Billie Bud. My Volkswagen Crossover ‘Camper-van……

OK. From now in, with the first words typed, lay a conundrum. This blog concerning my, (and I say ‘my’ even though I should say ‘our’…it’ll become clearer later) Volkswagen Type 2 Crossover Bay, or ‘Campervan’ as those who don’t own one call them in general, could actually become a small book of information. I’m talking about describing it’s individualism, giving historical and current technical information, the inherent anorak nature I could have in personality to describe its last nut and bolt.

My Dub is called ‘Billie Bud’. I’m a Morrissey fan. So I changed Billy Budd, the song title, to Billie because the bus is a ‘She’. She’s female. Really is. The Bud is Dub backwards. It’s these little things that matter. Obsessive spirally inward thinking and deliberations become part of your make up and character when you own one. The dangerous results can be development of a transient tic disorder due to too much overthinking damaging neurotransmitters in thought patterns. This due to too much stress in getting it right. I blink a lot, usually at the bills it seems to generate year after years.

Obsessional behaviour? You bet.

It’s like…….How to explain how I deliberated for days on end whether to hunt down original “Flim tipped reverse threaded anchor based Wolfsburg dankenstipple jigproof 845 bolts, with appropriate 7 sided Fiffle nuts to hold them tight and nickel chromium dioxide plated spring housing 846 or, if really difficult to source, alternative not quite right but will suffice 847 washers to anchor my smoked and stoked style German quality rear light lens with protecting chrome plated bar surrounds. I needed them desperately to put on my 1972 and onwards to ………..1973 T2 to add to it’s authenticity. Hey! They only made the Crossover for one year. They’re little puzzles of valued insights. Each one a little treasure of ‘What did the mechanics and body designers pick out of the parts bins and boxes to put on them this month?’ Not an Early Bay and not a Late Bay. Like the middle child of 3 who gets overlooked and gets the hand-me-downs/hand-me-ups or the make it up as we go alongs. Crossover? Based on the W. Heath Robinson cartoon philosophy. It’s what inspired the illustrations in John Muir’s book, How to keep your Volkswagen alive. Joking. It’s the other way round. VW inspired by John Muir. Anyway….I digress.  I find the said bolts on eBay starting at a cost of £25 but I’d have to de-rust them myself. Or should I just buy cheap reproductions for 50p. Sacrilege to even think it. Slap my hand in shame. Oh Man!! The seller has 7 and I need 8. My world crashes apart. But I still sit with my hand hovering over the bid, confirm, send at 2 seconds button before the auction ends for this eBay item and “Yes! Got them. I won. Yah, boo, sucks to the other bidder? What’s your name……Private listing. Strange moniker. Oh no Maaaan! I have to pay my upper ‘willing to go to price’ of £41.59”. Now I’m gonna have to look for the 8th one. I’m embarrassed though. I got the originals but with 847 washers and I’m going to have to attend acting school and learn the art of bluster. Say to any avid Dub expert enquirer ‘Nah! They’re 846 washers mate. You should’ve gone to Specsavers’. You think I’ve made this all up don’t you? Go on…..Google it and find out I’m not joking. No….stop. I am joking!

To own my beautiful 1972 VW Crossover and then to accept the phenomenon of ‘can’t but help get interested in it’s history’ is a reality though. That isn’t a joke. When you own one, you get hooked. If you wear an anorak. You actually do look for the Flim tipped dankenstipple bolts that exist in this world that someone probably has in their hundreds in an oily box at the back of Grandad’s shed. That box of rusting Flimflams could probably pay off their mortgage if they only knew. You could spend thousands and thousands on them.

Actually you do spend that much if you want to keep your old girl (that’s the Dub by the way) safe. I have. Spent thousands that is. But let’s bring this down to worrying reality. You can own an old classic Dub and just run it into the ground. There are thousands about and you can get them fairly cheap, if a fair few thousand is considered cheap, and if they really do need lots of work. That’s unless you buy one from a crook who lies through his back teeth and tells you it’s been really looked after well. £10,000 thank you very much. Just don’t take the belly pans off. You may just break down in tears when you see what’s underneath. On second thoughts, do take the belly pans off when you buy your treasured wished for. It may save your life. You don’t want a vehicle breaking in half whilst doing the heady height speed of 50 mph down a steep hill. What are belly pans you ask? Large sheets of metal that are put in place under the camper van to protect the machinations of the underneath of the vehicle. They also hide the nature or state of the vital framework that keeps you up in the air, off the ground, and not in a collapsed state running metal induced sparks off a road surface when it decides to drop and become a hovercraft. Also…….Surprising what layers of paint hide. Usually newspaper to fill gaps, chewing gum to hold it there, and brown stained years old when it was opened in the plastic tub indoor quality Polyfilla slapped in to tidy up. Paint covers this ‘shame on you tosspot for doing it to a thing of beauty’ repair job. The thing is, the Government are going to make changes regarding MOT need.

‘Most vehicles manufactured or first registered over 40 years ago will, as of 20th May 2018, be exempt from periodic testing unless they have been substantially changed’.

This concerns and worries enthusiastic owners who really do look after their pride and joys. Rare vehicles that owners want to keep alive. Me included. I’ve spent a lot on it’s renovation. Volkswagen ‘Campers’ are out there and can be rare too. But you can still buy a cheaper one and run it into the ground. This is the dangerous part of the game. An engine that starts can still carry a rot box that’s capable of killing someone. And not necessarily the driver, and loved ones inside. Volkswagens can just keep going. They’re built that way. German efficiency really is efficiency. The old Woody Allen “Sleeper” movie/film where he finds a 200 year old Beetle in a cave which starts up first time. Kind of says it all really.

https://filmhistoryandculture.wordpress.com/2013/10/11/sleeper-woody-allens-comic-masterpiece-1973/

So……I mentioned conundrum. Already I’ve briefly touched on anorak status and ethical dilemma. My use of the word, actually words, Camper van, rankles. So, from now on I’m going to say Dub. Which brings me to……

What’s in a name for the Type 2 Bay window Volkswagen?

Dub, Vee Dub, vdub, Bus, Transporter, Ride, T2, T2a, T2b, Hippy-van, Camper, Camper van, Bread bin, Bay, Crossover, Early Bay, Late Bay, Panel van, Crew cab, Pick up………..And then there’s the affectionate names we all give them. Betty, Ruby, Rose, Kermit, Harry, Bertie……

Also, the coach companies that fitted them out are added names too. Dormobile, Westfalia, Devon, Danbury, Viking, etc. Volkswagen didn’t make Campers. These coach builders imported VW panel vans, buses, transporters and turned them into family friendly vehicles with furniture inherent that meant you could use them at weekends for holiday breaks, whilst also using them as a weekday runabout to work, shopping, etc. No second cars in the home then, in the 1950s and 60s. An all purpose vehicle/lifestyle love of happy camper and seen kitted out in the ways you all know. Make no bones about it….you see a Dub….and you smile. We, Dub owners, even wave to each other as we pass on the open roads.

The name giving can get very argumentative between family members. The colour choice can too. The name though, once given, can’t be changed, so that is the most important. You can’t look a fellow owner in the eyes and say ‘Meet Cupcake” Sorry by the way if that actually is your Dub’s moniker. Colour shows itself on, if you still have them, old paperwork MOT certificates. A rainbow of delights where you look at it’s sartorial history and say, ‘Nooooooooo!! Not Magnolia!!’ My daughter wanted pink. But no way am I driving my newly bought and respray it Barbie pink. Although, if I had of done that very thing it may have uncovered what a mess it was underneath the paintwork.

My payouts on Billie Bud were either the local mechanics, bless them, tackling the MOT failure needs, or me buying parts and fitting them myself to improve the overall aesthetics. Starter motor replacement, exhaust and heat exchanger replacements, fan belt tightening, indicator stalk wire rebuild, steering wheel bush spring replacement. Actually that spring was missing when I bought the Dub. The steering wheel wobbled like Mr. Blobby on an electric shaky waist reducing keep fat off belt. If I knew what was underneath the Dub, I’d have never got underneath. I break out in sweats now. I had my wife, children and grandchildren in the Dub many times too.

So……the basics. I bought my Dub on 8th August 2009. Was it a day that has stayed in my memory because it was a life changing day of significance? No, I just this second looked it up on the registration form. I’m also looking at the MOT certificates. It’s been yellow, orange/white, lilac, white, purple, blue and now green and cream (my choice). No magnolia thank the Lord. I don’t have to hold my head in shame. I pulled it off the road in 2014, because I was aware it would need much welding work. The previous year’s MOT told me it needed the right side welding amongst other needs. A £1000 and a bit later, the weld job cost about £700 alone, got it through. The SORN year loomed….. I knew the other side would need doing as the year progressed and holes were appearing in the cab floor too. With SORN status it sat at the front of the house for a couple of years. I felt awful. My beautiful Dub.

I believe in Karma. I feel I’m a basically good person. Not a Saint, but inherently good. As I’m a Staff Nurse that’s probably a good thing isn’t it? So Karma sent me a Godsend, a good friend. My wife heard about a local guy who’s business was, and still is, called ‘Strip, Repair and Restore’. His name is Paul Chapman. The local community in Machynlleth pointed us his way. They all said he was an all round good guy. An enthusiastic VeeDub expert who loves and renovates many classic vehicles, but most of all has massive knowledge, insights and skills in all things VW. He took on the project which was “Keep Billie Bud alive”.

My wife cashed in part of a pension scheme from way back when. She said ‘Let’s get Billie back on the road’. Our intention was to spend a couple of thousand on her. Laughs out loud!! Paul uncovered a mass of “Oh my days”. Or words to that effect. If each individual word in that phrase ‘Oh my days’ begins with Fu, Sh or Boll, then you get the translation. I think ‘Give it all up’ Paul? He says, ‘Look you’re a nurse and see a wound and get on with it. Me, I can fix this like you fix wounds’. But he told me it was going to be more than I originally intended. What I really liked about Paul’s work is his ethical philosophy in showing you the very open and honest reality, and the ongoing repairs. He literally strips the bus down (shows the result), sandblasts it to within an inch of it’s life (and shows you the resulting metal lace doily), looks at where you want to take the bus repair wise, (shows you the step by step in photographic or seeing with your own eyes evidence) and restores with infinite care and attention. His guidance in saying, Don’t get that, get this. That’s far too expensive, this is equally as good and of the same quality. Do you really need that? Wait for a while, something better will show up. Etc., etc.. You just trust his judgement because he gives you his rationale. I’m naturally inquisitive and also want to understand what makes Billie tick. I continually find out that what he has said is 100% sound. He loves the modern updates that improve Dub efficiencies. He’s a Customiser aficionado, I’m a Stock fanatic of the ‘maybe one day’ type. But respects that I want stock status. Stock? Keeping it as close to how it was originally built. But with the reality that original status hunting down of original replacements would cost more than my house.

Below, I’ve chosen a small handful of photographs from loads. Before and after of the underneath is what I want to show you. And a couple of the inside. Couldn’t afford to replace with original Danbury furniture. Very rare and costs more than the bus originally cost me. Actually I have an original sales pamphlet. You couldn’t buy a set of wheels for it at the prices then.

Interestingly, one of my wife’s two business partners illustrated one of his Dad’s poetry books. His Dad is a well respected poet. Billie provided inspiration for the book cover illustration. John, the artist, sat inside Billie drawing bits and bobs from her interior. So, Billie is on a book cover in spirit. I can’t actually deal with her now she’s famous.

Makes all sorts of demands….

Why at the start did I say a conundrum. ‘My’ or ‘our’ bus. It was ambition to own a Volkswagen Camper as I knew them then from when my Dad brought a Splitty home in the 1960s. It was at the side of the house for about a week before it disappeared. I fell in love with that van even at that tender age. Vowed I’d get one one day. They leave a lasting impression. So, I was the one driven to own one and it’s the reality that I’m the one chasing down everything to get her back on the road. Well Paul to direct too. And….I’m the one who drove it as my daily transport. I froze in it (it had no heaters in it), got under it to fix it which could have resulted in coming down on my head, and nurtured through its failures each year. Now…..it’s all about to start again…..but this time, it’ll be sound as a pound.

Thank you for dropping by.

4 Comments

  1. Don’t know how to comment as it could get longer than your post, but …
    I have never had the bug of ‘original’ so Lofty, cruel to change his name when adopted, tall with Sheldon roof, is not, but very practical. Definitely ‘he’ but has 3 years younger sister, Mini (adopted from different family – she’s done the trip to/across Romania too).
    He’s never been quite as rotted as Bud but has required extensive, expensive, surgery now and then, including a ‘new’ front beam from California, where it clearly never rains. Spending two nights in him at -17degC led to rapid installation of LPG fired heater. Early on converted to dual fuel with LPG – excellent. Made the 4,500 mile trip affordable and he likes it, purring like a kitty at 60, even 70, to show his gratitude. Plenty of 1:3 climbs in Romania to dispel the myth that a changeover to petrol is required for these. Original Devon interior long gone – just R&R with removable cupboard and buddy seat/loo, so being utilitarian van when required.
    Still prevaricating about selling him.

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    1. PS. Thanks for likes on my two children’s stories. ‘Shark’ written for daughter of a friend in the village, who took 2nd prize in a writing comp with a very short ‘shark in the lav’ story so a homage to her. ‘Spiders’ written for the three delighful daughters – 5, 4 and 2 years old – of my Latvian blogger friend who had complained about spiders in her wonderful old timber house.

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      1. I like short stories that have a quick impact. Takes a lot of discipline not to ramble. I couldn’t do them.

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    2. I remember before we owned the dub, using my Dad’s T25 for breaks away. Very easy to climb steep hills. Ours had a bit of a crocked engine that struggled along small inclines at times, let alone hills. Had a mate who swore by LPG. Said it saved him a fortune. But stock is akin to my love for film and the basics. I have an Ernst Leitz Wetzler enlarger from the late 1800s. I use an Ernst Leitz lens only on it. I just like basic stuff I suppose. The less complicated, the better. Cheers for commenting and getting to the end of today’s blog.

      Liked by 1 person

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