Thursday, April 30, 2009


Here’s the original user’s manual from the still to be named blue bus. For simplicity’s sake, I’ll call it “New VW” This was very exciting as it was the first time we’ve found vintage memorabilia of any sort in our VWs.

How people’s car-esque of VW to include an engine diagram.

Maintenance records for one owner…note the purchase price in the upper right hand corner. This is exactly what we paid for it 24 years later. Therein lies the beauty of owning really old cars.
I was giddy with excitement when I found the M-code. Craig doesn’t find M-codes as enchanting as I do. Am I wrong here people? Aren’t they are freaking fantastic?!

What we discovered from our M-code was that we aren’t going to restore this baby to its original form. Sorry purists, we disappoint yet again. New VW was white, was a Westfalia, and was imported to San Francisco (is that weird?) in 1967. If you want your VW to be white, that's great, but I love color and this car can acceptably painted any color, or all colors simultaneously for that matter. I’m not painting it white.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

...and then there were three.

Have you ever seen a tow truck move a car that has one axle and no wheels? I hadn't...until tonight. I rather unfortunately missed the miracle that followed--the tow truck depositing said car into our garage. Hydraulics are amazing.

No, we haven't gone on a bus buying rampage, we just happened to find one containing SEVERAL things we needed for our restoration project.

Thanks to Pam for selling us her bus. Thanks to B&W Wrecking Service for saving the day once again. Thanks to Grandma and Grandpa for driving me home.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Seriously, what's our problem?

I'll start this one by borrowing a quote from Ludwig's Drivers. "Sometimes I forget that these cars aren't really supposed to be around anymore." Suffering from this same forgetfulness, we purchased a '68 bus this week. It is a '68 bus...with '71 axles (disc brakes)...and '74 seats...a roll of engine...a transmission...a disconnected front bumper, and that's pretty much it. Literally. (Oh, and thanks again to everyone who sent us links and gave us advice on what to buy.)

We had been going back and forth about whether to buy a project bus or one that was in comfortable and driveable condition. We found this bus (who we've yet to name), and its absence of cancerous rust and an incredibly straight body charmed us into buying ourselves one big ol' heck of a project. We are very excited (ignorant I'm sure, but excited). Hailey--did I ever even mention that we have a Subaru?--got kicked out of the garage, and we are once again a two VW family--hooray!

The new bus has been parked since 1995--our best estimate--and was insured at that time, so we are guessing that A) it ran then and B) the guy who had it parked had good intentions of restoring it. He obviously did some really well done body work, which we are totally excited to not have to do, so thank you anonymous owner!

Here's what the bus looked like when we got her/him (it is currently experiencing gender identity confusion).

...and here are the post junk toss photos

I'm frankly feeling a bit overwhelmed...mostly due to the fact that I replaced the engine compartment seal on Penny this week. Everything went great until I went to start her the next morning and as I did so, a strong smell of gasoline combined with a poorly running engine took the wind out of my sails. I was so careful not to knock anything out of place! I am mad about it and have not yet figured out exactly what the problem is. As I stared at the engine and flipped back and forth between help manuals, I had to ask myself why I love these blasted cars so much and the answer is that we have no idea...we just do.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Out of balance with a project for Penny

Following our failed Grand Canyon road trip of 2008, we started asking around about what might be causing our engine to heat up so darned quickly. The one thing we heard repeatedly was to check the engine compartment seal to ensure that it did not having any holes/missing areas—in other words, make sure it truly was acting as a seal. Rather than doing this immediately, we came up with a quick, albeit horribly tacky remedy, which was to bolt a 20 inch fan to the bottom of our Vanagon. It does the trick, but it really is a temporary solution.

Finally, we got around to figuring out what the engine compartment seal was and when we looked at ours, discovered that about half of the seal was missing. The problem with this is that (being an air cooled vehicle) air is pulled into the engine to cool it, but because the seal is broken, hot air is being pulled into the engine, rather than cooler air. Does that make it an “air heated” engine? (Oh, how witty.)

The images below show the gaps in our engine compartment seal…and also the brand spanking new seal we purchased (and quite obviously have yet to install).

One final thought for today…if you happen across a ’71 bus (transporter, not camper) with minimal rust, that runs and has a decent body, we “have a friend” who is in the market for said vehicle... Oh come on, don't act surprised, you knew it was coming. We tried having only one VW, but our garage feels like a yin with no yang.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

The Riviera Curse

We love that Penny is a Riviera—really—we do. When we bought her, we didn’t know a ton about Westys and Rivieras, just that the camper conversions were done by two different companies (Westfalia and Riviera respectively in case that’s not obvious) and we knew that Riviera tops pop straight up and Westys pop up at an angle.

The thing we did not at all anticipate is the near impossibility of finding replacement camper parts for Penny. One of the biggest differences between Westys and Rivieras is that VW contracted with Westfalia to build Westys, while Rivieras were shipped from the factory to distributors as standard (non-camper) busses/vans and the distributor contracted with Riviera to do the camper conversion.

This has caused the following complications.

1) Historically, I’ve found that a lot of the really solid information about VW history comes from the UK. I’ll bet that a lot would come from Germany too, but my ability to read the German language is impaired (okay, nonexistant). The point being that since Riviera conversions were done in the US, there isn’t much information coming from Europe on the subject.

2) Also, there isn’t much information in the US. I searched for info about Rivieras on Wikipedia. I realize that Wiki is not a reliable source of information, but this further reinforces my point. Even Wikipedia, where you can find information about EVERYTHING, only has this to say about Riviera.
“Riviera Motors was the Beaverton, Oregon based regional distributor of Volkswagens. Westfalia Campmobiles were selling too quickly for the distributorship to meet demand at the time, so beginning in 1965, Riviera Motors contracted with ASI (Automotive Services, Inc.), based in the Vancouver, Washington area, for Type 2 camper conversions. ASI/Riviera campers were converted to Westfalia-styled Campmobiles from panel and passenger vans during the split windscreen era, with conversions predominantly based on passenger van models after the 1968 introduction of the bay window Type 2. Production continued until sometime in the mid 1980's, with conversions built on the Vanagon (T25) platform after 1979.”

That is ALL that Wiki has on the subject!

3) There just aren’t that many Rivieras. This means that not that many people need parts, which means that no one has found it economically viable to produce replacement parts.

4) ASI has gone out of business. I did find a parts catalog that contained part numbers for all of the parts I need. It was from 1985.

I was able to find the following two very helpful links, but that's about it:

All of this makes me very curious and also makes me think that I will be visiting the Beaverton and Vancouver public libraries in the future. Research project!

If you are reading this and would like to correct me on anything regarding this post, PLEASE do! I would love to be wrong about pretty much anything I’ve said above.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Road Trippin' Utah

Craig and I wanted to take a road trip during March. We decided on Yellowstone—after which we discovered that there is only one open entrance to Yellowstone in March and that is on the Montana side. This would have added approximately 17 hours of driving time to our three day trip. In the words of Strong Bad “beleted”.

We decided instead to road trip through Utah. Not my most favorite place in the world—that’s where I went to college. They were not the best four years of my life. All of this aside, the mountains in Utah are absolutely breathtaking, astonishing, enchanting, and other similar adjectives.

Friday night we drove as far as we could without falling asleep at the wheel which turned out to be right near the Great Salt Lake. Considering the number of times we’ve been to Utah, it seemed a bit pathetic that neither Craig nor I had seen the Great Salt Lake. We decided to make our way to Antelope Island (in said lake). The bad news was that Antelope Island closes at dark (I wish I would have known this before driving several miles off of the freeway). Grrr. In the end, we parked Copper in a church parking lot which was near the entrance to Antelope Island. Free lodging—I’ll take it. The next morning, we looked from a great distance at the Great Salt Lake and called it good. We then were followed through town by a really creepy cop who circled around the Wal-Mart parking lot the entire time we were buying chocolate milk. Saturday morning, we met up with Craig’s friend Joe, and spent a great hour and a half or so at Starbucks catching up. Well, Joe and Craig caught up—there wasn’t much catching up for me to do seeing as how it was my first time meeting Joe. (I know how much you appreciate my irrelevant details.)

Craig and I then screwed around for several hours in Salt Lake and Park City. We tried to take Copper to visit her last owner but she wasn’t home, after which we took the back road from Park City to Provo which was gorgeous. The mountains were, as I said before, incredible.
After trying to find a legitimate campground (they were all closed until April) we found some random place to park our bus in Provo Canyon and camped free for the second night in a row. We hiked through the snow up to a lovely waterfall and got some nice R&R in Copper.
Sunday morning was spent showing Craig around BYU campus—he was surprisingly interested in my tour. His presence also minimized the inevitable self esteem drop that happens when I am in Provo. Sunday afternoon we caught up with Chris and his wife—another one of Craig’s friends which was really fun. Those boys have some hilarious stories.

After getting caught in a nasty ice storm, we found lodging in another church parking lot in Brigham City on Sunday night which made our trip entirely lodging free. Hooray! The nice thing about Utah was that we could be really picky about finding a church parking lot. We rejected three in Brigham City (keep in mind, neither of us had ever been in this city before and we had neither maps nor directions, we just wandered aimlessly) before we found a parking lot we found to be adequate. We also found the most gorgeous tabernacle I've ever seen (the pictures don't do any kind of justice).
Monday we headed to Lava Hot Springs, but before actually arriving, we found Maple Grove Hot Springs which was off of highway 30. It was a few miles off of the road and we’d never been there, but it turned out to be pretty nice and we had the place to ourselves. It also afforded us the opportunity to take a hot shower. (Oh sweet cleanliness!) That’s one thing I love about the mountain west--there are hot springs aplenty.
Next up on the road trip docket: Sasquatch Music Festival in May. (Yippee!)