the interior transformation of the camper continues

Whilst toying with different ideas for the overall design and finish of the buses interior, I had bought a full bare set of Customshop Designs Splitscreen Camper Van Door Cards in preparation to help finish off the interior. They’re made of 3.6mm WBP moisture resistant plywood, cut using original templates to provide an accurate fit. The ply panels are really impressive, as is the accompanying customer service and speedy delivery, what more could you want – highly recommended!

Their full kit includes;

  • 2 x Front Kick Panels
  • 2 x Cab door cards
  • 2 x Cargo Door Panels
  • 1 x Opposite Cargo Door Panel
  • 2 x Wheel Arch Panels
  • 2 x Rolled Boot Panels
  • 1 x Tailgate Panel

Although at the time of ordering the panels, we had not actually decided on what sort of finish or look we were going for with the camper interior, although we had no shortage of different ideas! However, I was really keen to get some music in the camper this summer, so this would mean if nothing else, the front cab interior panels would need to get fitted before the various components could get fitted in place.

Customshop Designs 3.6mm ply Splitscreen panel set

Customshop Designs 3.6mm ply Splitscreen panel set

Fortunately Lorna had found some interesting looking, vintage rusty-red coloured suedette fabric in a charity shop that we decided we could ‘upcycle’ and use for the door and front cab kick panels. It would not be enough for the entire interior, but a bit like a traditional Westfalia interior, we thought we would have a different scheme for the driving area and look at different options for the rear ‘living’ area.

a rusty coloured suedette fabric for the front cab kick panels

a rusty coloured suedette fabric for the front cab kick panels

With the front cab kick panels, I had plans to install some front component speakers, so before getting the panels covered and fitted, I spoke with Car Audio Solutions (South East) Ltd to get the wiring fitted and run in place first. When you see the amount of cabling that gets used, it’s almost as much as the main electrical loom for the camper itself! Having got the electrical infrastructure and cables all safely installed and connected up to the leisure battery, it was time to modify the kick panels to fit the speakers.

additional component speaker holes cut in the plywood kick panels

additional component speaker holes cut in the plywood kick panels

With the speaker holes positioned and cut out, along with a routing point for the cables, it was time for a test fitting. A little bit of fettling and adjustment was needed to get the fit right to the specifics of my bus, then time to get them covered and fitted in place…

some fettling of plywood kick panels to get a good fit in the bus

some fettling of plywood kick panels to get a good fit in the bus

The rusty coloured suedette fabric was roughly cut to shape for the various panels. Lornas experience and judgement here was great. She managed to get enough fabric cut out to cover the two kick panels and both cab door boards, result! The ply panels and the rear of the fabric were then sprayed with contact adhesive and the fabric pieces then slowly rolled flat into position on the corresponding panel. The openings for speakers, fuse box, speedo cable etc. were  then cut out and the excess fabric folded back and glued to the rear of the boards.

spray adhesive and a rubber roller to fix the suedette covering in place

spray adhesive and a rubber roller to fix the suedette covering in place

The moment of truth, speakers fitted in place ready for a test fitting in the bus…

speakers and covered kick panels fitted in place

speakers and covered kick panels fitted in place

Not too bad for a first attempt! A bit of a learning curve (and research!) for us both having never done this sort of thing before. Some finishing off required and then on to do the cab doors next. It’s amazing to see the visual transformation that fitting the panels makes to the interior feel of the bus! 🙂

interior updates as the Canterbury Pitt cooker unit gets a refresh

So having had a chance to take stock of the original Canterbury Pitt cooker and cabinet, it made sense (to me at least) that before it gets fitted into the camper, to give it a bit of a cosmetic refresh. I want to retain as much of its original character, but things like the pseudo ‘antique look’ yellow stain on the replacement Oak and Mahogany top retaining door would have to go – yuk!

the Canterbury Pitt cooker unit shelf before…

the Canterbury Pitt cooker unit shelf before…

The interior shelf of the lower storage unit was badly stained and grubby, but with a little bit of work with various grades of abrasive paper on the Bosch sander…

the Canterbury Pitt cooker unit shelf cleaned up and sanded down…

the Canterbury Pitt cooker unit shelf cleaned up and sanded down…

…the original grain and character of the mahogany veneer could once again be seen. This will later get treated with a good few coats of Danish wood oil before a final coating of Black Bison Wax Polish to finish things off.

lower storage area of the Canterbury Pitt cooker cabinet

lower storage area of the Canterbury Pitt cooker cabinet

The main wooden unit that housed the gas cooker had a couple of small cracks in it which I wanted to fix and was a bit battered in places. The painted inside flap of the lower cupboard door had seen better days, so was next on the list to look at resolving…

the Canterbury Pitt cooker cabinet gets a bit of a refresh…

the Canterbury Pitt cooker cabinet gets a bit of a refresh…

Having begun to carefully disassemble the unit it seemed like a good time to take off the original Canterbury Pitt hinges and give them a good soak in oil before they get fitted back in place again. Again, I don’t want to ‘over-restore’ them, as I love the original aged look of authenticity, but a good soak in oil will do them no harm and help improve their operation.

original Canterbury Pitt hinges all in good working order

original Canterbury Pitt hinges all in good working order

Not wanting to feel left out with the various aspects of interior refresh, Lorna decided she wanted to make a cover for the rather tatty looking 907 camping gaz bottle that was going to be used with the cooker…

Apparently camping gaz can be a bit slow on cold mornings (much like me!), well not anymore with this funky crocheted woollen cover to keep the gas warm!

 

a bit of Canterbury Pitt history lives on in my bus…

In my mind, a campers not a really a proper camper if you’ve not got some kind of cooker in it so you can stop and make a roadside cuppa on your journey! 🙂 That was without doubt one of my favourite bits about my old 1965 camper with its Canterbury Pitt interior, it had a fantastic cargo door mounted gas cooker with a storage cupboard underneath for associated drink making bits an’ pieces!

Happier times on my road trip in France

Happier times on my road trip in France

So when I’ve been thinking about getting an interior sorted for our ‘new’ bus, having a working cooker was one of my main priorities. I already have an original and fully functional 1950’s Coleman 425B petrol stove, which is an option as a freestanding/portable cooking option, but I loved the convenience and simplicity of my old door mounted gas cooker.

The Canterbury Pitt door mounted cooker folds out for use with 2 rings and a grill

The Canterbury Pitt door mounted cooker folds out for use with 2 rings and a grill

It really was one of the most practical cooker arrangements I’ve seen on a vintage VW camper. Really quick and easy to set up and use, everything stows away compactly and neatly when it’s folded away in its cargo door mounted wooden cabinet, plus it gives extra usable storage underneath – the perfect compact road trip kitchen!

Well to my surprise, I just happened to be browsing the SSVC forum (Split Screen Van Club) as you do, and to my surprise, there were three of these rare Canterbury Pitt cooker units up for sale! The beautiful early alloy version of the cooker I just missed out on, but I did luckily manage to grab a later model one that was just like my old cooker, happy days!

cargo door mounted Canterbury Pitt cooker storage unit

cargo door mounted Canterbury Pitt cooker storage unit

The cooker was apparently all in working condition and even came complete with the black enamel grill pan, which was missing on my old one – perfect for making toast for breakfast in the mornings! 🙂

lower storage area of the Canterbury Pitt cooker cabinet

lower storage area of the Canterbury Pitt cooker cabinet

The wooden unit itself was in an OK usable condition, a little battered around the edges which I guess is to be expected because of the age. It’s had a ‘new’ top retaining door made at some point from a mix of Oak and Mahogany, as I assume the original got broke or was missing? In my mind this would add to it’s quirky character. As I’m not after a concourse looking bus, and it’s not a genuine Canterbury Pitt camper anyway, these little oddities are not an issue for me. Overall there was nothing that couldn’t be fixed up with a little clean and some TLC…

original Canterbury Pitt 2 ring cooker, grill and grill pan

original Canterbury Pitt 2 ring cooker, grill and grill pan

The actual cooker itself, grill and grill pan are in great shape, can’t wait to give it all a bit of a refresh and get it fitted and hooked up in the bus ready for the first brew up! 🙂

beautiful aged patina on the Canterbury Pitt Argyll gas burner caps

beautiful aged patina on the Canterbury Pitt Argyll gas burner caps

Just need to get it cleaned up, find a method for fixing it to the cargo door and getting it all plumbed in ready for use! Feels like we have the beginning of an interior coming together now at last!

not often you get excited by the arrival of a slightly oil stained cardboard box

OK I guess the arrival of a slightly battered and oil stained cardboard box is not normally the most exciting thing in the world, but this was a bit different. I had been on the look out for a decent condition original VW oil bath air filter for a while and at last, I had found something for sale on the SSVC forum that fitted the bill.

original VW stamped oil bath filter

original VW stamped oil bath filter

So whilst the bits were getting sorted for the MOT at Resto Classics, I took the opportunity of getting the aftermarket pancake air filter replaced with the original VW factory spec oil bath air filter. OK, so it’s not so shiny, but it should help provide preheat to the carburettor and prevent potential carb icing whilst also allowing the breather to work correctly – see, stock really does rock! 🙂

original oil bath air filter fitted in place

original oil bath air filter fitted in place

Now the bus is all sorted and ready for the MOT retest (which it passes with ease!). So back on the road again for another 12 months – happy days! 🙂 In celebration my son and I went off for a drive to Rye to watch Marvels Captain America: Civil War at the cinema as a little treat!

time flies when you’re having fun in a 52 year old camper

Hard to believe that it was literally a year ago today I bought this VW camper after having lost my previous bus to fire – clearly time does fly when you’re having fun in a 1964 vintage VW camper!

looking forward to some more road trip adventures…

looking forward to some more road trip adventures…

Another anniversary that coincides with getting the bus is renewing its MOT! Having spent a lot of time going through the bus over during the first year of ownership and getting its mechanicals checked and/or updated, any issues should be minor… The MOT inspector was very impressed with the overall condition of a 52-year-old bus! However as part of their thorough inspection, did pick up a couple of minor electrical gremlins. The rear number plate light and horn was not working (connection/earth issues or maybe a bulb?) and there was a slight imbalance in the front brakes.

whatchu looking at

whatchu looking at

So not too bad. I’ll get these bits sorted to get the MOT passed so I can be back on the road again soon…

slow progress is better than no progress at all

OK, so the interior updates are taking a bit longer than I hoped, but slow progress is better than no progress 🙂 I want to try to make some kind of rear overhead storage unit, so I’ve been busy taking measurements of the rear roof area of the bus and busting out some old skool tools and skills to try to make some test templates from pieces of card.

old skool design – breaking out my Ecobra spring bow compass

old skool design – breaking out my Ecobra spring bow compass

Not had much opportunity to use my old Ecobra spring bow compass since school days, but on occasions such as this, I’m glad I kept it along with my other technical drawing bits and pieces. Combining this with some digital CAD drawing to try to get the best of both worlds, ancient and modern.

back to basics to make and trial fit card templates

back to basics to make and trial fit card templates

I managed to find some old engineering style drawings which I’ve digitally converted to help get a better idea of the roof profile of the rear roof. So combining this with some pencil and paper, I’ve produced a cardboard template I can test out as a first draft to see how close it fits to the section profile of the roof…

testing and trail fitting a card template

testing and trail fitting a card template

Not a bad for a first trial fit! I’ve got some spare/scrap plywood that I can use to make a more accurate and realistic test piece from, my next objective to seeing if I can make an overhead unit somehow. In the meantime, some short-term win encouragement. Time to break out my Dads ancient soldering iron and solder to put a cigarette lighter style plug onto a fused extension lead.

solder jointing a cigarette lighter style plug onto a fused extension lead

solder jointing a cigarette lighter style plug onto a fused extension lead

Now I can connect this up to the separate auxiliary fuse box run from the leisure battery and hook up the fridge freezer on out next trip out… at last we will have usable electrical power in the rear area of the bus! 🙂

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! 🙂