Month: December 2015

On… ¿lolque?

Today I got bored and decided to start sanding and bondo-ing the bus down to prepare for my ultra-secret paintjob plan, and I discovered something.

But first, let’s put a flap disc on the angle grinder and remove some of the rust bubbles:





Driver’s-side dogleg


Holes on the driver’s door for a marker light. No holes exist on the passenger door.


The passenger dogleg is completely fucked. It was rust next to bondo that was over more rust. I’m going to do the same thing, but this time I’m going to go a bit further in rust removal. Eventually it will need to be replaced with new metal.



Passenger B pillar


Time to start sanding.


Wait, pearl green paint on the decklid?





I saw some shinyness in the paint, so I threw some water on it




I’d almost be tempted to save it because it looks like it originally wrapped ALL THE WAY AROUND the bus, but the nose, passenger door, rear passenger panel behind the sliding door, and rear quarter panel have all been replaced, so the pattern wouldn’t be solid.

God damn hippies.

uoısɹǝʌuı uo

Okay so the autofocus on my phone has officially taken a shit so you’re going to have to use your *~imagination~* for these, but stick with me.

Today I took the middle bench seat and the floor cover out of the bus (only four bolts lol) and swept up. I discovered a piece of bent sheet metal behind the driver’s seat:


Removed it, and discovered a source of road noise. A big source.


I figure, if it was good enough for the PO just sitting there, then tack welding and seam-sealing it will be good enough for me


It got dark so the already shitty focus of my phone got progressively worse, but I finished installing the inverter/battery charger in it’s final spot. Seems like weird placement, I know, but it leaves room for an eventual amplifier, and makes the best use of the available space. It will eventually be underneath the rear bed/bench seat, just barely.


While cleaning up under the floor, I also discovered a goddamned spy


On shore power

My plan is to add a big inverter/battery charger for the batteries and to supply, if needed, 120VAC (though most needed “campervan” accessories have 12v versions that are more efficient on the power system). That means I need to add a shore power port.

At the same time, the bus has a bigass dent with a rusty area underneath, as shown in my previous post. Why not kill two birds with one stone sheet of aluminum?




Waitin’ for that sealant to cure so I can razor off the excess. Then I can bondo over my atrocity weld and start preparing for paint.

On welding

On a whim, my partner at work offered up his garage again, and because Friday is our Friday ™, after work at 0100 we drove over to his place. Few beers, few hours of Fallout 4, and before you know it Saturday has arrived!

I got to work immediately, marking up an offending piece of bus, and going at it (that’s what she said) with the Harbor Freight angle grinder (that could also be what she said).




What greeted us beneath the skin of the bus was something terrible, or maybe even Something Awful. I have to note that this picture is after we vacuumed out the solid block of rust. No joke. I know steel can expand 10x when it rusts, but I’m inclined to believe that 20x or even 30x is possible, as the cavity was completely solid with it.



This is after a little work with a flap disc


I’d like to point out that this bus, or at least this piece of this bus, was originally red at one point. Then, two shades of brown, white, and then to black. Nobody painted anything over the black, because presumably once you go black, you never go back.


After some more work cutting out rusty pieces. This area is full of many welds joining many pieces of metal, but I’m lacking the appropriate sheet metal to make things whole, and it’s not like there was any actual structural bonding going on down there. So, nothing lost.


Offering up the replacement panel. Unfortunately, during the past 4+ months this panel has been banging around the trunk space of the bus, it has gotten pretty dented. Not rusty, but quite bent out of shape. Fortunately, it got bent inwards from the top down, giving it a slight concavity. Concavity I can bondo deal with, so I’m not too concerned.




More shit-welding


The Previous Owner (r) of the bus had left a few goodies inside, including a replacement outer rocker/runner panel, and an interior runner panel. Unfortunately I think he purchased the incorrect inner runner piece, as the one he left me goes on the driver’s side of the bus, under the sliding door. But the outer panel fits here, and I can make do in the meantime while I scrounge up enough for a replacement piece of sheet metal for the inside. So, we went to work.

(Note: the side panel here is painted blue underneath the black paint, and has marks from past decals. Also the side panel doesn’t have much rust, whereas the runner is super rusty. This bus is comprised of at least five other buses, judging by paint.)



Pulling away:



All of this is just from the runner. We cleaned up after doing the outer rocker panel.


Here’s the rusty inner rail. I cut the bottom part off for future ease-of-removal, as it was completely jagged and open rusty garbage. One of those “while you’re down there” jobs (that’s also what she said).


My kingdom for a shielding gas! (quote stolen from earlier in the thread)


And the runner just tack-welded in. The runner panel itself has a hooked lip that hangs it off of the big side panel, and it would be spot welded to the bottom rail. But, as I showed you, the rail is non-existent, so this will do until we replace that as well.


This took maybe 4 hours total, and (if it wasn’t obvious from the tool choice and weld quality shown) was my first time ever doing panel replacements. After looking at the (even if they are ugly) replacement panels installed, I could get addicted to this.

On heating

A bay window bus has very simple air controls. Three levers, two red and one blue. The blue lever controls fresh air in from the front grill, that gets directed up into a windshield defroster (which seems weird, but makes sense from an air pressure perspective) and out of the adjustable vents. The two red levers control heat: one lever controls the volume of hot air from the heat exchangers, and the other controls whether it comes out of the kickpanel vents or out of the secondary window defrosters.


Now, the speed of the air coming out of the vents is dependent on the engine speed, as it uses air from the cooling fan, attached to the rear of the crankshaft, as a source:


To solve the little problem of “literally no heat at idle,” VW fit a booster fan that helps to blow through the heat exchangers at low engine speeds


This fan is activated by a switch on the heat volume lever (the rightmost red lever) that grounds out a wire when the lever is in the lowest position. Shown here (but with two switches, that later optioned buses had for…something):


The heater cables that went to my heater boxes were broken; the cable ends had rusted away. I made a clever “fix” to this by bending the remaining ends of the heater cables into a hook, and using a bit of coat hanger wire to bridge the gap to the heater box flap levers. While this worked, and I can open the heater box flaps fully, the lever itself on the dashboard never goes all the way down to the bottom of its travel, so it never activates the switch for the booster fan.

So, I did exactly the opposite of what somebody on TheSamba would do, and instead of buying new heater cables for $60 apiece (x2) and spending a week routing them under a rusty bus, I bought this switch, and installed it in the dashboard between the dome light switch and the hazard light switch. In the photo below, it would be sideways where the switch is that is missing the insert:


E: found a picture of my bus itself:

The downside is it switches a ground wire, so I can’t wire up the switch to light up when on. Oh well, it’s still labeled.

Also, if you want to have a good head scratch, google “bay window bus dashboard” and look at the switch positions. No two of them are the same. It’s like they didn’t give a shit at the factory.

On distribution

Gonna wrap the heater tubes.

While I love driving the bus, I currently get around 14-15mpg tops, so I needed to get the beetle back into commission. A new vacuum can for the distributor is around $30, and it’s one of those parts that have a million variations year-to-year, so to get the beetle back on the road as quickly as possible, I just picked up a cheaper ($70 or so) EMPI distributor. I know EMPI is absolute shit, but hopefully it will last long enough to hold me over until I can find the correct vacuum can for my current distributor.

Where did the distributor go?


There you are!


New, extremely chintzy, EMPI



Side notes for anybody that may be thinking of buying this distributor:

1: Unless you want to rotate your spark plug wires around the cap by 180 degrees, you need to take the distributor drive key off of the bottom (remove retention spring, punch out pin) and rotate it around 180. Took me awhile to figure out why I was getting bangs and gunshots and chuffs the first few start attempts.

2: The electronic box fouls on the fuel pump. I have a new Brazilian fuel pump. Luckily I run around 31 degrees of max advance, and rotating the distributor so that the electronic box is actually touching the fuel pump (on a plastic piece I could probably file down, but still) I top out in the driveway at 32 degrees of max advance. I’ll have to see if I get pinging while driving to work tomorrow. If I do, I’ll take a dremel to the box and fuel pump instead of the more expensive option of forever buying higher octane fuel.