Friday, January 27, 2012

As previously mentioned, we recently sold the our '58 Panel, and our '64 Deluxe. What I didn't mention is that we sold them both to the same buyer. Yesterday, the buyer and Craig had a conversation on Facebook which I found extremely amusing because their profile pictures alternate between the fronts and the backs of the buses. Cute, no?

As you can imagine, with the purchase of two VWs, the sale of three VWs (two internationally) and the purchase of a house, all taking place last fall, our bank accounts looked a little...interesting. So interesting, in fact, that our bank investigated us for money laundering. :-| Lemme tell you--that's not a fun phone call to get. I don't know that I've ever seen Craig turn quite that pale.

After providing explanations and bills of lading, the case is closed (knock on wood), but it was unnerving there for a while.

When your transactions look so odd that the bank thinks you are participating in illegal overseas monetary transactions, that's a good sign you should slow down for a while. So...we have. We spent a couple of months with a friend's beetle in our garage--cleaning up his engine and electrical. Tomorrow, we've got another guy bringing his beetle over for a suspension swap. As it turns out--having other people's cars in your garage is MUCH less expensive than working on your own cars (assuming we don't have any disasters involving cars falling off jacks, or people losing fingers, or CO poisoning, or gasoline explosions. Alright, that's enough of that).

I hope you all have VW adventures planned for your weekend...or have a much needed break. Whichever, really.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

So many buses...which one is for me?

In response to this post…

We’ve owned ‘em all early split, late split, early bay, late bay, air cooled Vanagon, water cooled Vanagon, so I guess from that perspective my opinion is worth SOMETHING, right? :-) (I will be making some gross generalizations here and this is all just my opinion.)


Pros: They are the roomiest, most comfortable (for camping and driving) of the VW family. (I suppose Eurovans are better, but I’m not going there.) They make for absolutely delightful road tripping. They still possess that feeling of freedom but with a few more modern comforts than the older campers. Don’t worry, you’ll still get the quirks and problems associated with earlier buses (i.e. changing fan belts in the campsite at the Sasquatch Festival, or changing a fuel pump in the parking lot at a WalMart in middle-of-nowhere, Utah).

Cons: They are UGLY beasts. I don’t care how you slice or dice it, they just didn’t get the cute genes. Also, to many (or most), they aren’t “real” VW buses.

My Recommendation: Buy a water cooled. They all get hot, but air cooled Vanagons are amazingly difficult to keep cool. With an AC Vanagon, you’ll spend lots of time waiting on the side of the road for your engine to cool.

BAY WINDOWS ('68-'79): 

Pros: They are cute as buttons, possess the spirit and life of VW buses, and are a little roomier than split windows. They are easier to drive, and are safer than split window buses.

Cons: You won’t impress the hard core enthusiasts. Also, they are slightly more difficult to work on than earlier buses. For example, if your window won’t roll up, you’re looking at replacing a window regulator (which is a pain in the neck), whereas, with a split window, if your window isn’t moving, you will be able to see what the preclusion is, and likely move it with your finger.  

My Recommendation: ’71 is the best year because it is the first with disc brakes, and the last year with the upright engine and removable rear apron—meaning you can pull the engine out the back, rather than lifting the bus over it to remove.


Pros: There’s nothing quite like the view from the drivers’ seat of a split window. There is a rich history to these. You will become obsessed with the little unique pieces your bus needs, and will spend hours each day online dreaming about whether your bus needs deluxe trim, or whether you should lower it, or justify buying a set of BRMs for it. These are easy to work on. There just isn’t much to them and for that reason they are really fun to play with. Buy a Bentley manual, and add to your “favorites” and dive in.

Cons: You can (but don’t have to) spend tens of thousands of dollars on these babies—just messing around with restoration.

My Recommendation: The earlier the better. Stock engines were engineered to run forever, and I don't recommend huge engine modifications myself. We've had a couple 1776 cc engines and they run really nice and have some nice energy, but I don't recommend anything bigger than that. The more custom you go, the harder it is to find parts on the fly. 
Depending on the amount of work you want to do, you want to stay away from things like rotted rockers and dog legs, cut dashes, cut bulkheads, and welds in funny places (like the cargo door Craig's dad welded shut on his first bus). You'll have a preference for bullet buses (pre '62), fried egg buses ('62 and later), pressed bumpers (mid '58 and earlier), or over-rider bumpers (mid-'58 and later), or...if you are made of money and want to be a VW god--barndoors (pre '55). Really though, these variations are just stupid things that only people like me who spend way too much energy on VW history would even notice. 

Keep in mind, that in order to own a bus, you need to be flexible and willing to think outside of the box…and have a good AAA policy. Part of the fun of driving them is that they WILL break down. The key is to enjoy the ride and be as prepared as you can with a solid emergency kit, a manual, and as many mechanically inclined friends as you can find. You’ll learn a lot. As Brett mentioned in his post, one day you won’t know a valve from a brake line and before you know it, you’ll be adjusting your own valves and bleeding your own brakes.

Ultimately, VW buses are a ton of fun. No matter what bus you pick, you’ll have people honk and wave at you wherever you go. People will stop you in parking lots, and at gas pumps and tell you about the VW they had, or the one their best friend’s dad had. It is a community unlike any other I know.

(Having said all of this…over the last few months, we’ve sold the Squareback L

the Panel

 and a 13 window deluxe that never even made the blog (as pictured above).

What can I say? Sometimes you just need to have a car that is probably going to start in the morning, get you to work every day, and stop quickly when a permit driver slams on his brakes in front of you. To replace our cars, we bought a house (okay, the house didn’t replace a car, but the panel paid for the down payment), an ’04 Passat, an ’06 convertible Beetle, and, most recently, a ’61 Convertible Beetle—more to come on this one!

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Club trip to the 2011 Classic in Los Angeles

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Remind me, why do we drive these things?

For many months, and even more money, we've tried to get our 1958 double door bus on the road. Things were going well, then the day before Oktoberfest we lost a tire about 1/4 from home and parked the bus in the garage and walked away.

February freeze-out rolled around and the bus was all ready for its BPA debut, and lo and behold...shifting doesn't work. We got it back to the garage after a wild 1st gear-trip on State Street, parked it and walked away.

Then, somehow, we got excited again and spent more time and more money. We are road-trip people so when things were going well, we decided to plan a trip to make sure the bus was ready for the Classic in June. We got a nice brand new motor and new master cylinder and brake lines (random you say? read on...) We put 400 miles on the motor. Suddenly, I heater is REALLY hot, that can't be good. I take the bus to my friend Mike Allan and looks like it is at 255 degrees. This is after I took the motor out, changed the generator, and another friend, Aaron, came to help put the motor back in. Well, I was a little bummed, but headed for home as the bus temp was topping out around 255. As I get the bus up to 55 mph on state street, and a white honda civic decides to turn in front of me, I grab for brakes, and there is this horrible metal on metal sound... you guessed it.... brake pedal, meet the floor. Why I didn't do the dual circuit master cylinder I don't know, but I can assure you I am looking to buy one before this bus goes again, but I digress. I was able to change lanes at the last moment (not very easy in a panel, with no brakes, and about .5 seconds of warning), change back, slow to 35 mph and take a turn before another car decides to stop in front of the out-of-control bus. I am really glad the bus is so low, I don't think otherwise I could have made that fast that it went slightly sideways before I could recover and finally get it into my garage without hitting the neighbor kids on skateboards. So... it sits, in my garage, and I'm walking away.

Back to the road-trip. Well, never fear, the Squareback can pull the puck and we'll still have an aircooled adventure. So I get the puck wheels off and it turns out that the only wheels that are similar that fit the right profile are on the East coast, and cost $150 a piece... I need 3. Oh, and they are 2 weeks away even if I wanted to expedite. So the Puck is in my garage, and I'm walking away.

Okay, no bus, no Puck, but we still have ole' reliable, the Squareback. I'll preface by saying, I'm glad it had a dual circuit master cylinder. Coming off the freeway, Maryn was putting all she had into the brake, and it barely made a difference. Long story short, dear Bethany helped me change the master cylinder and the Square is ready, right? No, of course it isn't, why would it be ready? The generator light is flickering. Bethany and I look at all the connections, and the next day I call Mike Allan. We ran by his place, got some new brushes, and put them in. Still got a flickering generator light and we aren't about to take a 1400 mile trip with the luck we've had leading to this point and still have a generator light flickering.

Okay, so, lets recap... no bus, no square, no puck, but 2 days off of work. Lets take the "Crapmobile" (1993 Fox). Okay, sounds great, except on the way home from work, it decides that the radiator fan, or switch, or relay, or fuse, or something else isn't working and it is overheating. At this point, ready to give all of our EVERYTHING VW away, we decide to rent a car.

1400 miles, not one incident, the brakes worked very well, the motor never overheated, the steering box never drug, the defrost worked great, the wipers were spectacular, the seats were comfortable, the XM radio was amazing, we got nearly 35 mpg and were able to travel at 5 mph over the speedlimit through 3 states, 2 countries, 3 snowy mountain passes and 1 west-coast beach.

VW's for sale.... cheap!

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Guest Writer

Craig here, writing a post about our European Caravan called the Eriba Puck. Here goes! It is a 1969-titled-as-a-1971-Puck in Idaho. We got it this summer and promptly took it out to camp and loved it!

We've had Vanagon campers and Bay campers, but we also daily drive our ACVW's so hauling 3 tons of camping gear around everyday gets cumbersome. So a friend sold us this Puck and we've started tearing it down as it needs some work. We've got an Oregon Coast trip planned in about a month, so my first focus is to get it road-worthy, then I'll start with the fine-tuning.
We'll be pulling it primarily with our freshly redone (I'm talking the mechanic is doing the final checks today and tomorrow freshly done ) 1958 Double Door Panel with a brand-new 1835cc engine. (It has windows now)

We got this bus on casters last May and have been working very hard to get it done, but that post is for another day, this is about the Puck! We've towed it with our 1969 Squareback, and this is definitely another option if we want the Square experience instead.

I just got a shipment from Germany today! I needed some new Hella taillights and Hella reflectors. I ended up getting two taillights and 25 reflectors, so needless to say, I've got 23 reflectors for sale...Cheap! Notice the large stack of reflectors!

Stuff I'm looking for: Window rubber for all 4 windows and Plastic filler moulding (red). I've also got to do something about the tires...they are the original european tires and I don't trust them more than a few miles, but replacements are nearly impossible to find in a decent amount of time, and I don't want to be stranded on the coast, waiting 2 weeks for tires to ship so I can tow her home...but that's just me.

And now back to our regularly scheduled blogger....

Monday, February 21, 2011

I'm no, not at all. Fortunately for me, in this day and age, they'll sell anyone with $129.99 a video camera. This means I can take video everywhere. Even while driving to work.

Craig and I went to Buses by the Bridge in Lake Havasu City, AZ last month. It was all kinds of awesome. I've never seen so many buses in one place before.

Here's a little insight into the kinds of things that amuse Craig and me.Your motivation to watch to the end is that you get to see video of Craig, who is normally less than enthusiastic about being photographed (isn't he cute?)

Here's a real gem. I deeply regret having pointed the camera toward my face and having said anything during the filming of this video. Anyway, the point of the video is that the bus engine is functional! Sorry you can't really see it...just enjoy the noise I guess.

Finally, here's a short one, showing the bus actually on the road, moving. As we understand it, this bus hasn't been road worthy in over 15 years, so we're really happy that she's rollin!

Friday, February 18, 2011

Big Accomplishments

I started school again in January so while I’ve been sitting on my butt all day trying to increase my intelligence, and at the very least, increasing my waistline, Craig has taken complete ownership of the bus project, and he is rocking it.

Big accomplishment #1: the bus is painted. Dove blue—its original color, with grey in the cargo area to match the original grey primer.

Interesting fact—VW didn’t track the exact color codes for their primer, so there’s really no way of knowing exactly what color the primer is on your bus. It’s just grey.

Big accomplishment #2: several months ago, we purchased an 1835cc long-block which had been built and then sat for a few years without ever having been started. We had it torn down and rebuilt, then Craig threw the top end together (it's so easy when someone else is doing it!) I took a 20 minute study break and helped install the engine last weekend. (One thing I love about buses is that all it takes to install an engine is: an engine, a jack, four bolts, and two people…legend has it you can install an engine by yourself…I’m not trying it.)

We very anxiously cranked it and the thing just wasn’t getting spark. Plugs are new, wires are new, so we (meaning Craig) figured it must be the distributor. Ordered up a new distributor which came yesterday. Swapped out distributors, engine was getting spark, and then the battery died. Sigh.

Another interesting fact—Bosch no longer makes replacement distributors for ACVWs. Bummer.

Big accomplishment #3: oh man, this one is HUGE (huger than an engine and paint?) Our bus came with all of the pieces of the front door window assemblies—completely disassembled. We bought all the seals and the whole mess has been sitting on our living room floor for several weeks. I think of it with dread, my blood pressure rises, storm clouds gather, and I pray that they’ll magically assemble themselves. Last night, I got home from class, and Craig had assembled 1.5 of the front door window assemblies! He was all pissed off and tired and all I wanted to do was party, and call all my friends to come see the splendor.

A word to those who don’t know—vent windows are a biiiittch. First, you’ve got the seal that holds the vent window into its casing—which has to be pressed in (Craig used a 6” c-clamp, some pieces of wood, and super human balance to complete the task). Next, is the seal that seals the vent window to the window frame. This thing is a beast. I’ve never seen anything like it. It’s about three inches wide by two inches high, with flaps and flanges all over and has to fit into a half inch wide channel. We borrowed a little white plastic pointy flat thingy from a friend, which Craig said made it possible to complete the project.

Look at that felt!

This baby is going to the mechanic on Monday to solve our unsolvable problems (meaning things we’ve tried to resolve and are tired of trying to do). Shifting is sloppy, steering is loose, clutch is wonky, and electrical gremlins plague us (see, that’s what happens when you let me wire a bus).