Gus The VW Bus The story of a 1978 Volkswagen bus Sat, 08 Jun 2013 17:15:23 +0000 en hourly 1 2013 Volkswagens on the Green show Sat, 08 Jun 2013 17:15:23 +0000 Steve read more]]>
Another year, another VWs on the Green show that Gus didn’t make it to. But I have made some progress – current bad engine is almost out, and on the replacement engine I’ve removed all the hoses, retorqued the cylinder heads, and cleaned it up a bit.

The 2013 Volkswagens on the Green show had a lot of fantastic vintage VWs, as usual. Maybe next year Gus will make it… (I’ve been saying that for four years now I think…)

Love this split with the vintage canoe.

Nicely done Riviera camper conversion.

Beautiful split.

I’m pretty sure I talked to the owner of this one last year at the show. This is a beautiful restoration – I think he’s pretty active on thesamba…can’t remember his name though.

I seem to remember a thread about this fire extinguisher – it’s an original Super 6. (I love when people try to get the correct period equipment for their vintage VWs…I however, just would love to get Gus on the road!)

Love this shot.

Someday…a squareback will join my garage…

I have a lot more pics to post, including some Volkswagen and related oddities…stay tuned!

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Down time Wed, 29 Aug 2012 20:10:09 +0000 Steve read more]]>

I’ve noticed a familiar pattern in VW bus blogs. They all start with excitement – the purchase of a bus with big plans for camping and tooling around. A minor (or major) cosmetic restoration then occurs, followed by perhaps some actual driving around or camping. Inevitably, the next step seems to be engine problems, followed by an engine removal and rebuild. And that is where Gus is now.

I’ve started removal of various engine hoses and pieces in preparation for engine removal, following Richard Atwell’s excellent guide on his site If you haven’t been there before, it is a wealth of knowledge for the Bay Window VW Bus. I’ve labeled each connection with tape and a corresponding letter designation. Ratwell doesn’t say to do this, but in the past I’ve found this is an invaluable aid in reassembly.

Here is the spare engine I picked up awhile ago. I’ve got it on the Harbor Freight jack so I can clean it up and reinstall the valve covers. I’m not sure this engine works, but I’m going off of what the previous owner told me about it. I’m going to tighten the cylinder head bolts to spec first, as he said it was leaking oil where one of the cylinders meets the block. I’m hoping the gasket is still intact, and tightening the cylinder head bolts will stop the oil leak. I realize I’m basing all my hopes and dreams about this engine from a tale told to me by a complete stranger I met after answering an ad off of Craigslist – a man who seemed credible despite the 5000 cats roaming around his yard. I did have to endure his tales of his ex-cop girlfriend tampering with the brakes on his truck. This resulted in him crashing and then getting snagged for a DUI, which was totally bogus as he had only had a few drinks with dinner. He seemed like a nice enough fellow though. The engine looks to be well cared for, so I’m hoping the story of the engine is true.

I recently picked up a new (used) muffler off of Craigslist also. Alas, it didn’t come with any tales, just a normal guy selling a muffler. He did live in a gated community though, which was a nice upgrade pickup spot from the spare engine’s location. I’m going to use this muffler with the spare engine, since Gus’s engine has a catalytic converter with the muffler. So that’s where Gus is at – I’m hoping to get more done on the engine removal and hopefully get the transmission from Gus hooked up to the spare engine so I can do a compression check to see if the spare is any good. Stay tuned!

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Getting ready for the trip… Wed, 20 Jun 2012 16:24:55 +0000 Steve read more]]>

As I mentioned in my last post about the 2012 VWs on the Green show, I had been working quite hard for the last few months trying to get Gus ready to drive to the show. I drained the gas from the gas tank, which was a disgustingly smelly and painful job (some a lot went on my arm, and if you’ve never spilled gas on yourself, well…don’t. It burns. )

This is what the gas looked like after I drained it. Normal, fresh gas is almost clear – like water. After I drained the tank and put some fresh gas in Gus ran (and smelled) much better.

I finally had gotten the muffler attached, and put on new(er) tires and wheels that I bought a few years ago. It was time to take Gus for a spin around the neighborhood to see how he did.

As usual, Gus attracted quite a few neighborhood spectators, as he rarely makes it out of the garage. He did ok driving around the ‘hood – the brakes were a little soft, but still worked. The next test was to go out onto the “big road” – the 35 mph road around the subdivision. I’ve never taken Gus outside of the friendly confines of the 20 mph streets surrounding his home. We headed into uncharted waters (for me anyway…I know Gus has been on many a road).

And, not having really driven a VW bus on a normal road, it was a bit scary. Especially since I couldn’t seem to get him over 35 miles per hour. He did make it a few miles around on the big road, but something seemed off. He was very sluggish – I had to floor it to make it to 35 mph. Something was wrong, and there was no way I could drive only 35 mph to the VW show. So it was time for diagnostics. A compression test was in order.

Richard Atwell’s superb VW bus site has an excellent write-up on engine diagnosis here. Basically a compression test tells you how much compression the engine has – generally, the higher the number, the better.

Here are Gus’s results:

Cylinder 1- 75 first time, then I could only get it to 60
Cylinder 2 – 89 then 86
Cylinder 3 – ZERO (checked and rechecked many times)
Cylinder 4 – 115 then 110

ZERO is not good. I posted my results on the IAC website, and was advised to adjust my valves, and check again. I adjusted the valves, and #3′s intake was 3 1/2 turns off (counterclockwise) before making contact…so 5 turns total when you take into account the 1 1/2 turns clockwise for adjusting, if that makes sense (to those of you reading who understand what I was doing…)

I rechecked compression, and here were the new totals:
Cylinder 1 – 94, then 75
Cylinder 2 – 83 then 81
Cylinder 3 – ZERO
Cylinder 4 – 110

ZERO is still not good. It basically means there is no compression on Cylinder #3, so the engine is running on only three cylinders, instead of the four it should be running on. Confirmation from Colin and some other folks basically confirmed it’s time to pull the engine. Probably valve seat recession, or a burnt valve. Bummer.

So…did Gus make the trip? No, unfortunately. But I am in the process of removing Gus’s engine now, and I’m going to check out the spare engine to see if the compression is good on that one. If so, I’ll switch engines and hopefully get on the road this summer!

So it’s back into the garage for now…but he is looking pretty spiffy, huh?

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2012 VWs on the Green Sat, 09 Jun 2012 17:19:15 +0000 Steve read more]]>

So for the last three years I have been saying that I would drive Gus to the next VWs on the Green show. For the past few months I have been working to get Gus roadworthy, and it’s finally paying off. Here he is with new wheels and tires, muffler installed, just after a drive around the neighborhood. But could he make it the 20 or so miles to the show?

At the show some of my favorite cars are always in the parking lot. I don’t know why, but I love the daily drivers. Probably because that’s where I want Gus to be. (that’s not Gus in the above pic, btw)

Here my two little VW lovers pose next to a single cab VW bus.

“Look Daddy, it’s a big VW logo!” He loves pointing out the VW logos whenever he sees them.

Hmmm…do I need another bus?

I’m a sucker for orange VW’s.

And green ones too.

We finally made it into the show, and Fillmore from the Disney movie Cars (and Cars 2) was the first bus we saw. The kids seem to like him.

Beautiful split window bus.

This is a watercooled Jetta engine in a VW bay window bus. Pretty slick.

I don’t think I’ve ever seen a shorty  single cab before – the kids liked this one.

My dream vehicle. The Vanagon Syncro 4×4. In orange, of course. You will be mine…one day.

Stay tuned for more VWs on the Green pics, and to find out if Gus made the trip…

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Spring Cleaning Fri, 13 Apr 2012 23:11:08 +0000 Steve read more]]>

I noticed that quite a few VW bloggers have been absent lately…including me. I guess Spring Fever hit us all at the same time. I did take the opportunity to get quite a bit done on Gus. I’ve got the muffler on, the lights all work, and I’ve been working on my list to try and get Gus on the road for the May 20th VWs on the Green show.

And I had some help recently – unsolicited. My daughter asked if she could help me work on the bus! So I found a few things for her to do.

Here she is scrubbing the front floor mat.

A little help from a little bro.

And a little interior cleaning as well.

Here’s a cleaned and non-cleaned version of the front step mats – they came out great! They look almost brand new.

Here it is installed. I had some good helpers, and we all got a lot of cleaning done! Stay tuned for some posts on the light and muffler installations.

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VW Bus Child’s Bed and Playhouse!! Thu, 09 Feb 2012 16:44:39 +0000 Steve read more]]> If you’ve never seen the website, it’s worth a look if you are a do-it-yourselfer. They have tons of projects that people have created, and they post the directions how to make the project, materials needed, etc.  They have an email newsletter you can sign up for, and they send you some of the latest projects people have posted. I subscribe to it, and this morning I was pleasantly surprised to see this!

The Micro-Bus Bunk Bed and Playhouse  (click on the link to go to the actual page with instructions)

It’s a child’s bunk bed created to look like a VW bus! And underneath the sleeping area is a playhouse, complete with a steering wheel, and closing side doors. Pretty neat. And I like the fact that the project author painted the bed in Gus’s colors…

Now if I were to make this bed, I would make the front paint a bay window style, without the paint swoop of the early split style, since the window looks like a bay window anyway.

I just might have to make this for my son – he loves playing in Gus!

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Musings on the 2012 VW Beetle and the Bus concept Wed, 08 Feb 2012 21:18:49 +0000 Steve read more]]>

If you happened to see the new 2012 Beetle commercial on the Super Bowl, you got a glimpse at what is, in my opinion, the best redesign Volkswagen has come up with in years. In 1998, when they brought on the “New Beetle,” I was really excited.  I went to the Chicago Auto Show that year, and waited in line forever for a clear acrylic model of the new Beetle they were handing out.  But for me, the actual car was a little disappointing. It did take cues from the original Beetle, but it was…well…so girly.

My daughter loves these Beetles (as well as the old air-cooled ones) – but she’s eight years old. And we’ll probably own one some day (hopefully I can convince her that we should get an air-cooled one). I don’t think Volkswagen really designed this New Beetle with guys in mind though.  So as excited as I was about a new Beetle design, it wasn’t for me.

Fast forward to last fall when I first saw the photos of the redesigned 2012 Beetle, and I was amazed. They finally nailed it! It looks much more like a car either a guy or a girl would drive, and the fastback looks very reminiscent of a Porsche 911.

To me, this redesign is a lot truer to the essence of the air-cooled Beetle, and is way better looking than the New Beetle redesign.

I went to the VW website and did the “build your own” Beetle, and picked the base model. The base model has one awesome feature that would make me choose it over the other models (besides the fact that it’s the lowest price)…check out the wheels!

I’m not sure exactly how they are constructed, but they look pretty darn close to the original VW hubcaps. I don’t think I’d get any options, other than the $35 first aid kit – it would probably be a rare item someday. :) If I were in the market for a new car, I’d seriously consider the new Beetle. Other than the four door Jeep Wrangler (and maybe the Toyota FJ and Dodge Challenger) , it’s probably my favorite new car design out there.

Which brings me to the VW Bulli concept – I don’t understand how VW could do such a fantastic job with the Beetle redesign, and then think that this would echo any cues from an old Bus.

I saw the 2001 VW Microbus concept car in person at the Detroit Auto Show, and despite some of it’s ugliness I thought it was much closer to the mark of a revamped Bus than this new Bulli concept.

All VW really needed to do with this concept was to ditch the rectangular headlights, add some round headlights and move them down, and move the VW logo down (and maybe make it bigger). Then you’d have a nice retro-themed modern Bus. To me the Bulli concept looks like any other Kia Soul/Nissan Cube/etc. VWs should have some soul, not look like a Soul.

Speaking of soul, VW still has it availaible, in Brazil (and now being imported to some of Europe I believe)…the Kombi.

I’m not sure what this says, but I’m pretty sure it translates to “This VW Kombi should be available to purchase in the United States, minus the ugly radiator on the nose.” Now if VW had this available to buy in the U.S. as a new car, it would definitely be my next new car purchase, hands down.

In Gus news, I have been doing random projects here and there, when I have time. I touched up some rust spots with some rust converter on the rear corner, did some buffing of the paint, and cleaned the engine hatch lid (but not my workbench, as you can see).

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Country Homes Camper conversion!! Thu, 26 Jan 2012 23:41:39 +0000 Steve read more]]>

I had an “ah-ha” moment today. Not involving the 80s band, but more like at the end of a Maury Povich show, where the paternity test results came back in, and the Baby Daddy you were expecting to be the father ends up different.

Gus is not who we thought he was.

All of this time (it will be five years of ownership in a few weeks) I assumed Gus was a Sportsmobile conversion, because he looked like one. He has the same poptop and front luggage rack as a Sportsmobile.

This is a VW Sportsmobile.

And this is Gus. Everyone on The Samba said it was a Sportsmobile, so I left it at that.

Somehow last night I stumbled upon Country Homes Campers, which was another camper conversion company of VW’s – mostly Vanagons. I had found their site awhile ago looking for poptop replacement canvas. They were (still are, actually) based in California (which is where Gus is from). The company is still around in some capacity, selling some replacement parts for their conversions.

I had done searches on Country Homes Campers before, but they were always linked to Vanagons…never Bay Windows. But then last night I ran across this picture of a 1982 Vanagon with the Country Homes Conversion:

My jaw nearly hit the floor. Well, not really, but I was intrigued. This interior is almost identical to Gus’s:

I was almost 100% sure Gus was a Country Homes Camper conversion. But I wanted to check on The Samba to see if anyone knew if CHC had done Bay Window conversions. I received some helpful advice, but no one really seemed to know. In the meantime I had sent an email to the Country Homes Campers website to see if they knew, along with links to pics of Gus’s interior.

I received this reply today:

Hello Steve,

You have a Country Homes Camper.  The company started in 1978 and was located in Oakland.  Then moved to Scotts Valley (Near Santa Cruz),then to San Jose.  I purchased the company in 1989 and closed it
in 1997.  The keep my site up for informational purposes, help customers find parts, sell some small parts (rollers,etc.) and I also sell Shady Boy awnings.  I am going to start another company and sell 3.27 R&P sets for the automatic Vanagon.

Do you need any parts for your Camper?


Salim Miro
Country Homes Campers
Fax: 1 815 346 3337

What the?


You mean Sportsmobile is not Gus’s baby daddy, but CHC is???

Actually this was pretty cool news, as the Country Homes Campers website has links to all of the accessories manufacturers (like my battery isolator for example, which had a wiring diagram pdf so I know exactly how to hook up my accessory battery!!), and they sell some replacement parts. And I believe they sell replacement poptop canvasses, which is very cool, and they supposedly have a few of the Country Homes Campers stickers left. The stickers go on the poptop. I definitely want to get a pair.

So of course I started looking up CHC pictures on the Interwebs, and I found the final piece to put Gus’s paternity to rest.

This is the ID plate/sticker from a 1983 Vanagon Country Homes conversion (the silver one). Gus has the exact plate/sticker, but part of it is conveniently gone (the part that says Country Homes Camper, which would have made the ID process a lot easier). Also from Salim’s email, the company started in 1978 (which Gus is) in Oakland, California. Gus (according to his Warranty Card) was sold at Oliver Volkswagen in Vallejo, California…which is 25 miles from Oakland.

Pretty cool…if you are a VW nerd like me. :)

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Driver Door Panel Install Fri, 20 Jan 2012 23:39:42 +0000 Steve read more]]>

A few weeks ago, I posted about how I was refreshing Gus’s wavy door panels. I finally got around to installing one of them. This is the backside of the driver’s panel before I soaked it. It was the least wavy of the two panels:

After I unclamped it from the wood, it was very straight.

But some of the vinyl had come unglued over the years, and it was a little wrinkled.

I decided to reglue the vinyl, and stretch it out as much as possible, in order to try and get rid of the wrinkles. I had some of this lying around that I bought for my old 1964.5 Mustang’s headliner (and never used). This is some sticky stuff! I used it to glue down part of Gus’s headliner when I was doing the windshield lip repair/front end repaint.

I applied the adhesive and used binder clamps to hold the vinyl in place around the edges until it dried. Now it was time to install the speaker. I had some never-used Pioneer speakers lying around that I got for free, and they fit the hole perfectly. I then drilled a hole through the back of the panel into the ventilation system so I could run the speaker wires through the ventilation system, which would hide the wires.

Now all I had to do was line up the door panel inserts with the holes in the door, and pop the interior panel back in. Simple. Except…the magnet on the back of the speaker kept pulling the panel over and sticking to the door. I eventually got it lined up, and popped the panel into place.

I then just had to install the remaining door hardware (door pull and surround for the door handle) – thankfully one of Gus’s previous owners had left all of the panel hardware in one of his inside drawers. When I got Gus he didn’t have his door panels installed.

And here’s the finished results! There’s still a little wrinkle in the vinyl, but I got most of them out. I’m pretty happy with the results.

Now I just need to install the passenger door panel, and then I can hook up the new speakers to this sweet Cobra eight track player I bought on eBay a few years ago. It’s never been installed – it was in an old electronics store that went out of business.

I’ve been buying eight tracks when I see them at flea markets, etc….still need to get a Three Dog Night one with Shambala on it, to complete the Lost connection.

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New VW emblem Wed, 18 Jan 2012 23:30:41 +0000 Steve read more]]>

Gus received a few gifts for Christmas. One of which was a new VW emblem for his nose. If you remember from a previous post, Gus used to have a spare tire mounted to his front end.

I removed the spare tire mount, welded up the old holes and painted the front. I didn’t quite get the nose totally straight, which is partly due to Gus having received a replacement front end sometime in his life. It’s pretty cheap metal, and pops in and out if you push on it right. Plus I’m guessing the spare tire hanging on the metal didn’t help things.

So when I went to put the new emblem on, I figured it would be an easy job. Three holes, which each take one emblem clip which secures the emblem. Five minute job. Well, nothing on Gus takes five minutes. The aftermarket emblem holders were extremely cheap – they started to collapse as I put them in the holes. But I managed to make them work. But a new problem quickly surfaced. None of the three would keep the emblem flat – meaning because of the bumpy, pops in and out nature of Gus’s nose, the emblem wouldn’t stay attached in all three holes. So now what? I don’t want Gus’s logo to end up on one of the Beastie Boys, so I needed to come up with a more permanent solution.

I decided the best way to get the emblem to lie flat would be to screw it onto the nose. So I drilled three small holes through the emblem and into the nose – one at the top and two at the bottom (they are in different locations than the stock mounting holes). I then took sheet metal screws I had lying around, and ground down the heads so they would fit semi-flush into the emblem.

I used a slotted head rather than a Phillips head screw mainly for aesthetic reasons – I wanted the slot to follow the contour of the emblem.

You can see how it now sits nicely flush with the nose. And no kid is going to steal it, at least not very easily. The screws are not easily seen, which is what I was going for. It’s not totally stock, obviously, but I like the fact that the emblem isn’t going to pop off going down the road.

Gus seems to like it!

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