Friday, December 3, 2010

I got pretty burned out on both blogging and working on the bus for a while there. Some combination of a recent club meeting, Big Blue’s drivers being back (with baby in tow!), having built up a little money in the VW account (we quite seriously do have a bank account specifically for VW stuff), and having just written a post for our club’s site about our bus has reminded me that—hey, blogging is fun! And hey, VWs are fun! And hey, not ALL of our disposable income is going toward our VWs right now (makes me like them more…knock on wood) and that’s fun!

When last I wrote, we were spending every night in the garage (way too much time) trying to get our bus roadworthy for “Oktoberfest”—a picnic our club has annually the second Sunday in October. We were making great strides and the Friday before the event, we threw in a 1500SP mystery motor. After a substantial amount of cranking, the thing actually started!! It was a satisfactory feeling indeed. I’ll leave portions of this story for another day but, to make a long story short, our friend Bethany helped us out with some troubles we were experiencing with our brakes on Saturday and we were ready to roll (well, kind of—it was a rough ride and we were having some shift rod problems).

Saturday afternoon, we took the bus for a “victory lap”. We took one lap around the block, then decided we were up for a second lap, during which—CRASH PFWAP BUMP SCRRREEEEEECH. My heart jumped into my head and I was confident that the engine had fallen out of the car. In retrospect, that would have been better than what actually happened. At some point during our many brake/e-brake adjustments, someone (we never determined who) left the lug bolts loose on the left rear wheel. Ugh, it still makes me sick. When the fourth bolt popped off, the wheel came crashing down. The sight was absolutely sickening. It was like when you see a squirrel get hit by a car—it is pathetic and nauseating and makes you feel like the world may never be happy again (okay, maybe that’s just me and the members of PETA, but hopefully you catch my drift).

The good news was that a) we were only traveling about 10 mph when the wheel fell, and b) the bus was so low that the wheel couldn’t actually fall all the way off the brake drum. So, basically, the tire hit the top of the wheel well, bending the $#!^ out of the panel and separating the tray from the wheel well, and the drum stayed inside the wheel, causing damage, but probably far less damage than if we had been running stock height with narrow tires.

I ran back to the house and brought the jack back to the bus. We jacked the bus up, pushed it down the alley back to the driveway, closed the garage door, turned around and walked away.

At this point, we’ve recovered enough that I’m actually excited to get out in the garage again. Finally.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

August was a normal August--ridiculously hectic. Now we’re back to the grind (I love September!) and spent Labor Day weekend in one of our favorite ways—sitting on the floor of the garage. Other favorite holiday events in which we participated: sleeping in, visiting pawn shops, and buying a new car.

First topic—the Squareback, which we’ve lovingly (for the time being) dubbed “the squah” (you know, kind of how Cartman would say it). I can’t believe how much attention we have been getting while driving this car. It is a bit ridiculous, really. She is fun, though. Really fun.

Our amazing photographer friend, James took some pictures (more of James’ photography can be found here).

Okay, since we haven't put an ounce of work into this car yet, I don't have to be modest about it. I'm not going to lie--this car totally kicks ass.

Second topic—the bus suspension. We spent about a month being STUCK as far as progress went on the bus rear suspension, rear brakes, transmission mounting, and wiring due to missing bolts. I know this sounds like a simple obstacle to overcome, but it was tricky. We finally took our list of missing bolts/screws to one of our friends who dug a sample of every bolt we needed out of his VW bolt tub. It was actually quite amazing—like pulling a rabbit out of a hat.

After overcoming our bolt issues, we were easily able to finish up some little electrical things, finish mounting the transmission, mount the spring plates, and mount the rear brake backing plates.

As I mentioned previously, the rear suspension went together much more easily than did the front suspension, so I’m not going to go into a lengthy explanation like I did with the front suspension, but I will pictures for all the VW super-dummies out there (myself included).

Third topic—E-brake cables. These guys get a topic all to themselves because they were a bit of a nightmare. Here’s what we learned. If you put wide tires on your bus, you DO need e-brake extenders. When lowering a bus, everyone will tell you that you need e-brake extenders. I misplaced ours and after talking with a few of our friends, none of whom had an explanation as to why the extenders were necessary, we moved forward on the project without them. After several hours of clipping spring links, and adjusting the cable tension, and un-doing, and re-doing the cables for several reasons, we finally figured out why we needed the cables. The tires we have on the back of our bus are too wide to mount with the drums mounted—which we knew going into the project. The need for the cable extenders finally became clear when we unhooked the drum/spring plate assembly from the axle tube and we couldn’t lower the assembly low enough to mount the wheel. Aha—2.5 inches of additional cable would make this work. So—off came the drums (again) and out came the cables (again). It was pretty ridiculous, but (somewhat unfortunately), that’s just how we roll.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Parts are taking over...again

Otto LOVES it when we get shipments of VW parts...

Craig and I do too, but for different reasons than the cat.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Bus Pilots Family Reunion 2010

To anyone who read my last post and was completely confused by the pictures…

I’m not sure why my brain chose to abandoned me, but I had the pictures entirely out of order on that last post. They’ve been fixed now.

Oh, also, I’ve re-labeled the tie rods—as they were labeled incorrectly before.

Moving on…

The weekend of 7/16 was the annual Bus Pilots Association “Family Reunion”. Here you go: a photo post.


We had 50 cars at the end. This means that people didn't get lost--props to the cruise coordinator! (Ahem...what I mean know, if the cruise coordinator wasn't me, I'd give them props.)

Above photo Courtesy of Ethan Page

This bus belongs to Aaron. He has been doing great things with his bus; including having the cut out wheel wells repaired. That's a perfect example of how fashion dictates the awful things we do to our VWs. Ludwig's Driver expressed some concern that we might be making permanent modifications to our bus during the lowering process. I'll take this opportunity to assure anyone else who may be concerned that we have no plans to make any alterations to the frame or body of our bus. Now y'all can rest easy. :-)


This is, admitedly, my favorite part of the weekend where we drive around town, lost, in our VWs in 100 degree heat, following turn by turn directions to an unknown destination.

Rally Photos courtesy of Ethan Page
Then there was the show. Lots of cars, lots of people, lots of fun.

Above photo courtesy of David Kvapil Photography
Above photo courtesy of David Kvapil Photography

Friday, July 23, 2010

We love our Dremel: and other spectacular tales

Progress has been a bit slow over the last couple of weeks as we had our annual Bus Pilots Association Family Reunion which has absorbed a lot of our time. Also, Craig has been out of town so now we’re finally getting back into the swing of things.

The front beam is now installed thanks in part to the most excellent observation made by our friend James who pointed out that you can’t install the beam when the shift rod is in position (duh). This meant that we had to find a way to disconnect the very rusted and grimed together front and rear shift rods. Craig was up for the task and went through about 25 Dremel discs cutting through the coupler. Here’s the aftermath.

With the front beam fully assembled and blissfully in place, we moved to the rear setup which (in my opinion) has been far more straightforward so far than was front beam assembly. It basically went like this: insert new axles and axle tubes. Swap out nose cone. Put on new boots. Install new spring plates…and that’s where we’re sitting presently.

Craig has been rather tenacious and resilient with this project thus far. He’s really good at drilling/cutting/hammering very fussy pieces of metal until they give/fall apart/move. Prior to the coupler project, Craig took on the project of drilling out a screw holding one of the cargo doors in place. This literally took 5 hours. Several hardened steel screw removers broke off in the hole, several drill bits litter the garage floor. It was really quite a massacre. The ultimate hero was a carbide Dremel bit which not only drilled through the hardened steel, but stayed sharp, didn’t break and got the job done. Whew. Here’s the aftermath of that project.

The good news—three of the four cargo doors are now installed. The bad news—one of the screw plates fell into the bus frame where the fourth door is supposed to screw in. Those who know splitties understand that this is NOT a good thing to have happened. We’ve ordered some earth metal magnets (or something like that) which we’re hoping will grab the plate and we’ll be able to work it back up to its designated location. That’s the best case scenario. I’ve avoided thinking too much about the alternative scenarios. Time will tell.

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Beam Assembly and things Forgotten

Jasmine is officially gone. Craig called this morning and said this is the worst he’s ever felt about selling a bus. I completely agree with his stance. Jasmine was the bus that taught us that not EVERY bus will immediately require thousands of dollars in maintenance upon initial acquisition. She wanted to run every morning when I got in to start her up. She was amazing in the snow. She started right up the day it was -3 degrees last winter. She really was a great bus…but we’re impatient and are excited about our new project. Really excited.

Thanks Jasmine. It’s been nice knowing you, have fun in Sun Valley—you spoiled rich girl. Party it up with the Kutcher/Willis clan.

Moving on, a couple of things that have excited me about the new bus which I have failed to mention.

1) New ignition switch—which is actually an old ignition switch! Complete with super awesome original VW keys too!

2) Made in West Germany plate. Cool, right?! I love this in the same way that I love my clock which says “Made in the USSR”.

Taking a quick trip back to the wiring harness installation; I actually do have a couple of pictures I want to share. Because we’ve been doing an annoying amount of searching online for pictures that actually show something relevant and tell us what we’re looking at, I’m going to be doing a lot of labeling on pictures moving forward. I hope it helps someone.

I failed to mention earlier that Dawn soap was our savior on the wiring harness project. Also, we had to cut off some of the spades in order to decrease the diameter of the harness (which we had to do anyway since our terminals are old and screw in).

Finally, here’s a glimpse at our work on the front suspension. Our friend Chad has been crucially helpful in getting us started with the correct parts and pieces on our suspension. He came by the other day to walk us through the basic positioning of everything and now we’re actually putting stuff together (which is much more fun than having boxes of VW parts sitting on your kitchen floor…although that is fun too.)

Assembling torsion leaves and control arms:

We started with a 2” narrowed beam and torsion leaves. First, you put the torsion leaves in the beam. There’s a disc in the center of both tubes in the beam. Each is cut to the shape of the torsion leaves when they are lumped together. We found the easiest method of insertion was to start with the widest leave and work our way out to the narrower leaves sliding them in next to those that had already been inserted.

There are three sets of dimples on each set of beams (one at each end and one in the middle. The bolt at the center of the beam screws into the center dimples on each set of leaves to keep them from spinning freely.

Next, install the control arms. You’ll need a rubber bushing for each control arm which slides as far onto the shaft as possible. If there are little pvc/cardboard looking tubes in the ends of your beam, leave those in place and the control arm will push them into the beam as you hammer the arms in (using a rubber mallet).

At the elbow of the control arms, there’s a hole. Hopefully you have four grub screws (they are about 1.5 inches long and are tapered at the ends. They’ve got an allen wrench head. These screw through the holes in the control arm into the dimples at the ends of the torsion leaves. (This all makes perfect sense when you’re looking at it).

Next up—installing spindles. (hopefully tomorrow; wish us luck tonight).

Oh, and we're excited to have a dedicated work space in the garage. We no longer have to move Jasmine in and out whenever we want to work. Look at the bright side, right?

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

and our hands are dirty

We started out by sanding like madmen and painted the inside of the front cab. We decided to go with dove blue on this bus—as it was the original color. Dove blue also happens to be my husband’s favorite bus color and I, frankly, don’t like it. It isn’t that I DIS-like it; it just doesn’t do anything for me. Anyway, Craig didn’t have to put up much of a fight on this one because I like to keep history intact when it is feasible.

There was quite a lot of useable paint remaining in the cab so we chose to leave everything we could original VW paint. It looks pretty darn good and I don’t think the transitions are too horribly obvious. It’s a nice mix of clean and patina.

The second project was installation of the new wiring harness. The project took a ridiculous amount of time—three evenings and a Saturday morning. Here’s why: Since the bus is a double door bus, it has a belly pan welded on the bottom, which means that rather than being able to work with the new harness in an open frame channel, we had to string the harness through a big long inaccessible tube that ran the length of the belly pan, accessible only through the frame. That wouldn’t be so hard except for the fact that someone had pulled the old harness without leaving a guide line behind.

First, we had to run a fish puller through this tube. At both ends of the belly pan, there is a plate with a hole in the center through which the fish puller had to go. The problem was, there was no way to see this hole or to know where it was in relation to the fish puller. I say with near certainty that we couldn’t have been successful without my mom’s “SeeSnake” (inspection camera) which allowed us to see the hole and after much labor and frustration, we finally were successful. (I guess we could have cut into the belly pan and frame but I don’t like that idea.) Following this, I started wiring gauges, fuse box, and switches (which was way too much fun by the way). The harness we purchased had matching wire colors to the original harness which was incredibly helpful.

(That's a blurry pic of my mom under the bus. Thanks Mom.)

Now, we’ve begun assembly of the front beam…pictures and info to come!