Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Vintage Tuesday - Monkey VW

Monday, January 30, 2012

1969 Popular Hot Rodding - the Super Bug

Sunday, January 29, 2012

The Static Files - because it's about how well you handle going slow, not fast...

Friday, January 27, 2012

VW Camper Family Circa 1975 - The great barn-raising of the summer of '75

In July of '75, the original members of the VW Camper Family gathered in an remote location in Northern California to hang out and have some fun. I was a little high at the time, so I don't remember much, but this is the story my camera tells:

The group gathers around Peter's VW

The group gets a "hobo stew" going on the fire...

Static and Big Blue's Driver try to make the stew as, um, special as possible...

There are songs...

John keeps tasting the stew before it is done...

EP and Oak find a quiet spot to hang out.

Westywoman (above) takes a break by the creek.

Romy contemplates the Tri-Tip.

PJAlau (above) gets drunk while considering ways to stick it to the man...

Later, PJAlau remembers he is allergic to beer...

Blake H sets up his drum set, upset there isn't any other instruments around except that stupid guy with the fiddle...

PJAlau, Big Blue's Driver and Static taste the stew... Wondering how much to spice it up.

Static is quoted as saying, "There is never enough spice."

One of the Wild Women of Wongo stokes the fire.

And the whole crew has a fantastic time and enjoys the Hobo Stew.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Keynote Presentation: What VW bus/van is right for me?

Editor's note. This week, I had a tweet from @ArtBeatnik who asked, "I'm a non-mechanically inclined guy VW Van lover, looking to become an owner one as well. Any suggested starting points?" At first I thought I would hand him over to the wolves on TheSamba.com and watch him get eaten for calling a "bus" a "van", and then watch the vultures move in and pick at him until he decided to stick to his Saturn because the VW guys are all jerks.

The only issue I have with the VW community is if you haven't wrenched on VWs for years, you are considered one of the folks bringing the whole scene down and making it too cliche and what not. But, everyone starts somewhere and, because I once thought the washer fluid reservoir was the brake fluid reservoir, I will go ahead and put my opinion out there. First warning, @ArtBeatnik; everyone in the VW community has an opinion.

What follows is an actual transcription from the 56th Annual Symposium on Volkswagen Culture held in Eschede, Germany, where I was invited to present my latest publication, Fünf-ions! The 5 Questions of Entry into the VW World.

{original, unedited transcript}

Hello, my friends. It is, um, an honor to be here. Certainly, I traveled far to be part of this conference and since I only had 4 months to get here, I left my Kafer in Berlin and took the train!...

{light laughter}

Okay. Well, thanks to the Langenhagen Transaxle Society for inviting me to speak today. And special thanks to the Burgwedel crew for making sure I found my room last night and the great Brötchen this morning. Whew! Nothing keeps it down like Brötchen!

Okay. Very well then.

I am here today to speak on the 5 questions of entry into the world of VW transporter ownership Now, these are just opinions. But I'm the one on the stage, so that makes me the expert, right? Slide 1, my Bruder!

Here are the 5 questions you must answer...

1. How often do you plan to drive this VW
2. How far do you plan to drive it?
3. How much money do you have?
4. Do you want to maintain the VW yourself?
5. Do you have extra time on your hands and are you looking to get wrapped into a culture that leads to excessive opinion-sharing, forum-stalking, Facebook posts and that drunk feeling when you realize that you know someone who is good friends with the son of Ben Pon? In other words, is it important that your bus have style and personality?

Ha! Just threw that last one in there as a joke. Good thing that doesn't happen to any of us in this room, huh?

{As much laughter as a crowd of Germans can create}

Let's run through a scenario. Let's assume you are a non-mechanically inclined guy VW Van lover, looking to become an owner of one as well. You want to travel to & from work, in the neighborhood, go on road trips. You want to learn the engine. And you work odd hours and are free during the day a lot. You need a hobby and would love for it to be restoring/maintaining a VW van or bus. Let's play this out, shall we?

First question.  How often do you plan to drive this VW?
All VWs can be daily drivers. I mean, some guy is driving a 1930 Model A around Michigan right now to prove a point. What point? That Darwin was wrong. Look, some cars aren't meant to be daily drivers. If it's a daily driver, stay away from 6-volt cars. And stay away from drum brakes. Of course, my daily driver was both of those for 4 years, so do as I say, not as I do. When I drive through a rain storm in the dark, I sometimes pull over to let a car by that I can follow by their taillights! See! Darwin was wrong!

So this leaves you with a 71 or newer bus.

Second question.  How far do you plan to drive this VW?
For the sake of making the answer hard, let's focus on "want to do a little of both, travel to & from work, in the neighborhood, go on road trips". VW owners will tell you their bus will go 65 or 70. And it will. But it will not cruise at 65 or 70 and, if a bus driver manages to get it going that fast and maintain that speed, one can assume they are hyped up on some sort of common-sense blocking drug like pot or Redbull or Metallica. 

If you want to take 6 days to travel a few hundred miles tasting ice cream and picking apples the whole time, take any VW you want. You want to make it to Buses by the Bridge and be back in time for work on Monday morning? You are are going to need something relatively new.

If you want to go far distances fast without stress, newer is better. Let's assume you've left the bus category (1979 and below) and entered the van category (1980 Vanagon and up).

Third question.  How much money do you have?
Because my bill is still to come and Brötchen isn't cheap. Ha!


Seriously, though. If you want to do some of the work to both save money and, as a wise man once put it," come to kindly terms with your ass, for it bears you", then you want to stay away from the Eurovan. Volks have called this the $2000 van for 2 reasons; first it costs $2000 to fix anything and second, its resale value is right around that figure. Let's assume you also haven't just won a bet with Mitt Romney and walked away with $10,000. This leaves you in the early 80s.

Fourth question.  Do you want to maintain the VW yourself?
This is good. This is part of the VW experience. BUT - rememeber, each learning experience is a potential failure. If your goal is to camp, then pay someone to get your beast up and running so you can enjoy it. These buses were made to be used. Too may buses across America are sitting without engines. Too many buses are half done. Get it out there and use it. Then, when something breaks, try fixing it but don't be afraid or ashamed to get help if you fail. Let's try to keep you driving the VW, not looking at it wishing you could. Focus on maintenance for the first year. After that, be more brave. Early 80s aircooled is still good for this.

LAST question. Is it important that your bus have style and personality?
Okay, so here's the lifestyle angle. There's something to be said for a unique car representing the personality of the driver. And every era of VW has this option if you dig for it. In fact, I think I have found the perfect bus for someone like this. I present to you, "the suggestion": An early 80s aircooled Vanagon Hightop. Style, grace, cruise and distance. Get one with the original size black wheels. Like this:

Whatever VW you choose, do not get discouraged working on your VW. Four years ago I couldn't figure out how to take the brake drum off and last month I replaced the whole front brake system. Time and breakdowns are your teacher. 

Now, my Freundin and I are of to Edelweiss for some skiing. Schlaf gut!

{Standing ovation, cheers all around!}

VW friends and freaks. I've never asked you your opinion before, but I am asking this time; offer your own opinion below. And, should @ArtBeatnik decide to buy a VW bus/van something or other, let's agree to give him a chance and help him and give him a break when he leaves a socket on his spark plug and tries to start his bus...

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Vintage Tuesday - Euro rag...

Monday, January 23, 2012

1980s Hot VWs - Vandetta

Sunday, January 22, 2012

The Static Files - Disrespect

Friday, January 20, 2012

Week in review - A rundown on all 3 beasts...

It's been a while since I gave a real honest update about the 3 VWs currently making up the scene here at the homestead. I thought I would get back to a little good old fashioned blogging after the "blackout" we did to fight SOPA earlier this week (thanks for putting up with that, but I felt it was important). So, let's run through these, shall we?  

The Green Hornet (1956 VW Bug)

The last time we left our hero The Green Hornet, he had just had his crap-filled gas tank removed in some late night work while Oak and EP were out of town. Normally come December no work gets done around here as I have grown into a wimp when it comes to weather. A little rain and a little cold and I stay inside with a bottle of wine and a book and wait out our "winter". But not this year! Winter has been a mild warmth that actually makes me uneasy late at night. And, while this weather is odd in a freakishly "yes, global warming is real and this is the last year of your happy little life so enjoy it" sort of way, The Green Hornet is the recipient of good fortune of global warming as it has received many late night advancements.

Good fortune #1: below  is a picture of the rear brakes on the replacement axle for The Green Hornet. This is the before picture...

If you look close, you can see dead spiders. Seriously! This transaxle replaces the tranaxles (2) bought along with TGH. Apparently, both of those were shot. So Paul at Valley Wagonwerks is a cool enough cat to deliver an extra one he had to my house. He and his absolutely positive influence of a wife stopped by and dropped one off in the fall. And this new transaxle has become the foundation for a new refreshed transaxle replacement. All parts are stripped being cleaned, painted and replaced...

Good fortune #2: Axle tubes getting painted...

Good Fortune #3: A continued cleaning of all things engine related...

Alright, so the transaxle is good. So what to do with the engine?

Several things have had me hung up over the past few months.

1. I absolutely could not remove the outer shroud tin that the generator connects to from the fan. This was one of the last pieces in the 2nd set of items to be sandblasted and powdercoated. I had a back and forth conversation with this rather large bolt holding these pieces together. At first, it was all like, here's a big wrench and some pipe. But the bolt said no. Then I bought a bench vice. But it was a crappy one that you mounted with hand cranks and I literally torn a piece of the vice out trying to wrench on it. The bolt was like - f-you, man. THEN, I spent the $40 on a good bench vice, drilled holes and mounted it correctly. I placed the generator in the vice and got out my pipe/wrench combo. It looked like this:

And it worked in about 3 seconds!

2. The distributor is stuck. I cannot, for everything I tried, get it out. Any ideas?

3. I removed the heads. This is the furthest I have gone into an engine and I must come clean; I am a little scared. The biggest question I have is, now what? I took the heads off. I'm not sure I want to go further? But what can I look for at this point? I asked the question on TheSamba.com and have had no responses. Below is the naked pistons of the 36 horse that powers The Green Hornet...

Little Blue: The '63 Bug

The Green Hornet and Little Blue are separated by a thin wall, but the current difference is vast.

Little Blue, with her replaced engine, continues to be a workhorse commuter car, logging an average of 80 miles a day! Things are still off with her: missing doorpanel, radio doesn't work, no turn signals and yesterday the passenger side windshield wiper loosened enough to no longer turn. This however has not been enpugh to topple Little Blue from the pedistal I have put her on. I call that pedistal, "the best car I have ever owned".

Big Blue - '68 bus

After taking several beatings, Big Blue is back on the road! We picked him up last Saturday from Valley Wagonworks and it was great to be back behind the wheel. I fired up some tunes and 5 minutes into the drive felt like I had never been without Blue.

Next up for Blue is finishing the paint work on the front end and, when it warms up, putting in a new wood floor in the back. For now, the big goal is bURNING vAN which is tomorrow at Ocean beach in SF. With any luck, Big Blue will be there with curtains on!

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