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Volkswagen Campervan

Volkswagen Campervan Published: 27th Feb 2018 - 0 Comments - Be the first, contribute now!

Volkswagen Campervan
Volkswagen Campervan
Volkswagen Campervan
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Do you drive this great classic or are thinking of buying one? Here’s how to ensure that you get the best out of your car for years to come

Air-cooled VW Transporters from the 1950s, ’60s, ’70s and early ’80s have built up a cult following in the UK, mainly thanks to their versatility in camper van form. This huge following has ensured that, there is now an increasing number of companies both sides of the pond producing spare parts and body panels, enabling you to maintain or update your Transporter with fair ease. Here, we look at some of what’s available to make yours better.

1. Engine output

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There’s no shortage of latent power on tap. A twin Weber unit, plus 90.5mm barrels (1776cc), fast road cam (Engle from VW Heritage, £78), freeflow exhaust, and 009 ‘dizzy’ is good for 100bhp. With head mods (and a big bore exhaust on top) you’ll be knocking out 125bhp – stretching capacity to 1914cc and 135bhp should be well in sight. Minor, cheaper mods centre on carb and exhaust swaps, try Just Kampers and VW Heritage.

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Any high power engine should be built up using a new crankcase. The forged crankshaft is strong enough for most road stages of tune, except that it does not have counterweights, and so is not balanced well enough for (relatively) high revs. An essential mod for anyone contemplating anything over 5000rpm is to fit a crankshaft that has had counterweights welded to the webs and then been re-balanced.

2. Bottom end

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Where do you start – a Super Race Crankcase from Auto Linea, for £840? The company will also sell you an Eagle Racing camshaft for £77 you’ll also want to fit new bearings and crankshaft oil seal.

Complete rebuilt engines are a good step; The VW Engine Company sells 1.2-16 (Twin Port) from £1044 to £1254 respectively plus performance engines of 1776cc, 1835cc and 1914cc – POA.

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To turn a 1200 into a 1300, the crank is changed to 69mm throw (retaining 77mm pistons and barrels) whilst to make it a 1600 motor 85.5mm pistons and barrels are further required. The 85.5mm bore should be considered the maximum for standard barrels. It can be relatively inexpensive to replace a worn-out unit. Just Kampers sells a reconditioned short 1600cc engine for £1500 for example.

3. Front suspension

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A popular tweak is to fit a heavy duty anti-roll bar, to improve both roadholding and stability; specialist justkampers.com. sells a front type for just under £100. Of course, it’s worth upgrading the dampers to suit and the company sells Heavy Duty KYB gas dampers for less than £60. Front axle adjusters to lower suspension cost £113 but the axle has to be removed, cut and welded to fit – still very popular though. Creative Engineering has developed steering rack and pinion conversion at £995 and, on all, don’t forget that electronic power steering can be ftted (speak to Litesteer – who developed such a system – and EZ).

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Basically a trusty set up, but, like any design wear and tear will eventually take out the ball joints; a overhaul Kit for the 1968-79 Bay Window Transporter for £140 for instance. In the early 1990s there was a trend towards lowering Type 2s by cutting the torsion bars, twisting them on their splines and re-welding them. Make sure there are no tight spots as you turn the steering wheel. A steering box rebuild kit for 1955-1963 vans is available from the Split Screen Van Club, which includes a new worm and peg, but costs £500. If the steering feels very vague, you need to check for king pin wear before tackling the box.

4. Brakes

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Front discs, while always desirable, may not be needed if you don’t drive fast; try Mintex Classic and EBC Brakes for uprated linings.

However, a popular and relatively simple brake upgrade is to replace flexible brake hoses with stainless steel pipes, to eliminate spongy braking. To this end, Just Kampers sells a Goodridge Front and Rear Flexible Stainless Steel Brake Hose Kit for £99. Nut and bolt front disc conversions from VW Heritage span from £867-£1269 depending upon spec.

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Companies have stepped in where original brake parts have dried up long ago so there’s no problems in this department. Just Kampers remanufactured disc callipers for the 1971/72 Bay Window models, when original supplies halted. The kit costs £209 and services both front brakes. Kits from said company are also available to replace worn rear drum brakes and a Rear Brake Kit, with brake shoes, for a little over £100. A rear disc brake conversion costs ten times more on average, but only needed for wild power gains or you fit a Subaru engine.

5. Transmission

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Apart from normal transmissions VW Heritage has a range of Rancho performance alternatives costing in the region of £1200, some £500 dearer than standard wares but not bad if you intend to heavy uprate the engine and need closer ratios. You can also go for a 3.87:1 ratio for a further £306 if desired although smaller wheels will also alter the gearing somewhat.

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Gearchange is notoriously sloppy. Renewing the bushes in the linkage can make a dramatic difference and, at the same time, upgrade to one of the ‘flashy’ gear shifters sold by the many specialists – linkage can replaced without removing the engine. Adjustment by slackening shift plate after ensuring gear lever is vertical when in second gear. Uprated clutch kits start from £110, gearboxes £700-£900 depending upon type.

6. Body and chassis

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There’s huge scope for all types, including pick-ups and motorhomes, depending upon what sort of look you like, but current interest seems to be steering back towards originality – and even the dreaded ‘rat look’. VW Heritage offers a kit to convert post ’72 Campers and Brazil Kombis to the older bumper look in both coloured and chrome styles, using VW or aftermarket bits. A full range of custom gear is available from nlavw.com.

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A mix of original and remanufactured panels, means you can practically build a new Bay Window Transporter; less so with the earlier Splitties, although once obscure bits are being reproduced.

Recently launched by Autocraft Engineering are Type2 light hole rear panels at just £15 a go. Annually check floorpans, especially towards the front, where there will be no leaked engine oil to protect the metal. Also, lift the engine cover and see what state inner arches are in; battery often leaks acid.

7. Interior and exterior trim

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Thanks to the popularity of these classic vans, it’s even possible to include modern-day modifications along with established one. For instance, Just Kampers’ electrically heated front windscreen costs £188 (and a worthy mod since the heating is notoriously bad in these vehicles. Latest craze are dedicated soundproofing kits; Noisekiller.co.uk sells a full kit for £300. A very full range of trim and accessories is available from nlavw.com.

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Most trim, such as the all important VW front badge, is still available more so for the Bay Windows than for the earlier Splitties. A lot of the original-style trim can also be bought new, a complete trim kit, with vinyl-covered panels, for £688, to fit the 1968-79 Bay Window VWs. Just out from VW Heritage are brand new production of these iconic three-slat ventilators, designed to fit the centre aperture of all Type2’s with recessed windows from the factory at £509.50, complete with seal.

8. Electrics

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Many owners of pre-67 VWs choose to upgrade the electrics to 12 volts if for no reason the cost of six volt items; £400+ for a dynamo for instance plus starting will be improved; special high torque starter motors are widely available. Vehicleproducts.co.uk is a Camper expert who can help with parts or a full rewiring. Full electronic ignition systems are said to be really beneficial on both standard tune and tweaked engines.

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It’s little known fact that during 1969 a VW rather than Bosch distributor was fitted and parts for these are becoming scarce so you have to convert; over £200 from VW Heritage. Wiper motor troubles could stem from it still using a six volt armature. If you want to keep with six volts, then ensure that all the wiring and contacts are top notch and fit a ‘Hard Start’ ignition switch relay so all the volts go to the starter and (for 12 volt models) a hot start relay – just £7 from justkampers.com.

9. Rear suspension

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There’s a choice of two axle conversions; a ’straight’ type said to be for cruising (around £500) and makes better use of the gearing if a Beetle gearbox is fitted. A conversion to independent (IRS) costing from £585 (Creative Engineering) to £630 from Just Kampers although VW Heritage adds with its kit you do need a IRS gearbox and brakes plus other parts. A variety of spring and damper kits are available with or without antiroll bar – speak to a specialist first.

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Not real concerns here, apart from getting the ride height correct to complement different wheels and tyres – all of the components you need generally for repairs are readily available, and at competitive prices. For instance, VW Heritage offers replacement CV Boot kits for T25s at £34.20, and a CV joint kit at £53.90 with heavy duty Bus springs £78.10; bear in mind that Syncro 4x4 types differ and are pricier but T2 wares are normally the cheapest.

And another thing…

One of the chief reasons why Campers evoke everlasting love is their fantastic social scene and if you haven’t joined one of the numerous clubs already make 2018 the year. Actually, the Camper scene kicks off early – 14th January to be precise – at the Telford International Centre (campermart.co.uk). The main ‘do’ is the Volksworld Show weekend over 24-25th March, located at Sundown Park, Esher, Surrey where for 2018 improvements include a larger Swapmeet area, more than 100 trade stands (spaces still available we gather) and better parking with tickets from £16: volksworldshows.com. Finally, if you want to know how to fix your Type 2 like a pro, ‘Boot Camp’ maintenance training days are offered by Type 2 Detectives for £190: busbootcamp.com.



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