Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Westly's Homecoming

Van Kid poses with Westly
I christened the van Westly.  The next morning my wife and son (Van Kid) came with me to fetch him home.  My wife was somewhat ambivalent about the purchase.  She knew that I had wanted one for many years and was happy that my dream was finally fulfilled, but wasn't really all that excited about driving, riding in or especially camping in it.  Then too, though the price was reasonable for a Westy, it probably wasn't the best thing to spend money on at the time as I was working two and sometimes three jobs concurrently. Van Kid however was very excited and loved everything about the van, especially the camping part.

Once home, my wife daughter, son and I set out on Westly's first adventure - to the Des Moines (Washington, not Iowa) marina with side trips to several garage sales.  Evidently, riding in the back seat is not a prime Westfalia experience, and I was still getting used to driving with a clutch, after having sold my last manual transmission vehicle (A 1978 FJ40 Landcruiser) several years prior.  Most of us enjoyed the ride, and at one of the sales I found a necklace of  yellow smiley face beads which fit the character of the van so well, I purchased them for a quarter and hung them on the rear-view mirror.

The previous owner supplied a folder of receipts from Westly's past and a box of spare parts.  Also a Truck Club (to lock the steering wheel) and a wedge shaped foam cushion, important to forestall the debilitating effects of  "Bus Butt" on extended drives (condition named during a cross country drive in a'59 microbus - "Vanagon Butt" just doesn't have the same ring to it).

Bonus: Bentley Repair Manual included!

The Bentley is a large book weighing around five pounds.  It numbers about 1,400 pages with some 2,300 illustrations and diagrams and sells for $50 to $100 depending on where you buy it and how many greasy fingerprints are on the pages.  It is absolutely essential for any Vanagon owner that plans to do their won work on the van  (and most do, as mechanics tend to look at them - both the Vanagons and their owners - askance).

From the receipts and other paper work I had I was able to determine the following approximate dates:

March 1982 - Van was manufactured in Hannover, Germany.
July 1982 - Westfalia camper conversion was completed and then imported to the US.
July 1983 - Van was purchased new at Humphrey Motors in Alameda, CA.
July 1999 - Van was sold to a doctor in Alameda, CA.  License plate # was "SLOOOOW".
2004 - Odometer stopped working sometime during the year.
March 2007 - Van was sold and moved to Carlsbad, CA.
June 2008 - Van moved with new owner to Seattle, WA.
August 2011 - Van was purchased by me.

I repaired the odometer soon after purchase.  I figured by observing the wear and tear on the van, and using dates and mileage recorded on repair orders that the actual mileage was closer to 100,000.

The first few weeks with Westly were spent washing, detailing, changing the oil, cleaning and re-oiling the air filter (a re-usable K&N filter) and going over inside and out tightening fasteners and tidying up wiring.  After filling the propane tank (2.95 gallons) the stove and refrigerator both worked well.  A Bissell machine and Simple Green were used to clean the carpets and upholstery.  All the upholstery by the way was in excellent condition, no rips at all.  The few stains here and there cleaned up nicely.

A few days later, a Craig's List posting for two 1982 Vanagons being parted appeared.  It was nearby so I went to take a look.  One was a diesel, but the engine was in pieces.  If I knew then what I know now about obtaining parts I might have bought them both.  Then again, having three vans in the backyard with only one operating may have been a strain for my familial and neighborly relationships.  Anyway, for $100 I came home with a lot of usable parts such as grills, lights, mirrors, instrument cluster, switches, interior parts, hub caps, etc.  I cleaned up and installed the upper grill as Westly's had some teeth knocked out and glued back in.  Between all eight hubcaps I chose four that were straight and shiny.  Westly's right side mirror had the dreaded "floppy mirror" syndrome, and when I tried to tighten it, the bolt broke.  The box-o-parts provided a suitable replacement.

One of Westly's previous owners had replaced the original radio with an "upgraded" system.  It had lots of features, but was a cheap brand and worked horribly.  In addition, it was longer that the original, so they cut a hole in the heat/defrost mix chamber behind so it would fit all the way into the dash.  This allowed much of the heat destined for the floor or to defrost the windshield to escape into the nether-regions behind the dash while overheating the radio as well.  I put up with it for awhile, but after it ate a new CD borrowed from a friend, I pulled it out, sealed the heater box hole as much as possible, and installed an old Subaru radio I had around.  Still not the greatest sound, but ok for now.

Now it was time to plan for some camping.

Next - Camping with Westly

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