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My VW Camper - An epic story of human misery & suffering....


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It all started when I decided that I should replace the off side front arch on my 1972 VW camper before I put it up for sale. Oh, and I was also going to repair the lower rear arch and fit a new windscreen washer jet. That should get it through the MoT I thought.....

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The arch came off and I found lots of rust in the inner wheel arch. So I got busy with the welder and either bought or made up lots of repair panels. The state of the seat belt mount was particularly worrying. 

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Cutting out the inner arch on one of these vehicles allows you to look right down the box section made up by the inner and outer sill. In my case it also allowed me to look at a lot of crusty metal. "I can't sell it like that" I thought, so off came the sill.You will notice that stripping the paint off the side panel revealed a huge amount of filler where the side of the van had been scraped down something pretty solid. In places the filler was an inch thick. 

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I started to cut out the small rust hole in the off side rear arch. And kept cutting, and cutting , and cutting. It soon became clear that the whole arch needed to be replaced, along with a good chunk of the inner arch, which had received some weld repair previously. The previously mentioned scrape down the side of the van ran along the top of the arch, so rather than mess about trying to pull the dent out I just cut that section out and replaced it, hence the step in the repair panel. 

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Removing the rear arch revealed rust in the rear engine bay, where the battery sits, so that came out. It was at this stage hat I realised I was going to go the whole hog and sort all the rust. so I started poking around the nearside of the van with a screw driver. 

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They hide the rot incredibly well. I've just finished restoring a 1968 Single Cab pickup. What I thought would be just sills, ended up needing the middle third of the truck replacing. Sills, strengtheners, lower bulkhead, upper and lower loadbeds, complete side panel, new 'treasure chest' door. Even after a bare metal repaint, from a distance, and in photos, it doesn't look a whole lot different to when I bought it!

3 photos attached, as bought (with the whitewalls), half-way through the horrors, and what it looks like now.

Russell.

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11 hours ago, Peaks said:

Cutting out the inner arch on one of these vehicles allows you to look right down the box section made up by the inner and outer sill. In my case it also allowed me to look at a lot of crusty metal. "I can't sell it like that" I thought

That's a great attitude. Too many would just cover it up and flog it. I fully understand how a small bit of rust in a wheelarch can end up as a full rebuild; my GT6 rebuild started with a one inch crack in the bonnet.

I love VWs, I'm still mystified as to why I never got into Beetles, having looked at one at 18 as my preferred first car but even then I could tell that it was rotten. If I'd bought one, instead of my first Spitfire, life would have been so different!

 

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I have always hated the damn things, don't know why. I do appreciate the time and effort the VW people put into their vehicles though, long may they carry on :) Sadly not for me as they don't do an automatic. 

Tony.

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you will need a holiday after all that .. 

I was involved(audit)  with cutting a few Commers/Doge  underfames  up when we first introduced the  E coat and wax injection to see how well it performed 

but few have survived of the many built  not even the de tuned ( strangled) yellow telecoms vans where did they all go ???

Pete

 

 

 

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Thanks for the comments. As for VW, I get it's a love hate thing for a lot of people. I have well & truly got VW campers out of my system now, and (spoiler alert!) I haven't even finished restoring this one, but give me a Beetle over a Morris Minor any day of the week. 

Anyway, once the sills had been done I had to sort out front panel, which although was rust free, had been fitted badly in the past so the door gaps were all over the place, and just looked horrible. Replacing hr front panel was not an appealing idea as it is a really major job, and as I said, the panel was unusually rust free considering the rest of the van, so instead I chose to close up the grand canyon sized gap by running weld up the seam and grinding it back to shape and size. 

Before, during and after photos below.

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By now I was thinking that I was coming towards the end of the cutting and welding phase, but the more I looked, the more I found. Mostly, thank goodness, small jobs. 

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The next stage was to prepare for paint. At this point I seem to have stopped taking photos, but basically getting all those flat panels, well, flat, was a nightmare that took a very, very long time. My breakthrough moment was when I made up a sanding block which was about a metre long. Once I had that things did finally move along. Like I said, not may photos, but the number of hour spent between beginning to prepare the panels for paint and the first coat of primer was well into three figures. 

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i read the first line of the 1st post and started smiling, i knew what was coming.....

it's the reason there are so many rotting heaps for sale.

fair play for trying to sort it out, i bet you want to keep it now 😉

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  • 4 weeks later...

Thanks for the comments🙂.

Am I tempted to keep it? No! I'm sick of the sight of the thing!! I am hoping to get good money for it though, as has been stated there are a lot of rot boxes out there, and finding a rust free right hand drive VW is a challenge.

Back to the saga..... Whilst prepping for paint I noticed a few more little bits of rust that needed sorting. most of them were fairly unremarkable, but one bit that did cause me a headache was the lip on the A pillars. Here the front panel is folded over a seam made by the A post, making four layers of metal. I scratched my head for a while, then just went for it, carefully unfolding the seam to get to the rust within. Once I'd tapped the seam back down again it didn't look as neat as the factory left it, but at least there was no rust.  

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It was finally time to paint, and I was extremely lucky as last summer brought with it pretty much perfect weather for spraying outside. 

The colour of my van is Niagara Blue, and was only offered by VW for 10 months in late 1971 to early 72, so finding a paint supplier who had the correct formula took some doing. I was determined to get the correct shade though, because it did have such a short run. I ended up finding a bit of original paint in good condition under a rear wheel arch which had been protected by layers of underseal, so cut this out and sent it off for a match. It took two goes, but we got there in the end and I could start spraying. 

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You'd think with the paint done my days of welding were over. Oh no! There was more rust in store. As autumn came around it was time to drop the front axle to enable me to paint the inner arches properly. On air cooled VWs the front axle (refered to as the front beam) contains the torsion springs, steering arms and is what the front shock absorbers bolt to. So it clearly needs to be in good, sound condition. Mine was quite frankly, awful in places. Rust had eaten away most of the top 'ears' which the top of the front shocks bolt to, but luckily the main tubes which house the torsion bars were sound. If they hadn't been it would have been £550 for a new beam and all the hassle of swapping over the torsion bars, suspension and steering components. 

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