Friday, November 28, 2014

Thankful - Grateful - Grateful Dead - VW Bus? Why not?

The above quote is from the Beastie Boys classic Rhymin' and Stealin', and in 1986 when it was released Mike D wore a gold plated VW bus emblem around his neck. Immediately upon the arrival of Beastie Boys videos on MTV no bus emblem was safe! Kids everywhere were ripping them off to hang around their own suburban necks.
Regardless this is one of the most recognizable images in the automotive world, so let's get down to it:
What we have here is a 1968-1972 Volkswagen Type 2. Known as the Bus by everybody but VW fanatics, the Type 2 was so named because it was the second model offered by the company since the Type 1 (Beetle). In its earliest incarnation the Type 2 was very similar to the Beetle, with a rear mounted air-cooled engine, transaxle, 6 volt wiring, and famously inadequate heat.
While the factory authorized Westfalia campers are the most common for VW buses, there were several aftermarket conversions available throughout the late '60s and '70s. The one we're looking at here seems to be an Adventurewagen high-top that has been further modified. Another company called Safare also produced fiberglass high-tops, but theirs had an unbroken middle crease mid-roof where this one angles down towards the front door. Other aftermarket versions dropped down to about half-height for the back 3rd of the roof as opposed to remaining full-height from front to back. The custom van style round bubble windows were added later on, as was the central Tetris-shaped central skylight.
From the VW factory the standard bus had difficulty in high crosswinds, so with the additional 3+ feet of height they could be downright terrifying!

I love these crank-out Jalousie windows.
Even with the roof painted white the upper bunk area can get stuffy and hot during the summer months. That little pop-out sunroof would be a lifesaver.
Nice to see this thing is still being used as intended with a bed arranged in the back. Originally there would have been a cot that pulled across from one side of the roof to the other at the point where the metal and fiberglass meet. In the daytime you could stand up in with no issue, and at night you could have 1 or 2 people sleeping up top with others sleeping below.
I believe the sliding window on the drivers side is the only one original to the roof.
The color of this bus might be Poppy Red, but there's a chance it's Bahia Red as well (or some repaint color not listed by the factory). It looks mighty smart though with the red/white two-tone, white walls, and white painted bumpers.
Of course there's a VW service manual laying on the passenger seat! The original radio is still representing in AM glory on the dash. Below the radio is a T handle sticking out from under the dash; this is the E-brake. The 2 vertical slots to the last of the radio are the heater controls which are essentially cables that open a small chamber to let warm air from metal boxes hugging the sides of the motor leak into the cabin. The heat in Beetles was bad, in buses worse, and in buses with the extra area of a high-top basically nonexistent. You'd get used to driving with a blanket for your lap pretty quickly.
Starting in 1973 the turn signals became perfectly square and were relocated to the sides of those vents above the emblem, and before 1968 the windshield was split down the middle and there was a large V embossed into the front sheet metal. Pinpointing the year more specifically than '68-'72 is beyond my bus knowledge but I'm sure there are some subtle cues that bus experts will recognize. As far as a vehicle that combines practicality, impracticality, extreme fun, and membership into a secret club these buses can't be beat. If you're interested in acquiring one I would suggest doing it asap as they are gaining in value and becoming more scarce with each season. If you do look for one be sure to go for the most rust-free example possible, but you can take comfort in the fact that there are more parts sources for these rides than almost anything else.

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