Friday, November 30, 2007

The unreleased Big Blue Headlands Video

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Powder coated bumpers back!

Well, yesterday morning I got myself out of bed at 6:00am! to head over to Richmond to Poly Engineering to pick up the bumpers and spare wheel. I was really happy with them. So happy, in fact, that I decided I couldn't put them back on with the old, crappy hardware, so today I am placing an order with VW Heritage to get a full set of replacement bolts, washers, etc.

Can't wait to get them back on Blue...

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Weekend work

I spent about 12 hours on Saturday and Sunday working on Big Blue and he really looks no different. Most of what I was doing was going through and taking out small things like the old wire basket on the side of the fridge, and the cracked wood at the base of the table.

The majority of the work was spent on the windows. I removed 2 of them (and will do the 3rd this coming weekend) to clean them and put new sheet metal screws in. Also, Blue got 3 new screens which I stretched myself (yes, you can hear pride in that sentance).

Here are some pics of the cleaned windows, though it may not look much different to anyone...

Big Blue's younger brother is in town

I'm not sure where this bus came from, but it showed up down the street yesterday. I brought Blue down this morning for a photo op. The other bus is post-1972 - you can see the difference in taillights and turn signals on the front, as well as the roofline is a little different - Big Blue being more rounded at the top. Interesting that it has the exact same Riviera pop top as Blue.

Friday, November 23, 2007

The VW that started it all - RELL!

How, some may wonder, did Elizabeth and I become interested in a VW camper. The blame lays squarely at the feet, or tires, of a 1973 VW named Rell. In May of 2006, Elizabeth rented Rell from Bill at Vintage SURFari Wagons.
Crappy camera-phone image of me in front of Rell. We emailed this out to all our friends while we were there.

We drove down from San Francisco to Orange County, where Bill lives and rented Rell for 3 days. The whole thing was a surprise for me to, in Elizabeth's words, get wanting a VW camper out of my system. After spending that time driving around our favorite SoCal cities in Rell, it was obvious the plan had backfired. Elizabeth left that weekend wanting a VW camper as much as I did.

EP and I used the Rell image for our Save The Date for our wedding.

When we set out to get our own vw camper, we looked high and low for the same qualities we liked in Rell - the Riviera top, the early Westy-type floorplan. As we restore Big Blue, you will see us try to accomplish what Rell has, good clean mojo, light wood, light interior, wood headliner. That's why Big Blue appealed to us so much.

So here are some pictures and a video from the Rell trip. We highly recommend doing this a vacation and Bill couldn't have been nicer or easier to deal with...

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Big Blue takes some work friends to lunch.

I forgot to post these pictures from my phone. A few weeks ago, Blue took a few work friends out for lunch - six people in fact - the great thing about a bus. We all piled in and went to a burrito joint in Strawberry Village called, Lucinda's. Great burritos, but no place to sit. But with Big Blue around, that isn't a concern...

From left to right; Amanda, Shawn (a Ghia owner), Doug, and Deb (missing from these photos is Danica.)

You may recognize Deb from the blog, Deb Mumma's Daily Consumption.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Christmas came early...

For Big Blue this year!

We got him a new chrome front emblem, new rubber window seals for the windshield & rear window and new rubber steps for the bumpers from Wolfsburg West. The rubber for the bumpers will go on right away. We are waiting on a quote from the body shop on the front clip before Blue gets his emblem and new window seals...

Video of the Sunday Beach Beer Run (we are working on a title)

Big Blue doesn't look so rusty in black & white...

CLICK HERE FOR VIDEO posted at Monkey and the Frog.

Monday, November 19, 2007

Big Blue - Sunday Night Beach Run

We took Big Blue over the hill to Rodeo Beach last night. We picked up our friend Peter for the ride. It was Elizabeth's 2nd ride in Blue and Peter's first. It is nice to actually start enjoying the bus rather than working on it. He ran great and took the hills pretty well.

The actual beach was closed for two reasons: The oil spill, which has hit the beaches right around us the hardest, and a shark warning, which was odd, but the views were still good and the beer was cold.

We had our first stopper-byer. VW friends kept telling us that a VW bus attracts people like a magnet. And it does. Almost everyone watches Blue drive by, many people smile and a few people wave. Last night, a photographer guy with an Indiana Jones hat (who we determined afterward, may have been the Zodiac Killer) came up to the bus and said, "Well, an old beetle!" We didn't correct him. He asked us what year it was and how much it was worth and how fast it was. He may have been looking to rob a bank, or just curious. Eventually, after noticing that Big Blue was missing his bumpers, he bid us goodbye and headed off.

I think we are going to try to make this a Sunday night tradition...

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Noon project: remove the spare tire mount

With the onset of Daylight Savings Time, I have tried to curtail whacking away at Big Blue past 9:oo in the evening, but I am not getting everything done that I would like before bedtime. So today at noon, I used my lunch hour to walk home and get the spare tire mount off the front of Blue.

All this removal is tough as there is almost always 1 bolt that is rusted so bad that it won't move. In this case there were 2 bolts. I was able to do it pretty quickly though, so the 1st nooner went down as planned.

Man - there was a ton of rust under that mount. I have mentioned it in the past, but the mount will be replaced with a VW symbol.

Sausalito VWs

To illustrate the proliferation of old VWs in California, I present to you:
VWs of Sausalito.

These are simply the VWs I passed on my walk to work yesterday.

Of course, Big Blue is the first I see.

This old Type 2, T1 pickup sits near the end of our road.
The owner still actively uses it for hauling.

An old Vanagon that hasn't moved in a while.

A Westy that has been parked at the body shop for quite a while.

An old Ghia that is someone's pride and joy - this is a daily driver
that comes to this office building.

In keeping with the "On my walk to work"" theme, I didn't want to get closer,
but this old bug is a daily driver as well.

Living on the water means some of the area floods. This old bug is probably too far gone as when the tide comes in, this lot floods with salt water. Also in this lot is an old FJ-40, a semi-truck from the 50s, and a Silver Streak trailer - all slowly rotting with each passing tide.

An old squareback that seldom moves (although it has).
Looks like someone spent some time on it a one point.

A newcomer to the area. A 1972 Wolfsburg Edition. This was for sale on Craigslist for a few hours last Sunday and must have sold instantly. It moved to this spot and hasn't moved since but I am interested in what the plans are... It was listed for $700.

Hello there! Another Vanagon hiding.

Another Vanagon. Usually this lot contains an old Bay Window (Big Blue's style) as well, but it has been gone recently.

And another Vanagon Westy - this one hasn't moved in a while so I hope it is not left to rot as it is in pretty good shape.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Big Blue loses his smile

Last night I was able to complete the job of taking the bumpers off Big Blue. One of the bolts gave a fight that lasted several nights but at last folded under the diamond cut-off blade of the Dremel (that thing worked great!).

Here he is minus bumpers...

Monday, November 12, 2007

Big Blue - The First Forty Years

Please note: this posting will be updated as more information is found.

On May 9th, 1968 (a Thursday), as the revolution was starting in France, a Neptune Blue VW Delivery (Panel) bus rolled off the lines in Hanover, Germany. It came with Dark Blue Leatherette interior, a manual transmission and a 1600cc, 47 HP engine. It would have rolled off the line right around the time the two-millionth Type 2 Volkswagen bus was produced. The bus was then shipped to the USA through the port in either San Francisco or San Diego (no one seems sure of this code).

Over 40 years later, on September 5th, 2007 (a Wednesday), Brett and Elizabeth purchased that same bus, now with some modifications.

Here is what I know happened in between:

On July 13th 1968 (a Saturday), 4 days before Saddam Hussein would come into power in Iraq, the bus was sold to M. Edwin Riddle of 927 Grove Way, Hayward, California. It would have been around $2,295. 0-60 mph took about 37 seconds and top speed was 65 mph. VW calculated fuel consumption with the vehicle traveling at 75 percent of top speed, which worked out to 23 mpg at 53 mph (we have average 18 mpg). The bus had been on the lot at Humphrey Motors, Inc - a Volkswagen dealership at 750 A Street, Hayward, California. The salesman's name was Tom Berberich.

At some point in the next 23 months, police would clash with antiwar protesters in Chicago, Illinois, U.S. spacecraft Apollo 8 would enter orbit around the Moon and Riddle would upgarde the VW panel truck with a new camper interior, including a bed, 12 volt fridge, and windows with screens, installed by California Road Runner Camper of 2000 Laguna Street, Concord, California. This is when the spare tire was added to the front of the bus. I know of at least 3 other conversions by the same company, which was done to a 1966 and 1968, so I have no idea how long that company lasted beyond those years.

On June 23rd, 1970 (a Sunday), a day before the United States Senate would repeal the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution, Monty Finefrock, of 12708 Border Hill Road, Los Altos, California, purchased the VW from Wes Behel Volkswagen at 1025 E. El Camino Real, Sunnyvale, California. The salesman was Dan Larsen. The price including tax was $3074.25. He traded in a '66 Mustang and they threw in a spare tire.

For the next 37 years the bus would be Monty's. Monty would change the plates from "WKT398" to "Big Blu 3". He would add a oil temp gauge, a rpm gauge and an oil pressure gauge. He would also add a ASI Riviera poptop on 7-4-1981 at 9829 Bigge Avenue in Oakland, California.

Big Blue spent his time going on family vacations and the annual National Championship Air Races and Air Show (a RC airshow in Reno, NV every September). In July of 1991, Big Blue and family traveled south from Palo Alto to Cabo San Lucas for the

Around November of 2006, it came to rest in a storage spot in Redwood City, California. After sitting awhile, Monty, who had now moved out of the Bay Area, listed it for sale on, where we would see it and buy it.

It would be our wedding gift from a few people. We created an online registry where friends and family could buy parts of a VW bus for us. After our wedding on July 7th, 2007, we were on the VW hunt. The Friday of Labor Day weekend, on our way to Yosemite, we drove down to Redwood City to look at the bus we had seen on Craigslist and we fell in love.

The above bus in not Big Blue, but minus the chrome trim on the side, this is how he would have looked coming off the assembly line.

The first thing we did was create this blog to not only track its history moving forward, but its past as well. The second thing we did was give Big Blue some new wheels and tires. The third thing, was trailer him to Paul of Valley Wagonworks in San Rafael, California and have him go over the entire thing.

Big Blue offers Elizabeth and me a chance to explore both nature and the nature of an old car. When we fix something, which we will do often, it is an opportunity to both learn and be the direct recipient of that learning. We look forward to many happy miles in Big Blue.

Figuring out the M Code:
09 5 Built May 9 1968
UF San Diego (or San Francisco, confusion on this seems pretty standard)
2110 Delivery van sliding door right, LHD, Standard Version
474735 Neptune blue with dark blue leatherette
8154651 the 8 means 68, the rest is the serial number
21 47 HP, manual trans
426 USA specs (Speedometer & Odometer in Miles, Laminated Windscreen, Padded Dash and Dash Lid, USA/CN Specs)
507 vent wings in cab doors
525 seat belts in front

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Big Blue draws first blood and some memories

Winter in California has its bad and good. Good: Campsites are generally empty. Bad: It gets dark by 5:30 or so. This makes me dread working outside after work. Last night I decided to go ahead and take the bumpers off Big Blue and have them powdercoated the same white as the wheels.

My main motivation is that I took the spare wheel in yesterday to have it coated. I have been driving without a spare and would feel better with the spare in the car (especially since I spend more than a little time pulling off to the side of the road to let cars by). I figured that I might as well do the bumpers at the same time that the spare is getting done, not that the whites matching is too important because they will be close anyway, but I might as well stop making trips to Richmond to get it done.

The task was then to remove the bumpers from Big Blue. We don't have a garage, so therefore no lights to work by in the daylights savings time darkness of the west coast. I ended up crawling underneath Blue with my camping lantern. Should of worn my headlamp but I couldn't find it in the darkness.

So it is pitch black at 6:00 when I am doing this. Aware that my legs are hanging out in the darkness of the parking lot, I was careful to get further under Blue when I heard a car coming. It didn't take long for me to cut my knuckles while trying to loosen a bolt (it actually may have been the first one). I almost didn't disclose this, but what the hell, it was because I was cranking on the bolt the wrong way - tightening it. Roughly 22 years of understanding righty-tighty, lefty-loosy go to crap while laying on a gravel parking lot underneath a vehicle.

It felt good. Not the knuckle-busting, although that wasn't terrible, but crawling under Big Blue, being outside working on a car. There was something about being under a car in the darkness with a lamp and some tools. I grew up around the many old cars my dad had. Not working on them so much, but certainly the smell of auto - the scent of grease, tire, musty car interior - and the clicking of a ratchet, and the feel of peeling paint on the cold metal remind me of hours spent in antique cars. There was something in the cooling air that reminded me of fall nights in Michigan.

It was a good memory. And I am glad to be back doing it again. As I have said before, when it comes to my father, the apple didn't fall far from the tree with regards to tinkering with old cars.

I didn't get the bumpers all the way off - couldn't find the right socket for some of the bigger bolts, so right now the front bumper is dangling on Blue until I can make a run to the storage unit for the rest of my tools. Which is something that would have happened to my dad as well.

Not for the squimish, but here is a photo of the first blood Big Blue drew. I read on a blog that VWs run better if you give them your blood now and then. So enjoy it Blue, I'm sure there will be much more headed your way.

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Up next, body work...

While trying to control the costs of this project, I still have to keep in mind that the rainy season is coming to California soon, and Big Blue needs some work around the front windshield that I am not sure can wait. As a result of the leaking windshield, there is rust in the bottom of the front clip, behind the front bumper. So I am going to have this taken care of in one swift ninja-like motion (or one swift pansy-like swipe of the debit card).

While doing that work, I am going to have the body shop take the spare tire mount off the front and put the VW symbol back on. Since Blue started his life as a panel truck, he wouldn't have had the spare tire on the front (the spare will go back inside). Also, I promised Elizabeth we would do this to whatever bus we ended up with.

So now begins the task of getting quotes from a few body shops. There is one literally 200 yards from the end of our road, so I guess I am starting there.

I guess from here on until we paint, Blue will only get uglier....

(the picture attached is of a bus on the side of the road in Stockton. Elizabeth was there last year and bought a camera to take some pics. The bus was missing the engine, but had most everything else. The asking price was $600. Tempting)

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