a cheap an’ cheerful pancake style filter! This is a temporary measure whilst I look for an original oil bath style filter to replace it with… along with the engine going back in, great to get Thorstens (VW-Museum) refurbished speedo back in the dash – odometer reset to 00000, so looking forward to putting some miles on the bus!

refurbished speedo back in the dash

refurbished speedo back in the dash

Good to get most of the mechanical work and electrical updates sorted, a few more bits still to do, plus a few updates, so plenty to keep me busy!

it’s not everyday you find one of these in the back of your VW bus – a Rancho Performance gearbox!

With summer here, I should be out an about enjoying driving my VW bus, but with the recent past still painfully fresh in my memory, it’s been important to me to make sure all the basics of the bus have been gone over, checked and are all OK – I really don’t think I could be going through all of that heartache again!

So with the engine out of the bus, the guys at Resto Classics are fixing the heads and getting the carbs swapped over. Off with the weber progressive 32/36 carb and empi manifold, to be replaced with a manifold to suit the stock VW 34 pict 3 carb once it all gets cleaned up and rebuilt.

the 1641cc engine out and getting an update and refresh

the 1641cc engine out and getting an update and refresh

Although it’s summer here at the moment in the UK, it won’t be staying like that forever! At some point I’ll need to be looking at getting the original heating system working. Unlike in sunny California, the basic VW heating system is pretty useful during the winter months here in the UK as my wife will testify to!! This will mean changing the 4 into 1 merged header and bug pack exhaust, and getting the heater exchangers connected up and working. Another job to get added to my winter to do list…

However, on the plus side of having the engine out, I found out the bus still retains the ‘freeway flyer’ style of Rancho Performance gearbox that Gary at Two Larry’s Racing had fitted back in California. It’s still running its stock reduction boxes and if Gary remembers correctly, the gearbox has a 3.88 ring and pinion, hardened keys, and the same gear ratio as a stock 1967 Beetle. 3rd and 4th gears were welded, and he believes it has a super differential in there with four spider gears? All sounds very technical to me, but  it does seem to drive well! It will be interesting to see how it performs when the engine heads are sorted and the stock 34 pict 3 carb are fitted…

happy days – still has the recently built Rancho Performance gearbox

happy days – still has the recently built Rancho Performance gearbox

Whilst the engine was out, it was the perfect opportunity to get the engine bay rubbers changed as they were showing their age a bit and not really doing their job of helping to keep the engine bay cool.

new fuel filler neck seal (211201255)

new fuel filler neck seal (211201255)

So I got some new West Coast Metric seals and changed the fuel tank neck seal rubber…

new rear valence (111813705A) and engine firewall (111813741G) rubbers to seal the engine bay

new rear valence (111813705A) and engine firewall (111813741G) rubbers to seal the engine bay

…plus the all important rear valence seal and with the engine firewall seal which can only really be accessed with the engine out.

Looking forward to getting the work sorted and the bus back on the road again, I miss actually driving it!

air cooled engine updates – seeing opportunity and turning it to your advantage

Finding out the heads were loose on the engine and that it needed some attention, was not the best news, but sometimes, unexpected ‘bad news’ can be seen as an opportunity and turned to your advantage. There were some things I was already thinking about doing in the back of my mind with the engine a little further down the line, but maybe this was an ideal chance to get some of these changes sorted now a bit ahead of time?

original 1641cc engine ready for a refresh

original 1641cc engine ready for a refresh

I’ve now found out that the bus came with a 1641cc engine and was fitted with a slightly more sporty performance orientated Weber 32/36 progressive carb. Apparently these feature a double barrel system. A primary barrel for use solely at low to half throttle operation, then a second barrel that opens up when you increase your throttle, allowing for increased air and fuel delivery at wide open throttle. This provides better low throttle economy with the option for increase performance on demand.

factory fitted 34 pict 3 carb (113 129 021 P) ready for rebuild

factory fitted 34 pict 3 carb (113 129 021 P) ready for rebuild

It’s a bit like having a single and a twin carb option combined. However, I was not overly fussed about the extra features of the Weber progressive carb, and had intended to put it back to an original simplicity of fitting a stock VW 34 pict 3 carb.

Fortunately I managed to source a decent condition used carb that could be refurbished ready for use again, so this seems like a good opportunity to swap the carbs over whilst the engine was out and the heads were getting fixed.

putting all the right bits back in all the right places – Vintage Volkswagens, you got to love them!

With the refurbished speedo back from Thorsten at VW-Museum, it’s time to start getting things back together again! At the moment, it’s a bit disconcerting driving around with a big hole in the dash of my VW bus, so it will be good to get that aspect resolved!

need to get the refurbished speedo back in place…

need to get the refurbished speedo back in place…

Instead of the accelerator cable being connected to the old pedal linkage via a plastic cable tie as it was before, it’s now been upgraded to the silky smooth Buttys Bits Throttle Kit – it gives a much nicer throttle response than the original!

Buttys Bits Throttle Kit all fitted up

Buttys Bits Throttle Kit all fitted up

Instead of the frayed accelerator cable exiting the sharp metal tube in the engine tin wear, a new EMPI multi-strand, super flex steel accelerator cable has been fitted along with the beautifully engineered throttle‬ tube cable roller from 73 Aircooled – again this makes for a much smoother throttle response, and no sharp edges to damage the cable this time!

73 Aircooled‬ ‪– ‎throttle‬ tube cable roller fitted

73 Aircooled‬ ‪– ‎throttle‬ tube cable roller fitted

Whilst the guys at Resto Classics were checking over various mechanical bits on the bus for me and carrying out a few jobs on it, they noticed that the 1600cc air cooled engine was not running quite right and the heads seemed a bit loose? Nothing too drastic apparently, but something that will need looking at sooner rather than later… so the work continues!

Vintage Volkswagens, you got to love them!

ah, so that would explain why it was not working

So although the speedo on my vintage VW bus was working OK, the odometer wasn’t. Not sure how long it had been like this, but as part of my mini refurbishment of the bus, it was on my list of things to get sorted. So I sent the speedo off to Thorsten at VW-Museum in Germany to have a look at. Unfortunately it was as he’s suspected, a (badly) worn brass gear was at the root of the non-functioning odometer!

the root of the non-functioning odometer!

the root of the non-functioning odometer!

So with the problem identified, Thorsten went about replacing the worn part and then made sure the rest of the speedos mechanicals were also over hauled, cleaned and lubricated at the same time.

new generator, high beam and oil warning light gels plus reset odometer

new generator, high beam and oil warning light gels plus reset odometer

As part of the service, Thorsten also fitted new generator, high beam and oil warning light gels, plus  the odometer was reset to zero. That will ale things easier to see how many miles I put on the bus. I also took the opportunity of getting new 12v bulbs fitted to the speedo. It will be fantastic to see the original coloured gels reinstated back to their former glory with some 12v illumination behind them!

new glass, indicator light gels and an amazing chrome trim ring transformation

new glass, indicator light gels and an amazing chrome trim ring transformation

Not to be missed out, the green indicator gels were also replaced, again it will be nice to see the illuminated green once again, it will be like having a new speedo unit once again.

before and after comparison of speedo refurbishment

before and after comparison of speedo refurbishment

The chrome bezel was also cleaned up and the glass replaced to complete a stunning refurbishment – many thanks Thorsten!

refurbished ‘patina’ style speedo

refurbished ‘patina’ style speedo

I decided not to go for the ‘show car’ option of refurbishment, so the rear of the speedo was left as is, but nice to see the new bulb holders in place ready for the new 12v bulbs to be fitted before it goes back in place.

new 12v bulbs and holders for the speedo

new 12v bulbs and holders for the speedo

Now to get it fitted into the bus and all connected back up again…

small changes, big differences – another step forward on sorting out the VW camper electrics

As part of the electrical sort out, the guys at Resto Classics began tidying up the electrics at the front of the bus above and below the front parcel shelf. There was an existing CD head unit along with some door speakers that came with the bus, but I will be replacing/upgrading these at some point, so all of this comes out for the time being. However, I won’t be without a sound system for too long! There is a cunning plan in my head for how I want my bus to be, including the music system, but some times you have to strip back before you can rebuild…

new 12v indicator relay fitted

new 12v indicator relay fitted

To get the indicators working properly (in terms of the correct flash rate), they fitted a new 12v indicator relay to replace the original 6v one – no more super fast indicator blinking. They also got the electrics sorted for the emergency hazard warning lights, utilising the existing original VW emergency 88 switch which they retro fitted with a flashing operation light, all very neat!

So that’s one more little job sorted. Looking forward to getting my refurbished speedo back from Thorsten at VW-Museum so that I can get the speedo back into the slightly disconcerting hole currently staring at me from the dash!

 

smiles per mile – another little job that needs sorting out

Another little job made a little easier by the removal of the under dash shelf, was to be able to get the speedo removed so the odometer could be fixed. This issue apparently only became apparent at the last MOT when it was noticed that the mileage was exactly the same as the previous MOT!

the classic vintage VW speedo design

the classic vintage VW speedo design

I love the iconic graphic design of the speedo face, so much so it inspired me to create the smiles per hour’ t-shirt design… however I would love things a bit more if the odometer was back working again!

smiles per hour vintage camper speedo design, available in a range of colours…

smiles per hour vintage camper speedo design, available in a range of colours…

Fortunately I had heard of someone in Germany who refurbished and repaired vintage VW split screen bus speedos. Having seen some pictures on facebook of Thorsten’s work at VW-Museum, the work quality looked really impressive! He offers two levels of refurbishment. One for Show Cars and the other for the ‘Patina’ look, which sounds just about right for me and my bus!

speedo out and ready to be sent off for refurbishment

speedo out and ready to be sent off for refurbishment

Writing to Thorsten, it sounded like one of the internal helical gears had worn on my speedo, but he should be able to resolve this as well as giving it an overall refurbish. Both levels of refurbishment seem really impressive. The ‘Patina’ look refurbishment provides;

  • New Bulb holders
  • New Glass Lens
  • New Indicator/Generator/Oil Gels
  • Reset the Odometer to zero or a different mileage if you prefer?
  • Check, overhaul, clean and lubricate the mechanics
  • Calibrate the Speedometer to standard tires
  • Cleaning the original chrome trim ring
  • Re-use the original dial faceplate
  • I’ll be getting some new 12v bulbs as well
time to update to 12v bulbs as part of the refurbishment

time to update to 12v bulbs as part of the refurbishment

Really looking forward to seeing the results from Thorsten and getting the refurbished speedo back into the bus again…

always happy to find a nice little unexpected bonus

When driving the bus over to Resto Classics for the work, it just so happened to be raining. It reminded me that another prime candidate for 12v conversion was the windscreen wiper motor! Running at 6v you get one speed… super fast! The best way to address this to swap the 6v wiper motor armature over for a 12v one, so with a quick call to Alan Schofields I got one ordered to add to the list of bits to be sorted!

replacement 12v armature for the wiper motor

replacement 12v armature for the wiper motor

Unfortunately, although swapping the wiper the 6v and 12v motor armatures over is a fairly straight forward job, getting to the motor can be quite a pain! Realistically the easiest way of getting proper access, you need to remove the under dash shelf. The bonus for the extra work involved of removing the under dash shelf, is that it makes getting access to all the electrical connections under the dash much easier, so whilst its out, all the other various connections and components can be easily checked too.

happy days – no conversion required, a genuine VW 12v fuel gauge!

happy days – no conversion required, a genuine VW 12v fuel gauge!

I had anticipated having to add a 6v to 12v voltage regulator to the fuel gauge (assuming it would also be a 6v gauge) but to my very pleasant surprise, it must have already been swapped out at some point in its history to a later original VW 12v (12/66) fuel gauge – happy days! One less thing to worry about! I’ll get the threads cleaned up and greased and then clean up the electrical connections before it goes back into place.

electrics, brakes and the engine; getting the basics all checked and sorted

Whilst in their capable hands, another of the things I’ve asked the guys at Resto Classics to do, is check over the buses electrics front to back. The buses actual ‘structure’ is in great, rust free condition, so for my peace of mind/confidence, I wanted the other main components checking; electrics, brakes and the engine. If these are all checked/sorted, you’re onto a winner!

the original electrics will need checking over to make sure all is good

the original electrics will need checking over to make sure all is good

Fortunately the buses electrics look in pretty good original shape, and not too messed about with. However, one of the first things that will need replacing is the 6v/2x18w indicator relay. Although the indicators still currently work, because it’s on a 12v system, the flash rate is too fast!

the 6v indicator relay will need replacing…

the 6v indicator relay will need replacing…

Another benefit of getting this changed to a 12v relay will be the opportunity of sorting the hazard warning lights out at the same time. Although the bus is fitted with the classic red VW emergency 88 hazard switch, unfortunately they’re not currently working. Hopefully this will be an opportunity to get this sorted, along with any other 6v legacy items that need swapping out!