One day the 8 year old asked me if I could work on cars like the custom TV shows. He wanted to know if I could weld, do bodywork, and paint. He told me he wanted a project, a motorcycle. I told him a motorcycle isn’t really a family project, but we could find something.
We wanted a project car that we all could work on and use. After a little deliberation we decided on the Vanagon Westfalia. The split windows are too much money now. The old bay windows were cool but the aircooled engines weren’t quite as powerful, but they are easier to work on. The newer Eurovan models lacked ground clearance, and had the engine crammed in a small van like space. The brick shaped 80s Vanagon was a mix of the old and new, plentiful, and affordable for us.
We found a beater and every panel was damaged, but it was cheap. Service records showed that it had been rebuilt and new heads installed. The transmission was rebuilt and a new clutch and throw out bearing put in. Hoses and belts replaced as well. 10 thousand miles ago. The inside was nice and clean. It was missing the luggage tray, and had damage to the a pillar like it had ran into a parking garage. It needed a new passenger door. The tires were shot and dry rotten. Scary to drive on.
I found a cargo tub for 50 dollars that needed to have the corners fiber glassed. I cut the only good part off the old tub and fitted it to the new tub. The other corner was broken badly but all there. A few hours later the roof was repaired. The brackets were straightened, and the cargo tub primed. The tub doesn’t match the pop-top but Ill paint them both with interlux this summer and it’ll be nice looking again.
The old 14 inch rims are terrible. You need hard to find 14 inch tires with an 8 ply sidewall because of load ratings. A high sidewall on a heavy van makes it ride like marshmallows. I scoured Craigslist for m]Mercedes rims and finally found some 16 inch rims with an ET37 offset. The ET is how far out the rims hub is from center. I had to run 5 mm spacers up front and 10mm spacers in the back to avoid clearance issues.
I got the proper Volkswagen hub centric spacers and longer wheel studs and nuts from T3Technique in Bellevue. I had to take the rear hubs off to take the old studs out. I used my air hammer to push the old out and push the new in. Don’t use an impact driver if you can avoid it as it is likely to strip the hub when the new stud cant grip the hub properly and starts to spin.
The front I had to grind the lip off the grease caps as the front hub centric spacer wouldn’t clear the ridge. It took me about an hour to do the front and back. I bolted the rims on and the 205/55/16 rims and tires are so much better to ride on. They are the same size as the stock tires heightwise, there’s more tire options, and the rims are big enough to do a big brake conversion later if I want. I will put 215/65/16 tires on later.
The latest modification is to remove the cigarette lighter and insert a usb charger that charges 2 iPhones or 1 iPad. We don’t need the lighter and the lighter housing is loose and broken anyway.