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!

pedal to the metal, but not exactly in the way you might want it!

One of the first things I wanted to get sorted on the bus was the dodgy accelerator cable/linkage! Not currently having anywhere to safely work on the bus, I’ve booked the bus in at Resto Classics to get this, plus a few other issues beyond my ability sorted. It’s also good to get an objective second pair of trained eyes to give the bus a thorough checking over to make sure all is OK…

accelerator cable damage at the rear exit

accelerator cable damage at the rear exit

Where the accelerator cable exits the metal tube in the engine tin wear, the exit angle of the cable is causing the cable to rub on the sharp metal edge of the tube and was cutting through the accelerator cable itself – not good!

Fortunately there is a brilliantly engineered solution from 73 Aircooled who produce a  CNC machined 6082 aluminium roller body with a stainless steel guide roller. Fitted with a 8mm diameter stainless tube to run through the fan housing that replaces the standard throttle tube. It comes supplied with a No 6 stainless self tapper to secure to the fan housing. So when the replacement EMPI multi-strand, super flex steel accelerator cable is fitted, at least I know it will be both safer and much smoother in operation!

Beautiful ‪‎engineering‬ solution by ‪73 Aircooled‬ ‪– ‎throttle‬ tube cable roller

Beautiful ‪‎engineering‬ solution by ‪73 Aircooled‬ ‪– ‎throttle‬ tube cable roller

The front end fixing of the accelerator cable was not much better either unfortunately! It was attached via a plastic cable tie!!! A bit surprised the last garage didn’t spot this when they were changing over the front beam? Anyway, this will now get fixed when the new cable is fitted, along with the brilliant Buttys Bits Throttle Kit that I had fitted on my old camper. This combined with 73 Aircooled’s Throttle Tube Cable Roller, should transform the accelerator linkage a quite bit – super smooth!

Buttys Bits excellent throttle upgrade kit

Buttys Bits excellent throttle upgrade kit

Having seen a couple of issues like this that the last UK garage missed, I’m glad to be getting Resto Classics to give the bus a thorough checking over, just wondering what else they might find…

lots of little bits an pieces to keep busy with on a vintage VW split screen bus…

As part of the process of going over my ‘new’ bus and checking everything is as it should be, it allows me to highlight any bits and pieces that either need to be changed, or that I want to change or upgrade in due course. Some bits might be safety concerns that need looking at, others might simply be personal preferences that can be done over a period of time, or as budget allows…

a selection of upgrades to be added to the bus

a selection of upgrades to be added to the bus

There are currently some issues over the existing accelerator cable set-up that need looking at pretty shortly, so I’ve bought a replacement EMPI multi-strand, super flex steel accelerator cable to provide a smoother, more precise throttle action to be fitted in conjunction with the brilliantly engineered Throttle Tube Cable Roller from 73 Aircooled along with the equally brilliant Buttys Bits Throttle Kit that I had fitted on my old camper. That should transform things a quite bit!

Then recently on the SSVC forum there was a ‘group buy’ option to get a big discount on the Save my Bug Hot Oil sensor, so it seemed like a good idea to get one of these, as it saves looking at getting addition oil temperature gauges to monitor the engine oil temperature. The sensor was created by Harold Brown in the late 1960’s and remains virtually unchanged since the first one was offered for sale, over 40 years ago.

By simply replacing your original dipstick with the Hot Oil Sensor, then attaching an 18″ wire (included with the kit) to the oil pressure switch, you immediately begin to monitor your engine’s oil temperature. Now you finally know when your engine is running too hot !

From this point forward the light at the bottom of your odometer serves two functions. While continuing to monitor your oil pressure it now provides the data from your Hot Oil Sensor as well. Now, when your engine oil reaches 225 degrees F the light will begin to flicker, indicating that you are approaching an unsafe operating temperature. If your oil temperature continues to rise to 235 degrees F the light will remain on, solid. This is the temperature at which we recommend pulling over at the first safe opportunity in order to investigate the issue.

On the subject of temperature, I’ve been very fortunate to get a roll of Tri-iso super 10 plus thermo-reflective insulation from a friend…

Tri-iso super 10 plus thermo-reflective insulation

Tri-iso super 10 plus thermo-reflective insulation

Tri-iso super 10 plus is a multi-layered thermo-reflective insulation has the specific advantage of being only 30mm thick, but is thermally equivalent to 210mm of mineral wool! It provides thermal insulation which is heat-reflective, counteracting all modes of heat transfer all year round. It is highly effective in retaining heat inside in winter, and reflecting infra-red radiation in the summer, therefore preventing the overheating of spaces in the summer. Should be perfect for providing some insulation for what is in essence a tin can on wheels!

Whilst there’s no rear interior at the moment (there are ideas/plans in progress…) I’m also looking at getting some bitumen based acoustic insulation/deadening sorted for the bus. This will reduce both road and internal engine noise in the bus, but also improve the internal acoustics for a new audio install (more ideas in progress…).

With this and some 6v to 12v relay issues, there is plenty to keep busy with on the bus at the moment!

from the shores of sunny California USA to the sunny shores of the UK, quite a journey…

A few of posts ago, I was thinking about trying to trace the last Californian owner detailed on the US title to find out some more of the history of my van. Well thought finally turned to action, and I put a post up on a big American VW forum called thesamba.com to see if anyone knew or could help me get in contact with the previous owner…

Well, I’m glad that we live in the days of the internet, as sure enough a very helpful forum member who lived pretty near the address location, and after a brief exchange of messages, I got in contact with someone out of the blue and sue enough, it turned out it was indeed their old bus! Happy days!

beach bus – at home by the sea in sunny California, Highway 1 (Circa 1995)

beach bus – at home by the sea in sunny California, Highway 1 (Circa 1995)

The bus was owned by Gary at Two Larry’s Racing for some twenty plus years, and he has been really helpful in sharing his memories of the bus, along with sharing various photos of the bus from the past. So a big thanks to Gary and the people at Two Larry’s Racing for looking after the bus for so long prior to it coming over here for its european adventure!

When Gary first saw the bus, he was in high school. A friend had purchased it from the original owner, an elderly lady in Diamond Springs, CA. To the best of his knowledge, it’s been in this area of California for it’s entire life since being imported! This would go a long way to explain the solid and dry condition of the bus underneath!

Gary’s friend immediately slammed the bus to the ground, so low that you couldn’t even get it into a driveway! This goes to explain the dents in the rear wheel arches from its initial time of being so low, I guess the hub caps must have pushed the arches out a little! So that’s one little mystery solved!

in the woods saying hello to a younger VW relative

in the woods saying hello to a younger VW relative

They only drove it a couple of months before they blew the engine (surprise!) and then it sat for a while. Then Gary (in his early 20’s) bought it from him for $250 (oh for a time machine!), raised it back up from the deck, and brought it back to life. It was then kitted out with a full length roof rack and traveled to a lot of VW shows, to help buy/sell parts at various swap meets. It’s probably been to in excess of 30 shows in four states!

sporting a full length roof rack for working various swap meet shows

sporting a full length roof rack for working various swap meet shows

Maybe if you saw it there, or have any old photos of it, you could get in contact with me, I’d love to hear any more stories or see old photos etc. of it from its time in the US…

woodland lifestyle

woodland lifestyle

After a while, the original transmission finally gave up somewhere in the early 2000’s, so a replacement gearbox was built for it!

catching some Californian sunshine

catching some Californian sunshine

Gary had plans for it at the time so added a Super Street bus transmission with a .388 ring and pinion and built a 1907cc engine to match. That must have been pretty fun! Unfortunately, the Two Larry Racing 1907cc engine was no longer with the bus by the time it got to me!

the Two Larry's Racing 1907cc engine that was originally in the bus

the Two Larry’s Racing 1907cc engine that was originally in the bus

The engine running in the bus sounded pretty sweet!

Eventually life takes it’s winding course, and Gary ended up parking the bus in 2008. However, after a while couldn’t stand to see it sitting any longer without a job, so late in 2013 Gary went to work on it again and brought it back to running condition before advertising it for sale…

simple changes can often be the most rewarding – vintage VW camper upgrades

I guess anytime you get a ‘new’ (or in this case older!) bus, there is always a period of time needed to acclimatise to its subtle little nuances (character) and also time needed to check over and adjust bits to your personal preferences so that you can feel fully ‘at home’ and comfortable in your new ride.

There are also practical issues to get used to, like the accuracy of the fuel gauge, the reliability of the electrics etc. Well so far so good with the fuel gauge, but after a week of inactivity, I found out a little more about the battery condition and reliability – not so good, pretty much dead to the world with not enough energy left to kick the engine over!

new Bosch S4 12v 70Ah starter battery

new Bosch S4 12v 70Ah starter battery

I guess it was a battery of unknown history or age to me, so to be honest, it really was not worth relying on! Much simpler to replace the old, small 40Ah battery with a brand new, higher capacity Bosch S4 Type 069/072 12v 70Ah (Cold Cranking Amp (CCA): 630cca) starter battery (with a 4 year warranty). This seemed to be pretty much the largest capacity and physical size starter battery that would realistically fit in the rear battery tray area of the split screen bus, with its dimensions of Length: 260mm x Width: 173mm x Height: 225mm.

refitted the original alloy Volkswagen tailgate script

refitted the original alloy Volkswagen tailgate script

It was also time to get some little bits an pieces sorted out on the bus, like get the original ‘Volkswagen’ alloy script fixed back on the tail gate.

replacement Hagus passenger side wing mirror

replacement Hagus passenger side wing mirror

I had also managed to source an original, good condition, used Hagus bus mirror for the missing passenger side, so it was about time to get that fixed in place! However, one of the simplest, but probably the most significant changes in terms of usability, was in getting a replacement Gene Berg bus shifter fitted!

Click here to download the Gene Berg bus shifter fitting instructions

Gene Berg bus shifter with old skool retro style handle

Gene Berg bus shifter with old skool retro style handle

Big shout out to the fantastically helpful people at Gene Berg Enterprises who were really great in helping sort out a replacement shifter after my last one got destroyed in my bus fire earlier this year. Like a hand in glove, it was comforting to get my hands back on the newly fitted shifter, with its old skool, retro style handle and super precise shifting. It really is amazing just how much the Berg shifter totally transforms gear changes – happy days!

out for a run in the sun

out for a run in the sun

Time to add some vintage bling with the chrome VW hub caps and go for a run in the sun before getting on with some more jobs on the bus!

the buses authenticity, character and perfection lies in its imperfections

Despite the fact that I’m getting used to people’s look of surprise when they realise that this is a genuinely solid, running, driving bus, I’m happy that it does still have various little bits and pieces to do that keep me busy and allow me to indulge in my vintage VW passion!

To me the buses authenticity, character and perfection lies in its imperfections, that and of course its un-messed with originality! My intentions are to keep things pretty stock and help preserve and maintain the bus whilst making some minor changes that don’t detract from it’s character, but hopefully simply enhance what is already there!

Déjà vu – back to stock 15" steels with R15/195/80 white bands

Déjà vu – back to stock 15″ steels with R15/195/80 white bands

Whilst continuing to put some love into the lower half L53 (Sealing Wax Red) paint, I had a case of déjà vu with the wheels. As part of the deal in buying the bus, I also got a set of 4 original paint steel 15″ steel wheels. I then managed to source a matching 5th wheel (which needed blasting and painting, but was just going to be used as the spare), before a quick call to North Hants Tyres to get the closest to stock sized commercially rated 8P R15/195/80 white bands – gotta love the look of a vintage Volkswagen split screen camper rocking 15″ stock white bands! Now to get the chrome hub caps cleaned up and fitted!

patina perfection, revealing the original paint that was hidden under the surface

It’s great to be back on the road again with my ‘new’ vintage VW bus, and with spring slowly turning to summer, there are lots to look forward to in regards of getting stuck into working on my new bus! The two buses could not have been more different! My previous Canterbury Pitt camper was pretty much fully sorted with nothing really needing to be done, this bus however has lots of potential and scope to put my mark on it and make it my own.

One of the first things I wanted to look at was the exterior paint finish, especially on the lower half of the bus. Having cracked the code of the Volkswagen m-code plate, I knew the original paint combination was L472 (Beige Grey) over the bottom half of L53 (Sealing Wax Red). The top half L472 (Beige Grey) was in pretty good condition, however, for some reason, the lower half L53 (Sealing Wax Red) had been treated with a light over spray of red oxide primer?

before and after – removing the over coat of red oxide primer

before and after – removing the over coat of red oxide primer

To explore what was underneath the primer, I wanted to clean a test patch on the rear tailgate to see what was under this primer top coat. First impressions seemed promising, there was defiantly some paint underneath waiting to be revealed…

enlisted some family help to work on the bus

enlisted some family help to work on the bus

Luckily enough, I managed to recruit my youngest son and his girlfriend into giving me a helping hand using some Halfords Rubbing Compound with plenty of elbow grease to help remove the over coat of red oxide primer as we worked our way around the bus.

beautiful patina and VW factory panel gaps

beautiful patina and VW factory panel gaps

Apart from revealing some interesting patina and paint combinations underneath, it was a chance to get up close and personal to the original metalwork.

beauty is in the eye of the beholder – original VW factory panel gaps

beauty is in the eye of the beholder – original VW factory panel gaps

Nothing quite as satisfying as seeing the factory panel gaps, door shuts and original factory spot welds as we slowly worked our way around to remove the red oxide primer.

paint cleaning up coming along nicely…

paint cleaning up coming along nicely…

It’s a labour of love, but slowly and surely it’s revealing it’s own colour ‘character’ that it has developed over its lifetime. The buses honest patina tells a story of its life to this point. It has a kind of urban camouflage feel about it? However, understanding it’s story is another thing. I might try to trace the last Californian owner detailed on the US title to find out some more of its history?

One things for certain, it has loads of beautiful character and I think it looks amazing just as it is, so I will be making sure to protect and preserve this moving forward! You can paint a Volkswagen bus hundreds of times, but you can only get originality once!