Another VW Bus thread


Active member
Hmph. Where do I start? The hardest part to a build thread I think is getting it started. Been lurking here for a few years, read a lot of trip thread (awesome stories, thank you). Made many road trips to camp spots over the years when the kids were still in school. At the time it was a series of RAM trucks, dog and kids in the back seat, coolers, cabin tent, and everything else in the bed. NY, MD, VA, FL, but our favorite place to go was Lancaster and York counties in PA. I love my Mopars, I've had several RAMs, a Dakota, YJ, XJ, WJ, ZJ, an Eagle sedan, etc. I thought I'd probably do something with one of my RAMs or possibly the Libby or Nitro.


Though, I've always had a soft spot in my heart for VWs, probably because that is what I grew up with. We had VWs as family cars until they stopped being air cooled. Around 2005, I decided I needed one in my life and picked of a '68 Beetle, which I turned into an Emory baja 'tribute' (Gary Emory is considered the father of the VW Baja Bug), using this as the guide:


Which came out like this:

Picture 296_zps27e306df.JPG


As you might notice in that last pic, circa 2009, there's a few buses in the background. Those came about after some excursions with a few friends and realizing that I really like Buses more. The main influence being the "party pickle" pulling the Sammie out of the drink that belonged to a buddy of mine. This spot is an old Superfund and current landfill location. I now shudder to think what was in that water :(



It even made it to Moab from New England


So I picked up the blue '79 in the pic in 2009 along with a '70 Westy. The Westy is a different tale for another time. The blue bus I bought as a non-runner for $500, the keychain that came with it had a rubber duck with an afro so it got named Aphroducky. It was painted with house paint over spots of 2" thick bondo from a crappy accident repair. I'm not a purist, nor do I really like having a vehicle that can't be used as it is intended because it is too nice, soooooo, I dove in to get the 2.0l FI motor running, the electrics back in shape, and the body respectable. I was moving a nice, happy pace. Funny how life has a way of tossing a wrench into things when you say "nice, happy pace." Within two days I had lunched the transmission in my truck and my son hydrolocked the motor in our shared ZJ. Hammer time!! Whipped the bus into shape quick with a scuff and squirt of TSC paint, got the BFGs off the Party Pickle that was being parted out, and used it as my daily for a year from 2012 to 2013




Parked Ducky in the spring of 2013 to replace the exhaust and a few other things, since I had gotten a new truck. Parked for a few months became a few years :(. The summer of 2018 it needed to be moved from where it was sitting so I dragged it up to my place in Maine to ponder what to do next. Right about the same time the better half and I were returning from the annual family gathering in NY, passing through beautiful, rural VT. She said to me that it would be nice if I could take a break that wasn't a family thing and her and I go for a weekend here and there, and she wouldn't be hurt if that meant crawling through some small New England towns and camping for a few days. She then asked how hard would it be to turn "that ugly yellow thing" into "one of those camper VW things?" Ahhhh, I have a plan now :).


Active member
So, upon returning home I started working on Ducky, fixing new rust spots, cleaning it up, stripping out the interior, going through the suspension, brakes, and fuel system.


That got cut short when Mother Nature decided that we really needed winter to start the first week of October...


And it sat in the snow all winter as I planned out the attack. I have no garage so...

IMG_4466 (1).png

So I collected parts and ideas over the very long winter. My volunteer job was hectic so for most of the spring I didn't have a lot of free time, plus we still had snow on the ground in places until early May. Finally, weather broke and so did me schedule so I got back at it.


Guess this was a little dirty


And why it wasn't getting fuel. Had to order a new pump cuz those posts snapped off a minute later


Think the fan might have contributed to some vibration?


Did brakes


And reindexed the rear torsions to level out and a bit of a lift. Replaced 2 CVs plus the boots while under there. God, that job SUCKS. Might as well plan on burning whatever you are wearing when done cuz that crap ain't nevah coming out :(




Active member
Minor setback. Full pump installed, fired it up and it ran.

Speaking of fire...

A wire going from my VR into the main harness and up to the dash light melted down. Normally, inconvenient, but when the hot, melted insulation drops into a puddle of brake clean, things get a little toasty:(. Fortunately an extinguisher is always close so damage minor, was isolated to the wire, plug, and a few hoses underneath.




So the next day I needed an easy win. Out with these:


In with these, got them for free at the town dump, think they are probably out of a domestic conversion van. They are in great shape, fit nicely with only minor fabrication, and sooooooo much more comfortable than 40 year old vinyl over horse hair and coconut mats.



OUt came the dash for paing and dleanup.


While have it off, rebuilt the wiper and washer system, cleaned up the grounds back there too.


Recommended books for Overlanding


Active member
Didn't get back to it for a few months, fast foward to Sept. Had a VW buddy from NH make the trip over in his Westy to deliver some parts, help out, and just hang out. He got me motivated to get back at it before the weather turns. Again.


Still ugly :( Nice soot mark, huh?


so time for a big push. I can do a lot of things in the wet and cold, paint ain’t one of them. That week was supposed to be a small window of nice warm and dry so I got the windows pulled and it primed.




So the next day sanded out a couple of runs, hooked back up the HF HVLP gun and my little pancake compressor, and on went color.




Active member
The next day was a holiday so I put the windows back in, made the decision to go with body-matched hub caps instead of naked lugs, added the lights up front, and a 5k winch (it won't move the bus but it will help clear debris). Finally all one shade, looks ok from 20 feet (ok, 20 yards...), and if it gets scratched or dinged, IDGAF. The body has more than one old battle scar, not be bothered to cut out and put in new metal just to bang it up again. This has been from day one planned to be USED not garaged, trailered, or stared at as art. Nope. It’s a vehicle and vehicle it will, that means going in harms way and I don’t have the energy to worry about dents, dings, and branch pinstripes:). All that being said, for being shot in my driveway, in Maine, in September, with a cheap HF gun and ancient pancake compressor, I’m satisfied. Disregard the windshield, it’s cracked and junk so I set it in so save masking time:)








I feel kinda weird doing a thread on this, it's not like a Taco or Safari or Disco, there's not a lot anyone can pick up for ideas from what I'm doing (unless you want bad habits, then hell yeh, I can help with that!!) but I figured it might be fun.

Next, we move inside.


Active member
The next weekend was a work weekend so I was on call. The weather was pretty decent so I hammered out a lot of the honey-do yard list plus got some time to do a few things on this project. Was mostly trimming trees so they don’t come down on the roof when snow hits and making one last mower pass on the yard. Since I was productive with house stuff, I took a few to install 3-point retractable (stock VW belts are non-retractable and hell, 40 years old). Safety first!!


I picked projects that would be easy to leave for a few hours in case my pager went off. Dug into the long forgotten memories of middle school home ec. classes and made curtains today. Didn’t take as long as I thought it would, pleased with the results for $7.00 + tax (I gotta move back to NH...) and a few hours worth of my Sunday.





The better half looked inside after I hung them. “Doesn’t look as cute inside” which I take to mean that she no longer thinks it’s “that @&$%#! eyesore in the driveway” and it at least looks ok from the outside now, so I’ll take that as a win :). Bear with me, almost caught up. One more post to bring it to the present.


Active member
Was near a Home Depot this week (closest is about an hour away) and made a run through to get stuff for the interior. Had yesterday kinda off so dove in (on call). Created an extended platform to bring the deck out from 36” to 6’. We are both 5’3” so this should be a good “lay down” length. It gives me about 22 cu ft of storage under there.





Then built up a sideboard. This covers the old spare tire well and will be where the electrics will run and possibly a 5kw diesel heater. Not sure how much cold weather camping we will do but VWs aren’t known for killer heat so might go that route just cuz...


Cut and fit the carpeting in the back. Once I get the wiring run I’ll tack it down on the sideboard.



Built a small kitchen shelf unit. My jig saw died so couldn’t cut hole for sink or do the plumbing. Yes, that’s a microwave...




I’ll probably poly the wood that isn’t covered by carpet. I have my isolator kit and fuse panel, gotta pick up house battery so can wire it up. Looking at a 100w solar set up, might be the next purchase - that or a portapotty. Maybe both :). Plumbing stuff for the sink will be here this week.

And now I'm up to date as of yesterday. No work on it today as it is pouring out. If you've gotten this far, thanks for reading!


Having had a few buses over the years I can only appreciate all your work, well done!!!

Sent from my SM-G955W using Tapatalk


Active member
Thanks for the feedback and comments :). Yesterday was a crap day, never broke 40F, rained all day, a few flurries as it got dark. NOT READY FOR WINTER! Grrr. Today - as we know Mother Nature is bipolar - it hit almost 70, was overcast but dry. Windshield still hasn't arrived, ran to the hardware store (~30 miles away) and on the way back, hit a detour for a road race. This is rural Maine, when they say "ya caint get theyuh from heyuh," they mean it. What should have been a 90 minute jaunt ended up a little over 4 hours, the "detour" took me miles in the opposite direction before hitting a road I could use to get back home. Fun times. That left me with less time than I had hoped for the day, but I did get something accomplished. I had started the rack in the spring, then abandoned it to finish up more pressing things. Today, it got its place in the sun (clouds?). I deliberately left the center open to discourage my automatic tendency to over-pack, over-load everything. Figured if I limited my space, I might be more mindful of what I bring along (says the guy with a microwave in the cabin...).


Needed to get some heavy crimpers to do the ends for the house battery, those should be here on Tuesday, along with a new regular crimper (die-type) so I can do the wiring this week, and hopefully the windshield :(



Active member
Got answers in the Power forum, thank you.

I have questions... my crimping supplies showed up today. Supposed to be hit with a Nor'easter the next few days so I'm thinking of get some stuff ready in the house while riding out the storm. I have a 150A surge\80A constant isolator kit with 4GA primary wires between the isolator and the batteries (HA!! My alternator is 70A, lol). I got a heavy lug crimper tool that can do up to 0GA so I've got that covered, but then I realized I'm not sure how I should cut the cables? Definitely not gonna get done with a pair of dikes or linesman pliers :). We carry bolt cutters on our ambulances, I could borrow one to cut it but those really are more "mash it until it succumbs" vs "cutting," awesome in a get-it-done-NOW situation but not the most elegant. Would a grinder with a cutoff wheel be just as good?

The kit says to tap into the ignition but I'm thinking the alt light wire would be a better option as it would only connect them when the alternator is putting out juice instead of combining them as soon as I turn the key? This is how the Westfalia-installed relays were wired up. Yes? No? I can jump from battery to battery if I need to in a no-start, dead main battery situation. On that, I assume since the two batteries will both be grounded to the chassis, that if I need to do that for a no-start situation, I would only need to jump positive-->positive and not both poles?

The kit has 20' of the 4GA, I'm only going to need about 5' to combine the batteries. I have a fuse panel I'm going to install under the sleep platform. I was going to use 10GA (have 100' of red and black) from the house battery to the panel, but would it make sense to use the 4GA since I have it, even if I don't anticipate much draw? I plan on connecting LED interior lighting, the 100w lights up front, a Coleman cooler, small water pump, and a few 12v outlets for small electronics to the house battery through the fuse panel. I do have a 1500w inverter that will be wired separately direct to the house battery, I've calculated that 10GA would be ok if I keep the run under 4', which I plan on mounting about 18" from the battery, so within the "safe" rating for the max 60A draw. Should I use the 4GA for that too to be safe? Thanks to anyone who replies!
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Expedition Leader

I’d recommend 6V golf cart batteries or a true deep cycle 12v over a ‘Marine Deep Cycle’. ‘Deep cycles / starting batteries’ do neither job as well. Golf cart batteries keep giving and giving well beyond what a Marine battery will.


Engineer In Residence
Agreed. If you have the weight and space, its not possible to beat the value of 2x Deka (duracell) GC2 flooded batteries. Available at Sams club and other stores. They will provide many times the service of "dual purpose" or "marine" batteries.

Cool Bay btw. Always good to see another one still rolling.

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