Vanagon – rare pairing

Amazing sight, BMW M1 parked beside my van. Immaculate condition and it’s for sale, around $600k US.


Vanagon – Quentin’s Syncro

I’ve posted about his transmission rebuild, and it all went back into the van with no bits left over. Quentin, from vivid vans, reports that he’s put 700km on the van since, and is super happy about the result. The van has a good look eh?


Other cars – Corolla wagons

You just don’t see this model on the road anymore. Doubt these two will be running anytime soon.


I’m just guessing – single 40 mm Bofors?

Quick snapshot while doing other stuff.

update 14/4/2022 I think my bore estimation at a distance skills are still top notch. It’s a party trick that annoys my wife. Show me a gun, I say, I’ll estimate bore and caliber. ( you can say all kinds of rubbish in a blog) . Anyway I just finally identified the gun.


The 40mm NC 1 L 60 Gun Weapon System (GWS) has been in the naval inventory since 1943.

From Wikipedia

The Canadian Forces removed the guns from their surface fleet in the late 1980s when they were considered to be outdated, only to re-use old Bofors guns as the main armament of the Kingston-class coastal defence vessel.[24] The Bofors served as the main armament for almost 20 years.[39]The decision to remove them was made in 2014, due to their maintenance burden, and their lack of stabilization.

Addendum June 5 2022.

Martins comment prompted me to post this pic of nearby equipment.


Other cars – I think Ford.

I’m guessing Ford F8-CMP

Pictures taken today.


Vanagon – door cards

It’s been years in the making. I’ve never got around to it until today. 0.090” aluminum. Some mods done too. I’ve cut the stock speaker hole larger and will attempt to fit larger speaker. That does have some challenges but I think I can do it. Also added smaller hole beside that main speaker hole for tweeter. Did the back hatch card too and added cut out for hatch release using the stock front door lever assembly.

I scuffed the cards up after cutting. If you look closely you can the my weight measurement written on one card. Comparison with bone stock 82 vinyl covered card.

Oh, what I used…


Vanagon – when I’m old I shall wear orange

One of the few *good* things about getting old, you care less and less about what people think 🙂


Two Broncos

At Greenlane Offroad. Quite a difference between blue and black, the latter got some mods.

3” lift with upper control arms
New wheels with less offset
37” tires
Grille hoop, side steps.


Vanagon – trailing arm rebuild part two

I had this thought that I’d make modified spring perches. To replace the rusty stock ones I pulled off, and…

This is where I doubt my thinking. The spring perch is really at an awkward angle when the trailing arm at fullest low position. I’m sure it’s more aligned with the upper spring bump stop when fully compressed. But I thought I’d cant the spring perch a little to make it align “better” with spring when trailing arm at a more neutral position.

You probably know that the diesel 16” Syncro had wedge shaped aluminum spacers on the spring perch to do the same thing. But I’m guessing it was more to accommodate the change brought about by the 16” Syncro longer trailing arm.

So it’s very debatable if what I’ve done is wise or needed. But hey ho! Off we go.

Perch made from circles of 3/16” steel. I modelled a tapered spacer from same stock , and made developed shape to cut out. I just hand bent it to slightly smaller than the discs, welding allowance.

Tacked up , you get the idea

Tacked, getting the idea now?

With an extra home made plastic pad, had milled in recess for spring pigtail. That’s about 1.5” at the back. I can make thinner plastic pad if this is too much of a lift. The pad as is, 1/2”.

I put some rust converter on the trailing arms and plug welded the three holes under the perch. I didn’t attempt to fill the divots left from drilling out the spot welds that held on the original perch

And then clumsily mig welded onto arm. I’ll drill a hole in the sandwich and squirt in some waxy stuff for rust protection. Then weld up the hole.

I don’t know if all this is a good idea. But I did it 🙂

Next is to pop in some m6 riv nuts that I’ll use to secure clios for both the brake hydraulic arm, and the e brake cable. I’m thinking about welding closed some of the seam area left open from factory, not sure about that though. And I might shave the seam for more tire clearance, as the kids are doing these days ( I did that on the pair of arms I gave to Simon). Apart from that the next steps are another sandblast then powdercoating .

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Vanagon – syncro transmission rebuild

This is Quentin’s work, he’s at Vivid Vans. A series of pics with his comments interspersed. I’m envious.


You can see the make shift m5x.7 puller I made for all the idler shafts to the left of the housing. An m6 bolt ground down and tapped to m5 haha. You can also see wear from axial movement of the mainshaft bearing in the casting.

I took a photo of each gear with its respective syncro for easy reference at reassembly. You can also just go off the number of teeth but it was easier for a newbie like me.

Nice and clean after being glass bead blasted and thoroughly cleaned.

Test drilling old diff housing for pinion oil squirter. Right on the money first try. (housing was trashed)

My NOS S.A. aluminum diff housing I had modified by Mr. GAS in Colorado for a locker and extra material for the pinion bearing squirter. Yes it would have looked a lot nicer if I had it milled down but I ran out of time.


4th Gear cool oil bath squirter. Questionable effectiveness but doesnt hurt nonetheless. Bathes 4th gear in cooled oil.

Main bearing oil squirter. Squirts cooled oil directly into the main bearing from the front side.

Main bearing retainer plate. South African style reproduced by Alika Motorsports. Prevents axial play. (I had the wrong thrust bearing pressed into the housing please ignore! Fixed it the next day.)

Cut the oiling groove in the pinion race using my CNC angle grinder. Drilled with 1/8 carbide drill bits.

Setting up the ring and pinion with the help of our head Tech Tony. Didn’t get photos of final pattern but It was spot on. Probably the most difficult part of the rebuild.

gear stacks assembled. I literally spent months labouring over the gearing. Ended up going with:

3.333 First

1.82 Second

1.125 big tooth Third

0.75 Straight cut fourth

Deleted the reverse/granny syncronizer and installed a 2wd slider instead. TDIs have been seen to rattle the syncro assemblies apart and destroy the low/reverse housing.

Fully assembled all aluminum goodness

Painted, torqued, ready to thrash. I just need to plumb the oil cooling circuit and it will be ready for break in.

One last photo of my trans temp gauge I custom built. My oil cooler pump is activated manually by a 2nd defroster switch. I considered doing and automatic cooler set up, but your brain is the best automatic controller money can buy.


Vanagon – start of trailing arm “rebuild”

Years ago I had a pair of trialing arms which I fixed up for good friend Simon. I shaved the wheel side seam and welded in a reinforcing plate in that area. Also welded up the spring pad perimeter. He finally had them installed last summer. His old ones he gave to me.

They were heavily coated in tar like undercoating and had been quickly cut from the van. I burdened off the undercoating using a tiger torch, and also got the bushings out.

Had them sandblasted. Here’s what one looks like after that. You might be able to see the Zip disk cuts in the arm, and the bent tabs. No idea what that tab on the inboard bushing area is for.

I welded up the zip cuts, and then I drilled out the spot welds on the spring perches. Yup, that’s what it’s like under the pads. Even though though the arms were rust free, on the surface, under the pads it’s nasty.

I’ll go out on a limb and say, unless you’re living in a super dry part of the world, your good looking spring pads will have cracked paint and rust under. Just saying, not being a Cassandra 🙂


Vanagon – funny Trucklite headlamp behaviour

Hi, I bought another, yes another, set of cheap led headlamps. Let’s not get into the pros and cons of that just yet. I’ll report on those later.

But I had the chance to compare quickly, the new ones with some older Trucklite headlamps. They differ completely in the led arrangement and number. But when I was doing a quick comparison ( very quick , shining onto a welding curtain) , I noted the Trucklite unit had a delay switching from high beam to low. You can see in this shaky vid. Trucklite on the right


Vanagon – quick autopsy of GW throttle body

It’s from the burned out orange van. Engine fire so you can imagine all of the plastic parts in there are melted or burned up. I did manage to pull the throttle body and it’s a go westy one. Here it is, even after an hour in the ultrasonic cleaner. I’m guessing it was black anodized.

Took it apart. The bearings , sealed, 22mm OD, 8mm ID, 7mm thick, we’re toast of course. And the throttle position switch burned off.

I did my best with scotch Brite pad on the main body and I skimmed a couple thou off one end ( lathe). The small parts I used vibratory tumbler, mix of walnut shells and grit. Put it back together using a a pair of cheap ceramic open bearings that I had. Of course you should use sealed , ti reduce the air bypass along the shaft.

Couple of notes. It’s a well made thing. I’m impressed by the build quality. The shaft has a very small groove where the bearings sit. There was something in the groove but maybe not an o ring, maybe it was some sort of sealant. The butterfly is a simple flat disc, no ramp or bevel as in the stock plate. The fit in the bore is very good, very close.

Good friend Greg has one in his van. He says it’s great. I don’t doubt it, it’s well made.

I’ll keep this one for a spare, yes I’ll swap out the bearings and see about something with that tiny groove in shaft under the bearings. And I need to get a tps either a kit from the usual sources or make one up. I’d did notice GW kit uses a 3D printed cam.

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Vanagon – some dash gauge resistance values

Good friend Greg is working on a replacement instrument cluster foil. Part of the work required some research into the gauges.

This info could help with troubleshooting gauge issues. it’s 86 and up specific, 2wd

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Vanagon – Syncro trans case mod

Not mine, a friend, I just did the simple machine work. Not really much to see just a slight mod to an added bearing retainer ( one side milled down to clear casting) and corresponding webbing in mating case milled down to clear the retainer.

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Vanagon – another D15 connector failure

Update, 27/02/22

I was working on stripping more stuff from the burned out van today. Took a pic of the big white D connector that contains the failed D15 connection. I think you’ll agree that it’s toast

I’ve written before, 10 years ago it seems, about the failure prone D15 connector on the 86 and newer fuse panel.

Well, the other week I found another. This time on a van I bought with a friend. Sad story about the van. We bought it as salvage, after it had an engine fire. I’ll post more about that later.

Anyway, I pulled the fuse panel and found the white D connector badly burned and melted at the D15 pin. The pin is undersized for the circuit that it supplies. And what it supplies is the ignition coil and the crank case breather tube heater.

It was an oversight by VW. Other VW vehicles of that era using the same panel moved the circuit to the larger D23 pin. But on the vanagon it wasn’t…. The D23 pin is unused. I’d recommend owners to check that connector and add a pigtail to connect to the free D23 pin. I outlined that in the linked post above.

You can clearly see the burned pin

I guess I ought to show the entire back of panel

I have to emphasize, failure of this connection will stop the engine. It will strand you.

I found another bad connection on this panel, on fuse 14

You can pop the front off the panel and reveal the quite wonderful brass circuitry. There was bent prong in the fuse 14 position. Easy to bend back to shake with needle nosed pliers. I’m guessing some ham fisted person bent that pin, caused bad connection and the resulting heat melted the plastic.

Ok, I’ll post two pics of the burned out van. This was at sellers place on the mainland.

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Trips – mostly Klanawa

The day after fixing the coolant hose problem we went on a trip. Of course, I was nervous. Maybe foolhardy to go off on such a trip , out of cell coverage, long walks to get help, without doing a better shake down of the van. A 35 year old van. But off we went anyway 🙂

Headed to Port Renfrew on the off chance we could get through RCMP roadblocks and get to our favourite spots northwest of the town.

There is a big logging protest in the area, as of writing I think there have been over 800 arrests of people protesting the logging of one of the last remaining old growth watersheds, the Fairy Creek watershed.

Wikipedia entry here:

We got stopped by a private security roadblock well south of the bridge over the Gordon river. The stated reason for the roadblock was road work further on. Yeah, right. Very uncommon to hire private security when doing road work. Makes my blood boil just thinking about it.

Turned around and headed to Cowichan Lake via Harris main ( also know on as Pacific Marine Road. This road is paved and a popular part of a circle route back to victoria via Cowichan.

At the lake we headed west on the south shore road , and back onto rough gravel. Onward west, and into the Nitinat watershed. Nipped down the wee road to check out Nitinat river falls camping area. We’ve camped there a couple times before, but there were others there this time and so we headed back on main road, onward to the bridge across the Nitinat , and looked for spur road that we had gone up 10 years ago…

I took wrong spur and ended up on the south side of Worthless Creek, road got steep. Nothing we aren’t used to, steep enough to have to use G gear on the syncro, and ease through a couple of ditches across the road.

Here’s the approx location.

Yes, that’s Nitinat lake in the distance. We could even make out the kite surfers ( binoculars ).

You might think us crazy, but we love having a view even if it’s on a rocky logging road.

The marine fog, low cloud, the next morning .

Off again Klanawa Main. Oh btw, passed Flora Lake and the forestry campsite. Pleased to see the campsite has been fixed up again. Few years ago we saw the access road washed out.

Then down Klanawa main logging road. Stopped at a spot on the upper reaches of the river. We have stopped here on other trips, lunch spot. As expected the river at this point is dry. Forst pic looking upstream, second downstream. And yes, others have been here and left fire pits on the gravel.

Further on down we came across some helicopter logging. Erickson by the look of it.

Timber Harvesting

Sikorsky Skycrane, I was surprised. I knew they were used for this, and have seen them used on the mainland some years ago. But to be honest I didn’t think they still were in service.

About a minute and a half round trip, from picking up logs to dropping them and return.

Then onward down the river to find on of our high view point camping places ( shown in other posts labelled Klanawa). Passed the Tscowis creek campsite, no one there, but we wanted high. First try we found the road trenched, de activated. Damn. Then onward again and found that Darling main road is washed out close to Klanawa river.

Then back track to get the the other end of Darling main, found some interesting things and also found road to another high spot choked with alder. Tried to drive thru but gave up after about 100 m.

So then back up Klanawa main to little lake we have camped at a few times before. And it’s been logged on one side!

That kinda spoils the ambience. Interestingly though, found some sundew plants there, never saw them at that spot before.

So back again to the Tscowis site.

It wasn’t that bad. Very little traffic on the road nearby. Mind you the creek is unusually cold. We haven’t been there at any time when the water is bearable for more than just a quick dip.

Spent two nights there. Did nothing but read,eat, drink, lounge.

And one more thing… first night on this trip noticed the fridge not working well. It was lit, but not cooling. Just like what happened on last trip , last year. I posted recently that I had cleaned the burner jet and the fridge was working great at home. So I figured the jet was partially clogged again. I’m thinking the bumpy roads is stirring up some contaminant in the propane supply and causing this blockage at jet.

I pulled the fridge after we got to Tscowis. Cleaned the jet the best I could, and back in it went. Fridge lit and worked like a champ! Close to showing plumbers crack here.

Return trio to home uneventful. Went back via Cowichan lake and Duncan. All in all about 550km.


Vanagon – hosed!

Finally, and just as the weather turns from the driest and warmest for years to showers, my wife and I get going on a trip to the places we like to go.

Of course I was nervous, after having engine and trans out. But driving around locally the van was fine.

But… we get maybe 30 min from home, driving thru Langford, I see steam in the rear view mirror. I get off the road at suitable spot and sit, contemplate, let the steam die down, before popping the engine hatch.

Was wetness at the rear of engine. Spray pattern, you know. Couldn’t see anything until I poured water into expansion tank. Then we both saw the leak. End of the hose from expansion tank to the left side pipe. The branch of that pipe just adjacent to the water pump. Ironically ( not sure if this is good use of that word) I had replaced that pipe with stainless version.

The hose down there was split at the clamp. Was able to push more hose down over the barb, get more water into tank, and drive back home.

The ess shaped hose is quite VW specific. Instead of going to dealer ( thinking would be an order in part) I went to local NAPA store. Beacon Auto. I like the place, good service. Thought I’d cobble up something.

Stock hose is nominally 1” ID at one end, 3/4” ID the other. They didn’t have anything but I bought a 1” right angle hose and some 3/4” hose. They didn’t have adapter nipple. But I said to myself … I’ll go back to work and make one…

Didn’t have the stock on hand at home to make .

Suffered the teasing at work 🙂

Made adapter, hose barb looks small , was a guess and worrying about stiffness of new hose, worked out fine. Original on left, shortened at the failed end.

I’d have liked to have spring clamps all round, it used one gear clamp ( rolled edge though )

Installed. Looks clunky but believe me it’s tight .


Something different – WWII Canadian Civil Defense helmet

Over the last winter I picked up some stuff. One interesting thing was this Brodie helmet, WWII vintage ( 1941) , Canadian civil defence warden. Sorry but I lost the internet link to more info. But according to the stamping it was made by the Canadian Lamp Company.

Yeah, I’m on holiday and sitting with a nice drink digging up these pics from last winter.

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Vanagon – Grills! Grills! Grills!

Over the years I’ve had fun making silly grills that go on the back end of the kitchen unit. Ostensibly the grill is to provide a bit more ventilation for the heat made at back of fridge.

I started with a more less copy of the stock grill, but that’s not fun. This led to my Cthulhu line of grills. Accommodates a USB outlet and a voltmeter, and switch to choose between either. This particular example has a cut out for a fridge cooling fan controller wiring .

Next was the, perhaps more obscure, Austrian armament company line. To be fair Steyr , as in Steyr-Puch, had a hand in making the Syncro. You might notice lack of small hole for the switch to choose between USB and voltmeter, and the addition of screw holes that I used to mount a muffin fan behind to maybe help the “Vennelashun”.

Recently I’ve drawn inspiration from the Dieter Rams school and went minimal. You’ll notice the slightly wonky angles of the inserts… Herr Rams would not be pleased.

Ask me if I take myself seriously …


Vanagon – all wipers and washers stuck on

Hadn’t used wipers in months. Tried them last week and nothing. Funny… but had other fish to fry. Yesterday afternoon checked fuse and it was blown. Swapped in good fuse and when ignition on front and rear wipers turned on, and front and rear washers. Stalk wiggling did not fix. Pulled fuse.

Today I had a better look. Both wiper relays fine. Must be the switch. Steering wheel off and switch assembly pulled ( simple, just remove the electrical connectors and three screws. It’s pretty obvious).

Noticed that the contacts for the wiper wash function ( the pull or push in the stalk) were all together. There is a springy center contact that is moved by the stalk to select either front or rear wash function. Seems I had all on. I moved the stationary contacts back as much as they could move. They are held in place by plastic tabs moulded into assembly. The pic I took was after that. Pity I didn’t take a before pic. Near side contact not shown fully in pic, but same as the far side one

No idea how this happened. Hope it doesn’t happen again…

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Vanagon – fix the nasty part two

It’s a hack job but I need it done stat so we can go camping in the backcountry. Have more grinding to do, and seal seams, and fill holes with filler…

I’m not proud but I just have to, as they say in the U.S of A , “Git ‘er done”

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Vanagon – fix the nasty beginning

Body work is hard. But then again it’s quite satisfying. And especially if you’re not trying to be perfect. Today , well yesterday too, I cut out the rust and removed the temp patch I made about 8 years ago ( thinking it’d fix proper soon, but didnt).

Today was cutting replacement metal, using the roof section I cut out years ago to make tin top into westy

Nice little Miller mig welder at work, 0.023 wire, in the hands of someone who knows what they are doing it’s a great machine. I’m having issues with my skill level. Good friend Donovan stepped in to tack the metal I had cut…

Btw, check out Donovan’s main gig here

Btw, the seat belt anchor point is reinforced on back. You can see my mig skills showing thru on that. Took the pic after seat in , as I was prepping to drive home. Not the best pic.

The side and corner still to be done . Lots of repair needed inside. Don’t get on my case, I know, I know . But I have a corner clip and a side clip , but the latter might not be used, I might want to make a feature on the side.

Steel is so dirty compared to my usual aluminum work. Tomorrow is another day, next chapter.


Vanagon – Dometic fridge fooling again

You have to know by now that if diddled with the fridge or as long as I’ve owned it. And this is an ‘82 vintage 182b , first installed in my old white 82 ( originally diesel ) westy. It’s been in the Syncro now for 11 years.

Last time I posted about fridge out and played with mods was back in 2017

Couple of things about what I did then, and subsequently changed… the bank of squirrel cage fans were replaced by two smallish muffin fans directly under the upper row of fins.

And I found the right stuff , thermal mastic, and re-did the fins to pipe and plate arrangement on the evaporator inside the fridge. Funny about the mastic. I asked at local rv store and they practically gave me their last tube for free. They have no need for the stuff anymore.

Anyway, fridge worked well after all that. I didn’t do any measurements like I did way back in 2010, but I’d guess I had same performance. A delta T of 22-23C below ambient is I think as good as you can do with these fridges in the van.

But last summer the fridge started to not perform as well. It would light fine, and cool, but not cool as much. So last week I pulled the fridge again.

Opened the combustion chamber, found more rusty dust then I’d expected, and I pulled the gas jet and found it fouled. Sorry, not a good pic but you can sort of see the dirt on the jet.

Ultrasonic cleaning for 15 minutes in that CRL ( calcium , rust, lime) stuff and it now looks like this.

Other things I did were:

Re lag the exhaust pipe ( I do think this lowers the behind the fridge temp

Installed a new thermo probe for a new fan controller. inkbird, replacing the no name previous one. I think it’s a nice mod to be able to adjust the temp that the behind the fridge fan(s) come on.

Added copper strips to bridge the gap between the two aluminum plates I added to the fins last time. My idea is to make a continuous shroud back there to better direct the air flow over fins. I used copper as I had a roll and the two banks of fins are on different planes from each other making a rigid panel bridging them difficult. Stuck them on with double sided tape ( supposedly thermal tape) then covered up with some sticky back foam reflective stuff.

And the results? Fridge lights easily and cools down as fast as it ever did. I’m really pleased by how fast its cooling. The behind the fridge fan noise I think is reduced, but never was loud to begin with. I can’t recall the cut in temp for the stock thermo switch , maybe 50-55C? I’ve been trying a lower set point, 38C. So far, at home tests with sun in side of van and ambient temp s of around 25-27C , the fin temp is staying around 39-42C with fans running.

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Vanagon – home made muffler update

I made a muffler eight years ago. Here’s a link to all the blog posts about construction then.

Since then I’ve added a working cat, and new exhaust pipes. But I’ve also hit the muffler a few times on rocks and snow banks. Hit it enough that I cracked the weld at the tail pipe end of the muffler.

So when the engine was out recently I cut that end off and re-welded. Gave me a chance to look inside and see how the stainless steel swarf I used as muffler packing was doing. Was a little sooty, not much, a little discoloured by heat, but overall surprisingly good. Don’t know why I was expecting any different.

Gave the muffler a bit of a buff to take off dirt and shine it up a little. Also made new hangers. Same style as before but stainless pins to hold the band clamps instead of aluminum. It’s 3/8” aluminum, 1/2” diameter on the pressed in pins. Oh and new band clamps.

Sounds more or less the same as before. Yes, louder than stock.

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Vanagon – wanna see something nasty?

I knew I had to get around to it someday, poked today, ugh. It reminds me of “Harry’s Garage” Lancia ( see his YouTube channel).

Heavy rubberized undercoating on the wheel wells is what I’m calling the culprit. And my years of neglect. But now the van is not daily driver it’s going to get some love.

Welding this Saturday


Vanagon – new fridge knobs installed

Had to pull the fridge out a bit. Was it worth it? Meh…


Vanagon – Dometic fridge knob repair

I need to adjust the stem lengths, but this is what I came up with


Second op – the part should be obvious now

Haas mini mill, coolant off for the shots, scallop tool path with 1/4” ball end mill. I like the pattern the scallop tool path makes, I think it works for this part.

Must be obvious now what part of the westy I’m trying to fix.

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Corrected speeds/feeds

But still with unnecessary tool moves. Yes, it’s a Vanagon part. Only the first op on the lathe.

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