A good way to run in the new tires was to use the bus for some errands and a business meeting. The total mileage was only about 18, but it was enough to determine the change in feel and particularly cornering with the new LT tires. You could definitely tell the difference in the slow speed corners, and even medium speed moderate curves where the bus has a lot less lean. So far, so good.
1966 VW Transporter
The thin white wall tires look great on the bus. They are cosmetically great to look at. However, they were passenger tires that made cornering on the bus a pretty scary proposition. I did not really notice this as much driving the bus solo, but it in an outing with four guests, it really got to be sketchy in anything other than a mild corner. This helped to point out the fact that the sidewall flex was probably already at dangerous levels. Therefore, as nice as they looked, they needed to be replaced with true light truck load rating C or D tires. The folks at simple tire again came through with a great deal on some tires from a brand called Winrun. Their R350 model in 195/70/15 size. This is not a brand I had any familiarity with but the reviews seem to indicate that they were fairly good and this bus will not get a ton of mileage in any case. And initial outing immediately confirmed that the tires were a big contributor to the quartering issues. The bus feels a lot safer in the corners.
The sole sideview mirror on the bus also functions as the hinge pin for the door. The passenger side did not have a mirror at all, so there was a traditional hinge pan. After making several attempts to free both hinge pins using a combination of penetrant and heat and “persuasion”, neither one budged at all. I finally resigned to take it over to someone with better heat and better persuasion tools. The shop had them both out in about 2 hours.
For reasons which I cannot determine, even with research online, VW decided to use the most complex of relays for a simple tried and true function, in the simplest of vehicles. Emergency flashers typically use a simple relay. Turn signals typically use a simple relay. Bosch made millions of these for German vehicles. The 12 volt Splitties use a large Hella relay which combines these functions and the indicators in the Speedometer guage. They also devised an interesting method to allow flashers to work with the key on or off, while the turn signals only work with the key on. There are many terminals and several are very close to their neighbor when populated. While a relay is a good way to do this, this seems like an answer to a question that nobody asked. The prior solution of one or two cheap simple relays was very reliable. In any case, the big relay is a pain to troubleshoot and expensive to replace.
In this case, the Wolfsburg West replacement is not identical to the old Hella unit. It produced a fast flash and did not remedy the issue with the speedo indicators not working. In addition, the regular turn signals became unreliable. I ended up replacing the old one and deciding to tackle the issue some other day. I am tempted to unengineer this, but I want to leave the Bus stock.
Sometimes, the simplest of things is not. The installation of a “Church Key” holder should take all of 30 seconds. Unscrew an upholstery screw, put holder on, replace screw. That’s it. Not this time. The interior nose panel did not have a hole or a screw in the middle position, so it was off with the panel to take a measurement and then make a hole with the punch. Then find another upholstery screw. I know that I have a bunch of these somewhere, but they proved elusive. I finally settled for moving the upper screw to the middle for the holder, and the put a stainless screw and washer back up top. A very small but classic example of why vintage iron often demands more time and effort.
Not sure why, but driving the bus has caused most of the fuel hose connections to leak. It does not help that they all lacked hose clamps. An hour and an armful of gas later, the garage ceased smelling like a fuel tanker spill....
All of the lights on the bus worked, meaning they would come on when presented with voltage. However, some did not come on in response to the correct driver action. Others came on without any driver action. The maladies were confined to the rear, and impacted things like brake lights and turn signals. Not the items you want to malfunction on an old slow vehicle. The wiring harness on the bus is so basic that a diagram is not really needed. And therein lay the problem. When they painted the bus, they Painted over ground points, and introduced enough of an issue to make things wonky. It took a little time and some sandpaper to get things more consistent. Then everything worked until the lights were on. Turn signals, brakes, park lights, even the license plate light. I can see how this escaped the previous owner, as he admittedly never drove it much at all, and never at night. However, the shop he entrusted it to for paint had wired the rear lights backwards. Once corrected, everything worked except for the indicator lights in the speedo guage. That will be an Adventure for another day. I added some Euro lenses while I was at it, and LED bulbs to increase visibility.
The bus came with the massive power of drum brakes all around to tame the Insane acceleration of the 44hp engine ;-). With those kinds of G forces at your disposal, a full racing harness was not required. Instead, the bus was equipped with lap belts for the front occupants of the vehicle. Those in the rear were considered expendable, or were presumably stoned and unconcerned. The simple picture below followed quite the ordeal to remove the old and properly anchor the new belts, but now we can travel safely ;-0
The bus had some kind of radio in the dash. It appeared connected, but there were no speaker holes or other telltale signs of common practice back in the day. It was with some trepidation therefore, that I began the removal of the radio. There was one hex nut that was strangely corroded, so some penetrant was in order. An hour later, it came off, and the face plate was lifted to reveal......wait for it.........an uncut dash !! It is not often that the discovery of nothing warrants a celebration in the garage, but this was one of those times. Anyone not associated with this passion would never understand. It was also not connected to anything! The wires were just taped to the wiring harness to make it look like they were connected. A real bonus...
A small concentric Circle was needed to test how robust the Bus runn8ng year was. It started and ran fine but there was a disturbing failure to start for a while. Hhhhhmmmmm. It eventually restarted and ran fine back to the garage. A few other small issues like a window seal flapping in the breeze and a wonky horn were discovered. The synchro for 2nd gear was suspect on downshifts. Those were the main issues, so overall not a bad outing.
As always, there are a number of smaller things that need attention. Some immediate, some on the wish list. When owning a Bus, safety becomes a big deal. At their best, these vehicles did not stop or accelerate well, and in the context of modern driving, they really really don’t stop or accelerate well. This takes away a few of the more important options you have for avoiding issues. In addition, the bus attracts attention. So you become a magnet for people who are only half piaying attention to what they’re doing and half paying attention to the bus. The following items have been identified upfront and are being addressed in some fashion.
The brakes. They pull to the left in the front. Not fun when you drive on the right!
The Horn. Dead and replaced for now with a generic auto parts store piece. A huge safety device in this vehicle.
Tail light visibility. Replacement LED bulbs on the way.
This took decades. The desire goes back to childhood, the opportunities along the way were several, but not until now was there the right mix to make it happen. Something was always not quite right. The timing, or the Bus itself, or the price, or lack of storage. Unless you have property and large buildings, a project Bus is not easily tucked into the empty spot in the garage. They are also daunting projects if not already in good shape, and that was true even before their meteoric rise in price.
But finally, price, condition, location, timing came together and a 13 window in good shape joined the garage. This Bus has been restored, and the sheet metal is in great shape. The undercarriage is also in very good shape. It was reportedly purchased from an auction at some point, so a few sets of eyes have been upon it. The one caveat here is the lack of paperwork, as in none. I am told that is not unusual, but I always provide a folder of stuff, so I expect the same. In particular, a restored vehicle should show off the work done and money spent.
The bus is repainted in an original color, but not the correct color for this vehicle. It is missing the middle seat, and a number of other smaller items, but the metal is most important, and it is in good shape there.
Other than that, it is great to get a real BUS in good shape into the garage after what can almost be described as a lifelong search.