Saturday 28 April 2012

Putting some I.C.E in the bus

Ammo case......
......hiding the stereo
 No I have not added an M60 machine gun to the bus (But it would be useful in dealing with 'Chelsea Tractor' 4x4's!) Pretty pleased with the installation which means i get to keep the original tape cassette player in the dash.

I.C.E by the way stands for 'In Car Entertainment' but i won't be adding a bass tube as the 6x9 kenwoods under the bench seats are going to add a definate 'boom' to the bus as the cavity above the wheel arch will act as a pretty good speaker box. I  wanted to save the door cards so mounted the smaller 10cm pioneer speakers in the front kick panels...i just hope they dont get kicked by careless passengers.

To test the bass out i made this dub steppy mix, which makes a change to the vintage sounds i usually play in the bus (see the previous post :  Beats for the Bus )

10cm Pioneer's in the kick panels

6x9 Kenwoods under the rear bench seat

Tuesday 24 April 2012

Using the VW as a removal van

Barbara is converted into a removal van
Barbara did her first proper 'job' today, although not in cash terms as we were moving a friend. Was keen to see what Barbara could carry 'fully loaded' and with the Danbury conversion in emperor bed mode (see pic)

Anyway i was shamed as i could not get either of my friends sofa's in via the sliding doors without removal of the buddy seats (no photos of this embarrassing spectacle). Another friend had a large Fiat estate with a dropping tailgate and the sofa's just slipped in! Very embarrassing to be beaten by a Fiat although i remember my old Fiat Panda regularly carried a 2 kilowatt sound system and seemed to have Tardis like abilities.

She did carry a lot of boxes and looked like she had been lowered by a few inches.

Monday 23 April 2012

Alien Scavenger Hunt

Honestly not my idea, but when deciding on an original idea for her 11th birthday she had the idea of a party at one of our favourite places, Rendlesham Forest, near Woodbridge and site of the infamous 'Rendlesham UFO incident' that is the U.K's own rival for the 'Roswell UFO crash' in the US.

It was a great day and the kids loved the den building session with the Forest Ranger, Bev, and then the 'Alien Scavenger Hunt' looking for pieces of UFO wreckage, alien slime and an actual Alien ('Zog' who actually came from Ebay and not the dog star Sirius)

Best of all she raised nearly £200 for her chosen charity Médecins Sans Frontières MSF (Doctors Without Borders)
 Obviously Barbara the bus was utilised as 'Alien Hunt HQ' and was really useful to transport and serve all the food and refreshments. A big thank you to all the special agents who took part and donated so generously and all the adult helpers for their energy and enthusiasm.

Thursday 12 April 2012

Little Miss Sunshine & VW buses in movies

When i came back from Blockbusters with this at the weekend my partner was shocked that i brought back the DVD 'Little Miss Sunshine', a complex family/road drama with no space ships or car chases, however on realising one of its main features is the families clapped out VW bus it all became clear.
I won't go into a long drawn out review here, but this was very enjoyable, funny and moving film that seemed to me an American take on the Mike Leigh school of character lead, darkly funny and thought provoking film making with a lack of the usual 'shmaltz' you would find in a typical American film about family life with a healthy dose of UK style cynicism and dysfunction.

'You were only supposed to blow the bloody doors off'

Any way enough of the Mark Kamode style film criticism : what about the bus?  Well it is a character itself in this film and certainly won't help the T2's reputation for reliability as its as dysfunctional, cranky and on the verge of complete breakdown as the rest of the cast. In one key scene in the buses 800mile journey across the states it breaks down in the middle of nowhereville. A local 'hick' mechanic confirms the clutch has broken and issues the time honoured 'we don't have the parts for these old buses...i could order one for next week' but adds that the bus really does not need a clutch for third and forth gears and as long as you start on a hill and get off in third they can continue their journey. As the family are in a flat as a pancake desert environment they have to push the bus to the required speed and then run into the side passenger door every time they continue their journey. The bus gets some real punishment towards the climax of the film but eventually comes up trumps.

I don't watch much TV, but it seems like every time i turn it on recently there is a bus, typically in the background and often used in glossy adverts as some kind of metaphor for 'cool'. The old VW is definitely part of the zeitgeist at the moment and has probably been so for a while, but its my impression that its 'star is rising' and increasingly its the old bay buses that are appearing, almost as much as the classic split screen buses. If we are going to be on the autistic spectrum about this whole subject; their is a website that catalogues VW buses in movies and TV series (   ) A quick scan proves its not complete as i saw a bit of the 'Steptoe and Son' Movie the other night which had a Splittie in one scene.(It also does not include 'Little Miss Sunshine') A lot of the movies/TV shows  are European and unfamiliar to me, but i have selected some screen shots of some of the more interesting one below :

1973 Volkswagen Bus [Typ 2 / T2] in Ha-shiga'on Hagadol, Movie, 1986

Love the Ganesh figure painted on the side of this panel van, from 1973 Volkswagen Bus  in Gazon maudit, Movie, 1995


Restoration rained off

Clunk, click, every trip...the old belts are retired

Slow progress on Bab's as the weather turns nasty, however a few jobs have been done, the most useful being the addition of two modern 3 point securon seat belts for the front of the cab. It felt a bit of a shame to remove the knacked old fashioned clip buckles that made me and previous owner feel like you were strapping into a vintage aeroplane or roller coaster, however they had to go as they were getting frayed and would probably fail at the next MOT, it was also frustrating having to explain to new passengers how to work them.

Was pleased i managed to fit them myself but i did loose most of the skin on my hand and wrists on the wheel arch trying to remove the old belts from the base mount that had completely rusted up. Although the bus is looking better my hands are looking like a blacksmiths who hand feeds piranha's, my manicurist is going to horrified.

I also got a shiny new Ariel so i can listen to Radio 4 (  I cannot listen to music radio unless its BBC 6 music and i wont be upgrading to a DAB radio in the bus as it basically does not work on the move)
Also on the security front a lovely brass locking petrol cap has been added, but like the ariel and other parts i have ordered that's repro as opposed to original VW parts, they never fit exactly and require bodging, sorry i meant alteration.

Tuesday 10 April 2012

View from under a bus

Rugged beauty in sepia

Gnarly bumpers!

Rusty logo

In colour
Whilst toiling away on the front bumper today in preparation for its return to white, i was struck by the rugged 'gnarly' beauty of the bus and snapped these shots which i am sure will be destined for tea towels, t-shirts, pencil cases.....just remember to pay me royalties!

By the way not taken using Instagram, its taken on a Windows 7 phone and edited in photoshop.

Wednesday 4 April 2012

Fabulous Furry Freaky Buses

Its raining so can't go out and work on the bus, so just posting a homage to my comic artist heroe's Robert Crumb and Gilbert Shelton and thier work that has crosses over into VW territory. There must be more out there please let me know if you find 'em.

Funny and true story : as a massive fan of underground comix in my early teens, i was reading the Fabulous Furry Freak Brothers in a lesson, the copy got confiscated by my ex marine PE teacher who was a complete %$£*. He announced he would be giving it to his primary aged children. I sweated about it for a week, praying he would not read it himself, he obviously didnt and hopefully it result in introducing his offspring are hopefully running a crystal meth factory in a squat in Dalston by now!

Tuesday 3 April 2012

Beats for a VW bus

DJ ing in a Samba and a VW record player!

If you own a classic VW you really have to play decent music in it, and i hope this article might help you find a decent playlist/soundtrack to your journeys.

In an attempt to combine my two passions; DJing and VW's, i want to put together a definitive mixtape to play in my bus. There is no shortage of tracks that mention VW's or specifically buses and please post your suggestions below ; however i wanted to select tracks that were more in the spirit of owning a vintage VW that avoid the obvious 'hippy' or west coast sound of the Beach Boys (Sorry never much liked them, although i appreciate the brilliance of Brian Wilson)
The Merry Pranksters bus goes 'Furthr'

Other obvious tracks would be The Who's 'Magic Bus' , but that is probably about Ken Kasey's famous 'kool aid acid test' bus than VW's.
Split van at Woodstock music festival

 Since i started to drive my forty year old bus about i have avoided the more contemporary sounds of hip hop/dubstep/drum n bass that i love for nothing recorded more recently than about 1978. Not a big problem for me as a DJ of 20 years i  have many thousands of vinyl records that lean towards this period, and find that classic latin/cumbia, early reggae, blues, sixties garage, 50's rock n roll, Afro funk and funk and soul sound perfect chugging around in the bus. In fact the music creates a magic that transports you back to the era in a way it could not in a modern car.

Certain tracks really seem to capture the feeling of driving a classic VW such as Professor Long hairs 'Big Chief' ( below)

 Another track that comes to mind is the Skull Snaps 'Its a new day', although its refrain 'dont make a fuss, just step to the back of the bus' is of course about the civil rights movement and Rosa Parks.

As a DJ i like to play my own mixtapes in the bus,narcissistic perhaps, but i know what i like and i hope you might like them too. They are all free to download and then copy to your ipod, CD, or if your proper oldschool like me, the classic tape cassette. As Barbara has the original 40 year old tape player, even if i do upgrade the sound system i would keep the original in the dash and hide the new one.

Ipod in the ashtray! Old technology and new together in perfect harmony

Levi Roots (a patron of the youth club i work for) gave away this bus to promote his reggae reggae sauce
If not listening to my mixes i often cruise listening to my DJ partner of many a year, DJ Crash and Burn, who is a specialist in 'vintage' vinyl dance records such as calypso, cumbia, sixties garage, blue grass, rock n roll, latin and things of a general rarefied groovieness. Make sure you check out his mixes here : 

Check out Crah n Burns podcast here

Fat Boy slim DJ's in a VW

I hope he is not playing crappy euro techno!

I would love to DJ in the bus, and obviously people have got there first as the selected photo's demonstrate. But I would like to try a differant angle and create a mobile recording studio in mine. As a tutor of music technology to young people it would be possible to construct a mini studio in the bus easily. I work mostly with rappers or singer songwriters so all i would really need is a laptop and a decent microphone to be able to record in the bus. Has anyone done this?

Lovely split in the background here
Fat Freddy gets in on the action! See my post on comic art/VW's I am looking for more examples of underground comics and VW's

Monday 2 April 2012

Highlights of a 'Low Light'

T2 Evolution : From left the 'Splitty', Early Bay, Late Bay, and T25

 This post is intended as an explanation of our sub heading for this blog as Barbara is an 'Early Bay' or 'Low Light' variant of the classic 'Bay' camper. When we first decided to get a classic VW camper i was only really aware of the three main variants of the classic VW camper : the original 'splitty' splitscreen bus, the 'bay' (as in bay windscreen) camper or 'breadloaf', and the later T25 or 'brick'/ scooby doo mystery machine type. However the second variant the, bay camper, is distinguished by two different models and so called 'earlies' or 'low lights' have subtle design differances in that the indicators are at the bottom just above the bumpers and the front bumper itself curves around the front of the cab area and has an intergrated side step.

If you have read Barbara's bio you will know that for almost a year we shared 'Barbara' from our nieghbour who was the original owner after she had larnt we were going to buy a camper. At this stage i was convinced that i would not really be able to afford a classic 'bay' camper or had the knowledge and skills to maintain an older bus and was actively looking for the 'newer' 1980's update of the T2 bus the t25, which although doesnt have the 'cute' or 'classic' look of the Bay or Splitty, certainly has its charms and still shared the heritage with its rear mounted air cooled engine. I already knew that the original and perhaps most iconic 'split screen' camper was out of my league as they are so prestigous and 'precious' (This is a bus i knew was going to be parked up on the street, and although i have a miraculously 'clean' 25+ year driving history i also have a history of car abuse and neglect that would bring me to the equivilant of the VW social services if a bus of such heritage got in my clutches)

It was only when my 'bro in law' Vern, who is a VW fan and owner of both a bay and beetle beach buggy and a very skilled and knoweledgable enthusiast all round, saw the bus and explaind that Barbara is actually a truely 'Heritage' vechile and with its early 'low light' styling as they were not produced for a very long period and are increasingly rare in thier original right hand drive variant unless they are 'rust free' imports from South Africa or Australia.

 In many ways the 'Early' Bays are the evolutonary bridge between the original and iconic 'splits' and the later bay window design and in my view are definately cuter than the later bay but benefit from the updates larger size and various technical updates. I'm not wanting to be a VW 'snob', the VW equivalent of saying 'Im not racist but...', but in my view i got the best camper that is both 'classic' and 'heritage' without the 'elite' and lets face it much more expensive to maintain and own Split Screen.