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Author: Subject:  Kombi buying advice
Seriously Crusin Dubber

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posted on April 19th, 2015 at 10:10 PM
Kombi buying advice

Hi all,

My wife and I have decided that we're going to "trade up" from our 67' beetle to a kombi van (probably mid-late 70's) to start doing some travelling and camping trips and also need a bit more room for the dog and possibly children.

So I'm starting to look for one .. Now I know a bit about aircooled volksy's having had a couple of beetles now, but could really use some insider knowledge on kombi's .. We have a decent budget for something reasonable (we think) up to about 15k.

I know how to look for the the usual stuff .. Dodgy mods and repairs, bad panel and paint work, and sort of know the type 1 engine pretty well .. But is there anything I should be looking for in the bus engine?

But if anyone has some sage advice on things like rust, what's acceptable to take on as a repair and what do you walk away from?

Any particular problems in the later buses I need to consider?


6 Dubs in and counting..

1966 1300 Deluxe Beetle in polar white.
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posted on April 26th, 2015 at 10:48 AM

Hi Ben,

For 15k you should be able to find a decent empty Kombi Bay Window. When I say Kombi, I mean the actual Kombi model. A Microbus or pop top camper conversion in good overall nick will cost more.....
The Kombi model will be easier to check everywhere for rust because there isn't much trim in the cargo area and no headliner back there, so you can literally see all the metal (or most if it) from the inside. You can then convert the back into the camper you want, the way you want. The bus may or may not have the original Kombi rear & middle seats (bonus) or they may be long gone and replaced with a rock n roll seat/bed.
Check for rust in the usual places and look for rust weeps under the front screen rubber at the bottom, inside and outside. That is a common problem spot.
As for the type 4 engine, middle to late 70's Bays should have 1800 or 2 litre with 5 or 6 rib gearbox. It's still an air cooled VW engine but with 'improvements' over the type 1 engine. Will it be worn out and need money spent on it? Hard to tell at a glance but ask which VW mechanic they have used and give them a call. If the seller is an honest, fair dinkum person they should have no problem with that.....
Then there's cv joints, brakes, gearbox, electrics, etc all the usual stuff you need to suss out.
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posted on April 26th, 2015 at 11:07 AM 

Always something for sale 

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posted on April 26th, 2015 at 11:54 AM

work out what you want
* tin top bus with seats
* empty van
* camper

My choice is a tin top micro bus
You can always pull the seats out to go camping rather than dragging half a ton of house around with you when just cruising

The trouble with kombis is they are so open to modifications that no really knows what is what

Unless you really know what you want - i would stay away from a camper.
Especially an interstate one and double especially an interstate camper with a rock n'roll bed
ALL campers are modified vehicles. As far as I know the only VW factory camper is a Westfalia (westy) and they were not sold here.
All the others were after market jobs that may have been VW approved. These were all cut the roof and bolt a pop top on.
Rust is the enemy here as the rust gets right into the rails and is a huge job to repair.
You really cant see this rust until you take the top right off.
Very few rock n'roll beds are RTA approved.

As for busses, you need to be approved for the number of seats.
There are plenty of windowed vans out there that have seats in them that should only be registered as a 2 seater

As for low lights V's later....... low lights are cooler, but like all VW's later is a more advanced car.

An early low light camper with a 1600, shot suspension and steering box and drum brakes will be a dog to drive.
late bays with a healthy 2L and top mechanical condition is a pleasure

Steering boxes can be real troulble. Rebuilds are not that good.

As obvious, stay away from fresh paint jobs unless you can see documented history.

For that money, consider keeping the bug and getting a T3.
MUCH better to drive, you keep the air cooled cool and you have something to go camping in

Futue te ipsum!!!
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posted on April 28th, 2015 at 08:17 AM

No the German Westfalia camper was never sold in Australia.

However the Australian 'Sopru' conversion was approved by Volkswagen Australia as a 'factory' conversion, and sold new through VW dealerships. Eric Sopru's company originally started in Adelaide and began converting VWs in the late '60s, using brand-new Kombis from the Melbourne factory. They nomally converted the Type 23 Kombi (window van with seats), not the basic panel van or the Microbus. Sopru later set up another workshop in Melbourne. In 1972 Sopru was bought by LNC Industries, who also owned VW Australia, and they opened a new headquarters in Beaconsfield Rd Silverwater. Sopru campers had normal Australian new car warranties supplied by LNC Industries. Sopru parts were listed in the VW spare parts catalogues with VW 'CMP' part numbers.

For a few years the ACT-based Dormobile campers were also sanctioned by LNC Industries as a 'factory' camper conversion. Dormobile laster opened another workshop in Camperdown, right next to the big VW dealer Lanock Motors.

Australian 'factory' campers weren't built in the Melbourne factory' they were converted from completed new Kombis in the Sopru and Dormobile workshops. There were many other 'non-genuine' conversions at that time too, such as Swagman, Trakka and Discoverer. The UK conversions such as Devon weren't sold here, unless you come across a privately imported example.

Yes the T2 Kombis (1968-79) are getting very old and tired now - at best they will be at least 36 years old. The twin-carb 1.8-litre engine was available 1974-75 and had more power than the upright 1600, but parts are unavailable today. The 2000cc twin carb was the standard engine 1976-79 when the 1600 was discontinued. They are good strong engines but the heads eventually give trouble. They only made 51 kW and 137 Nm, so there isn't much performance. None of the conversions had showers or toilets; some of the early gas cooker installs were a bit dodgy by today's standards, and the old Electrolux RAM24 3-way fridges will be very weak now if they work at all. As Barry saysl, the later T3 Kombis are newer, more powerful, drive much better and are rooomier inside. The Austraian approved camper conversion of the T3 was the Trakka and they were a nice conversion.

You might even consider an even later T4 Kombi camper conversion. Again Trakka did camper conversions, bigger, roomier and more home-like than the old T2 and T3s. They had a water tank and electric shower fitting at the rear; still no toilet through. T4s were also used as ambulances, with high fixed roofs and twin sliding doors, and these made excellent camper conversions.

Trakka still convertes the current T5 Kombis, and they are a beautiful but expensive vehicle. The German-built 'California' camper conversion could not be sold here as it did not meet Australian Design Rules. 
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posted on April 28th, 2015 at 08:23 AM

Plenty of good aircooled campers out there , people are driving them everyday. Go and talk to these people, gain some info and get into it.
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posted on April 30th, 2015 at 07:45 AM

Originally posted by DakDak67
Plenty of good aircooled campers out there , people are driving them everyday. Go and talk to these people, gain some info and get into it.
I agree with this. My camper is a '82 Camping Industries conversion. The rear seat / bed is RTA approved but is not rock and roll. The backrest pulls out and plugs in to the front of the seat squab.

The camper seats 5. So far I have put 250,000 km on it. My son will put even more as he now owns it. My latest is an '89 Syncro Caravelle which I have installed a double bed in the back.

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