great to be back behind the wheel of a vintage VW split screen bus again

Before collecting my new bus to drive home, I had agreed with the seller to get a few alterations carried out whilst he was getting a new MOT sorted for it. The previous owner in sunny California had slightly lowered the front and rear of the bus, but as everyone knows, stock rocks, so one of the first things I wanted to do was to give the bus some increased altitude and get the running gear put back to stock!

stock rocks, available in a range of colours…

stock rocks, available in a range of colours…

At the front, there was an adjustable front beam. I sourced a good solid stock beam (bare) to replace this with so that the usable components could be transferred over to it. In essence the beam and front suspension got a complete over haul! The beam leaves were fitted and packed with new grease. A new front anti roll bar kit was fitted, the swivel pin was a bit worn so this was removed, the housing freshly reamed before fitting a new swivel pin kit. The front brakes were also renewed with fresh brake fluid and bled.

The rear was in part lowered using notched spring plates. I had these removed and had original VW stock spring plates fitted and put back to standard stock height again, before getting the tracking reset.

With the recent bus fire in France still very much fresh in my memory, regardless of condition, I also had the existing fuel lines replaced with 100% Bio-fuel ‘Fit and Forget’ ethanol proof fuel hose bought from http://www.vwaircooledworks.co.uk. After chatting with Peter (the owner) I’m also seriously considering getting one of their Clean Gas Automatic Engine Bay Fire Suppression Systems along with one of their Fuel tank Cut-off solenoids for further peace of mind.

good to be back home again in my VW bus by the sea

good to be back home again in my VW bus by the sea

With the alterations all carried out, it was great to finally collect the bus and drive it back home at last! Forgot how nice it was to be back behind the wheel of a split screen again with a big grin on my face!

So now it’s home by the sea, time for the adventures and work to begin all over again…

back to basics as a new unwelded, original paint VW adventure begins…

Exciting times ahead as I ventured out on a grey, blustery and rainy day and headed off to the train station to get myself a one way ticket out to a small village in Kent. Not the most inspiring or auspicious start to a day, but this was the day I was finally going to collect and drive back my ‘new’ vintage VW camper!

Having spent a lot of time and effort getting my previous 1965 Canterbury Pitt camper set up the way I wanted it, now it is time to go back to basics all over again with this unwelded and mostly original paint ‘patina’ bus. You can paint a vintage VW bus hundreds of times, but you can only get originality once!

say hello to my ‘new’ 1964 VW original paint bus!

say hello to my ‘new’ 1964 VW original paint bus!

By unlocking the VW buses m-code plate I found out it was an early 1964 eight seater microbus, produced on October 11th 1963 (which makes it a 1964 model year as from 1957, the Volkswagen model years changed in August).

Colour upper part : L472 – Beige Grey
Color lower part : L53 – Sealing Wax Red

Interestingly the bus was originally picked up by first owner at the factory in Germany, and was meant for the US-market. Back in the day, Volkswagen had a Tourist Delivery Program where customers could buy a vehicle and pick it up direct from the factory. This often meant that US Army service personnel or tourists could make a small payment (in the 1960’s it was $10) that entitled them to have the VW they had bought shipped back to the United States at Volkswagens convenience on one of their factory transport ships!

great rust free, solid and unwelded structure underneath

great rust free, solid and unwelded structure underneath

Underneath the bus is exceptionally dry, rust free and in amazingly solid condition for something that has never in its life been welded! In the US it was previously owned by a VW mechanic for 23 years, so it’s been in good hands for a long period of time, and it shows, it really has been well looked after during it’s lifetime!

rust free, original paint L53 – Sealing Wax Red wheel arches

rust free, original paint L53 – Sealing Wax Red wheel arches

Dry and rust free, original paint L53 Sealing Wax Red front wheel arches…

original paint L53 – Sealing Wax Red wheel arches still with factory seam sealer!

original paint L53 – Sealing Wax Red wheel arches still with factory seam sealer!

…that will with a little effort clean up nicely to show off the aged beauty of the original paint and the regional factory finish seam sealer still in place!

rust free, original paint L53 – Sealing Wax Red engine bay

rust free, original paint L53 – Sealing Wax Red engine bay

Even the engine bay shows off its original paint with pride, a remarkable testimony to just how well this bus has survived the tests of time! Looks like there will be some new exciting adventures ahead once again!

the search is over and a new chapter of the vdubxs adventure begins…

Well, after a lot of looking around and soul-searching as to what I wanted to do next, it looks like a new chapter in the vdubxs adventure is about to begin! After trawling high and low all over the world on various forums, strangely enough, my dream bus happened to turn up pretty locally to me again, not in a dissimilar way I found my previous 1965 Canterbury Pitt camper. I must be some kind of VW bus magnet!

original early 1963 ‘ice pick’ style cab door handles

original early ‘ice pick’ style cab door handles

I was never going to be able to replace like for like with my old camper, so this is consciously a pretty different type of bus from my last couple of campers. So now the deposit has been paid and currently I’m waiting for a few little tweaks to be finished off before I go over to collect it – can’t wait to drive it home and be back on the road again!

some things can never be replaced, so maybe time for a new direction…

It’s been a very long and painful 6 weeks since the fire brought an abrupt end to my 2015 european road trip, and with spring now slowly turning to summer, I really do miss being out and about in my vintage VW camper!

Happier times on my road trip in France

Happier times on my road trip in France

Fortunately there has been slow progress in regards to some of the insurance on the camper. Unfortunately I found out to my dismay, that I was underinsured in terms of the contents of the van and all the updates I had carried out to the bus. A big lesson to be learnt right there! Although it’s not all fully resolved yet, at least I now have some funds to begin the search for a replacement bus once again.

the worst photo I have ever taken

the worst photo I have ever taken

With a vintage VW camper you can never really replace like for like, regardless of how much available money you might have. Most buses are all fairly unique and very personal, so it’s a surprisingly difficult thing to do to try to find a ‘new’ camper especially on a bit of a reduced budget – nothing like a bit of a challenge!

not much left in the engine bay

not much left in the engine bay

One of the many irreplaceable items from the bus was it’s Canterbury Pitt interior, my home away from home when on the road. I had spent ages getting the interior sorted and how I wanted it to be. The recent fitting the Canterbury Pitt table which I had recently refurbished was the icing on the cake, even my wife loved this aspect of the camper!

the Canterbury Pitt table finished and back home in the camper

the Canterbury Pitt table finished and back home in the camper

Unfortunately, the fire was no respecter of all the time and effort that had gone into getting the interior resolved and finished…

the burnt out remnants of my Canterbury Pitt interior

the burnt out remnants of my Canterbury Pitt interior

The re-trimmed cab area of the camper was a great space to be in as you were driving around…

The front seats had been recovered along with all door cards and side panels

The front seats had been recovered along with all door cards and side panels

…but the fire soon spread to the front and destroyed all of that as well, once it had taken hold, there was just no stopping it despite the contents of two or three fire extinguishers! It took the attention of the French fire brigade to finally put out the flames!

not much left of the cab area!

not much left of the cab area!

However, by the time the French Fire brigade had arrived and managed to put out the flames, my 1965 VW camper was barely recognisable from it’s former condition!

the fire ravaged remains of my camper

the fire ravaged remains of my camper

However, despite all the emotional turmoil and distress of having to watch as my camper and all my belongings in my home on the road went up in flames and got destroyed, it’s now time to move forward and focus on sorting out finding a suitable replacement vintage VW Camper – let the search commence…

get me to the church on time!

I was just going through some of the saved photos that were fortunately backed up onto my iPhone before the fire destroyed my vintage VW Canterbury Pitt camper. It seemed odd that these pictures and memories were not going to make it into the digital domain, so I thought I should try to finish off a couple of old draft blog posts that I had started (but not finished) before my european road trip was abruptly cut short…


OK, so Tuesday 24th March is not a traditional holy day to my knowledge, but today I had a bad urge to get to church today. Not just any church, but one which I feel could equally be described as the 8th wonder of the world, Le Corbusier’s world-famous Notre Dame du Haut (La Ronchamp).

my old camper photo bombs La Ronchamp

my old camper photo bombs La Ronchamp

The site is high on a hill near Belfort in eastern France. There had been a pilgrimage chapel on the site dedicated to the Virgin Mary, but it was destroyed during the Second World War. After the war, it was decided to rebuild on the same site, in the hill of Bourlémont. The Chapelle Notre-Dame-du-Haut, a shrine for the Roman Catholic Church at Ronchamp, France was built for a reformist Church looking to continue its relevance.

life long ambition fulfilled seeing Le Corbusier's La Ronchamp (Notre Dame du Haut)

life long ambition fulfilled seeing Le Corbusier’s La Ronchamp (Notre Dame du Haut)

Warning against decadence, reformers within the Church at the time looked to renew its spirit by embracing modern art and architecture as representative concepts. Father Marie-Alain Couturier, who would also sponsor Le Corbusier for the La Tourette commission, steered the unorthodox project to completion in 1954.

The chapel at Ronchamp is singular in Corbusier’s oeuvre, in that it departs from his principles of standardisation and the machine aesthetic, giving in instead to a site-specific response. By Le Corbusier’s own admission, it was the site that provided an irresistible genius loci for the response, with the horizon visible on all four sides of the hill and its historical legacy for centuries as a place of worship.

Entrance to the main space of La Ronchamp is via a large pivoting main door that features a striking design painted in enamel by Le Corbusier.

enamel painting by Le Corbusier on the main entrance door

enamel painting by Le Corbusier on the main entrance door

The main interior space has a beautiful calmness and serenity about it. The space is punctuated by shafts of light through the main walls array of irregular shaped and coloured contemporary stained glass that adds dramatic coloured highlights to the largely monochromatic space.

wall of irregular shaped and coloured contemporary stained glass

wall of irregular shaped and coloured contemporary stained glass

The contemporary stained glass as well as adding warm coloured shafts of light to the main space of the church, sometimes also featured hand written text such as ‘etoile du matin’ (morning star) as part of the stained glass window detail.

etoile du matin (morning star) stained glass window detail

‘etoile du matin’ (morning star) stained glass window detail

Off the main central space of the church, were smaller chapels. Their simplicity and illumination were stunning. Above the small intimate spaces, towered large cathedral-like light towers that feed natural daylight into the space below…

the view up inside one of La Ronchamps light well towers

the view up inside one of La Ronchamps light well towers

The monumental grandeur above, was in stark contrast to the humble beauty of the intensely personal and contemplative space of the chapel below. Simply stunning!

small chapel within La Ronchamp

small chapel within La Ronchamp

If you ever get a chance, a visit to La Ronchamp is very highly recommended!

it’s about the journey… not the destination

After the recent fire curtailed my european road trip and destroyed my camper along with everything inside, it seems strange and slightly disconcerting to once again, be back at the starting point with my adventure with VW camper vans. I still feel there are many miles out there on the roads that are to be travelled, places I still really want to go to. Yes there are other modes of transport or ways of getting there, but none quite like a vintage Volkswagen split screen camper van!

it’s about the journey… not the destination T-shirt design, available in a range of colours…

it’s about the journey… not the destination T-shirt design, available in a range of colours…

Some will get this, others won’t. I can’t really explain it, as on oh so many practical levels, it really does not make any sense! I’ve gone through various highs and lows since the fire. I’ve questioned whether or not to even get another vintage camper.

I’ve had some time to reflect on the accident and loss of the camper. On some days you question yourself, have I ‘done’ the whole camper thing already, is it time to just move on from it all? Get a ‘sensible’ car, and take ‘proper’ planed out package holidays?

Would I simply be better off moving on and maybe getting a very practical, modern T4 Westfalia California TDi camper? I know my wife would think this is the ‘sensible’ thing to do, and I cannot fault her logic on that, as she is 100% right! However, maybe I’m just not at that point, or maybe I’m just not that grown up and sensible yet!

practicality and performance aren’t what capture the heart

practicality and performance aren’t what capture the heart

I guess it’s always been about the journey and not the destination for me. Not just in the physical sense of travelling in the camper, but in the actual journey of the ownership of the camper itself. There were bound to be high and low points in the journey, and this most definitely was a massive low point in the journey. However, it is just that, a small, yet painful point within the bigger context of the sense of journey, and the journey continues on…

 

more incidental and detail photos from Ninove 2015

One of the great things about Ninove is that it’s a show that seems to evolve and change as you walk around the town as different cars join in and park up in the streets. So here a few more of my incidental and detail photos I took as I wandered around the town…

stripes an spots, what’s not to like

stripes an spots, what’s not to like

It’s funny how on such a simple and distinctive body form as the VW Beetle or VW Bus, how much individuality is expressed through simple details. Some where through owner choice or addition, others where simply the character of the vintage ageing process itself, such as this distressed Volkswagen type script and the distressed paint stripes above, what’s not to love about that!

distressed Volkswagen badge script

distressed Volkswagen badge script

Of the many interesting features of this early bus, I was probably the only one whose attention was grabbed by the strange surface patterns of the exposed metal on the filler cap – I guess it takes all sorts!

strange patterns in the exposed metal of this filler cap

strange patterns in the exposed metal of this filler cap

I spotted this beautiful distressed vintage PCA (Porsche Club of America) badge, can any Porsche geeks tell what Porsche it was on just from this photo…?

distressed vintage Porsche Club of America Badge

distressed vintage Porsche Club of America Badge

Loved these chrome hooded driving/spot/fog lights, they looked the business!

superb looking driving/fog light with its own chrome hood

superb looking driving/fog light with its own chrome hood

The designer in me could hardly walk past this brilliant typography of the chrome Volkswagen script!

loved the typographic design of this Volkswagen chrome script badge

loved the typographic design of this Volkswagen chrome script badge

Good suspension or careful driving required with this cargo of old skool Coca Cola bottles stashed away on the roof rack!

careful driving required with this load on your roof rack

careful driving required with this load on your roof rack

Someone looking to be different with this very retro/Sci-fi looking rear light cluster!

a very sci-fi looking alternative rear light unit

a very sci-fi looking alternative rear light unit

I really love the Ninove show, such variety, agreat vibe and a very welcoming town, so I’m desperate to try to get the insurance sorted on my burnt out camper so that I can somehow make Ninove 2016, but unfortunately it looks like it will be in a different vintage VW camper now…

a real show stealer from Ninove 2015

Of all the different vintage VW bugs, buses, Porsches at this years Freddy Files event at Ninove in Belgium, I think my favourite was this stunning South African specification crew cab. Superb paint, amazing looking details, plus of course, those really cool hot climate vents helped make this Volkswagen twin cab really stand out from the crowd!

one of the sweetest looking crew cabs I have seen, absolutely stunning!

one of the sweetest looking crew cabs I have seen, absolutely stunning!

The crew cab was really straight, with beautifully understated detailing and featured the distinctive hot climate rear vents, along with front and rear safari windows, surely the ultimate definition of keeping cool!

beautiful attention to detail and the amazing South African specification vents

beautiful attention to detail and the amazing South African specification vents

Loved the simplicity and minimal detailing of the stock Volkswagen steel wheels with the two colour rim and hubcap combination, very classy!

stock looking rims with big logo painted hubcaps

stock looking rims with big logo painted hub caps

Then there was the rear load bed, clean enough to eat your dinner from and superbly detailed with oak slats. Fantastic!

spotless load bed with oak slat detailing

spotless load bed with oak slat detailing

Got to admit that I really love crew cabs anyway, but that aside, for me, this early was a real Ninove show winner!

 

it’s not just about the car, sometimes it’s about the details

Sometimes I find it hard to concentrate on looking at the overall picture in front of me, as more often than not, my eye gets drawn to little details that make up the bigger picture. This is especially true when I was wandering around the various cars on display at the Witkap Brewery gathering in Ninove on the Saturday afternoon after the fun of the UK cruise from Calais.

vintage Slaghmuylder 509 Ninove plaque

vintage Slaghmuylder 509 Ninove plaque

Loving the vintage metal Slaghmuylder 509 Ninove plaque in the Brewery’s small museum area displaying various items from the Brewery’s history.

patina a plenty on this rear vent/fuel flap detail of this split screen bus

patina a plenty on this rear vent/fuel flap detail of this split screen bus

The beautiful autumnal colours of the patina on this amazing Palm Green/Sand green splitty detail around its rear engine cooling vents/petrol flap.

vintage Hella rear light detail

vintage Hella rear light detail

The simplicity of detail and character of this Hella rear light and cracked rear reflector…

beautiful character aged rusty VW front badge on this split screen bus

beautiful character aged rusty VW front badge on this split screen bus

…and the aged and rusty front VW emblem on the front of the bus, brilliant!

some aged vintage beer bottles from the Witkap brewery in Ninove

some aged vintage beer bottles from the Witkap brewery in Ninove

Talking of aged character, there were some beautiful vintage beer bottles tucked away in their wooden crates, not sure if they had gone past their sell by date or not though?

beautiful typography of the classic distressed Karmann Ghia script

beautiful typography of the classic distressed Karmann Ghia script

As a designer, I love typography! So obviously I was drawn to this lightly distressed VW Karmann Ghia script, stunning!

super clean RHD Barndoor bus dash pod

super clean RHD Barndoor bus dash pod

Then of course there is the simple minimalism of a super clean RHD VW Barndoor dash, so much visual stimulus, sometimes it was hard to realise there were cars there at all!

a beautiful looking Porsche 356 shone out at the Witkap brewery in Ninove

One of the cars that stood out, and I mean really stood out was, was this stunningly shiny Porsche 356, even in the shade this car lit up the space! Whoever did the paint on it, clearly did a pretty amazing job on this baby!

even in the shade this Porsche 356 looked spectacular

even in the shade this Porsche 356 looked spectacular

I don’t always like taking pictures of the whole car, but this was an exception, it was jaw dropingly nice!

simple forms, beautiful detail on the Porsche 356

simple forms, beautiful detail on the Porsche 356

Clean simple lines and details gave it a real understated beauty.

loved the distressed original badge detail

loved the distressed original badge detail

Loved the mix of both shiny and distressed.

beautifully smooth and understated curvaceous lines on the Porsche 356

beautifully smooth and understated curvaceous lines on the Porsche 356

This Porsche 356 on the cruise over to Ninove ran and sounded as good as it looks – awesome!