you know the Samba was found in the Eifel, a little mountain area west of Bonn and east of the Ardennes in Belgium. It was abandoned there down in the woods in 1961 and rut there until we found it in May 2017. So I do have a personal relationship with this region, a region known for its beauty and known for its great wineries.
Up until today, the Ahrtal cannot be reached by car, the German army tries to help with tanks, can you imagine that? There is no water, no electricity, mobile phones don´t work, the internet neither. It´s the biggest disaster since World War II.
We are trying to help our neighbors as best we can. We gave our 1972 Kübelwagen to some friends from the Ahrtal, so they can at least reach their destroyed homes, have a look here:
We reactivated our 1959 Bachert fire truck pump, so we could help people sucking the water from flooded cellars. See a little video here.
But what the people need most now is simply money and this is what this post is about. I want you to help as well. I know all of us in the Barndoor community are kind of wealthy, otherwise we couldn´t afford a Barndoor or a Barndoor resto, right? We are spending thousands and thousands of Dollars or Euros for our big toys. That´s OK, there is nothing immoral about spending money to have some joy as long as it doesn´t hurt other people. But now it´s time to donate some money for the sudden homeless residents of the Samba´s temporary home for 56 years.
And here I have a deal for you. Be generous and you´ll get some very exclusive joy in exchange! Everybody (!) donating a significant amount of money will get a free ride in the Samba either in Hessisch-Oldendorf 2022 or at the Barndoor Gathering in Enschede 2023 (we will attend both shows!). Donating is easy by PayPal to email@example.com . Please let me know your name in the PayPal-wiring, so I can note you down for the free Samba-ride.
The first of you donating for the Ahrtal will get additionally a bottle of these original flooted Ahrtal wine rescued from the mud:
comparing a production place of the year 2021 to a production place of 1951 is unfair, but fun. At least, when comparing Mark´s little enterprise in Forthampton with the already huge Wolfsburg factory of 1950. While looking at the new pictures Marks sent me, I felt reminded of a certain famous picture of the Type 2 production of the very early days, it´s this one here:
As you see, there is no real “production line” yet, it all looks kind of provisory with these Bus bodies on the rolling carts, doesn´t it? Today, Mark uses the same rolling carts that you can see in the following picture and –believe it or not- the Samba is nearly in the same stage of assembly process as is the Bus on the vintage picture. All the main body work is done now, the inner “interim supporting frame” that we previously mounted to create a “driving Frankenstein” for Niels Timmermann´s Barndoor Gathering in 2018 is gone, the big body pieces are now at their final place. Mark expressed it this way: There is obviously a fair bit to do still, were working on alignment and fit as much as everything else to get the body welded up but as you can see …were winning! The frame is out the bus and we have been working hard in the cargo door side, cab and engine bay. Its hard to put into words really how much work this has been, the time taken to get it fitting, the roof lines right, the panels repaired and fitting as they should . Im in no doubt at the end of this it will be the worlds most welded bus but all worth it 🙂 Nevertheless, even though some minor bodywork remains to be done, I hope you will agree that the Samba´s body is looking great now.
And here is one for all those who “shitstormed” the project in the beginning saying: “There won´t be anything left of the original Bus when this resto is finished!”. Let´s scroll back in time and see the Bus from the very same ankle in different stages of the resto. Is there anybody out there still doubting that we made our promise come true to save every possible inch of the poor remains we found May 2017 in the muddy Eifel?
Just to give you an idea about the quality of Mark´s work, let me show you an unknown picture of a well known Bus. It´s the famous prototype “Wolfsburger Delikatessen” VW introduced to the public in November 1949. You all surely know the pictures of the Wolfsburg press conference showing these three great looking prototypes in a row as they were standing at a show´n´shine contest. These pictures did a great job, the public interest in the new “Type 2” was huge from the beginning and resulted in an instant sales success right from the start of the production in March 1950. Volkswagen´s smart PR department always knew how to put the product in the right spotlight, in fact they made the product look better than it actually was.
Regarding the “Wolfsburger Delikatessen” it wasn´t any different. Have a look on this unofficial picture of the prototype, do you see what I mean?
OK, let´s zoom in a little bit to make it obvious: this car was clearly handmade and it was handmade in a poor way.
Look at the dimensions of the gaps and look along the surface of the entire right side, it´s undulating all over the place! This is the way the “Delikatessen” looked like in reality! Keep in mind: Volkswagen would never have published the picture above, it´s pure coincidence I got a hold of this unofficial picture. And now compare this factory work to Mark´s work! Both Busses are handmade, but is there any doubt that the base Mark started from was so much worse than Volkswagen´s starting point? And see the result: the Samba is without a doubt a straight car now and you better believe Mark doesn´t use photoshop or a fulltime PR department making something look better than it actually is.
In fact, there is no reason to do so. The Samba is not for sale and never will be in my lifetime, neither is Mark begging for new projects, since there are some Busses waiting in line to be “reborn” in Forthampton. All this level of quality is “l´art pour l´art”, done to bring joy to you and me, done to bring the at least second oldest surviving Samba back to life, done to proof that nothing is impossible if you really want it.
And now, sit back and enjoy this piece of art by watching the Samba again from another ankle and compare it to earlier stages.
Next on the schedule is the mechanism of the sliding roof, so there will be a third chapter of the post “roofs and roots” soon!
you are into vintage busses, aren´t you? So what about a little challenge, a test to check your knowledge about Barndoors? Here we go. Have a look at the following picture and just guess what part of the Samba is this?
You don´t have a clue? Let´s flip it upside down and check the other side:
We see some sealing wax red color, so it can´t be part of something above the belt line. But neither is it a part of the floor due to its rib structure. Still a miracle? No wonder, there is not that much left over of this panel. In fact Mark, called it the worst panel of the entire bus and even I couldn´t identify it without the surrounding sections. To give you an idea what panel this post is all about, I will show you a picture of the Samba´s rear end during the recovery process in May 2017. Can you see it now? It´s the upper boot floor!
The reason why this panel is in such horrible condition is simple. The Samba´s rear window was the Samba´s only window which was broken, so it was exposed to the rain but couldn´t dry in the sun. Plus there was a moisty carpet covering the boot floor -before it has rotted away. This sped up the rust to eat big bites of the metal so far, that even Mark always called the panel “beyond repairing”.
So you can imagine my delighted surprise when I received a mail from Mark telling me the following: “So if I’m absolutely honest, I had put this panel to one side both mentally ( should that be metally 🙂 ) and physically. It´s probably the worst panel on the whole van and I was seriously considering not fixing it. We had used one of our in house pressings to pull the van rear to shape so far but it would always have been nicer to have a bit of the original. I’m not sure to be honest that anyone of right mind would try and fix this, however we have come so far and stuck to the principles of the project so I dusted this crusty half missing part off and popped it on the bench to take a look at it. It’s very difficult to know where to start and what to do with something like this. Welding across ribs, aligning them up and straight, just getting the whole thing to shape was going to be a real test.
Anyway I occasionally like a good test, catch me on the right day, wind blowing in the right direction 🙂 .
I also decided that instead of using our reproduction parts I had a few rusty bits of original I knew were in the scrap bin outside, so I dug those bits out and armed with a few bits of original and the remains of yours started on the long road to repairing the shelf.”
It´s exactly this way of thinking and working which I love Mark for. The famous German news magazine SPIEGEL wrote: “The resurrection of this VW bus from fragments sets completely new standards for restoration art.” Correct, it´s nothing less than that. At some point during this reconstructing process we became hostages of these “new standards” we have set. Repairing this worst of all panels is so time, money and work consuming, it just is pure nonsense for any normal restorer, but saving every little piece of original metal is the main principle of this whole enterprise. We don´t want anybody ever saying “They build a new Samba around an old VIN”, we don´t even want anybody to just be thinking this way! So let´s see how artful Mark is wasting his time and my money by repairing a panel nobody else would even think about touching. The following pictures speak for themselves…..
This picture above really made my day! This is not just repairing a panel, it´s art! Did the automotive history ever see something even close to the same? I doubt it. Mark´s work is indeed setting new standards. I do believe that this process here will be quoted by other “impossible” projects that will be carried out by the following generations of restorers.
Now let´s see how this piece of the puzzle fits in the Samba´s rear end. Doesn´t this look great?
Now, compare this picture above to the picture in the beginning showing the Samba in his Eifel graveyard. Isn´t that simply amazing how much of the original metal Mark has saved? (I know there is much more to tell about the picture above than just the boot floor; the roof and the speaker pods for example, but these are worth an own post, be patient…) I know most of the people in the VW-world couldn´t imagine that this Samba is savable when we started in May 2017 and in fact you need to have a special kind of love affair with rusty cars to dedicate your time and your money in such a project. But most important of all is the absolute belief that any technical problem is solvable if you really want it. This belief (and the love affair with rusty cars) started in 1989 when I found a long time abandoned Oval in the lonely “Westerwald” a mountainous area south-east of Bonn. This Oval is kind of the spiritual father of the whole Samba project and that´s why I want to share this story with you. It all begun with a small ad in the local newspaper….
VW BEETLE, 1956, VERY BAD CONDITION, DM 150,–
Also in 1989 an Oval was a rare and quite expensive car. DM 150,– was a suspiciously low price, even if the condition was “very bad”. Maybe it was a typo? I called the number and a friendly old man confirmed the price and that the car was still available. You better believe I drove there instantly to make sure the Oval won´t go to somebody else.
The friendly old man opened the door, but instead of going to the garage, he called me to follow him in his garden. There the Oval was! Overgrown by a huge blackberry bush and very rusty. “How long is the beetle sitting there?” I asked. He replied: “Since 1971. It was my young wife´s car, but she died in 1971 and I couldn´t give the car to the junkjard emotionally.”
I checked the Beetle, it was very complete and a good deal for sure -parts wise. Back in those days I stripped a Beetle each week for parts, it was easy money and fun. We begun to cut the blackberry bush and tried to open the door. This was, when the following picture was shot.
Inside I found some Cologne license plates and tons of nut shells. The Oval was the home for generations of mice! The complete interior was rotten and there was a disgusting smell inside. But also the keys still stuck in the ignition lock! Bingo…
Now it was time to push the car out of the garden, but NO WAY! The brake drums were stuck so badly, we couldn´t move the car a single millimeter.
We borrowed a tractor from the neighborhood, but the garden was so wet and muddy that even the tires of the tractor spun. So, what to do? The car was already my property, but I couldn´t move it away. These damned drums were stuck as they were welded to the brake shoes, no matter how hard I tried. I drove home frustrated and had some beers.
Like always in life, if something doesn´t work the ordinary way, it´s always good to “think out of the box”. I had an idea as crazy as a 19 year old could possibly be. What about when I try to start the engine and just accelerate really hard, would this be a way to make the drums turn? The next day, I returned to the Oval with a lot of tools, some fuel and the absolute will to make this old baby run for a last time before I’d strip it.
Well, as you can imagine, it wasn´t that easy to start a car which was abandoned in a garden for nearly 20 years. I pulled the battery out of my ´58 and installed it into the Oval. While I was disassembling the fuel line, the Oval´s old radio begun to play. It was kind of a magic moment, it seemed the car was speaking to me: “I am still alive!” In this moment I decided to not strip this beetle, no matter how rusty it was.
To make the long story short, my plan worked and some hours later we could convince one of drums to turn again. This was enough to tow the Oval out of the garden. Here you see the scenario. Check out the rear left drum is obviously still stuck. The towing car was the 1975 “Opel Rekord” of my girlfriends father. Back in those days, just an old car at the end of its life, but I still feel sorry for the Opel´s clutch which we gave a hard time that certain afternoon. I hope my girlfriend´s father does not read my blog….
Back home, I started my first “rusty resto”. I simply didn´t have the money to do a full restoration job and it would have been crazy, because all the body work, the interior and a proper paint job would have ended up at a sum that could buy you nearly two restored Ovals back in 1989. But doing a brake job, installing a new exhaust and some acceptable tires was OK to my budget.
When the job was done, I borrowed a set of “red dealer license plates”, something I have to explain to all non-German readers. Sure, all cars in Germany have to pass the “technical control” (aka TÜV) and with a car as rusty as this Oval there was and there were no way to pass the TÜV and get legal license plates. But there is one way to drive cars without TÜV approval legally: the magic “red license plates”. These plates are for car dealers only to enable them test driving and driving home cars they just bought and similar scenarios. Sure, it is the absolute responsibility of the car dealer that any car driven with “red plates” is at least safe to drive regarding the brakes and the steering. But a rust hole doesn´t matter. Don´t get me wrong, “red plates” are not the license to perform some crazy teenage nonsense, joking around with the “red plates” makes you losing them to the police quickly! To put it in Mike Judge´s words: “Don´t try this at home!”
So the following picture shows 19-year old Florian with his new rusty love affair ready for a first ride. The destination was nothing less than the Nürburgring!
There was a classic car meeting at the Ring and I wanted to participate with the Oval. Here is the proof:
As you can see, people were not amused by my beautiful Oval! In fact, there were some guys that were truly mad at me: “Don´t embarrass our meeting with your junk car!” or “You shame every serious car restorer!” were just two common phrases I heard several times….
But, like every teenager, however, I loved to provoke (well, I still do…) and so I attended some more meetings with my lovely rusty Oval. Here you see me, proud as hell, because I just won the third place at a local classic car rally, the famous “Kleinwagentreffen in Brenig” near Cologne. This was a very funny Sunday!
As time goes by, a lot of other interesting cars crossed my way and, due to the lack of an own set of “red plates”, I stored the Oval away for 30 years. But there is (or at least there should be) a moment in a car collector´s life, when you have to do a bitter calculation. Looking at the estimated remaining time you approximately still can stay on earth and dividing this remaining time by the number of car projects you “still want to finish, ehhhh, ….some day….”. Let´s face it, for most of us this calculation ends up with a frustrating conclusion: we don´t have enough life time anymore for the amount of car projects still on the agenda, isn´t it this way?
For me, this point was reached when the Samba hit my life. This project, no wonder, is the project of my life. Maybe this one project only is still too big for my remaining life time? So what to do? I learned three important lessons:
1. reduce the amount of projects by 50% (still to many cars for sure, but at least a step in the right direction)
2. don´t buy any additional projects anymore, not a single one! No, even not a KdF for 500,– Euro. Hhhhmmm….or, well, maybe…
3. get yourself a damned set of own “red plates” finally, stupid!
Thank god no KdF came my way so far and painfully I said “good by” to some projects, but the Oval stayed. By now I have my own set of “red plates”, so it was time to bring the Oval back to daylight, don´t you think so? I pulled him from a dark corner of my car hall and we spend some weeks working on the old boy. We fixed the huge hole in the floor pan where the battery leaked its acid in the 70s and 80s, we fixed some other rust damages too, but didn´t touch the rusty graveyard look. We installed a really proper brake system, some old 4,5 Porsche 356 Lemmerz wheels (rusty original ones of course!) with 165 tires and a self made front axle reinforcement (similar to the 181 system).
The 30 horse engine received a special tune up. Bernd Riechert´s cool successor Laszlo delivered an all vintage dual carb system and we removed 5mm out of both cylinder heads which resulted in a compression delivering a downright ruthless pubescent engine performance and we haven´t talked about the vulgar sound yet. All these (and some more) tuning modifications could have been performed also in 1956, there is no 12 Volt conversion or any other modern BS installed, just to let the purists know!
In fact, the Oval delivers a really safe and truly satisfying ride today. Beside some minor rust holes on the outer skin (which really don´t affect the safety of the car at all!) we could even pass the TÜV without any problem today. But the inspector has to accept the rotten interior and the “special” smell still inside.
While driving the Oval the first time after all these years, it seemed to me that finding the Oval was the fate´s challenge, a test if I am the right man for the Samba project to come. There are just so many coincidences! According to my respective stages of life, each of both cars brought me to my respective limits technically, financially and mentally. Both cars provoked kind of a “shitstorm” by the audience when introducing them to the public. The Oval taught teenage Florian how to handle such a treatment in general and that no technical problem will ever stop me from doing it “my way”.
Both cars spent their first lives in Cologne, they most likely had seen each other sometimes somewhere at a Cologne traffic light in the late 50s! Both cars ended up as abandoned junk, left behind in the flora, the first in the “Westerwald”, the other in the “Eifel”, both German low mountain range areas just divided by the Rhine.
Join our party in Hessisch Oldendorf 2022, when the Samba and the Oval will be reunited after 65 years, riding the Autobahn from Bonn to HO side by side! Promised.
excuse me for choosing a headline in German, let me try to explain. When East Berlin citizens stormed the Berlin Wall November 9th 1989, Willy Brandt (Germany´s chancellor from 1969 until 1974, but more important Berlin´s mayor when the East Berlin villains erected the Berlin wall in 1961) immediately rushed to Berlin and declared in front of the crowd in this total chaotic situation in which nobody knew what would happen next, this certain phrase everybody knows in Germany today. It means “now grows together what belongs together”.
Willy was quite upset when the East Berlin regime erected the wall and he never gave up dreaming that “his” Berlin would be reunited someday. This certain night in 1989, when Willy was already an old man, having just three more years to live, he knew that his dream would come true now, even though hardly anybody was sharing his believe the previous 28 years.
When Mark visited me for the first time, just a few days after we dug out the Samba in the Eifel, and I asked him “Is it possible to restore?” he kneaded his chin, considered, and said: “I think it´s possible.” Hardly anybody beside the two of us would have believed in this possibility. Today, when checking out the new pictures, you will agree: now grows together what belongs together.
We are facing a new stage in the restoration today. After the chassis, the engine, the gearbox, the brakes and many other components including a lot of the body parts are rebuilt by now, we are assembling the puzzle in a final way. At first glance, you might not see a big difference between the situation the Samba was shown in Bad Camberg 2019 and now, but opposite to back then, when we just welded some pieces on a provisional subframe, we are now talking about the final assembly
Mark expresses it the following way: “Ok so were at welding together stage, the bus is pulled to the frame which is sat at the right measurements. Cab is mostly welded at the front and floor, front panel is still held on with screws but after a few little adjustments it can go on.”
Before we get into the big body progress let´s have a look on a nice detail. This is part of a picture Mark send me yesterday:
It took me quite some time to realize it. It´s about the sealing wax color of the bulkhead. I didn´t remember the bulkhead to show original color, so I dug out an older picture to check:
You see the upper and the lower part of the upright bulkhead panel in primer, because Mark welded here. The section in between was still intact, but showing the very same silver-beige color the entire Bus showed when it was found back in May 2017. This means, that this very last respray in the Samba´s first life was done very surprisingly laborious, whoever did the job even removed the seats to paint this section, but left the dashboard sealing wax red. Strange, isn´t it?
Anyway, I asked Mark if he painted this section red, but he replied: “That’s lovely original paint; I found it under this weird silver paint. It was not easy to remove and the job is not finished but it will be soon enough.” I LOVE his style of working! This is just the way I want this Bus to be reconstructed: save as much as possible of the original substance, even all those bits that you can´t see at first glance and even all that you wouldn´t believe is still in existence!
But now it´s time to get into the body work. Remember the posts “Roof and roots” ? It was all about the “most repaired roof in the world” (Mark´s words…) and indeed this masterpiece here shouldn´t be called anything less than that:
But before welding the entire roof to the bus, the roof gutter has to be reconstructed. As far as I remember, there was nothing left of the original gutter, so Mark had to reconstruct this entirely. He wrote to me: “A pic of the roof gutter being spot welded down. This involved a ton of measuring and finishing of the rear Posts too, the levelling was a lot of work to get the rail exactly the same height from the ground as we had put a lot of work into getting the roof flat so needed the gutters and posts to all sit correctly before we joined it all up. The sides were then clamped flat so they sit really nice and straight when you look down the sides by the roof line.Wiring tabs for the semaphore and the main loom were added in the right spot too as it’s hard to do with the roof on.”
So, here is the spot welding:
And here we go for the complete gutter:
Seeing this picture makes it easy to understand why nothing of the original gutter survived: it was the perfect water drainage once the roof had the first rust hole to let the water in. While the roof itself had the chance to dry in the sun after the rain, the gutter stayed moist and rotted fast!
Now the roof is ready for installation, right? Well, bodywise it is, and an average body shop would now weld the roof on. Luckily, Mark isn´t just an average body welder, but a VW-enthusiast inside out and so he knows that the super early Barndoors didn´t have the wiring loom located in the chassis rail, but in the roof gutter! If you would weld the roof on the gutter now, the poor electricity guy would have a really hard time to get the loom in place later, so you better put in the loom now!
Sure, the gutter needs a hole where the loom can drain towards the engine bay and Mark has seen enough early Barndoors to know where this hole is supposed to be: exactly above the front corner of the engine bay. But, wait a minute, when it comes to a Samba, this certain spot is also the location of the additional side window, which means that the loom would, after passing the gutter´s hole, have to turn towards the front again to reach the post between the side windows to keep on draining further down on its way towards the engine bay.
This way would be much longer than the way in a regular bus and so this way would have required a Samba-specific loom, in fact a longer one. We both doubt that the factory was in the mood for a Samba-specific loom, especially not in the early days when the whole Samba production was kind of prototyping. So, if there was no Samba-specific loom, the Samba must have had the hole in the gutter located a little more towards the front, just exactly above the post between the side windows (the circled spot in the following picture):
Since the factory changed the location of the loom as early as February 11th 1952 at VIN # 20 – 021 555, it was my turn to find a Samba born before this February ´52 to proof the theory. Well, there are not too many super early Sambas, but luckily I had access to one survivor to check. And, lucky again, the headliner of the survivor was friendly enough to show a little gap in the headliner just at the spot where (following our theory) the hole must be in the gutter to drain the loom into the post between the side windows. See here:
Quod erat demonstrandum!
The Samba loom passes in fact through a Samba-specific hole in the gutter and doesn´t have a Samba-specific longer loom! Another Barndoor secret revealed. Isn´t our nerdy hobby the greatest waste of time you can imagine?
Great work, no doubt, but the left wheel arch was missing on the picture. In fact Mark made an entire new one, because there was not too much left of the original, but this didn´t satisfy him. He wrote:“Here is the other rear wheel arch, now saved like the other one. We had a new one we made in the older pics but used that to repair this original.” Here is the result:
Great job, isn´t it? Especially the original sealing wax paint kicks ass again, don´t you think so? But not only the roof and the rear of the Samba made big progress in 2021 so far, also the front is on the road to the finish line now! See here the right B-post, a really tricky section, believe me. When I tried to install the semaphores for the show season 2019, I realized how poor and bent it was and I thought to myself: “This is going to be a hell of a job if Mark wants to save what´s left of the B-post….”
Now have a look at how accurate the B-post is by now! The patina sealing wax paint ensures again that this is the real original post, no ordinary reproduction! Mark wrote: “Here is the B-post, as you can see a fair chuck got saved.”
Further to the front, there is also more progress. In Mark´s words: “The front dash and the steering column mount are all welded too, as is the screen surrounds etc. Moving away from screws to measured correct gaps is a big step onwards too, the whole bus now is solid already with the cab being welded up.”
An exiting picture, especially the original paint made my day again. When the Samba was found, the front was torn into pieces, the only useable surviving elements seemed to be the original windshields (stuck in the mud in front of the Bus!) and the two poor pieces of the Samba-dash. The front apron laid way beside the Bus and was in very, very rotten condition, same was the front of the roof. Nobody but Mark was even thinking about the possibility to save it. Now look how nice everything fits together with the NOS windshield frame I was lucky enough to find and Mark´s fine A-post creations:
How the entire puzzle does look like currently? Enjoy the following pictures made from three different ankles:
Sure, there is still a lot of work ahead, but wouldn´t you agree that this race is more than half the way done? Mark’s point of view is: “The only panels not started now are the forward cargo door and the rear horizontal shelf which you can see i have laid the original over the temporary one in the pics. It’s a big job to save that panel so I have put it off for now. So yes still plenty to do but it’s now becoming a welded together , dimensionally correct bus!”
It´s actually more than that. Here in Bonn, I am working on some components of the project, too. A very picky semaphore restoration job (a special post about this is in the works, but needs a little more investigation in some history topics), the restoring of the sliding roof mechanism, the repair of the wiper motor, the manufacturing of some door related rubbers, the restoration of the taillights etc.
The Samba is on the Hessisch-Oldendorf list for 2022 and I really want it to drive there on its own wheels! Sure, it won´t be finished by then, but the goal of riding it on the Autobahn from Bonn to Hessisch-Oldendorf is set. What do you think? Will we make it?
Have a good start into your week!
PS: for those of you who are interested in my other passion (poetry performing), here is my new livestream. Go for a two hour lesson in German language with Uncle Florian, there is even a little Volkswagen content…. 🙂
I just received a new picture from Mark showing another chapter of his amazing work. After restoring the lower part of the short side panel he now completed the short side with the swag line, the window section and the hinge pillar. He also restored the rear cargo door plus the right rear corner. He fitted the panels into the Samba ́s body and welded them together with the already restored roof. One picture tells the whole story:
To appreciate Mark ́s work in the right way, you got to see the same section in “raw” condition back in 2017:
Isn ́t that just unreal, how much of the original substance he saved? Even more unbelievable is the fact that all the brown color around the windows is ORIGINAL paint, that Mark brought back to daylight by extremely carefully removing several layers of respray….
While looking at the “before”-picture, there was this old question in my head regarding the huge cut-out hole in the rear right corner. WHY would you cut a big hole into the body of Splitty Bus just at this certain spot? If it would be on the other side the answer would be easy: to have a brutal, but easy access to the gas tank! But what sense does it make on the right side? If you cut a hole here, the only thing you get access to is the battery. What reason could you imagine for a permanent need to reach the battery? Last week, when I saw a service car of VW Fleischhauer here in Bonn, helping a broke down car in the first snow, I found the answer.
Let me tell you a story from my youth. In 1986, I purchased my first Beetle, a ́58 model. I wanted an “old” Beetle since my mother sold her ́66 Beetle in 1974. I was five years old and very angry at my Mom. I liked the Beetle very much and I told Mom: “When I grow up, I will buy an old Beetle!” She answered: “By the time you are grown up, there won ́t be anymore Beetles!” People really thought this way in 1974! The first Rabbits hit the VW showrooms and the Beetle was nothing but a car of the past. Remember, in the 70s, cars reached an average age of only 13 years, not more! Anyway, since this one day back in 1974, my plan was to purchase a really old Beetle as soon as possible and did so when I was 17.
The old lady from which I bought the car totally ripped me of. The ́58 was in terrible condition, but –hey!- it was a ́58 and it still had its semaphores! Could that be a bad deal? It could, believe me! I was able to fix some of the ´58 ́s problems, but rebuilding the link- and king pins was way above my level. So I ended up at VW Fleischhauer in Bonn and asked for help. Sure, the estimated cost of the repair was far out of my budget, but the friendly serviceman felt pity for me and he offered the repair in exchange for two weeks helping him in the workshop. Sounds hard to believe, but that’s the way it went. Anything was possible in the 80s…
So, I spent two weeks of my summer holydays in the VW Fleischhauer Bonn workshop and I learned A LOT. In fact, it was the beginning of my career. The Bonn branch of Fleischhauer was a huge area back in these days, around four times larger than it is today. I searched the net upside down for a picture to give you an impression of its size, but all I could find was this poor result:
Anyway, the yard was so big, the Fleischhauer employees had a company car just to drive around in the yard, transporting spare parts from one hall to the other. This car was a black 1960 ragtop Beetle, a poor car, no TÜV, no license, no interior but the driver ́s seat. They even had a trailer hook mounted to pull a little cage behind the Bug to transport even more parts. You have to keep in mind, it was 1987 and a ́60 ragtop Beetle was a car of close to zero value, just the same as my ́58 was.
Later, when Fleischhauer Bonn moved to a new and much, much smaller location, there was no need for an internal transport car anymore. I saved the little ́60 ragtop from being scraped and he is still alive today.
Now, let me get to the point. The yard of Fleischhauer in Cologne was as big as the Bonn branch. Walter Franz, the CEO of Fleischhauer (read about Walter Franz here), used to “think big” and so he planned both branches pretty generously. Due to the Wolfsburg records, the Samba was delivered as a demonstration car to the Cologne branch. Up until now, we have NO CLUE what happened to the car after its short career as a demonstration car. There are no pictures, no traces, nothing but the Cologne license plates, which were still with the Samba when it was found in the Eifel. I am now searching since three years and by now, I have a quite impressive collection of pictures showing early BD Sambas, even a lot of BD Sambas showing Cologne license plates, but not a single picture of my Samba dated to later than November 1951. Coincidence? I don ́t believe so anymore.
What if Fleischhauer never sold the Samba to release him into a civil life, so somebody could remember the Bus and made some pictures? The Cologne license plates suggest, that at least, the Samba never left Cologne. Plus, the license “K-ER 571” indicates that the car was registered in the center of Cologne, “ER” stands for “inner city”. Well, the Fleischhauer branch was in the center of Cologne!
What if Fleischhauer used the Samba as a service car after being a demonstration car? During the body work, Mark found the holes for the Samba trim screws being welded shut at some point in the past. Who would do that voluntarily but somebody who wants to convert a luxury car into an unadorned van? Hard to believe, that a private person would have purchased a Samba for commercial reasons instead of a much cheaper panel van.
What if, at the end of its service car career, the samba exhausted its first life as an internal “allrounder” in the huge Cologne Fleischhauer yard, just in the same way as they had an internal little helper in the Bonn branch? At this point, the huge hole in the rear right corner begins to make sense: the Samba wasn ́t on the road anymore, but still in internal Fleischhauer use as a helper for any purpose, also jump starting. Fleischhauer always had and still has a big “used cars sale”, jump starting is daily business if you have a large number of second hand cars for sale! The mystery hole made jump starting pretty quick and easy.
What do you think about my theory? To weird or a realistic scenario? Let me know. Friendly comments welcome!
do you remember the post “you have to clean the extinct volcanoes”? It was about Mark´s incredible reconstruction of the right side front cab door inner part. If you missed it, please read it now, so you can enjoy this current post better, because here we go for a continuation. After the inner part of the right cab door, we take a look at the outer skin today and you better believe it wasn´t any better than the inner section! As explained in the last post, the right side of the Samba was kind of buried up to the belt line under soil and this certainly destroyed the Samba´s body on the right side much worse than on the left side. But while the left cab door was replaced sometime between 1955 and 1961 by a later one, at least the right cab door is the original ´51 piece.
Following the philosophy of the project, we will replace the missing and non-original parts of the Samba by perfectly restored or even NOS material (which will also be painted shiny as new), but we will keep whatever is left from the 1951 material, based on when the Samba was found back in 2017. So in the end, everybody can see what is the original substance and what has been replaced. So, when the Samba will be completely restored, on the left side you will see an as-new-door, since the original left cab door was simply lost and replaced by a later door. There is no need to save and restore something which isn´t original anyway. But on the right side, you will see another example of Mark Spicer´s simply unbelievable masterpieces, something the automotive world hasn´t seen before.
To understand what Mark is doing here, let´s take a look at the outer door skin or -better- what is left of the outer skin:
This might not look too bad, but let’s take a closer look. Here, the skin lays on the already reconstructed inner part of the door. What a poor piece of rusty metal! Who but Mark would go for such a job now?
Mark called the roof of the Samba which he finished several weeks ago „the most repaired roof in the world“. I wouldn´t be surprised if this here is the most repaired door in the world. Is there anybody out there who can beat this baby? Let me know!
Now, it´s my turn again to finalize the hinges while Mark is going to finalize the upper frame including the vent window. I am just in process of reproducing all the rubber parts involved with the cab doors. I didn´t know most of them are BD-specific or even piano hinge specific and there doesn´t seem to be anything on the market so far. No big deal, to produce something like this is my daily profession.
Before I let you off into the new week, here are some other interesting photo finds. Beside this one here is another BD-Samba registered in the “British occupation zone Rhineland”. On this fully equipped Bus, we can find these unique Hella fog lights again, about which I wrote in my earlier post “Roofs and Roots”. The more I collect of these early BD-photos, the more I come across these Hella fog lights. They seem to have been an official VW-equipment upon request, if not at least a popular aftermarket accessory. How strange, that you can ́t find them today anywhere at the swapmeets or on the internet. I have to investigate a little more regarding these lights …
Talking about interesting photo finds of ´52 Sambas…. I am always exited when I find pictures stamped on the backside as this:
You know what that means, don´t you? These are official Wolfsburg press release pictures, have a look. Nice material, isn´t it?
While writing this post, I just received some new exiting pictures from Mark! I guess I will have something to do in these upcoming, very quiet Christmas days. OK, next on my agenda is not only restoring this pair of ribbed semaphores that I recentely bought for the Samba, but also writing the next post. At least for the progress of the Samba and the blog readers, this Covid disaster is achieving something good…
do you remember that post “20-15448” about the poor remaining piece of the front engine compartment section where the chassis number is embossed? Have a look again to understand the progress the Samba is performing since then, because today I will report about the rear end again. Just to give you an idea where we started, here is a picture from the day the Samba was found.
Check out here the same section´s other side on the loading bed of my ´79 pick up the day we moved the Samba remains to Bonn.
Now take a close look on the same section after cleaning. It´s not the worst part of the Bus, but still a really big task to restore it.
You will agree that this piece is definitely worth restoring, won´t you? But can you imagine how much work is involved here? To say it with Mark´s words: “this was a TON of work…but with the result I am very very happy”. No doubt, Mark! The following pictures proof it in an impressive way again:
This beautiful bulkhead almost screams for the original VIN-tag now, don´t you think? We could rivet it on, it still exists, but please forgive me, I won´t do it. It´s just too fragile. Have a look at it and you will agree. If it would come off and get lost while driving, I would be very sad. And believe me, this Samba will drive, he won´t be a trailer queen!
But finding a real good blank VIN-tag is nearly impossible. There are reproductions on the market, no big deal, but they are easy to identify as fakes. This one here matches the original so close, I can´t tell a difference. Maybe it actually even is an original, since I found it on Ebay and have never seen another one before or after this.
Now that I see the rear end is restored so nicely, I feel motivated again to search for punch numbers in the correct writing style. I already tried it last year but gave up on it, because I spent hours and hours searching without finding the right ones. Maybe some of you have any ideas?
By the way, does anybody have a correct spare wheel tray for sale? Yes, I know Etienne made a real nice reproduction, but the hole for the filler neck is too small for 1951.
Here is another little post scriptum regarding the “Cologne petrolheads”. A historic picture of another early Cologne BD-Samba. Again, not mine, but sooner or later I will find another picture of mine, that will tell me a little bit about its history following its days at Fleischhauer.
have a good start into your week!
PS: This here is totally off topic, I know, but there is more in life then rescuing rotten Volkswagens and these are difficult times for many people who are not as lucky as we are in our relatively unaffected VW-world. You may know that beside the vintage Volkswagen I do have another passion and that´s writing and reading poetry on stage. Many of my colleagues, who try to live on performing arts, are in trouble these days, so please like and share this initiative here.
first, I have to do a little postscriptum regarding the last post “Cologne petrolheads”. I missed to share with you this picture I found on EBay showing a bunch of Cologne petrolheads “on tour” in a BD-Samba. Have a look.
I don´t know what happened to K-D 402, neither if it survived. But we know that K-ER 571 survived somehow and this is where our little story starts today. It´s just a short post about a short piece of the Samba, the right side panel called “short side” opposite the “long side” on the left, the side without cargo doors.
The “long side” of the Samba survived in a relatively good state (please see previous posts), but the “short side” did not. See here how poorly the “short side” arrived after we dug out the Samba in May 2017:
You did realize that there is something missing on the “short side”, didn´t you? Have a look on the next picture and you know why. This is the day we assembled the remaining pieces of the Samba in our yard to a more-or-less Bus to give the media an idea what this pile of rusty metal was supposed to be.
But what was the reason the “short side” was in such a worse state than the “long side”? The following picture, showing the Samba in its Eifel graveyard, tells the answer:
OK, these two very little pieces of surviving metal were all Mark Spicer had at hand to start another mission impossible. Sure, it would have been so much easier and way cheaper to order at “funky green” just a brand new short side, but I stated it clearly in the beginning of the project and I will stick with it until the Samba will be on the road again: EVERY surviving piece of the Samba will be integrated into the Bus we are reconstructing here, no matter how rusty or rotten it is.
So, ladies and gentlemen, take a deep breath again to see the result of Mark´s stunning work and keep in mind from where he started:
It´s a little hard to see in the picture, but the “short side” is absolutely straight now, ready for installation, as good as a NOS-sheet metal. As Mark stated in his last email to me: “We have a lot to do still, but we are nearer the end than the beginning by a long shot.” Unbelievable? No, not to the loyal followers of the project….
Before I release you now into a new week, here are two more small photo finds. How do you like this one here?
Hey, here are the Cologne petrolheads again to teach us an important lesson: if the boundaries of life make you feel exhausted again, just remember that there is always an exit scenario in life. At least one.
I am still trying to do some research about the Samba´s history. Up until now, we don´t know too much. It is confirmed, that the Bus was delivered on August 28th to the big VW-dealership Fleischhauer in Cologne as a demonstration car. There is this specific historic picture taken in the Eifel in November 1951, most likely showing my Samba. We can combine, that the Samba was taken off the road in 1961 (due to no TÜV-sticker yet on the rear license plate and the already mounted indicators replacing the semaphores), but that´s it. The majority of its history between November 1951 and summer 2017 remains a complete mystery.
I searched the Eifel and the town of Mayen (where the Samba was found) upside down -no result. I published pictures in all of Cologne’s newspapers asking if anyone can remember this Bus -no result. I asked the Fleischhauer dealership, but they don´t care at all about this piece of their history. But I won´t give up and keep on searching.
A promising lead that I am following is, to collect all documents that I can get a hold of regarding Fleischhauer between 1950 and 1960. I know that the CEO of Fleischhauer back in those days was a man called Walter Franz and based on my research so far, he was a PR-genius. Up until now, I don´t have anything resilient about the Samba´s days at Fleischhauer, but I am sure there MUST BE something. Why I am so sure about it? Well, that´s what this post is all about. You will agree with me in the end: It´s hard to believe that a man such as Walter Franz missed out on the chance to use his demonstration Samba for a big PR-action.
Let´s have a closer look on Fleischhauer in its very early days. Founded in 1924 by Jakob Fleischhauer, the company initially sold Ford cars made in Cologne and later on also the entire GM range. From 1932 onwards, they offered the whole Auto-Union range, too. After Jakob´s early death in 1936, his manager Walter Franz married Jakob´s widow and took over the power in the company. In 1939 Franz signed Fleischhauer to become one of the first official VW-dealerships, even though there weren´t any Volkswagen to sell yet.
Fleischhauer worked closely with the German Wehrmacht and even had a dependence in occupied France to maintain Kubelwagen and KdF. Fleischhauer made use of slave workers, a quite common behavior in the early 40s. Normally, you would expect such a company and its CEO to face big problems after the war, consequences for being a supporter of the regime, enforced by the occupying parties. But each and every one of the Fleischhauer workers including the slave workers certified, that Walter Franz treated them very well. In fact, every week, Walter Franz sent a lorry packed with food for his workers from Cologne to France to ensure that everybody stayed as well as possible. The workers did not forget that kindness and therefore, the new allied government allowed Walter Franz to continue his business right away. So, Walter Franz was a powerful and wealthy man in the late 40s. When Heinrich Nordhoff was in financial trouble, Walter Franz drove to Wolfsburg carrying a suitcase full off cash and this way, avoided an early bankruptcy of Volkswagen! No wonder Walter Franz and his Fleischhauer dealership had an excellent relationship with the factory. The following ad released in December 1949 proofs that in an interesting way:
Do you get what I mean? Fleischhauer is presenting the new VW Kombi in December 1949, in fact, that’s months before Wolfsburg started its production, which was in March 1950! And Fleischhauer is showing a real car. Which means, from Heinrich Nordhoff´s point of view, Walter Franz´s dealership was fundamental enough to Nordhoff to send at least one (most likey two, a Kombi and a Bus) of his six existing prototypes from Wolfsburg to Cologne. When the volume production of the Kombi started on March 8th 1950, guess who received the first two vehicles, rolling off the assembly line? Correct, it was Fleischhauer in Cologne!
So it is absolutely no surprise, that in summer 1951, Fleischhauer also got one of the very first Samba-Busses as a demonstration car – or was it even the first one built after the prototype shown at the IAA in Frankfurt? The archive in Wolfsburg could answer this question, but they won´t let me in nor did they answer my questions in a helpful way.
Anyway here´s another Fleischhauer ad showing a 1949 prototype:
Not only is the date of the ads interesting, but also the design! Please note the little logo in the corner “VAN HUSEN KÖLN”. Ernst van Husen was the most famous Cologne graphic artist in the late 40s. He also designed one of the 1949 Beetle brochures:
Van Husen designed also a very similar 1951 Beetle brochure. At some point, latest in summer 1951, Bernd Reuters became chief graphic artist in Wolfsburg. It is unknown to me why they changed to Reuters, since van Husen´s work is undeniebly great and, from my point of view, on the same level of expertise like Reuters, but a little bit more sophisticated. See here some more examples of van Husen´s work:
Walter Franz must have seen it the same way, since he sticked with van Husen even when Wolfsburg transferred to Reuters. Which means, Fleischhauer payed van Husen for creating their ads while Wolfsburg provided standardized and free advertisements for all of the dealerships! Fleischhauer´s ads in the 50s and early 60s, all made by Ernst van Husen, are unique for this reason. For example here is one from 1957:
Walter Franz was so convinced by the artwork of his Cologne friend, that he hired him for a very special project. In 1955 Franz was looking for a Christmas giveaway for his customer and friends. It was Franz´s style to go for something special, so he released a beautiful little book with travel tips all around the Cologne area, it is called “Die kleine Reise” (= the little journey). All graphics are by Ernst van Husen, have a look:
Walter Franz enclosed a personally signed card (heavy handmade paper!) with every book. While nowadays in Germany, students can hardly write a decipherable sentence after they left school, note Walter Franz´s imposing signature. What a man!
You think this exclusive hard cover book was a little expensive for a Christmas giveaway? What about this one…..The following picture shows a whole armada of brand new Beetle convertibles, sponsored by Walter Franz for the Cologne carnival procession in 1951! In fact, Walter Franz didn´t miss any opportunities to launch a PR-coup and he did not care about the cost.
In today´s terms, Walter Franz was a talented “influencer”. Here is another find that proves it. The magazine “Krafthand” (still existing today) was invented for auto repair shops, mainly for independent ones, but Walter Franz managed to get “his” VW-dealership on the cover anyway. And, hey, have a look at who the graphic artist has been once again? Correct, Ernst van Husen was on duty one more time. You better believe that “Krafthand” didn´t pay for the artwork on its cover, it was Walter Franz, no doubt.
In return, inside the magazine, you find an extreme example of adulation, but, well, Walter Franz must have been a real impressive personality. The few men still alive who knew him and were questioned by me about Franz confirmed that fact. Anyway, once again, I didn´t find anything related to the Samba, but I thought this magazine might be worth to be shared with you.
The following page of the magazine shows something really interesting for those of you who are into German car history. You see the impressive row of brand new license plates on the table waiting to be mounted on the batch of new Volkswagen vehicles that Fleischerhauer received within this one day only. You might have asked yourself this question before: on the “occupation license plate” (used from 1945-1956) why were there TWO prefixes for the same area (the region of Cologne, called “Rheinland”): “BR” = British zone Rheinland and “R” = Rheinland ? Well, the picture can´t answer this question, but it does proof the theory wrong that one prefix was substituted by the other, because, in fact, both prefixes were used at the very same time as you can see license plates starting with “BR” and “R” here.
Some time ago, I had a chat with a former Fleischhauer employee who told me a crazy story. At a certain day, there were two Beetles on Fleischhauer´s parking lot and both cars had the SAME license plate, but one showed the prefix “BR” and the other one “R”. He told me that this happened several times, because the system of license for cars was just chaotic these days. When the car license office was back in German administration in 1956 and the new black-on-white DIN license plates were established, the chaos ended.
Talking about Cologne area Beetles with “BR” license plate, we must not forget about one Beetle who was the grandfather of a Walt Disney movie plot 25 years later. Have a look. Guess who was the owner of this car?
This Beetle, purchased from Fleischhauer of course, was owned and raced by Wolfgang Graf Berghe von Trips, Germany´s most beloved post-war Formula One hero, another Cologne petrol head. In 1960, he founded a gentleman racing club called “Scuderia Colonia”. The Scuderia Colonia (still existing today) has a unique logo. See here a picture of Trips wearing a helmet with this logo. And now guess who the designer of the logo was? Yes, Ernst van Husen is the man again.
Van Husen owned a Porsche 356 in the 50s and was founding member of the Cologne Porsche Club 1953. In 1953 and 1954 van Husen participated with his 356 at two Nürburgring races, but his best result was the 17th rank. He was a far better designer then racing driver.
Anyway, all this research didn´t bring me any substantial information about my Samba itself so far, but I thought it was interesting enough to share with you, ain´t it? I will keep on digging in the Cologne car history of the 1950s and I am quiet certain that I will find something about the Samba someday. There is something out there, I know it, I will find it and I will post here. Promise!
remember the post „Roofs and roots“? It was about the front section of the roof that Mark finished in April last year. Now it´s time to take a close look on the rest of the roof. To demonstrate to you Mark´s excellence in body work, let´s have a look of what was left of the roof when the Samba was found 2017. Please see here a picture of the Samba while it was dug up. In the blue circle you see that there was at least a piece of the roof´s rear section.
The following picture shows the Samba from the inside. Just check out the mess, the junk and the vegetation! It was hell of a job to clean it all up piece by piece to ensure that we find also the smallest Samba piece that might be hidden between the junk. This hard work was definitely rewarded as we found a lot of parts!
Have a look on this picture and check the Plexiglas sky window in the blue circle! We didn´t place it there, but this was the way we found this scenery. The left and right sections of the roof were rusted so badly that over the years the sky windows just fell off and got stuck in the mud. Unbelievable, but true: we found all eight sky windows, some in the Samba, some beside and none of them was broken!
The right side of the roof was in very poor condition. Please see in the following picture what was left over….
The left side was slightly better as you can see in the next picture. But still, would you fix a body piece bad as this? Would you even try? You would go online and order a new repro Samba roof, wouldn´t you? Well, but this isn´t the philosophy of the project! Every piece of the Samba which was found has to be implemented in the big puzzle just to proof the guys wrong who say “You are faking a BD-Samba around an ID-plate!” To announce such a principle is one thing, to make it real is something else. You need to have a welding-god at hand. Luckily there is Mark Spicer, the most talented coachbuilder in the VW-world!
And now Ladies and gentlemen, take a deep breath, scroll down and see what Mark created based on these poor leftovers….
Is that cool?
I could end the post right at this point and it would be amazing enough, wouldn´t it? But there is a little add on about the roof! Just have a look on what mechanical parts of the roof we found in, beside and under the Samba. It´s nearly complete! Sure it will be a lot of work to restore this pile of parts, but I am just doing this in my workshop in Bonn.
Here is something real interesting! The following picture shows two front sliding roof bows. The upper one is my Samba´s bow, the one below is a later bow from a 1960 Samba. And now have a look on the second picture. Do you see the welding seams my fingers are pointing? This bow was obviously hand made in the factory by just welding in an additional piece in the middle of a Beetle bow! This easy way they created the sunroof for the Bus in the beginning days! That´s pure prototyping!
That´s it for the moment. The next post will be about another stunning body work by Mark Spicer. Let yourself be surprised and stay tuned.
the front end of the Samba has made some serious steps forward, many of you have noticed that when we drove the Samba to Bad Camberg. To make the front look even nicer for the show I concentrated on an important detail of any Bus: the front bumper.
Whenthe Samba was found there were some remains of a front bumper, but, opposite to most of the parts which were in the locality, these remains are not original ´51 parts. Have a look:
Following the philosophy of the project we reuse any
parts found in the locality (except safety related items which absolutely can´t
be repaired at all), but as long as they are original ´51 parts only. Luckily
the very most we found with the Samba is original ´51, but these leftovers of
the front bumpers are not. So why investing a huge effort to rebuild a front
bumper by using this two remains if they aren´t original anyway?
So I had to look for an original ´51 front bumper and I found some in the German Barndoor community for a fair price. This bumper was already sandblasted, but there was still some serious work to do. I mounted it on the Bus for a foto shooting last summer and –just for fun- I mounted the license plate of the Samba which was also in the locality too.
But again, following the philosophy of the project, we have to restore to as-new-perfection any part added to the Samba which was not with the Samba when it was found, just to show in the end what is original substance and was not. So we had to make this bumper look as it was August 1951.
In this process of bumper restoration there was a
simple question to answer: which colour was correct for the bumper of an August
´51 Samba. Well I thought it was a
When clearing a question of originality it is always a good idea to have a look on a very original example of the same model but just a very little older and one a very little younger. If these two show the same detail we are looking for you can be nearly sure that it was exactly this way on the car in between too. Well you can be nearly sure. But detail is a devil sometime…..
But anyway my way was to look out for a super original ´51 Samba just a little older than mine. But guess what? There is none existing! But there are at least some pictures of one. When the Samba was introduced to the public at the very first after war IAA (International Auto Exhibition) April 1951, Volkswagen took some fine pictures of its exhibition stand for the internal magazine “VW Informationen”. Just see here:
Now let´s have a look for an all-over-original Samba just a little younger than mine. There is one existing! The one and only January ´52 Samba of Mike Hornbecker, the world´s very most original Barndoor Samba, never restored, never resprayed. Have a look:
Which other conclusion I should have ended up with but “sealing wax red is the correct colour for the bumper of my August ´51 Samba”? So after some serious body work on the bumper we painted it sealing wax red and added some good used and time period matching chrome trims and even some NOS rubber inserts. The extreme patina license plate and the one surviving Hella fog light gave the fresh painted bumper a very unique look. Just in time for Bad Camberg!
Bad Camberg wouldn´t be Bad Camberg without probably the
world´s biggest line of super rare pre´57 Volkswagen in one place. So, no
wonder that there was another ´51 Samba in the line up, it was the # 4 of the survivors,
owned by Claus von Schmeling (also from Bonn, the home of the ´51 Sambas, from
where else?), showing up this time with its original white coloured roof which
was still hidden under some respray and now brought back to the daylight, a
Claus had a close look on mine ´51 as I had a look on his. He pointed out that the front bumper was painted wrong, “The bumper´s groove strips have to be chestnut brown!”
Could this be correct? The factory seriously changed
since the Frankfurt prototype to a two tone bumper for a couple of months and then,
at least in January ´52, they changed it all back to pure-red bumpers? Come on,
Volkswagen, you are kidding, aren´t you?
At home I studied as many historic pictures as I could get access to. I share some of them with you here:
OK. Claus was right. What else could I do but disassemble the damned bumper and paint the groove strips chestnut brown? I hate to do a job twice, but the pain was healed by the result! These brown strips look extremely cool as you can see on the following picture, July 2019:
What? By looking at the last picture you feel a little bit fooled? I can imagine what you want to say to me now…. “Come on Florian, you let us wait for nearly four months and now you show up with this nerdy detail story nobody is really interested in while your damned Samba seems to be nearly completed as the last picture proofs. What´s wrong with you?”
In fact, there is something wrong with me in the moment, but nothing to share in the net. This little nerdy detail story is all I can present you right now and be assured: the Samba is far away from being completed. Just the front and the long side panel do look really good now (also thanks to the “show-reason-only cab door), but there is still a lot of work to do even here. As soon as I am able to I will serve you with a big story about Mark´s superb body work done in early summer, but meanwhile I might keep on boring you with some short stories about freaky tiny details.
I thought a long time about publishing this post or not, because in the following I confess that we have replaced the rear engine compartment section and this is where the chassis number of any Barndoor bus is located. So we are talking in the following about replacing the chassis number, something what could cause big discussions. Don´t get me wrong, we always had this section originally at hand, it was there when the Samba was found:
For all readers out there who are not professional Barndoor- pathologists, this front engine compartment section is placed just where the motor is mounted to the gearbox. This is just an ordinary piece of the Bus´ body, made from the very same 0,8mm-sheetmetal as most of the body. It´s strange Volkswagen stamped in the chassis number exactly here, in this relatively thin tin and not –as for example with all VW beetles- in a solid piece of the frame.
Now, have a look at the picture again. Even if I say the number is in the right upper corner, do you see the number? No way, right?
Let´s get a little bit closer. If you watch real close, can you see this little remaining of a stamped number in the corner?
Maybe we can identify it better by applying a little bit of colour in the grooves? Let´s try.
If the Samba would be just an exhibition car, we would have welded this old, rusty and very thin piece in again, but the Samba is intended to drive and it would have been way too risky to weld it in and then loose it while driving due to engine vibrations which would have cracked up sooner or later the super fragile metal.
Other small sections of the rear engine compartment were stable enough to be placed into Marks superb handmade reproduction and he made big effort to fit them in. Have a look on the stunning result:
Now it came
to the delicate part of the job. Punching in a chassis number in a car is
something very sensitive: legal wise, technically and historical wise. The
chassis number is the identity of the car, stamping it in is legal only when
you use the very same number the car had before, otherwise it´s a criminal act,
no doubt about it. Sure you must be able to make 100% clear that you use the
original chassis number of the car, what is not as easy as it seems at the
first glance. Once the number is stamped in, how could you proof it is the
number the car had before?
Luckily we can proof it in even many ways. A lot of people can witness the number was there when the car was found in May 2017 and when we presented the Samba first time to the public a few days later. Since then we are doing a proper and public documentation of the reconstruction in this blog and –much more important- the chassis number is also stamped into more spots then the engine compartment!
In the early days Volkswagen used to stamp VINs and / or body numbers in more than in just one place, but in the weirdest spots of the cars too! Any KdF-owner will agree. It´s the same story if it comes to early Barndoors, just have a look….
I guess with these facts at hand Mark is authorised enough to stamp the number into his beautiful handcrafted rear engine compartment. Being authorised in a legal and a moral way is one thing, but doing it physically the same way as the factory did is something different, you need the correct stamping digits to come up with a historical satisfying result. If you ever studied early Barndoor chassis numbers you may have noticed that VW used a very specific style of digits, something looking kind of very antique, something you normally would judge to be pre 1945, not 1950s. Finding the correct stamping tools Volkswagen used back in those days is nearly impossible. Nothing on the current market comes even close.
I won´t post here how I located the VW-stamping tool anyway, but I did it. My mechanical skills are very basic, but locating old tools is my profession. And let me point it out straight: this tool is not intended to go “in production”, I won´t borrow it to any of these “smart” guys faking Sambas or other valuable VW busses. I will never support this activity for many reasons: legal ones, moral ones and –if you don´t believe me the first two- because any “new” early BD-Samba in the scene would spoil the value of mine, so forget about it. But if you own a similar project as mine and you can clearly proof that your plans are not about rebirthing a car that went to the junk crusher decades ago, you can contact me for help.
As soon as I had the stamping tool set at hand I send it to Mark who proudly punched the number into his freshly crafted engine compartment. See here the result:
keeps now on working on the front of the Samba, I am concentrating on some
small electrical bits: the wiper motor, the wiper arms and the fuse box. Sounds
simple? Not if your goal is to bring every little original piece which was
found in the mud back to life. Stay tuned, I will come up with a new post very
soon. I have to hurry up, because I want to bring the Samba to Bad Camberg and
the European Bug In, which is….. this month!! I better go straight to work now.
a long time for this post, I know. I was very busy in the last two months,
privat and business. The January, February and March were absolute record
months at VEWIB, we never had a VW-season starting as well as this 2019. But we
have a serious lack of skilled workers in the office and we are still suffering
of the big movement we had end of 2017. Due to this sales as crazy on one hand
and way to less people to handle all this work on the other hand, there was and
there still is much more work for me. Then there was the Volksworldshow in England
and the Techno Classica in Essen too I had to attend…. so I hope you forgive me being a little lazy in updating the blog.
Thank god Mark Spicer is never lazy! In front of the Volksworldshow I visited him to check what´s the progress of the Samba. Before I present you the new results of his stunning work, share with me a view back in the summer of 2017 when Evelyn and Mark visited me to check out the remaining pieces of the Samba evaluating the possibility of a reconstruction. It was that day when he spoke this sentence the whole process started with: “Hmmm, I think it´s possible.”
During this inspection Mark also checked the front end of the roof and found some original remains of white color. He was excited about it: “It´s a true ´51, no doubt, only the early ´51 Sambas had a white roof!” I wasn´t deeply into early Sambas yet, but was happy about Mark´s expertise. See here this certain scene.
And now see
what Mark did about this front roof piece. Is this cool? He saved as much as
even possible of the original substance and there is still some of the original
white color proofing this here is in fact an early ´51 Samba.
Mark already fitted the roof piece into the Samba, it matches perfectly into the front he is reconstructing currently. Before you start wondering about the front looking way less complete than in Amersfoort please note that the front we showed in Amersfoort was just a provisional Mark welded real quickly to get the Samba ready for the show. All pieces were hold together by a simple subframe made just for show reason. What you see here is the real deal.
After returning from England I decided to go to the Eifel again, visiting the city of Mayen where the Samba was found. I created this little poster to put it on the walls in the inner city, hoping to find somebody who could tell me something about the Samba´s history, especially why it was dumped here in Mayen, but still with Cologne licenses plates bolt on.
There was zero result from Mayen, but from another place in the Eifel. I received the following amazing picture showing nothing less than a ´51 Samba, red, brown, white as mine. I recognized the place where the picture was made right away, it´s the “Bunte Kuh” near Ahrweiler, in the famous whine region Ahrtal-valley, just in the middle between Mayen and my hometown Bonn.
The Samba has occupation license plates; these were used in Germany up to 1956. In the net I found a translation for old German occupation license plates and guess what…. The “R” on the plate means “British occupation zone, Rhineland County”, the “658” means “Cologne, inner city”. Due to the VW factory records my Samba was delivered to the VW dealership Fleischhauer in Cologne as a demonstration car and the dealership was (and still is) located in the inner city.
Now have a look on the license plate the Samba was found with. It´s the newer DIN-style all German cars had to be converted to in 1956. The DIN-plate “K-ER 571” is to be read “K” = Cologne; “ER” = inner city. Can you imagine my thoughts I had this moment?
Then I noted in the historic picture the strange accessory lights on top of the bumper. I remembered a little detail in the dashboard of my Samba. There was this tiny green control light I never couldn´t think what it was possibly good for. Now I guess I know what it is: a control light for some additional (fog-) lights, just the same way we all know it from any average car between 1950 and 1980 when fog lights weren´t standard but an optional extra.
A fog light…. Wait a minute! When I returned in summer 2018 to the meadow where the Samba was found to dig in the ground for some parts being still buried there (see my post “mad in the mud”), I found a lot of car pieces which did not belong to the Samba, an Opel´s carb and some beetle parts for example, but I found also this single strange Hella fog light I never even could imagine that it possibly belongs to the Samba. See it here:
Now compare this fog light to the one on the historic picture. I made close up for you.
Is this still a big coincidence? OK, the very same three color combination is no evidence, many ´51 Sambas showed this colors. But how many of the 261 ever build ´51 Sambas were based in Cologne inner city? How many of them came with this certain fog lights? Call me nuts, but am I too optimistic saying that the historic picture from the Eifel shows very most likely my Samba?
You better believe I will ask around in the Eifel this summer as many old people as possible. I am sure there is more material hidden between Bonn and Mayen! Isn´t any thriller nothing but boring compared to this story? I´ll keep you posted!
I never was really deeply into Barndoors, but of course things changed when I found the Samba in May 2017. I was always wondering what the meaning of the term “Barndoor-Mafia” might be. I guess now I know. It must be this scary society here:
I would never call any dealer selling super-rare Barndoor parts a member of a Mafia. These bits are extremely hard to find and nobody is forced to buy this parts for an extraordinary price from a professional dealer. In fact nobody is REALLY in the need to buy these parts at all. Life will go on without them and you won´t starve if you don´t buy. Let´s face it, it´s just a pure luxury item! And there is still an alternative if you feel you really, really want this damned little taillight and don´t have the money to buy it right away at this shop for rare VW-parts: you just need to go to every little swap meet in Europe for the next 30 years -you will find it someday for small bugs, it´s just a matter of time. And luck.
Anyway in Spa August 2017 I felt I don´t have so much time, so I spend a lot of money for this taillight here:
I posted my find right away proudly in the blog here, but Florian George replied that this taillight is wrong for 1951. He was right and I was too exited when I checked out the taillight in Spa, so I spend a lot of money for a rare part that is still not correct for my Samba. Now I know this taillight is correct for 1953 – 1955, but the earlier Busses had a flat red lens without any marking or logo while the chrome housing is the same.
To make it even more complicated the flat lens existed in plastic and in real glass. I don´t know yet for sure the exact application of glass and plastic, but I will find out.
Since then I tried to find the correct taillight, but to avoid the next expensive, but wrong purchase I collected information about it first. There are some pictures of ´50/´51 taillights in the net, but none of them are very exact. Anyway I didn´t see any taillights even close to this pictures, none in the swapmeets and even none at the professional dealers. Seems these little bastards are really hard to find!
But last week I found some a collection of strange Hella taillights, sure not VW taillights, but at least the lens looks to me at least similar to the ´50/´51 lenses I checked in the net. Just have a look:
After disassembling the first of the four (yes, I found four of them!) units I could compare them to the ´52 – ´55 lens. At least it is the same size. Have a look:
There is even a small gasket around the lens:
So here is my call for the experts: did I find the correct lens for my ´51? Or are these four glass (not plastic) lenses wrong again for ´51? Are they for Busses earlier than mine maybe? If so is it just the material that´s different? This would be OK as I could use the glass one to manufacture a plastic repro. That´s not such a big deal, the opposite way would be much more complicated.
Please feel free to leave a comment and share your knowledge with us. Can´t wait to receive a result!
This brave young guy here, my dear VW-friends, doesn´t need any brakes for the ride in his ´51 panel……
…..but I need some in my ´51, cause I am way less brave!
So, I better finalize my job regarding the master cylinder of the Samba! Do you remember the post about the master cylinder? (in case you missed it please scroll down some posts).
Since the original master was way too far gone even in my eyes, we decided to go for a new master, but anything else, the screws, the reservoir and the brake light switch we want to be old original material. That´s what this little update is all about.
When the Samba was found the original very first brake fluid container was still in place.
That´s another proof the Bus didn´t have a very long first life, neither did it run a high mileage. How many pre ´54 VWs you have seen still with their aluminum containers mounted? Hardly any I would guess or if you have seen one the car was taken from the roads very early. The later plastic container was so much better (plus cheap and easy to replace), because you could check the level of the brake fluid without removing cap! But the Samba still had its first unit, but as with so many other original parts found with the Samba it was in very, very poor condition. Just have a look and see the problem I was faced with:
You know me
by now. This hole in the container isn´t a reason the replace an original
piece, it´s just a challenge! On the other hand it is still a safety item and
safety is no subject to joke with just due my originality-freak-show. But I had
all, let´s remove the stuck cap without destroying the soft aluminum.
So, here is my compromise between originality up to the limit and safety: a custom made inner container to slip into the original rotten surface. Cool, isn´t it?
grab our original fixing screw with the new sieve and a new copper sealing ring
to fix the container on the master.
Now let´s have a look on the brake light switch which was with the old rotten, but original master:
This switch didn´t look to me to be original! As far as I know the early brake light switches always had a bar between the two poles, minimum as long as the switches came from ATE. Did VW equipped any ´51 car with something else but masters made by ATE? I doubt it.
Here are two ATE switches right beside the rotten switch of the Samba. The used ATE switch came from a very untouched ´51 Bus and the new one is a NOS item made in 1953 as the date stamp states.
As the difference between the ´51 made used ATE switch and the NOS ´53 made ATE switch is hard to see at all (it´s just the high of the bar between the poles) I decided to mount the NOS switch to the master. The rotten one isn´t original anyway, so there is no need to invest a lot of time to restore it.
Ha! I can´t wait to see TÜV (=MOT or DMV) inspector´s shocked face when he is going to discover this master! But I am sure the Samba will pass the test after a second close of the inspector. I don´t expect him to understand why we made such an effort just to use the rotten container again, but I would appreciate if you, the real VW-nerds, agree that this compromise between originality and safety is the right way. What do you think? You are welcome to leave a comment.
of you who are already sober again, here is a little update about the last
returned from England where I visited Mark and he confirmed that there was definitely
a VW-logo for the 1951 model made of steel, with three fixing pins and a gap
between the “V” and the “W”. He has seen such a logo physically (I did not so
far, but if somebody has such a logo for sale, please offer it to me!). So the only difference between this certain
logo and the later one is just the amount and positions of the fixing pins. The
outer surface is just the same.
Copeland confirmed this fact about the logo and added that the gap was painted
in the body color, that´s why it looks in the pictures as there was no gap.
last week I shared the following new picture of my little collection of historical Barndoor pics with some BD-freaks:
In my eyes
this picture is very interesting in many aspects. First, it shows a
one-tone-color Samba. I know the VW books clearly say that there was just one
single-tone color for Barndoor Sambas: stone grey (which is a kind of dark
grey). But this Samba here has a very bright color, which is for not stone
grey! Sure, it could be resprayed, but the old black German license plate, this
´51 shows, were replaced in 1956 by the well-known white DIN-plates. So this
picture was taken between 1951 and 1956, that´s for sure. I wouldn´t respray a
five year old car, would you?
personally believe this Samba wasn´t older than two years in this picture,
because the Bus looks quite new, maybe it was just brand new. Just have a look
on the people! The guy in the black suit seems to be the proud owner, presenting
his new vehicle to his friends and neighbors.
something else made me finally sure that this is a brand new Samba. It´s quite
weird! When I shared the picture Julian Hunt wrote me: “Two things I noticed about the (lovely) picture: The
badge doesn’t look quite right which could just be the reflections, and the
wipers are black, not silver……”
OK, I guess the
badge is just right for a ´51, dear Julian, it´s the badge with the open gap
between the “V” and the “W”. But the black wipers made me thinking! A look in
the VW spare parts book of March 1951 confirms there were chromed and black
wipers. Black for type 21A (panel van) and type 23A (kombi), chromed for type
22A (micro bus). The ´54 spare parts book says the same and adds that also the
Samba had chromed wiper blades. So, is the ´51 Samba equipped wrongly?
I was kind of frustrated, cause I already have a very nice set of black wiper blades for my Samba at hand and accepting they might be wrong was a little pain. So, just to be sure I grabbed my other Samba pictures and discovered a little mystery! Have a look at this beautiful picture:
Black wiper blades again and again a ´51 Samba which looks as new! OK, you could say, a wiper blade is easy to change and could be worn out in just one winter. But the clamping bracket is good for at least ten years! And it is black also on the bright one tone Samba and the three color one above! So, could it be that the very first Sambas were generally equipped with black wiper blades and black clamping brackets? It seems so, have a look on the next picture:
We do have the
final proof here, haven´t we? Maybe it is related to the fact that they build
up the very first Sambas at least up to 1952 in the factory´s prototype department,
but to be honest, I don´t have a real clue why the factory decided to equip the
first ´51 Sambas with black blades and brackets while chromed ones were at hand
to equip the stock micro bus right from the start some months before Samba
debuted. The following pictures of a 1950 micro bus confirm that the factory
had chromed blades back in these days!
I know the spare parts books say all Sambas had chromed blades, but the pictures above proof it´s wrong, at least when it comes to ´51 Sambas. Now before you suspect the spare parts book might be simply wrong, let me teach you different. Have a look here:
Don´t we have a
wonderful hobby? Let them call us freaks, nerds or even idiots, but VW science
doesn´t hurt anyone, neither makes it the world a worse place, I guess it´s
just the opposite!
…because you never know!”, the Little Prince said and this Samba project,
my dear VW-friends,
is proofing that Saint-Exupéry was right and still is. Whoever dumped the Samba in 1961, he wouldn´t ever have thought that this bus will survive him. And –be honest- did you believe in May 2017 when we presented the remains of the Samba to the public that this bus will drive again just 12 months later? See…. you never know!
Same question today. Have a look on the remains of the Samba´s right door. Would you clean this extinct volcano? Come on, you would trash this poor piece of rotten metal after removing the inner door handle, wouldn´t you? I don´t blame you, I would do the same if it wasn´t the (at least) second oldest surviving Samba. But it is this certain piece of VW-history and it deserves to save every single surviving piece, no matter how “dead” it is.
for those of you who are not familiar with the inner structure of a Barndoor bus…. this is the inner piece of the right door after removing the door panel.
Same piece, seen from the other side…..
and we got something left of the outer skin as well….
A little bit of the window frame
and that was a door hinge. Once.
And now we get started! No kidding. We want to restore this door. Sure, it would be easier to buy a new one from Columbia, but that´s not the way of our project. I don´t want to bore the long time follower of the blog and repeat again the philosophy of the reconstruction. In case you wonder why we do it this way, just read some of the older posts….
OK, ready to see another little miracle? We begin with worst pieces, the hinges. It was Philipp who had the idea to drop them into a caustic soda tub to remove the rust. Doesn´t this look like Frankenstein´s kitchen?
And here´s the result:
Believe it or not, the hinge is even moveable again!
And now, Ladies and gentlemen, spot on to the breathtaking body work of Mr. Mark Spicer. There are no words needed, the pictures are just impressing enough and don´t need an explanation:
Just to avoid a misunderstanding: the new sections around the old surviving piece are 100% hand-crafted! Unbelievable, isn´t it?
The inner door release mechanism. Stuck since decades, but back to live again in 2018!
That´s the way I want this Bus: showing honestly what we reconstructed and what´s still original material! You can clearly see it, can´t you?
We have even found more parts of the right door surviving! Luckily the Samba was hidden in a very lonely place of the Eifel´s nature, nobody seemed to have touched it since it was dumped. No vandalism, no smashed windows! All windows of the bus survived beside the rear one and one of the Plexiglas corners. All of surviving ones are still the very original ones, showing the old, simple “SEKURIT” script!
Sure Mark will fit in the windows into the door and I am sure he will also fit in the outer skin as well. Maybe he will find also some original sealing wax red color under the ugly ivory respray, just the same way he did with the long side panel…. Stay tuned and you´ll see!
I don´t know if Elton John really couldn´t think about a more glamourous English car but a Ford Cortina when writing this song in 1990. Is there something masochistic in the feelings of the British when reflecting about their car industry? It seems to me that it is exactly this way and my forever favorite TV-show (beside Beavis and Butthead of course!) TopGear confirmed my impression. Clarkson & Co. couldn’t resist any opportunity to show their disrespect for their own country´s automobile ambitions, just check out this example: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bf7q8lWEd-o
But there is hope for the sore British automotive soul, because here comes a man who can cure this damaged reputation by his magnificent skills in reconstructing a highly desirable car from some poor leftovers or sometimes even from nothing but some bare sheets of metal. You know what´s going to follow next, a new chapter of Mark Spicer´s stunning body work on the Samba.
Remember the post of October 2nd ? Mark saved the lower part of the Samba´s long side and even brought a lot of the original paint back to the daylight. Here is the next step, the upper part. Needless to say that this is even more complicated due to the four window frames, but nothing seems to be impossible for Mark. Just have a look:
This inside view of the long side panel is a pretty good proof that there really is some original substance surviving and we are definitely not creating a soulless clone around a famous VIN-plate. Isn´t it fascinating how Mark stabilized the fragile skin by carefully welding in the reinforcement bars? OK, this is just a good body work some others could do similar, you might say. But now check out the outside:
This is so much more than body work! Bringing the sealing wax red of the lower section back to the daylight was complicated enough, but to save the chestnut brown of the upper part is nothing but a miracle! You have to know that the factory painted 1951 the Samba in the first step entirely sealing way red, and then added a much thinner layer of chestnut brown in its section just on top of the red. Can you imagine how tricky it is to scratch of the later resprayer of blue, yellow and beige while NOT scratching off the extremely thin layer of brown which is located on a relative solid layer of red of the same age?
I don´t know how you feel when you compare the picture above to the one below showing what we started with in May 2017, but this result here is much more than I ever could imagine and it makes me very happy.
To save as much as possible of the surviving material was always the first principle of the project. But what to do when there is no surviving material? Well, you got to create it, just the same way the missing section of chassis were created. But manufacturing a massive chassis rail is a relative easy job compared to the challenge Mark was faced with next. Read here how Mark expressed the situation in a mail he sent:
I decided as I’m on a bit of a roll with the Samba that I would carry on. Getting the long side ready to be mounted on the chassis and bulkhead seemed the obvious choice but how can I mount it to the bulkhead with no B post?
Well I decided not to buy one and to make one for the Samba. So today armed with a few hand tools and a flat sheet of steel I made one …I have made many panels for barndoors by hand but never a B post so after puzzling the job I got on and made this…I am also mostly through the part that faces the inside drivers door , the two parts mount together to form the post but I will send you pictures of that when I hopefully finish it tomorrow.
Just see the pictures Mark added to the mail:
Too bad TopGear was discontinued, because it didn´t work without Clarkson who was fired due to some f*** PC dickheads. I am sure the show would feature Mark´s work today as a proof that England can create a good car of course and Britain has some brilliant petrol heads as well as Germany has. They just must not be hampered by a stupid management.
if you checked out the Samba in Amersfoort you might know it. There is no mastercylinder mounted yet. We were in a real hurry to get the baby kind of drivable for the show anyway that we decided it´s OK to rely on the handbrake only, I was not in the mood to drive the fragile Frankenstein at a speed higher then 10mph.
Beside the lack of time, we didn´t had the mounting bracket for the master at hand.The bracket you can see in the following picture, taken from the 1953 workshop manual:
When the Samba was found the original master was still present, but it was stuck in the mud, felt off from the chassis decades ago, just have a look.
Check out the following pictures. They proof that there is a very little piece of the bracket still screwed to the master, but that´s all. It´s not enough to rebuild or reconstruct it, this one does not even give an idea how the bracket has to look like.
So, what to do? The master we can replace by a VEWIB-item in case it´s not possible to save it, but the bracket we need to find elsewhere, cause it´s not an item you can find in any VW parts shop. But I had an idea…
It was in 1988 when my close school buddy Christian Kuhlmann told me: “Hey, Florian, I found this super old bus in the woods near my village. It still has its semaphores, didn´t you say you need a set of semaphores for your ´58 bug?”
So I checked this Bus in the woods, not even 10 kilometers away from my parent´s home. It was a 1956 deluxe and indeed it still had its semaphores. I pulled also the engine and the gearbox, the other parts seemed to me not worth saving. Today I would save the entire Bus, no doubt, it wasn´t too bad, but in 1988 there were a lot of VWs in the local woods that were much more of my interest. Several ovals, a split bug, even a 1943 KdF (I decided this was too rotten to save, can´t believe today….). If you wanted a nice ´56 bus in the 80s you just had to go over to the next fire brigade asking them to sell their 8.000 km bus for some hundred Deutsch Marks and that was the deal, no kidding. A ´56 bus wreck in the woods was….well, just a piece of junk!
Anyway I remembered this certain Bus and wondered if it was still in the woods and if it still got the mastercylinder bracket…. So, I drove there and my teenage pupils shot this funny video about it:
Mission accomplished ! Here is the master from the bus out of the woods. Now let´s get the bracket off here to send it to Mark, who will add the bracket to the Samba´s chassis.
Good as new, isn´t it? OK….. but not too bad for a piece which has sit in the woods for at least 40 years….
OK, now we got the bracket let´s see what we could probably do about the Samba´s original master itself. We were lucky enough to lose the brakelight switch, the brake line nuts and the fixing screw of the fluid container with the help of rust resolver and heat. But after removing the remaining of the fixing bracket we had to realize that the area where the operation pin slips in is seriously damaged or to be exact: lots of this area is simply gone. Just compare in the picture below this end of the Samba´s master to a “regular” used master of the very same year. There is no groove anymore to slip the rubber protecttion boot over. The entire end of the master is gone by the rust.
At this stage of rust damage even I have to surrender and grab in my shelves for a brand new VEWIB pre ´53 master cylinder (yes, we got this babies in stock and –yes- they are made at the OE-place, no China, no India, no Brasil, real German made!)
So the original master itself might be beyond saving and so is the brake light switch, but let´s see what we can do about the fixing screw for the brake fluid container.
The screw itself is reusable without any doubt, but did you know that the screw had a thin, fine sieve in the middle to protect the master against possible dirt in the brake fluid? You can see this sieve in this drawing:
Sure this thin sieve was gone entirely by corrosion, there was not the slightest remaining of the sieve! We had to construct something here. When I started the VEWIB-production of the late Baywindow brake fluid container with the OE-supplier of VW Brasil, we were in the need of a similar sieve and I found the original supplier of it. We made a couple of thousands sieves for the Bay´s fluid container, here is a picture:
Yes, it´s made of plastic, not metal, but maybe that´s good when we try to modify it for our Samba´s master? By cutting the edge of the sieve we could make it the correct size for our purpose. But how can we fix it to the screw? Glue won´t be good idea, cause it won´t stand the brake fluid. The solution was easy. We heated up the screw and just placed the sieve on the hot screw. The edge of the sieve melted a little bit and slipped this way into the hole of the screw. After cooling down it sat perfectly tight to the screw. Doesn´t it look nice?
Another job well done!
Next week we will have a look on the brake fluid container. Is there a possibility to save this beauty here?
the last update is a long time ago and there are two reasons I did not supply you with news about the project. On one hand the Samba is at Mark´s place again and all I heard from his side since I dropped the Bus there was that he was working on the body but didn´t want to send pictures before he had finished a certain stage. By now I know him so well that this could only mean he will present me something big, so I was patient.
On the other hand I am currently working on the sunroof mechanism which is still here with me, but so far I do not have too much success due to a lack of time and the complicatedness plus the level of rust damage I am facing here. I will present you some results regarding the sunroof, but I still need some time. I need a lot of time to be honest.
No wonder Mark was much faster than me showing up with something worth to share with you and you better believe it´s something impressive! You surely remember the last blog update showing Mark´s stunning result of his attempt to bring a little of the Samba´s original paint back to the daylight which was hidden under three layers of different colors. As you know he started with a small area around a side window, but what he is coming up with now is much, much more.
Mark removed the big left side panel from the metal cage he has welded on the chassis this spring to fix the surviving panels on, giving an impression of a Bus in the Amersfoort show. As you can see in the following picture the side panel was in poor state, many little plus some big rust holes all over the place and the lower section is gone at all. What kind of optimism you got to have in your mind dreaming of saving this panel!
Even a journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step and you got to start somewhere if you want to bring back some structure in this fragile panel….
Someday in the 50s somebody resprayed the Samba in blue color….
….and also yellow seemed to be in fashion back then!
But Mark Spicer is not a dreamer he goes much further. He makes saving the panel real, regardless the panel seems to hold together by nothing else but the three thick layers of different cheap paint which the former owners applied on the Samba. But just saving the panel is not enough for Mark. He goes for nothing less than saving the original sealing wax red paint as well. Unbelievable? Just check out the pictures below!
Would you have expected that there is still so much savable original color under all this layers of paint? I wouldn´t!
But how to fix all this rust holes without damaging the original sealing wax red? Mark knows.
Mark removed all the yellow, blue and ivory paint layers extremely careful to bring back the original sealing wax red color of August ´51. Plus he also fixed the uncountable rust holes one after another by a brilliant welding job.
Sure it would have been so much easier just to cut off the lower 60 centimeters and replace it by a new side panel, either NOS or aftermarket. But this wouldn´t be the way Mark and me want this Samba to be restored! If we would go this direction we would end up with not much more of the original ´51 substance, but an ID-plate, the axles, the engine and maybe 5% of the body. This just wouldn´t be a ´51 Samba anymore in my eyes and this car wouldn´t tell any story. That´s why we go the hard way! If anybody out there still doubts about the philosophy of this project this job shown here should convince him unless he is completely ignorant.
Before we go to the very last picture showing the result of Mark´s brilliant work, check out here the state of the side panel in May 2017…..
….and here the breathtaking state today:
Nothing but absolutely amazing how much of the original paint Mark has set free (beside the wonderful welding job he has done!). Too bad the Samba hadn´t any cab doors when it was found, so we can´t continue saving original paint at the doors now. But anyway I am looking forward to see the next body piece to be cured by Mark´s magic hands, there are still some of them waiting -waiting as we are all waiting for this story to be continued.
In the meantime please have a look in your garage if you maybe got a pair of Barndoor cab doors there waiting to be part of this amazing project.
today 67 years ago, the Samba was finished in the Wolfsburg factory and the next day it was send to the big VW-dealership Fleischhauer in Cologne. Still today anything else of its history between August 28th 1951 and May 2017 is remaining unknown. None of my attempts to identify a former owner was successful. I published the license number K-ER 571 in all big local newspapers and the local TV, I even created a picture of the Samba by photoshop showing the Samba in the state it must have driven around Cologne: sealing wax red in the bottom, chestnut brown in the middle and the white roof on top, but nobody can remember the Samba so far! But I don´t give up. I am sure someday I will discover a piece of its history somehow.
My little photoshop homework: this is the way the Samba must have looked in its early days. So strange nobody recalls this bus. Remember, 80% of Cologne was bombed to the ground, the entire city was still in kind of agony 1951. A three color luxury VW-bus must have been something “unreal” back in those days. There must be pictures, there must be somebody still alive who was impressed by this vehicle. I will find him.
Strange, but true: I found out an interesting detail about the time before the Samba left Wolfsburg! By total accident the birth certificate of another bus crossed my way and this bus was due to the certificate built on August 15th 1951 (so more than a week earlier than the Samba), but has a much later chassis number than the Samba! What does it mean?
The most likely explanation is that in the factory they grabbed for the Samba production in the very early days a bare, chassis number stamped, body from the assembly line and moved that into a special department where they converted the body into a Samba more or less by hand. When you have a close look on the “deep sky light” section of the roof, it´s easy to see this is not made by a professional big quantity assembly line, it´s kind of custom made.
Same difference when you inspect the dashboard of the very, very early Sambas. Even the hole for the ashtray is obviously cut out by hand! Obviously this whole conversion process in the factory was impossible to do in one day! That´s why a bus showing a later chassis number was officially “born” earlier than the Samba. While the Samba was in its few days lasting handmade conversion process its regular brother was assembled in just one day and overtook the Samba this way easily.
Another fact proofs that theory: same as some coach builders (for example many Italian sports cars) the factory stamped many Samba-specific parts of the very early cars with the chassis number or at least with the last three digits. So they did on the dash (see previous post “An amazing find”) and they did elsewhere. See here what I found.
The whole chassis number 15448! Amazing, isn´t it? I won´t tell where I found the number exactly to avoid helping the deceivers faking regular busses into Sambas, but to all of these bad guys and the ones willing to spend big money for such a car: the very small community of honest and passionate VW-experts will always be able to identify a faked Samba, so anybody in the mood to buy an early Samba, better reach out for the expertise of a pro before buying!
But why stamping components with the chassis number at all? It´s easy to explain, it just helps to avoid messing up the parts of several cars standing side by side during the conversion process. Just imagine, this must have looked more or less the same way as in our garages today. Remember, they built less than 270 Sambas in 1951, starting most likely in March or April (*see special note at the end of the post), what means they finished not even two per day! This must have been kind of handmade prototyping; there was no assembly line for Sambas in 1951.
Now, a little 67 years later, the Samba is in need for some handmade process again. So I after our great Amersfoort adventure and all the photo shootings for a lot of press articles it was time for me to bring the Samba back to Mark Spicer, so the body work will be continued.
Another piece of “art” performed by Christo? Well, the Samba is a piece of art, no doubt about it, but this wrap up was my way avoiding that the Samba loses some of its precious pieces during the 500-kilometer-trip
On the way to Mark I made a little stop in Shoreham-by-Sea to attend the August Heretics meeting. The Heritage team did a great job to welcome the Samba and everybody had a lot of fun this evening. Here are some impressions:
Believe it or not, this baby drives!
Parking it in the right place before the crowd shows up…..
It might look like Frankenstein, but you can come a little closer, it won´t bite.
The steering wheel is not correct for a Samba, it is an early Standard Beetle wheel, but it´s the one that was with the Samba when we found it last year. But why should anybody change the beautiful, big, ivory samba steering wheel and replace it by a basic, small, black Standard wheel? I can imagine of one explanantion only: One of the prevoius owners must have been extremely fat! Can you think about a better reason? Let me know!
Barney, CEO of Heritage Parts Centre, enjoys a hot dog while watching the crowd photgraphing the Samba on and on and on.
Just 13 months ago this was poor pile of rotten metal in the woods, today the star on the red carpet. What does this teach us about life?
Next morning I continued my way to Mark and believe me I was so happy to arrive safely! 500 kilometer with a trailer, driving on the wrong side…… I could imagine some more pleasant way of adventure. But all this stress was forgotten when we sat down this evening for some bottles of British whine in a fine restaurant. Yes, no kidding, there is British whine today and it´s enjoyable, no doubt. Every day is a school day.
Now back at home I just received a mail from Mark with two pictures attached. Please read here his comment and compare the section of the Samba shown in the pictures with the video of the Samba above just a few days before! Aren´t the skills of this man nothing but amazing?
I had a little play with the Samba paint btw, admittedly a very odd place to start with such a big resto ahead but at the start or at the end ..it doesn’t really matter 🙂 ( I will cover it with tape to protect it). Wish it was all this good as this was under layers of old paint and also you can see where the trim holes were welded up at some point.
I should just add that the very last layer of paint would dissolve in cellular thinners after a lot of rubbing so you are looking at exactly what was under the paint when they first sprayed it and I have caused no damage to what was there.
Also to note that deluxes were painted ceiling wax red all the way to the roof gutter and the chestnut brown added after so that’s why you can see the red colour under the brown.
On top of that point, 51 deluxes are the exception as they had white roofs and on yours where the rubbers where it is still the original white paint with only the factory primer underneath.
The roof looks to have only one paint ever again in white although this has flaked off in 99 % of areas and the original white being a thin coat has mostly burnt off to the primer but it’s still there in places especially round ever window rubber.
So the order of paint..( from memory ) from the roof gutter down after the factory paint…
A white primer or may a white top coat
A coat of off white/ cream which is a very hard coat
Then a coat all over in a very very thin red
Then a coat all over in a very very thin dark blue
Then a coat of thick white paint which I think was hand painted.
I couldn’t work out at which point the deluxe trim came off in the paint yet..I will try and see when I do a bit more. It doesn’t mean anything but it would be nice to work out when the trim was lost during which respray.
Sorry to brain dump everything I noticed but these details may be important especially in people recalling the bus in Bonn or may be ID ing the bus in old photos.
I strongly believe the Mark was the very best choice for this job I could possibly find, cause he just gets exactly how I want this Samba to be restored. There is even no need to explain to him that we have to save as much of the original substance no matter how much work it takes. This paint job really made my day!
I hope you can share my joy.
Best regards from Bonn
I know the official start of the Samba production was, due to the Volkswagen “Progressive Refinements”-list, June 27th at chassis number 20 – 012 908. But when the IAA 1951 opened its doors at April 19th ´51 there was already a Samba in the booth.
here is a little update just for those of you speaking (or at least understanding) German. The media hype about the Samba is getting bigger and bigger. Now the current issue of the “SPIEGEL”, Germany´s oldest and most important news magazine, is featuring the Samba. Don´t try to translate it with Google, it won´t work as it is written in very old fashioned and conservative German, that´s why I like it so much and I want to share it with you. Many of the other articles about the Samba are trash: lousy language and / or no knowledge about the historical facts, messing around with the technical details etc., but this one here is very nice to read.
There is even a little video below. Just click and enjoy.
By the way, the younger ones in my team said we must have a Youtube channel for our weird activities, so I allowed them to open one. It´s OK with me as long as I am not bothered with this modern “social” media bull**, so if you like Youtube go for the VEWIB-channel, but be aware this is 100% made by the VEWIB youngsters in our team and I will not involve myself to much into it, but today when Leonie (18 years) mentioned we need to have naked girls dancing around the Samba with some R´n`B “music”, I intervened and gave order to use some Richard Wagner tunes for the newest Youtube video they released.
Next time there will be pure technical matters again, no media madness, so please stay tuned in THIS channel here, in Florian´s little world of oddity.
the Samba didn´t had its original 16” wheels anymore when it was found last May. So I had to search a set of Barndoor wheels, what is not the easiest task -and it´s pretty expensive too. But wheels you can mount still last minute during a restoration process, so I didn´t feel too much pressure to pay sky rocket rarity prices for Barndoor wheels when thinking of the years this reconstruction will still need anyway. I decided to buy this wheels only when they cross my way for small money. So I bought two wheels in Hessisch, two in Spa and the last one came to me the best way of all: a neighbor showed up in my place and donated a “very poor, old 5-stud-16”-wheel, maybe you can use it”. I was happy enough it wasn´t just an ordinary 16” bug wheel, but a Barndoor one. Bingo!
Looks like junk for most people, but it´s a rare Barndoor wheel in fact. And made locally too!
Next step was painting the wheels. Finding the correct color combination for 5×205 Volkswagen wheels is kind of scientific. Most of them are painted with a sophisticated two tone scheme which correspondents to the color of the car, but never one of the two wheel colors is the same as the car´s color itself. Believe it or not, the factory had a team of psychologists just for creating the best color combinations. This effort reached its peak in the early 60s when even the beetle´s steering wheels, running board mats and fender beadings had their specific colors. So I was kind of feared about finding the right colors for my Samba´s wheels.
How wrong I was! The question of the Barndoor Samba wheel color is very easy to answer: the majority of the Sambas came in sealing wax red / chestnut brown and these Samba´s wheels were painted just in plain chestnut brown.
“Why”, you may ask, “did Volkswagen paint the wheels of its top range car this basic way?” Well, the factory added to the Samba wheels a very special touch of luxury, something only Sambas came with factory wise: a set of chromed beauty rings for the outer wheel rim.
Looks as a typical early VW two tone wheel at first glance, but it´s something much more special. Just as the entire Samba is.
No need to say that most of this beauty rings got lost during the life of a Samba. This makes these rings very, very rare today anyway. To make it worse the rings are specific to the wheel size too, of course! Now think about the fact that Volkswagen changed from 16” to 15” wheels already in 1955 and then to 14” in 1963. Can you imagine how rare Barndoor Samba beauty rings are today?
I was lucky enough to find one NOS beauty ring in my own stock.
And now guess who was the manufacturer of this beauty rings? It was also Lemmerz!
OK, it might need some years until I find the missing three remaining beauty rings, but this is no reason to wait with the paint job. Also finding the correct tires is a job which I could do right now. I was not in the mood for a set of this ugly tires produced by the well known names today. These tires´ look doesn´t have too much in common with the original Continental tires which the Barndoor Samba showed after leaving the Wolfsburg factory.
But finding old production tools is my profession, so why not trying to find an old German production tool for 5.50 -16 tires? To make a long story short: I was successful finding this tool. Not the Contiental one, but at least a German one. I could also convince this certain tire company to produce a small series of these tires on the old tool. Take a look at the design. Not too bad, don´t you think so?
If you own a Barndoor too which is in the need of a tire set, I produced enough of them! Just give your local VEWIB-distributor a call.
Here come my freshly mounted tires! Cool, isn´t it?
To add another touch of originality, we used vintage plumb balance weights.
Another job well done. Time for an after job summer refreshment, especially in the summer time. I hate sports, but I am smart enough to know that some sports is essential when you turn 50 and want to stay in good condition for continuing a punk rock life with lots of vintage Riesling and lots of vintage Volkswagen activity. So let´s go to a local public swimming pool. Could there be any other place matching more perfectly then this one here?
No kidding! This place is the public Lemmerz swimming pool in Königswinter!
There was not to much changed since the pool opened its doors in 1953!
Coming back to Lemmerz, it´s time to tell the story of the factory´s owner, Mr. Paul Lemmerz. Lemmerz was always big in producing steel wheels and the factory is still producing wheels today, but lorry ones only. Already in the early 50s Lemmerz was very successful, not at least cause of the big amount of wheels he produced for Wolfsburg. Paul Lemmerz made so much money, that he felt the need of sharing some of his fortune with his hometown Königswinter.
He was just 51 when he decided to donate Königswinter an entire open air public swimming pool! What a cool dude he must have been. Still today you can go in the summer to Paul´s pool and it´s an amazing experience. If you love the styling of vintage Volkswagens you will fall in love with this place right away, cause it still looks as it was 1953! There was not too much changed, this yard is a time machine.
This badge honors Paul Lemmerz´s gift of the public swimming pool
In 1977 Paul Lemmerz donated another public swimming pool to Königswinter town, but this time an indoor one, also still existing. How rich and how generous he must have been. Unfortunately Paul died right after the opening of the second pool. He is buried in a fancy mausoleum at the public Königswinter graveyard.
So next time you come to the Rhine area with your vintage Volkswagen, have a little brake at Königswinter and honor Paul´s life with a visit of his swimming pool and / or his grave. Both is pretty impressive.
the media hype about the Samba is still big. Next Tuesday a film team flies over to Bonn to make a report about the project. The Samba is currently in the exhibition hall of a big Bonn VW-dealership, the ARG-company in Bonn-Bad Godesberg. They are kind enough to make a little event next Tuesday (July 3rd) morning from 9.00 am on. All owners of vintage Volkswagen are invited to join the party, so come over, the weather forecast is fine!
You will see the Samba driving as the film crew wants the bus to drive around the yard. This will be the last possibility to see the Samba driving in this state and it will be the last chance to see the Samba before I bring it back to Mark Spicer who will continue the reconstruction of the body for the next years.
If you can´t make it next Tuesday you can visit the Samba at the ARG Bonn (address: Godesberger Strasse 40, 53175 Bonn) until end of July. The dealership is open every day until 7.30 pm, Saturday until 2.00 pm.
This is the current parking spot of the Samba: in the exhibition hall of the ARG in Bonn. Right beside the Samba you can check out a Brasilian Bay Window Bus “Last Edition”. This Bus was build at the very last day of the Bay Window production in December 2014. It´s a rare special edition and so the very first and the very last special edition VW kombi are standing right beside each other. Amazing, isn´t it? Contraire to the Samba, the “Last Edition” is for sale. And it´s still brand new!
Details for the event on Tuesday you can check out at the Facebook side of the ARG. Come over, bring your vintage VW, be a witness of a historic moment and have some fun with other VW friends too!
please excuse the German headline, but it is a German phrase that would sound weird if I try to translate it. This phrase (mostly narrow minded) Germans use when looking at a piece of art or something that somebody calls “art” or something that some (stupid) people might call “art”, but in the eyes of the speaker it is just trash. The exact translation would be “Is this art or can we dump it?”
Anyway, this phrase flashed through my mind when I found this here a few days ago:
For me this is nothing less but the most exciting find since months and I am not talking about the, hhhhhmmmmm, special airbrush. The experts already identified this door to be a real Barndoor Samba cargo door. Whoever made the airbrush hadn´t a clue what precious door this is, truly way more precious than the airbrush (OK, call me a stupid barbarian, it doesn´t bother me). Anyway, to make it even better, this door isn´t very complete only, it comes with the mechanic and the door panel, but there is the second door too:
The man I bought the doors from lives locally and his grandpa used to drive this Barndoor Samba until the car crashed accidentally in the early 60s. He thinks he got more pieces of grandpa´s Samba somewhere, he just have to “searchsomeday”. I will keep you updated what shows up from this source. Can´t wait until he contacts me again and I bet you can´t wait neither.
But you can bridge the time by going for another German lesson with the newest broadcast of the Samba in the German TV. Just click below:
Sorry to publish such a short post, but after Amersfoort there is a lot of work to do here in the office which been left undone. Maybe the preparation to make the Samba driveable for Amersfoort was kind of to much as I had a little circulatory collapse on Saturday, so I hope you agree that I should concentrate on the most important things to do right now and slow down the pure “fun” activity as writing long stories for the blog a little bit.
Anyway, enjoy the unexpected early summer (at least when you live in central Europe)!
in the last weeks I did not share with you the real progress we made, because we wanted to bring a real huge surprise to the big Barndoor Gathering in Amersfoort this weekend and I didn´t want to spoil the surprise.
When Mark delivered the chassis and the dashboard April 9th we had the plan to complete the chassis with the front axle and the gearbox to bring a rolling chassis to Amersfoort. We were quite fast with the front axle as we had all parts in the shelf or we already restored what was necessary and Marcel Tode was also fast in rebuilding the gearbox, so this goal was reached already end of April.
It´s always good to reach for the higher aim, not resting at the point you already stand regardless how good it might be. So I invited Mark to come over again to construct a little frame on the chassis to put the big surviving panels on, so the whole unit looks a little more as a bus again. As you know Mark, he also delivered a work much better than expected. Just see the pictures below.
When Mark was finished, we stand in front of the Samba both of us had the same thought: “Wouldn´t it be cool to have that baby driving in Amersfoort?”
But we just had three weeks left! So I promised Mark that I will do my very best to complete the Samba so far that it would be able to drive. The race begun…..
What you see in the little movie above is the result.
Have some fun with the following pictures, showing some stages of this process. I will update you after Amersfoort with a lot more of details, but now I am in a hurry! The Samba is on the trailer, it´s Friday and we are ready to hit the Autobahn towards Amersfoort.
today there will be just a very little update, because we are very busy to get the Samba´s chassis ready for Amersfoort. We really want to show it there on its wheels and as you can imagine this is not an easy job…..
It´s now exactly a year ago since the Samba was found in the Eifel and just a few days later I started this project. Still so many people keep on asking the same question: “Which color you will paint the Samba?”
My answer is always the same (see the post´s headline) and the reaction to my answer is nearly always the same: people don´t understand why I am not going for a full restoration ending up with a shiny as-new-Samba. So I try to explain the philosophy of the project once again.
I do like cars which tell a story. The story of the car´s life, the story of the owners, the story of the social circumstances the car lived in, the story of the country. I don´t blame anybody who is going the painful way of a full restoration, it´s my living to sell parts for these projects, but left to my very private taste I always prefer to look at the unrestored cars when I go to a VW-meeting, it´s just more interesting in my eyes.
Sure this Samba was in such bad condition I wouldn´t ever be able to drive it to a meeting at all. And as much as I like unrestored cars, what are they good for if I can´t drive them, if I can´t share my joy with other VW-friends at a meeting? So the way for my Samba was clear: bringing this baby back to the road, but save as much as possible of the (rusty) history.
If you don´t understand what this means, just scroll down and see the great job Mark Spicer did regarding the rear hood. This is the way the entire Samba will look like! And this philosophy does not stop at the outer body. I am very consequent following this road even to the little details. For example now while I am completing the Samba´s engine. See here a close up of the fuel pump.
As you already knew from a previous post the lower part of the pump was broken and I didn´t see a way of welding it. So I had to go for a replacement, an original time period replacement of course! This replaced part was cleaned and polished professionally to as-new-state. Sure the pump was fully rebuild inside too as I want this Samba to drive someday. But the upper part of the fuel pump will stay exactly the way it was found and I am not going to clean or polish it ever.
See what I mean? There was a wrong, later manifold with the engine (and it was broken too) when the Samba was found, so this one was replaced and you see it is replaced, cause it looks as new. The fuel line between the pump and the carb is still the rusty, original one. The carb was fully rebuild inside, but still shows its dirty surface outside, the same story regarding the generator and the precious D-regulator. Got the idea?
This is the philosophy of the project: all parts which I am forced to replace, because they don´t work technically or they are just missing, will be polished, painted, chromed or whatever brings them to as-new-condition. All parts which were at Samba when it was found will stay the way they were: rusty, dented, bend or mishandled! In the end we will look at a car which does not exist in the scene so far: a wild mix of fully restored and poor rusty Samba. Weird? Odd? Yes, just the way I am too.
So, with regards to Ned Faux and his stunning ´51 Kombi (a car restored in a similar way, great job Ned!) “No, I am not going to paint it!”
spring finally arrived, it´s time to go outside and dig in the ground for VW-parts!
“Calm down, Florian, we all know you are kind of…..hhhmmmm…..special and the winter was long for all of us, we surely desire some sun, but digging in the ground for VW-parts is nonsense!”
Contraire! I am serious (this time…). To explain my weird spring activity let´s have a view back in the Samba´s history. It was a Saturday in May 2017 when my phone rung while I was doing some boring bookkeeping in the office. A local customer of mine, Werner, was on the phone. He drives a ´59 firetruck bus and what he told me on the phone was the start of the whole Samba project.
“Florian, one of my friends owns kind of a wild field in the middle of nowhere in the Eifel (a mountain area in West Germany where also the Nurburgring is located) and while cleaning up the yard he started to remove some bushes and trees. Deep in theses bushes he found a Samba Bus.”
“You are kidding.”
“No, really! But don´t even think about rescuing it. There is nothing to rescue. It´s beyond any chance of being restorable, believe me. I already pulled everything out the ground. I got that stuff for free, cause the owner just wanted to get rid of this oily junk. He was afraid to face legal problems due to an environmental crime.”
“So, what´s the matter now?”
“I just found the ID-plate of the car and was curious if you could tell me the year the car was build when I name you the chassis number, cause I can´t read the year in the plate, it´s to rusty.”
“Sure I can, tell me the number.”
“20 – 15 448” “
“It´s a Samba of July or August 1951. What is your plan with the parts pile you got?”
“I going to sell some of the Plexiglas windows, the axles and the engine, the big body pieces I will nail on the walls of my garage for decoration and all the rest in the trash.”
“Werner, please don´t touch anything, don´t put anything in the trash, just wait 40 minutes and I will be with you. I am going to buy everything, but don´t touch or trash anything. PLEASE!”
In the afternoon I was owner of a ´51 Samba wreck. Please see here some picture of how Werner and his family dig out the wreck.
After removing the first bushes and trees they found a lot of parts of the Samba just sticking in the mud around the Bus. Have a close look on the picture: do you see the windows? All of them but one corner window were there and they were not smashed! All the sky windows were there too!
Sure during the removal of the bushes and trees Werner didn´t know it was a 1951 Bus, they hadn´t found the ID-plate yet. So for them it was just an old and very junky Bus, there wasn´t even one thought of the possibility to restore this piece of rust. The only value they saw was in some parts. Who wants to blam him for that?
OK, the real Barndoor expert could have known when finding the decklid that this must be something pre December 1952. But even if you would have known that, still this wouldn´t had made you thinking that this Samba must be saved to get it back on the road, would it?
Still here there is no hint that this here is a real piece of history. The engine compartment section with the chassis number still stuck in the mud and the place of the ID-plate is empty. Sometime decades ago it fell off cause of rust and stuck also down in the mud.
This picture really hurts! But remember, Werner and his family were careful enough to pick up whatever they found at least. How many others would have trashed the entire thing right away?
The moment that changed everything: Werner found the ID-plate down in the mud and gave me a call: “Florian, I found something…..” This is where the whole story of the Samba´s second life begun.
One year later.
The whole winter I was thinking of going to the place where Werner dig out the Samba to search the ground for parts that might still sticking in the mud. The last weekend was sunny enough to start this adventure. Werner and his entire family were kind enough not only showing me the way to the place, but also helped a lot. It was big fun to search the ground as you can see in the following pictures. Best of all: we really found something. Not so much of the Samba, but other stuff. Just have a look.
Arriving in the Eifel: unloading the digging equipment of the `79 pickup, taking a good sip and let´s start the adventure.
We all dig carefully and there were lots and lots of stuff in the ground: hundreds of bottles, cans, a tire, a wheelbarrow, cooking and coffee pots, three casseroles, cutlery, a mattress….. Somebody must have lived in the Samba!
Werner, his daughter and me digging out tons lots of waste as well. Frustrating? No, it was the first real sunny day of the year and the Eifel is one of nicest place to be. Even if you are digging in the mud.
Do you see this wooden hut on top of the little hill? A crusty old man walked out of it and watched us digging. We asked him if he could tell us something about the Samba´s history. He answered: “I used it as a playground when I was a teenager.” “OK, mister, when was it?” “Around 1964.” “Who brought the Bus here and why?” “I don´t know. And I don´t care. Why is that of any interest?”
I renounced the try of an explanantion…..
Lena and Nicole found something! Do you recognize it? Right, it´s 211 837 206, the Samba´s passenger side outer door handle!
Werner and me were not so lucky! Whatever this is piece of metal might be, it doesn´t belong to the Samba.
At the end of the day we filled nine of these plastic boxes full up with parts that could have something to do with the Samba! At least we found around 50 springs of the Samba´s seats plus some rotten seat frames.
Enough for today! But we have to come back! There is still so much to discover. Why? Just see some examples of what we found in details….
Just some shards? Yeah, but shards of the only Plexiglas window missing! I need all this shards, so I have to go back in the Eifel! Mad? Kind of….
A water bag of a vintage VDO accessory windscreen washing kit! A nice find, isn´t it? But even more interesting is the little aluminum tube below. It´s a piece of the Samba´s rear luggage jail bar rails!
A car color can! Produced in my hometown Bonn at the “Bonaval” color factory. This company disappeared from the market in 1968…..
A parcel tray under the VW kombi´s dashboard. But it does not belong to the Samba, cause it´s surely after 1955 and there is no way of fitting this into a Barndoor. So why did it lay in the mud where the Samba stuck? Strange!
A Solex 28 PCI! Also this does not belong to the Samba. First it is not original, because it showed up in January 1954 and second as you can see in the pictures above there was the original carb with the Samba when it was found. So, to which car belongs this carb?
Now it starts to get serious! This license plate shows a TÜV-sticker dated in August 1968! And there is still the district sticker of “Neuwied”-county untouched in place, so the car which belongs to this plate here was never officially delicensed. It was most likely stolen! And remember, this license plate does not belong to the Samba neither as the Samba had its rear license plate still mounted on its decklid. There might be a second bus buried here!
Do you see? The Eifel is always worth a journey. We´ll be back again soon, but first we have to face another adventure: the big Barndoor Gathering on May 19th! Didn´t I promise to bring the Samba´s chassis rolling on its wheels to this meeting? Ouuups, hurry up Florian, there is still a lot of homework to do if you don´t want to embarrass yourself in Amersfoort.
Is there somebody out there who can help me with the two shifter rods for a pre ´59 Bus? I accept rusty ones too!
we are really trying to bring the Samba´s chassis to Amersfoort -rolling! Sure we want to assemble the chassis as much as possible and I would like to bolt the front bumper trim on to the front bumper. Can anyone spare with me the information about the measurement of the gap between the trim and the end of the bumper´s rib? A picture with a ruler in this certain position would help a lot!
Another question I need an answer from the experts is here. Please see this picture:
This is a license light lens another Barndoor owner borrowed me for reproduction. As you see the lens is clearly bended a little bit. Is this bend the way it was original or did the lens bend by the heat of the bulb over the years? Who knows?
remember this little video in the very beginning of the blog? It was on a local TV-station just the evening after we presented the Samba to the press in May 2017. The reporter who shot the video told me the following funny story. When he came back from my yard to attend the TV-station´s daily conference his boss asked him while watching his video of the Samba: “Are you nuts? Who for hell has any interest in this pile of rotten metal? We won´t show this nonsense!”
But due to a lack of interesting news that day the video made it anyway in the show that evening and a week later the boss spoke to the reporter again: “I have to apologize! The video of your rotten metal is the most clicked video in our history ever. People from around the world are watching it again and again. I don´t get why, but that´s the way it is.”
So, no wonder the TV-station is constantly asking me if there is something new about the Samba to follow up with another video. I am not that horny to attend in the TV every week and I don´t want to present myself as an idiot announcing a set of rebuild shock absorber to be worth showing to the TV audience. But maybe a set of rebuilt brake backing plate is, because it is just a good example of the way I want the Samba to be reconstructed. Have a look what 58 years of rotting in the Eifel´s stormy weather have done:
Again the same conclusion as with so many other of the Samba´s surving parts: very original, but rotten. On the other hand, havn´t all of us seen worse sheet metal?
Sure it would be easier to purchase just a set good used ones or even NOS-parts, but in my eyes that wouldn´t be the right way. So let´s restore the plates, it´s not too complicated! See what a nice job a local customer of mine did.
Just as new. Almost.
And now see what the local TV-station broadcasted about this story:
Now have a nice weekend, learn some German and next Monday we will go for a classwork to test your skills.
because the last post was the shortest post so far, I am adding this week the longest one.
It is regarding the Samba´s rear shocks. I was so happy to find these extremely rare (and cause of that extremely expensive) shocks with the Samba anyway, so it wasn´t that big deal to agree to a complex restoration. Plus shocks are a safety related item, it´s not a good idea to be stingy when it comes to safety.
Jacek Krajewski ( www.ww2vw.com ) did this wonderful job of restoring the shocks.
He also made a very detailled picture documentation. Please see here the full series of pictures he have send. Watch these and you´ll agree that there no more comments neccessary. Enjoy and have a wonderful weekend.
best regards from London (where I am to attend the Volksworld-Show)
this post won´t be long, but it´s the most impressing one so far!
I know there are still some people in the scene who do not believe that this Samba will ever hit the road again. Well, tonight I received some pictures right from England that should convince even the last disbelievers. Just have a look at this and now tell me you are still thinking this project won´t be finished as announced…..
Can´t wait to bolt on the Samba´s front bumper here and fix the surviving front license plate!
Look how elaborately Mark fitted in the surviving parts of the chassis into the new frame he just constructed.
Watching these pictures encourages me to announce to the public, what Mark told me weeks ago. We will be able to bring this chassis ROLLING to the Barndoor Gathering in Amersfoort this May!
The gearbox and the steering knuckles are in Hessisch-Oldendorf at Christian Grundmann and his great mechanic Marcel. Both of them promised that gearbox and steering knuckles will be finished in time. The front axle beam should be already in England on its way to Mark.
The rear shocks are in Poland at Jacek Krajewski who told me he will finish this job next week (I will share with you an extra post about the rear shocks).
The front shocks I will repair by my own end of next week (post will follow very soon).
The wheels are in Sofia for a paint job, what shouldn´t be a problem at all. Hhhhmmm, I just realized that I need some tires. But to buy now a set of new brand tires wouldn´t be smart as there will be some years until the Samba is really completed and ready for its first ride. Letting some new tires ageing for nothing would be stupid.
So is there anybody out there who can spare with us a set of used 16”-tires just to bring the chassis rolling from England to Amersfoort? Come on, guys! Be part of a great story and write me if you could help by donate some old tires you couldn´t use for regular driving anyway!
as you know from a previous posting I disassembled the Samba´s front axle unit before I´ve send the front and rear end of the Bus to Mark. A front axle assembly of a classic aircooled car is a complex device. Many of its individual pieces can break or at least wear out: torsion arm leaves, the torsion arms themselves, the king- and linkpins, the brake backing plates, the wheelcylinders, the brake shoes, the wheel bearings, the drums and many small pieces as well as the basic body of the axle beam itself.
So I thought it would be a good idea to dissemble the whole unit to the very last screw. This way I could control all components and repair or replace them in case it would be necessary. One damage was clearly visible right away: the big brackets between the lower axle tube and the body of the Bus were rusted off, so there is a need of welding at least this. But I expected a lot more of work or even worse: the conclusion that the axles body is not repairable anyway cause of rust. But to end up with this conclusion we have to disassemble all the components first. So let´s start the job, disassembling is not too complicated; this is a job I can do. All I need is being careful not to brake more than what is already broken.
This is where we start from. A original Barndoor axle, the brackets are rusted away, but at least it is complete (the right steering knuckle I removed already weeks before)
I wanted to do the job in an organized way: from the outer to the inner, beginning with removing the brake drum. But in opposite to the rear drums both of the front drums didn´t turn a single millimeter! OK, let´s remove the grease cap and see if there are any surprises.
This one looks as it wasn´t opened since the day it left Wolfsburg
Everything´s looking normal here
How to remove a totally blocked drum? A look into the VW workshop manual is always is good idea. So what advise can the gentlemen in Wolfsburg give us?
Pfffff…. I don´t have the “extractor VW 202”, neither the tools VW 202 c, d and m-T. But looking at picture of the extractor gives me an inspiration to construct something similar as this tool by my own. Constructing this extractor needs to sacrifice a 5×205-wheel. I will check my stock of these wheels later to choose a bad one which I can sacrifice without regretting. For now I decide to continue the disassembling by removing the complete steering knuckle unit with the drum and brake system mounted.
To remove the steering knuckle unit I have to lose the drag links. So let´s clean the drag link ends carefully.
I am not too surprised finding the nuts of the draglinks secured by the very old style, original cotter pin. As I am confirmed in my believe that the Samba didn´t run a high mileage by many other hints while disassembling, this situation here is another proof.
Does look good, doesn´t it?
Also this side looks as it wants me to invite: “Don´t replace me! I was with the Samba all the time and I am good enough for another 66 years.”
As Bender said: “Another job well done.”
Maybe I will use the original draglinks again. I will have close look on them later. Let´s continue now with the disassembling!
Removing the shock is next on the list. But being careful is very important here. The upper fixing screw of the shock often brakes when apply too much force to it. In addition to the need for a new screw (which is not so easy to get, cause it is not just an ordinary screw, it´s a VW-specific item with an own VW spare part number!) the rest of the broken screw is stuck in the body of the beam and removing this without destroying the thread is a hell of a job!
So applying rust resolver is a must here, but this is not enough. The risk of breaking the screw is still too big. To heat the whole thing up is always a hopeful way to lose a rusted screw. So let´s try it!
NEVER try to lose this screw just by applying lots of power to it as the risk of breaking it is by 90%. You will see the later why……
It doesn´t work all the times, but heating up raises the chance of losing the screw without breaking it big time!
Gotya! See, the thread of the screw is way smaller than the rest of it, so the screw got kind of a predetermined breaking point.
Now when the shock is out of way, we got room enough for a cleaning job. Here you see my two pupils Mert and Lars, two teenagers send from a local school to sneak into the “real professional life”. Strange idea to learn something about today´s professional life in my odd enterprise. I am a bloody bad teacher, I learned my profession on the junkyards of Bonn and Los Angeles, what for hell could an analog dinosaur as me teach a teenager today? Let´s face it: they could teach me! For example how to handle a smart phone….
But sure I don´t miss the opportunity to show young people that there is more you could use your finger to but wanking and a mouse click. For example remove some antique dirt of the boss´ very personal car´s the front axle.
Just kidding. They also worked in the goods-in, the packing station and the warehouse too. But, believe it or not, working on the Samba project was their favorite -at least they said so.
Mert, would your mum agree that this bright jacket is a smart choice for this kind of job?
“And now, boys another epic moment: removing the torsion arm leaves covered all over by 66 year old grease! Can you smell the history?”
“Aaaahhhhh, hmmmmm, well, OK, Florian.”
OK, this is a very unusual way to pull out the torsion arm leaves, but this side´s torsion arm is stuck and I don´t want to hammer it out while the fragile leaves are still in place.
One last torsion arm to remove and we can continue to clean the beam´s body.
Isn´t this more fun than paying attention to a math lesson? And, believe me, the girls they like men who can handle a powerful device correctly…
The result of the cleaning process: this beam´s body is way better than expected! No rust hole at all.
Now let´s clean the torsion arm leaves to see if any of these is broken. A broken torsion arm leave is not a rare event at all when restoring an aircooled VW……
None of the leaves is broken!
As the Samba hadn´t had any wheels mounted in the front when it was found, the threats of the front drums are very rusty. To clean the threats up and save them I have to screw in some wheel bolts very carefully. Sure the bolts suffer from this procedure and I better don´t use them again. I sacrificed one bolt for each threat, but as I have enough of the bolts cause of hundrets of bugs I stripped since 1986, this isn´t too painful.
OK, now let´s continue the disassembling by removing the brake drums from the steering knuckle to have a look at the front brake system.While Mert and Lars cleaned up the beam´s body I tried to make my idea of a self-made extractor real. This is what I ended up with:
May I present you? Florian´s self-made extractor. Will this “tool” work?
Remember this great Toy Dolls´ song ‘Spider in the dressing room’ ?
You know me, I always try to save as much patina as possible, but there is a red line: the brake- and steering system. If the engine blows up caused by too much patina it´s one thing and it´s just me who has to suffer. But if the brakes or the steering is going to fail, others will suffer caused by odd addiction. This must not happen, so let´s say ‘Good by’ to the spider´s mesh and clean the brake system up!
Pretty, pretty original! Correct four bolt wheel cylinder, wire secured bolts, this Samba didn´t drive too much mileage in its life for sure!
Look at this! Haven´t all of us seen this area much worse in our lives?
What a nice surprise! So many original parts in place, the effort of needed repairing is way less than I expected. Sure the wheel cylinders needs a lot of attention, but –hey!- they are there! The brake shoes are the correct ones and we can surely use them again when we rivet new brake linings on. The drums need just a proper cleaning and –just for the safety- a set of new wheel bearings.
Also the steering knuckles don´t look too bad. But I will send them to Christian Grundmann´s mechanic Marcel for inspection. Let´s see what he will tell me.
Another all original tie rod end. It´s worth a try to save it too.
So, let´s heat it up!
Replace an all original wheel cylinder by a more or less working substitution? No way! I will rebuild this one here. Stay tuned on this channel and I will show you how.
Saving every little component is essential during a proper disassembling. Bagging it up with detailed markings too.
Now the whole axle beam unit is disassembled up to the very last screw. There is one golden rule beside care and tidiness: NOTHING must go in the trash, even this parts which are obviously broken. Maybe you will need them later, at least as a sample.
Saint-Exupéry was very right: You always have to clean also the dormant volcano, cause you never know.
don´t worry, the project is still going on and it is going on fast, believe me! I just didn´t have the time to follow up here in the blog. I was in hospital and had to catch up with all the work in the office. But the Samba is a truly European project, many people are involved, so even if I couldn´t work on the bus personally in the last three weeks, my friends all over Europe they could!
The rear shocks are in Poland at Jacek Krajewski for a really complicated rebuilding job, I will publish a lot of interesting pictures next week.
The gas tank is in Romania in an amazing reconstruction process. A detailed report will follow soon as well.
The front axle´s spindles and the gearbox are at the very well-known restorer Christian Grundmann in Hessisch-Oldendorf. I hope to receive some interesting pictures to publish them here from Christian too.
The front axle beam itself is at Rick of Alan Schofield. He will weld on the rust-broken fixing brackets (all the rest of the beam´s body is in quite good shape!)
But this post here is again about the most important man of them all: Mark Spicer. Just have a look at the pictures he send over and read what he wrote me:
“Evening Florian, in a change of scheduled plan today i got some work done on the front chassis.
This mainly involved chopping out all the rusted out areas, cleaning up the seams and then straightening up what remained. Most straightening was the lower part infront of the beam as this like all Barndoors was pretty bent.
I’m sure you will agree that it looks a heck of a lot better even like this and what remains is usable.
A few pics as promised, I built the front end of the chassis in the last few days. All the very front I made in house and has come out very well indeed. Obviously lots to do still but I’m sure you will be happy to see progress.
I have a couple of small jig positions to add to the rear before i pull the back original frane off and repair it and join in to the front.
The front section under the seat I have saved as much as possible of the original and most of the frame liners in that section are original. Also I have repaired the original tool chest side parts with the original and correct pressings.
I’m also working on saving the bulkhead, I make the lower sections and I will add one on as well as repairing all the top sections too.
Isn´t Mark doing a wonderful job? Just see how he welded Schofield´s chassis legs into the remaining part of the front end! He is truly saving as much original material as possible, no matter how complicated and how much more time it is to do it this way. But that´s exactly the way I want it!
I simply don´t like the idea what a certain well known restorer mentioned to me: “I would like to buy the Samba´s ID-plate from you. Is there a price?”
“No way! You just want to build up a complete reproduced bus, tag the ID-plate on and call it a ´51 Samba!”
“Yeah, that´s the best you can do with this poor pile of rust!”
Well, I guess Mark, my European friends and me we will proof the gentleman how wrong he was.
Two men, one mission: fresh up the dash as nice as the decklid. The poor two metal fragments in front of our feet are the point to start from
as you know Mark finished the Samba´s decklid perfectly. Barndoor decklids are one of Mark´s specialties, but he is also an expert for Samba dashes. Sure he agreed to reconstruct the whole body of the Samba, but it´s always nice to see some quick progress in such a big project, so we decided that the reconstruction of the dashboard is next on Mark´s agenda.
On the picture above you see where we start from: two poor metal fragments, but there are still the two fuse boxes, one of them even with the cover, there is the white beading between the dash and the front end, there is also the middle block-off plate and its chrome rim.
The Samba´s block-off plate. It stuck in the mud where the Samba was found.
When you look real close you see some very little remains of the white color. We will fit in the plate in the dash just in this certain condition. Even the moss will stay. No kidding!
Also the chrome rim was still with the Samba. Rusty, but not even dented! Sure also this we will fit into the dash just in this condition. “But there brand new Chinese reproductions of the rim….” “No way!”
While Mark is working on the dash itself, it´s my turn to get all the missing parts. As you know from an earlier post I found the very correct speedo on E-Bay luckily. So it was easy to fit it into the nice dashboard plate I found in Rosmalen recently. Doesn´t it look pretty cool?
I now have also a matching key for the ignition lock. It didn´t came with the unit when I purchased it in Rosmalen. How I got the key is a very special story, it will fill a complete post somewhere in the next weeks. It is going to be a real freak show. Don´t miss this one!
The clock looks a bit to mint for this project, don´t you think so? Anyway! By now I am sure that this is definitely a real Samba specific clock. Everything what I could find out so far confirms this theory. Can anybody dispute?
I know there are long discussions about the correct ashtrays for the pre ´55 Samba. Luckily I do have a lot of ashtrays in stock. Due to the picture in the very first Samba sales brochure I am very sure that this Happich (GHE) unit is the correct one for 1951:
Come on experts, get me your comment. Is this the correct ashtray?
What I need now is the correct frame to slip in this ashtray. Can anybody help?
I know, I also need the little upper switch for the dash (what is it good for anyway?) and the correct starter button, but this is not a big deal to find, is it? Should be the same one as for split window bug, at least when the 1953 VW parts catalog doesn´t lie of which I am certain.
So, Mark, it´s your turn, I nearly finished my homework 🙂
Don´t get me wrong. There is still enough time until the big Barndoor Gathering in Amersfoort, May 19th. And I still have to search all the parts to complete the decklid, what isn´t easy at all! I would be happy to present in Amersfoort beside the rusty remains of the Samba at least the completed decklid and the completed dash. That would be a little proof that this project is something real. Stay tuned to see if we will be able to reach this little goal.
back from Rosmalen I present to you my prey. Also here I need the help from experts. Please see my questions below the pictures. If anybody could help with some answers, please send a comment.
Best regards from Bonn
A very nice owners manual dated March 1952 (I would swap against an iusse of June, July or August 1951). My question to the experts: in this manual I can´t find any Samba-specific content as handling the sunroof for example. Did the Samba have its own manual?
A NOS-tailpipe for the single tip muffler is always a nice find. But I saw these in different length. What would be the correct one for the Samba?
Are all Barndoor steering wheels the same? I know the Samba needs a ivory one, but wouldn´t it be OK just to paint this one here? OK I got the answer on this one now. Please see details in the comments.
The 1954 parts catalog says that the Samba had the same speedo plate as the Export split bug (in opposite to the speedo plate for the regular bus, which is -due to the parts catalog- a bus specific unit, whatever the reason might be). So this one here should work for the Samba when I change the speedo, right?
Can anybody date this brochure? On the back it says 12.51, but I doubt it and think it must be a little later. Why?
Well, it´s regarding this picture of the dash board, which I found in the brochure:
Do you see the two little switches left and right the ashtray? A December ´51 should have just one switch, at least if the dash below, which belongs to a February ´52 Samba, was restored in the right way (of which I am sure since this collector is a serious one).
Also I do know now that the steering column tube and its fixing bracket are of black colour in 1951.
The one-switch only dash is for sure correct until end of 1951 at least. Just have a look into the very first Samba sales bruchure, here is the one-switch version as well:
Note also the unique ashtray! It´s peeping out of the dash and it is smaller than all the other ashtrays!
Interesting detail for our king-of-dashboards, Mark Spicer 🙂 Did you know it, Mark?
It´s regarding my newest find, a clock which I need for my Samba´s dash. Since I own the Samba and I am much more into Barndoors as before, I always wondered what could be possible the difference between a Samba dash-clock and a split window beetle dash-clock. There must be a difference because even the very early VW-spare parts book confirms that the Samba clock has a specific Samba part number (241 016 201), but what difference could it possibly be?
The design of both clocks is identical, at least when we look at the very first Sambas. The only difference I could imagine was the long clock adjustment stick which is reaching out of the clock housing and ending in the beetle´s passenger glove box as shown in this pictures:
When looking at any Samba dashboard picture I could never see a stick peeping out the dash´s right side. Also while looking at the rest of my Samba´s dash I couldn´t find any hole where the stick of the missing clock could have went through.
But how did very early Samba owners adjust and raise their clocks, when the stick is missing? Nobody could give me an answer so far.
Today I found and bought a dash plate with a clock mounted. The assembly looks as a regular split window beetle unit:
But now have a look on the backside:
No long stick, but a short one, which is for setting the clock only, but not for raising it. To raise it there is a turning handle as grandma´s mechanical alarm clock had one! I had a very close look at this handle and it is definitely not a later homemade conversion, what reason could such a conversion had anyway?
So my only conclusion is that this might be the Holy Grail, the Samba specific dash board clock. Could this be right? What do the experts say? Can anyone confirms this or knows better?
I would be sure that this is a Samba clock if there wasn´t that strange date stamping in the clock´s housing:
There was no Samba in June 1950! Or did the factory already thought about something as a Samba in June 1950? Then this would be the clock of a prototype nobody ever heard of! I could not belief in such a find!
Can anyone solve the miracle? If so, please send a comment.
To those who can help and to all of us: have a good weekend! I am heading to Rosmalen tonight searching more Samba parts. See you there?
as posted before I went for a short trip to Mark Spicer checking together with him the condition of the Samba´s chassis and discussing how to proceed. Mark also received in the same box we shipped rest of the Samba-chassis the Samba´s remaining dashboard pieces. This is what this little post is all about.
This is Mark (on the left) in his workshop. He presented me the restored decklid of my Samba two days ago and I was delighted!
When I found the Samba I knew right away Mark is right one for the body work part of this reconstruction. The way he restored the Kohlruss is exactly the way I want the Samba to be reconstructed: not a shiny “as new condition” is the goal, but to save as much as possible of the little remaining pieces AND to save as much as possible of the Samba´s history.
This is how Mark´s Kohlruss-Bus was found in 2014:
And this is the Kohlruss today, December 30th 2017. Not complete yet, but driving on the road again. What a hell of a job!
If you still didn´t get the philosophy behind the Samba-project, just have a look at Mark´s Kohlruss-bus. The Samba will look a similar way. “This is soooo sick!” “This is kind of serious VW-science. And it´s Punk-Rock. I am into both, Baby!”
Mark found this beautiful Kohlruss-badge lately in the net. Doesn´t it match perfect to his Bus?
Now lets have a look on the dashboard story.
You surely know that the dash of a Samba is very special. It´s much bigger and totally different compared to the dash of the regular bus. Mark is very into Samba dashes. He turns it into a real science and he is even reproducing Samba dashes.
It seems to be pretty sure that VW itself converted existing microbuses into Sambas in the very early days and you can bet they made this job very accurate. How could we possibly distinguish this VW-made conversions and real born Sambas? The ID-plate is one way, but what if VW changed this ID-plates after the conversion? It would have been an easy job for the factory to fit in just a new ID-plate. Plus, faking an ID-plate today is an easy job for someone who wants to fake a Samba!
But what Mark found now might be the final proof for a real born early Samba. Just have a look at this:
Do you see the number 448 stamped into the metal? Now you have to know that my Samba has the chassis number 20 – 15448. That means the factory stamped the three last digits of the chassis number into the dash! It means this dash was specially made and dedicated to this bus in the factory while the producing process. Now facing the fact that the dash is a Samba-specific item, we have here a proof of this Samba´s authenticity.
To fake this three digit number after production would have been nearly unthinkable. Number one: this certain Samba is out of the road since decades. In its former life there was simply no reason to fake this number. Even if this Samba would be a conversion, nobody would have faked this number. Yes, even in the 50s a Samba had a much bigger value than a normal microbus, but if it was a “born” or a converted Samba wouldn´t had any influence to this value as long as the conversion was made in a proper way.
Exactly because of this reason I strongly disbelieve that the factory stamped the number into buses they converted to Sambas. The original reason for the number was avoiding mess in the production process when they assembled normal microbusses and Sambas side by side, not to create a proof of a Samba´s authenticity for collectors in the 21st century. To stamp it into a more or less “customized” car far beside the production process wouldn´t have made any sense at all.
Number two: to stamp this number in needs a very special equipment. You need to have a set of this unique stamping letters. Number three: to stamp it you need to fix this part of the dash into a stamping tool device. Now try to get this thing 66 years later! I doubt you will be successful at the next home depot…. Plus, don´t forget that this stamping process and the fixing into the stamping device needs to be done BEFORE the dash´s assembly! Try to stamp it into the complete unit, it wouldn´t work. You would just press a big dent in your dash as the force of the stamp would need a solid counterpart to protect the relative soft dash metal.
And, finally, you need to know the exact position of the number. This last secret should remain to the owners of early Sambas to avoid any try of faking a Samba.
But for how long the factory stamped in this numbers? I will try to find out by asking the owners of early Sambas. Do you own a Samba too? Why not letting me and us know if you found a number on your dash too? Help the VW science and help to identify the fakes! Because, just in case, if we find this number also on a Samba build in March 1955 would mean that any Barndoor Samba without this number is definitely not a real born Samba!
Sometimes I wonder what “normal people” outside our VW-world do think about me and this odd fetish which is much more than just a hobby. This post above must be the final proof of my madness in their eyes. But isn´t it this way: whatever you do in life, just do it with your best possible profession or leave it. Doing anything half-hearted doesn´t this defines you as being a half-ambitiously person, as being a half-human to be exact?
Or –as Charles Bukowski said- DON´T TRY
To all the ones not trying, but doing: Happy New Year!
The white VW-jacket I wear is a 61-year-old NOS-item coming from this big Cologne VW-dealership where the Samba was delivered to. If you look real close you can identify below the VW-logo the script “FLEISCHHAUER”, the dealership´s name
don´t worry, Germany will not try to finally conquer England beside a soccer stadium, nor do we think we could stop the silly Brexit by an even more silly cardboard tank (but I would try to if there would be any chances it could probably work!). But what is this huge toy all about?
In my last post I wrote that Mark is desperate for some new work, now when he finished the Samba´s decklid. So it was time to send the remaining pieces of the chassis to Mark. There are a front and a rear piece of the chassis still existing. Let´s start with the front piece. The front axle beam was still mounted. Sure I had to remove it, because restoring the beam with all its bits and pieces is something I can do in my little Bonn workshop while Mark is working on the chassis. Will the fixing screws of the beam turn without breaking? Can we convince them to leave their place after 66 years rusting in the mud? Let´s try.
With a little help of my worker Robert, a long tube and some strong German Schwarzbrot for breakfast I can put a bit of force to the screws
Another job done! And none of the screws broke!
After removing the beam I found it in relative good condition. At least I don´t see any rust hole nor are any pieces missing. The right axle stud with the drum I removed before, to check if the brake system is still the original one. It is! I will feature the disassembling of the beam´s pieces in another post soon.
Now let´s concentrate to pack up the front and the rear piece up carefully and make sure it will arrive at Mark´s place without damaging the precious rust. I decided to construct a wooden floor and place the rear chassis piece on it. See here:
Now we have to build a “second floor” for the front piece. Check how we done it:
To make sure no truck driver takes a look on our rusty wreck, dumps it in the next junk yard and can call the ambulance to bring me to a psychologic hospital, I close the whole construction with some thick cardboard. Wonder about the “Vespa”-logo on the cardboard? My neighbor has the biggest Vespa dealership in the area. When he gets a new delivery of Vespas from Italy he dumps the cardboard of the Vespa pallets in my yard. So he has not to pay to get rid of it and I receive this beautiful strong and thick cardboard for free. It´s the perfect material to build up strong oversea pallets full of VEWIB-goods! Recycling at its best.
“Hhhhhmmmm……it looks like a tank, Florian.”, my worker Markus said.
“You are right”, I replied, “let me stick a big metal tube on to it and scare the English a little bit!”
The “tank” is finished. No, I swear I am not fascinated by any military device at all, it was just a strange coincidence.
Have a good journey! See you at Mark´s place.
End of December I will follow my “tank” to England and have a meeting with Mark to discuss how we proceed with the reconstruction of the chassis.
there are good news from England! Number one: Mark finished the body work of the decklid, just have a look on the brilliant job he has done.
“This you call ‘finished’? Don´t you want to restore it to mint condition? Come on, it´s a Samba!”
“Pfffff, you still didn´t get what this reconstruction is all about. I will explain it again, the 100th time, just for you: I want the Samba to tell its history and so I won´t paint it, no way!”
Superb job, Mark!
Number two: Rick from Schofield´s finished the new chassis legs for the Samba. Don´t they look great as well?
Rick will send the chassis legs directly to Mark, who is desperate for new work. 🙂
Mark will reconstruct the chassis of the Samba and so it is my turn to send him the remaining parts of the chassis. The rear part is ready to go, I removed the gear box a few months ago already. But Mark needs the front part as well, so I have to remove the front axle. But before disassembling the front axle I had to remove the steering box. The box itself lost contact to the chassis leg a long time ago and was wiggling freely, just hold by the central draglink.
Have a look on the draglink, it´s still the original one with the grease nipple and the simple, non-closed rubber boot.
Steering boxes for split window busses are hard to find, so I am happy that there is still a steering box even it is looking very rusty and dirty. Will it be worth restoring? This will depend not on the condition of the box only! Before investing time, work and money into it, I have to be sure that it is the original steering box of the Samba. Because –you guess it already- there are THREE different steering boxes just for Barndoor! Have a look in the 1954 workshop manual:
Three different steering boxes up to 1954 already!
As our Samba has the chassis number 20-15 448 the model “532, old type” should be the right one
Now we have to clean the steering box and hope to find a ZF-number. So let´s drop it in cleaning fluid for a night.
The next morning, I am removed the oily, but now more or less liquid dirt from the box and was lucky to find this:
Bingo! Model 532! But is it the “new type” or the “old type”?
What is the diffenernce between “532 old” and “532 new” type? The ZF-number is the same. Another look into the workshop manual teaches us how to identify the difference:
“The cam spindle and the steering shaft are 2 separate parts which are splined together and secured by a clamping band”
I would say this is exactly what we see here:
Now we know the steering box is still the original one! Next step is getting the seals we need for the restoration of the box. Let´s have a look into the 1951 spare parts book:
There are three sealings we need:
N 013 828 seal ring for the upper laying shaft
N 013 809 seal ring for the two lower housing screws
N 013 840 upper seal ring in steering box for spindel of the boxes ZF 531 (up to chassis # 20 – 010 000) and ZF 532 old type (from chassis 20 – 010 000 until 20 – 041 712)
To produce this seals in VEWIB-quality is my job! It wasn´t to complicated and the seals are already in stock now. If you need them for your Barndoor restoration, you can order them through every VEWIB-distributor.
Next week I will remove the front axle and send the two parts of the chassis to Mark. I will keep you updated.
while still waiting for Mark coming home from his honeymoon trip to make some progress regarding the chassis I thought it´s a good idea to do another step forward in the meantime by doing a job that I could probably handle by my own. After the generator turned out to be the old original and –even better- to be restorable, I was curious if I would be lucky again in a similar case. So I had a close look on the starter.
The starter was still bolt on the gearbox when the Samba was found. Disassembling the starter was very easy: just one nut to turn -and it didn´t even brake! So here I present the Samba´s starter, another rusty Bosch piece of history:
Same story as the generator, first of all we have to clear if it is the real original one, cause investing time, work and money in a rusty piece which isn´t even original doesn´t make sense. So let´s see what the 1954 workshop manual has to tell us about starters and if there is a picture and a part number which can help to identify the piece and to judge about its originality. Again, the manual shows two different starters for early Barndoors.
the Bosch EED 0.4/6 L/4
and the VW 211 911 021
Again the Bosch item must be the older one, because the VW 211 911 021 one comes already with the nine digit part number, which did not exist in 1951 when our Samba was build.
Comparing our rusty starter with the picture of the Bosch EED 0.4/6 L/4 makes me hoping it could be the right one. So let´s grind the starter´s housing to search for a stamped in Bosch number. See what I found:
Bingo! Lucky again! It´s the correct Bosch one!
Let´s remove the cap of the starter carefully and have look inside:
Not too bad! In fact pretty good!
It´s nearly clean inside and the brushes are still good, there isn´t even a need to replace them. Here we have another proof of the theory that the Samba didn´t drive too many kilometer in its first life. If the starter is still the original one and the brushes do look good as these ones here, we can call the Bus a “low-mileage-car”, too bad some idiot left the Samba outside to rot to death! What could have been the reason to dump a probably good car in the mud?
OK, a 1951 Bus was pretty “old” in 1961 when the current Busses came with a much more powerful engine, much better brakes and a full synchro gearbox, but still it was a Samba –the most expensive Volkswagen Bus you could buy back in those days. At least it would have been worth a technical upgrade. Fitting a new engine and the full synchro gearbox wouldn´t has been such a big deal. Many people went this way, why did the Samba´s owner decide to let the Bus die?
Anyway, now it´s my turn to bring the Samba back to life and the starter seems to be easiest job so far. I cleaned it inside, washed the bearings and applied some new grease on the moving parts. Grinding the bolt for the big red power cord and the screw for the red cable 50 coming from the ignition lock will be another step to eliminate future 6-Volt-electricity problems. What more could I do? Don´t say: “Sandblast and paint the starter housing.” Keep in mind the philosophy of this reconstruction: The old and rusty original parts will stay the way they look to show the Samba´s history and to help identifying what is an original and what is a replacement.
Now let´s see if the starter works! I better don´t practice a common fault when it comes to test a starter. Never fire a starter up without sticking the starter´s shaft in a correct placed bushing! Bolting it to an old pre-1966-gearbox will avoid damages inside the starter by a free wiggling driving shaft.
Now connect the starter to a battery, bridge pole 30 to screw 50 and…….. it runs! After 56 years!
What a nice feeling a piece of the Samba shows a bit of life again. A good motivation to keep on working on this epic project.
Mark mailed me -from India! He is still on his Honeymoon trip and won´t be back before mid of November. So, to do another step forward I am still taking care about the mechanical components of the Samba. Cause we disassembled all of the engine´s bolt-on components already, it´s an easy job just to grab another piece. Today let´s have a close look on the generator.
Does look like a piece of crap to you, doesn´t it? But crap with a precious D-regulator at least!
Before even think about repairing such a rotten component it´s always a good idea checking if it is still the component which was with the Samba when it left the factory. If the generator turns out to be a later replacement I better invest my time at another end of the Samba and look for an original one in the net. But how identifying an original generator for a 1951 Samba? A look into the 1954 workshop manual is the right way to get some knowledge again.
As you can see, even in 1954 the manual already knows two different generators for early Barndoors:
the Bosch RED 130/6 2600 AL16….
…and the VW 211 903 021!
Obviously the Bosch RED 130/6 2600 AL16 would be the correct one for our Samba, because it´s the older one. 211 903 021 uses already the nine digit part number which was established around 1953, so it would be incorrect in our case, same as any other generator but the Bosch RED 130/6 2600 AL16 would be incorrect too. Just by judging the outer surface of our rotten generator it could be the old Bosch boy…..
Just compare it to the picture in the workshop manual! This could be the right one….
So let´s clean it a little bit to make the part number visible again:
Bingo! It´s still the original Bosch RED 130/6 2600 AL16 generator!
This is just another hint that this Samba wasn´t on the road for long. Where ever we have still existing pieces of the car, they are most likely still the originals! So now it´s time to see an expert for rebuilding generators. Who could do the job better than an old Bosch workshop? These are pretty rare by now, but one of our VEWIB-customer still has a Bosch dealership with a workshop. Mr. Bliersbach senior and Mr. Bliersbach junior run together this famous place in Cologne, so let´s bring a piece of the Samba back home, because the Samba was delivered in August 1951 from Wolfsburg to the big VW dealership Fleischhauer in Cologne.
A real Bosch dealership in a vintage building, a bug in the garage…. can we find a better place for rebuilding the Samba´s Bosch generator?
The generator, some VEWIB spare parts and Bosch mechanic Mr. Bliersbach junior, now the job can be done!
After opening the generator it doesn´t look to bad!
OK, this one needs some attention. But Mr. Bliersbach can solve the problem for sure.
The job is done! With some new VEWIB bearings and brushes the generator delivers a good performance on the test stand.
Still looks rotten, but now it´s working perfect again!
To follow the philosophy of the project we keep the outer surface of the generator the rusty way it was. So, in about 15 years, when the Samba´s reconstruction will be finished finished, you will be able to see exactly which item was replaced and which one is still the original.
Stay tuned as the next step will be interesting too! I will visit a local expert for locks and keys in Bonn this afternoon to get some keys for the Samba. A real weird place….
here are some good news for Barndoor owners. As mentioned in a previous article I started a project to add windshield seals for Barndoors to my VEWIB-line, just because there is nothing good on the market for Barndoor so far and I need the seals for our ´51 Samba anyway.
Of course a VEWIB window seal needs to be perfect and of course it has to have preformed corners. So we needed to construct a heating tool for the preforming process. Ever wondered how these tools look like? Here is the brand new heating tool for the Barndoor windshield seal:
Producing a VEWIB window seal needs a heating tool, but also the correct extrusion tool for the rubber itself. Luckily I do own the original extrusion tool for all Split Window Bus window seals since 1998. I bought it from a former rubber company who worked for Volkswagen in the 50s. The extrusion tool dates from 1949!
Now we were able to produce a prototype of the windshield seal. Here you see our warehouse worker Viktor assembling the prototype on the left windshield of our ´51 Samba.
It fits perfect! So we will start the first production run next week. Due to the preforming the left and right window seals of all Split Window Busses (regardless if pre or after 1955) were different and Volkswagen used different part numbers for the left and for the right side seal. When Volkswagen gave up the preforming process in the early 80s, just selling the seals extruded and glued together, they obsoleted the right part number and used just the left part number (211 845 121 A) saying “This fits both sides”. Giving up the preforming process made the production a lot cheaper, but also the product itself cheaper….
Sure this seals fitted not as well as the preformed ones, but at this time an old Bus was just an old Bus and not a collector´s car in at all. Barndoor windshield seal were obsolete back in those days a long time anyway.
Sure we will produce left and right seals! The part numbers will be 211 845 121 for the left and 211 845 122 for the right side. You can order this seals mid of December 2017 from your local VEWIB distributor. Keep in mind that these seals are for Barndoor only! Preformed VEWIB windshield seals for ´55 – ´67 Busses we have in line since 1998. These you can order these any time by using the part numbers 211 845 121 A (left) and 211 845 122 A (right).
Here is the “SEKURIT” logo in the Samba´s windshield. A little wonder the windshields still were with the wreck when it was found in May….
I feel now it´s time to have a look at the body reconstruction of the Samba and you surely wondered why I do concentrate on all this little details as headlights, shock absorbers, the fuel pump etc and there is no news about the progress regarding the body at all. This is because our friend Mark Spicer married his lovely girlfriend Evelyn and they made a real long honeymoon trip through Europe. I didn´t want to disturb them by pushing Mark regarding the Samba´s decklid which he started to restore. But after two months the honeymoon trip should be over and I am sure we will have interesting news from Mark soon.
When Mark has finished the decklid, we will start to work on the Samba´s chassis. Nearly all parts we need are in stock in the meantime, so the project can go on. I will keep you posted.
when disassembling the engine I found some parts not original for 1951 as the manifold and the aircleaner (very normal! Which engine still had the T-aircleaner when the –technically- so much better oil-aircleaner was available?), other parts are surprisingly very correct, for example the generator and the D-regulator (I will feature these next week) and the carburetor which we will have a close look on today.
The carb is still the Solex 26 VFIS and it got the correct 8mm connection for the fuel line. So far, so good, but the rotten outer surface did not make me hope that it will be an easy job to rebuild it or maybe it is beyond being repairable at all. But it´s worth a try, just because it is one of the few original pieces of the Samba still existing.
When it comes to complicated matters regarding anything related to Solex carbs there is one place in the world to go: Annette Hue´s IOZ-workshop in Koblenz / Germany. Luckily Koblenz is just a 45 minute drive from Bonn and it is beautiful ride always along the Rhine with all its castles and wine yards left and right beside the river.
As Annette is the best address for Solex carbs I found her workshop in the normal state: crowded over and over full up with customer´s cars: from basic models as Opel Kadett up to Porsche 911 or Mercedes S-class, everything was there waiting in line for her magic hands. You think about going there too with your car? Be aware that you need to set an appointment now for a date 8 months later!
“Got a surprise for you, Annette!”
But as I know Annette since many years she was kind enough to have a quick look at the Samba´s carb and her judgement seeing this rusty little piece was quick and short: “Just dump it and buy a rebuild one.”
“You don´t want me to rebuild this piece seriously, do you?”
“I sure do!”
Annette and me got something in common: we don´t like Facebook, Twitter & Co., neither she got time for browsing the net every day, so no wonder she didn´t know about the Samba and what the story is all about. So I had to explain her that I really want this certain carb for rebuilding, no matter what effort it may cost.
“Hmmmm, well, I doubt that even one of these screws will turn without braking.” she said.
Will the screws turn without braking?
Yes, they will, but can we open the carb?
But surprisingly all screws turned without any problem (I applied a lot of rust dissolver to it a week before!) and we found the inner of the carb in quite good condition after removing the upper part.
Surprise! Look how nice and almost clean the carb is!
“OK, seems it will be possible to rebuild it, but you know my order book is full up with work until next year. How quick do you need the carb?”
I showed her some pictures of the Samba and so she got the answer.
“But it would be fine if you could do the job before you retire.”
“Don´t worry. If this carb will be the last I do in my life it seems to me that I will be still in time for this project.”
this post won´t not show you any progress regarding the Samba, but it tells you a little about a problem that some of us have for sure. A project as the Samba needs your full attention, it´s a lifetime job and if you share your time with too many other projects at the same time, you will end up as a good friend of mine I know since mid of the 80s.
He is a few years older than I am and started collecting aircooled VWs around 1982. As me he used to buy the first cars of his collection at the local junkyards here in Bonn. The cars were cheap back in those days and he couldn´t resist to buy any aircooled VW as long as it was cheap. As you can imagine each and any of these cars was in bad condition.
To make the long story short, toady he got around 36 cars in several rented garages, none of them is restored or is even driving. It was three years ago when I told him: “OK, you are 55 now. Dividing the estimated amount of your remaining years to live by the amount of cars you still “want to restore someday”, what kind of sum are you facing?”
The minute I asked him this question, I did the same calculation regarding my own life-cars-balance and I was shocked. And I don´t have 36 cars to restore. Not even half of 36. But some.
It was this certain day when I put a little sticker on top of my computer screen to remind me every day. Can you see the little sticker saying “Keine neuen Projekte!” on the picture below showing my office desk?
“Keine neuen Projekte” means “NO MORE NEW PROJECTS!”
I was serious about it, really.
And then the Samba showed up….
‘OK, just this one, it´s just too exciting. But not even one more from now on’ I advised myself.
Today the phone was ringing, it was the owner of the local junkyard:
“Hey, Florian, I got a VW beetle for you. Come over!”
I was not really interested. The times this junkyard was a place to buy cars cheap are over a long time. But as the place is just 900 meter away from my office, I stopped by. You never know, maybe he got a KdF-car, he wouldn´t see any difference to a Mexican bug. So I went there for a quick look and –of course- it wasn´t anything special, just a Mexican bug. OK, a rare Sunnybug and in quite good condition, but I knew he would ask a price way to high.
I asked for the expected crazy price and he said: “OK, we go for a package deal.”
“What kind of package?” I asked.
“I had another old VW in yesterday, I don´t know what it is, never seen this model, but there is the engine in the back and a Wolfsburg logo at the steering wheel. Bad condition, but I make you a special price if you go for both cars.”
You won´t believe what “other old VW” he picked up the day before:
When have you seen a Razor Edge at the local junkyard last time? 1983?
The car was covered by a thick layer of dust, he must have pulled it out of a barn or similar where the car was stored for decades. On the windshield there is a sticker ‘LICHTTEST 1977’. Inside are the bumpers and a lot of parts, the car is pretty complete! No more projects? Should I have let a Razor Edge go into the crasher? Of course I went for the “package deal”.
Due to my calculation I have to extend my lifetime to 109 now to finish all my projects, but as I don´t smoke, eat healthy and have a chilly job, this shouldn´t be a problem at all. Any doubts?
Sorry for boring you with some news not related to the Samba directly, but maybe some of you liked to share this little adventure. And, this is a promise: the Samba will be finished before the Razor Edge!
today I can share with you just a very small update, because I am kind of ill and couldn´t work on the Samba as I wanted to.
So, just to do a little step forward I pulled the fuel pump of the engine. Due to a broken lower part of the fuel pump it was fixed by the fuel line to the carb only. Luckily I was able to lose the screws of the fuel line without damaging them. The state of the line made me expecting the opposite, just see how rotten it looks:
I tested the line and it was still tight, no little rust hole, so I will use it again on the rebuild engine to save another original part. Sure I want to do the same with fuel pump, but the lower part is broken and I don´t see a chance to weld this metal, do you?
Needless to say that it is still the original 8 mm pump, otherwise I would just grab any complete pump from the shelf. But this way I want to save at least the upper part of the pump.
So I looked for a lower fuel pump part in my parts bin, thinking this is not a big deal as in my opinion there was no difference between 6 and 8 mm pumps when looking at the lower part of the pump only. But again the Barndoor thought me that nothing is easy when it comes to these early cars!
See here the lower fuel pump part and its quite big “SOLEX” script:
And here one of 26 (!) fuel pumps part I have in stock and I could take apart for the lower section, they all look the same saying “DEUTSCHE VERGASER GESELLSCHAFT”:
Damned! I am in need for a lower fuel pump part saying “SOLEX”. Sure one of mine would work technically, but it wouldn´t be original and I wouldn’t be happy with it. So if anybody out there can spare such an item, please contact me!
Next week there will be a new big update or even end of the week in case I am back to 100% again.
I am selling spare parts for vintage Volkswagen since mid of the 80s and I am kind of familiar to the VW-number system in a way that enables me to know the good selling items by their part number and if I don´t know the number exactly, I find the correct number normally in old VW spare parts books quickly.
This does not mean I am exceptional brain artist, but the VW-number system is so logical, it really makes identifying the parts pretty easy. Whoever invented the VW-number system in 1953 was a genius. Back in these days VW just had two different cars: beetle and bus. But even today this old number system still works for Volkswagen and its huge variety of different cars and models.
But even based on this brilliant number system I was never able to learn this damned Bus chassis parts: rockers, jack supports, brackets, rails …. front, rear, middle, outer, inner… I never got it and always felt as being an idiot, cause it was too complicated to me. But now when the gearbox is removed from the poor rest of our Samba´s chassis there is finally the time: I HAVE to learn it, just because I have to know what we need for the reconstruction of the chassis. I was in a need of a plan.
So when today´s Sunday office work was done I stayed two extra hours in the office, reading, comparing, investigating in my 1954, 1957 and 1967 vintage VW Bus spare parts books, the websites of several British sheet metal producers, the Wolfsburg West catalog and the current issue of Airmighty with its feature of Claus Missing´s brilliant 1953 Barndoor panel. In this article there is a big picture of Claus´ Bus from underneath and this picture was finally very helpful.
I copied the picture and marked the chassis parts in different colors. Green for the sections which are still good and different other colors for the different producers´ parts. Of course there is a lot Barndoor specific which doesn´t make getting the parts easier. But in the end I found that I can get everything we need for the reconstruction but the floor pans itself. Some of the parts we even had already in our VEWIB-line –and I didn´t know it.
The result of two hours working this Sunday in the office: my plan for the chassis parts
All other parts I ordered not only just one of each for our Samba, but a complete load to add all this parts to the VEWIB-line. So, if you are doing a Barndoor restoration yourself, we got everything for your chassis in line now.
In the meantime when I wait for the chassis parts to arrive, I will have a close look to the front end of the chassis. In case I find some time in the next week, I will remove the front axle to check what is left of the bulkhead. We will see and I keep you posted.
today we finally removed the gearbox from the rear chassis part and so we had to remove the rear shocks as well. Lucky enough the Samba still got the original style shocks and wasn´t “upgraded” with telescope shocks as most of all older Volkswagen were.
This kind of shock absorbers do look strange to anyone not into the vintage Volkswagen world. For the Volkswagen enthusiast they are pure gold: very expensive and hard to find. No wonder! Volkswagen itself recommended already in the late 50s to replace this shocks by the modern telescope type and many VW-drivers did exactly this.
Also I was surprised finding the gearbox with the solid axle boots still, not being superseded by the split type axle boots. Both facts indicate that the Samba didn´t run a high mileage and having still the 24 hp engine tells the same story.
When did you see last time a swing axle Volkswagen with untouched, solid axle boots? For sure we will save them, but is it a good idea to fit them in again after rebuilding the gearbox?
All this are lucky facts. We don´t need to search for original (and very expensive) shocks and looking at the low mileage makes me feel optimistic that the gearbox won´t be in too bad condition.
Not so lucky we were regarding all the bolts and nuts which held the gearbox in place. All of them were really rusted and extremely hard to remove. We needed hours and hours to convince this screws turning after 60 years, but the last screw, the one in the shifting coupler, broke. So we had to cut the shifting coupler very carefully into pieces, cause drilling out the broken screw I was too afraid damaging the gear change lever.
Yep, we destroyed the shifter coupling. We had to! Otherwise there was no chance to get it out of the way without possibly damaging gear change lever. But don´t worry, the coupling was broken into two pieces anyway and anything related tothe gearbox is way more expensive than a simple shifter coupling.
After all this painful jobs I collected the nuts, bolts, tools -and the shocks. Being curious if the shocks still move I was very surprised finding one of the shocks not only moving, but still working! And not too bad, I have to add. Anyway I will send the shocks to Jacek in Poland to get them rebuild.
Now when the gearbox is finally removed, how does the rear part of the chassis looks to you? To be honest, I expected it to be worse. At least we do have an intact torsion bar tube, even the torsion bar covers are still good. Both radius arms are OK too. The entire tubes of the gearbox mounting area are also still strong. So, dear haters, there WILL BE some original material left for sure, when the reconstruction is finished!
The outer rear chassis legs are a bit of fragile, but maybe there is a way to save them. Mark, what do you say?
Did you see that? The rear brake hoses are still intact. No kidding.
Can´t wait to use them again after 66 years on the German Autobahn. Just kidding.
here are two little updates. Number one is a current picture from Mark Spicer´s decklid work. Here you can see the new inner frame he just finished. Doesn´t it look great?
The other topic is regarding an unbelievable find in the net. You maybe know that there at least five different types of speedometer for Busses –just up to 1955! So finding the right one for our Samba seemed to be really difficult, because VDO changed the design of the speedo slightly in late 1951 already, so I was in need for a speedo not even build for 20 months!
So I was extremely surprised finding such a speedo on E-Bay last week. But the auction was headlined by “Speedo for 1950 Barndoor VW Bus”, so the seller knew exactly what kind of treasure he was offering and I expected the final price to be skyrocket. But it wasn´t! For just 221 Euro the speedo was mine, I was sure the price would be much, much more.
Lucky office cat with the lucky find of the year!
Today the speedo arrived and when I turned it around I couldn´t believe my eyes: the date stamp shows “7.51”! What´s so special about it? I learned this lesson very well: the speedo normally was build one or maximum two months before the car itself was assembled in the factory. So for our Samba, build in August 1951, a speedo constructed in July 1951 couldn´t be any more perfect!
I apologize for the bad quality of the pictures, but I just took the shot with my antique Blackberry
today I was assembling the headlights for the Samba. Nothing special? Well, it seems everything is special when it comes to early Barndoors and early headlights are a scientific matter anyway. So before the assembly could start there was a lot of research to do. Maybe you like to share what I could find out so far.
On the poor rest of the Samba´s front panel there was a Bosch headlight ring. But the 1951 Bus spare parts catalog and still the 1954 one do list Hella headlights only. This is quite interesting, cause the split window bug had, same as all following beetles, either Bosch or Hella headlights. VW simply had two suppliers of Type-1-headlights, same deal with a lot of other parts for early Volkswagen, the factory often had several suppliers for the same part.
But surprisingly VW had just one supplier for Bus headlights in the early years, minimum up to 1954, and this was Hella only. I learned this lesson to late, cause I already purchased a nice pair of symmetric Bosch Bus headlights, even with the little Bosch logo on the chrome ring –not correct for the 1951! Another amazing fact was that the early Hella Bus chrome rings are –due to the 1951 parts catalog- identical to the Bug headlight rings. So they are not specific for left and right, because they did not come with the little drain hole in the ring yet.
This fact made it a little easier for me to assemble a pair of headlights for the Samba as I have a nice collection of Bug symmetric headlight parts, Bosch and Hella. The conclusion of the 1951 and 1954 parts catalog was that the only Bus-specific parts for the headlights were the reflectors and the lens. But there is another tricky fact when it comes to Hella symmetrical headlights. Sure Hella and Bosch changed something here and there during the production of symmetrical headlights (they were superseded by the asymmetrical system in August 1960), but Hella changed much more than Bosch! Hella even changed the entire inner mechanism for example, but Bosch changed just some little details.
Also the reflectors of the early Hella symmetrical headlights and the late symmetrical ones are so different that you can´t interchange them technically. VW itself listed two different part numbers for Hella reflectors up to 1960. Also the super early lens has a very different design than the ones in the late 50s. But as I have a nice amount of NOS super early Hella Barndoor lenses, I did not have any reflectors at hand. I thought: ‘Damned, another expensive hard-to-find item on the list!’ But Dieter Schmidt-Lorenz could help with a NOS pair of these reflectors for a real good price. He surely made my day.
Dieter´s reflectors. Always a moment of history using parts which were stored the last 50 years untouched in their original box….
New original Hella lens seals we do have in stock, so the assembling could start, but there was one last question to clear. Did Hella used in August 1951 still the “Hella”-logo on the chrome ring? I have a nice bunch of both styles, with and without the logo, in stock, but I needed another lesson in VW detail history. After some research in the net I was very sure that minimum up to 1952 Hella headlights always had the little “Hella”-logo in the chrome ring and the little fixing bracket of the chrome ring was mounted with just one rivet, not with two as later on.
“Hella”-logo in the chrome ring, fixing bracket mounted by just one rivet and a half round head screw: this beetle headlight assembly should be the right one to convert it into a headlight for our ´51 Samba.
Not tired about headlight details yet? I can continue for another little while….
As I wrote before Hella changed the entire mechanism of its symmetrical headlights somewhere around 1954. The early style had a long bracket inside to move the reflector when turning the adjustment screws, the later ones show that typical Hella half-round fat spring, that surrounds the lower part of the reflector housing. Due to this technical difference the reflectors of the early symmetrical headlight is so different to the late symmetrical one. But also the material of the reflector changed. The early style show a heavy reflector made of brass, the late style is made of the same light tin than all reflectors later on.
Here you see the bracket that moves the reflector when turning the adjustment screw. This is specific for super early Hella headlights.
Confused? Well the story is even more complicated! There were also reflectors for the early mechanism made of tin! As VW offered reflectors for the early symmetrical mechanism at the spare parts counter for a longer time, these ones were made by Hella in the very same material then the current production: just tin, not brass anymore. The reflectors I purchased from Dieter Schmidt-Lorenz are such ones: early symmetrical style, but made of tin. If you see it from the pure historical point of view, the headlights I assembled are not super-correct, cause they don´t come with brass reflectors.
A reflector made of brass, but unfortunately a Beetle reflector, not a Bus one.
A reflector for super early Hella Barndoor headlight, but made of tin. As you see here a part number using already the new nine-digit-system (established in 1954), this reflector was not made for the production line, but as a later spare part production
Anyway, I am really picky about originality, but I can live with tin reflectors made somewhere in the late 50s. I think to assemble a pair of headlights with the correct 1951-only-lens, the correct “Hella”-logo-ring and the pre 1953 old mechanism is good enough for this Samba.
the correct pre 1952 lens for Barndoor
Here you see our “chief of headlights” Sebastian (he normally converts LHD-headlights into RHD headlights) disassembling one of my very early beetle headlights to convert it into a headlight for our Samba
And now remove this long one-piece-spring, Sebastian! A pain in the ass to remove it? Well, wait until you have to put it in place again….
Here Sebastian mounts a new VEWIB headlight lens seal on the NOS early Barndoor lens
Putting it the lens in the correct position
Next step: putting the reflector bracket in place….
A little trick: we used some of the new style springs to fix the whole assembly on one half to help holding everything in place. Now we ccould try to put this damned one-piece-spring in place on the other half….
But still a pain the ass! Sebastian was right to refuse this job and leave it to me…. I won the fight in the end, but I had to try again and again. Whoever constructed this one-piece-spring, he was not the smartest Hella employee, for sure! The next worker telling me that putting the (late style) fixing springs in place is a tough job, has to try it with one-piece-spring!
Did you know that? The “L” in the line “28L” indicates the year this headlight was produced. Due to TheSamba.com “L” means 1953. Good enough for the project from my point of view!
Cleaning the bold holder is essential if you want your six Volt headlight to produce some brightness. When the ´51 will be finished in 15 years I will be 63, so having a bright headlight would be a good idea! And for sure I still won´t be in the mood for an unsporting 12 Volts conversion….
Ready for installation. Thank you, Sebastian, good job! So we are ready now, what about you Mark? 🙂
We don’t want this reconstruction to end up showing the car the way it left the factory in August 1951, we want a Bus showing its history. In 1961, when the Samba was taken from the road, it already had a changing in the headlights to Bosch, so for me it´s fair enough to give the Samba back its early Hella headlights. I leave the lack of brass to the haters to make their lives less miserable….
For all the rest: enjoy life and the rest of the summer!
Today 66 years ago our Samba was built in Wolfsburg, but today it´s also Julian Hunt´s birthday. For anyone not knowing Julian, he is the # 1 photographer in the vintage VW-world and proud Barndoor owner himself.
The pictures show both birthday candidates, Julian in one of our ´79 pickup twins driving the ´51 Samba wreck on the lorry bed from our garage in the early morning of May 16th (another special day for Lagwagon fans…) from our garage to the Press presentation where he produced his famous photo series about the Samba.
All of us are looking forward to the next presentation of the Samba when both birthday children´s levels of patina will be more equal….
as promised in July („handbrake cables will be ready in August“) here we are presenting the first item we produced for the Samba: the handbrake cables! Fresh from the factory, made in Germany due to a very old original drawing.
Of course we made not just a pair for our own project, but we produced a whole lot of them, so all other Barndoor owners can participate and order a pair of handbrake cables through our VEWIB-distributor network. The part number is 211 609 721.
By the way I learned that there are two handbrake cables for Barndoor! The very first version from the beginning until January 1953 and a later version from February 1953 until end of Barndoor production in March 1955. We will produce the late version as well, it will be ready before the end of 2017!
Right now I am working on the headlights for the Samba. I always thought I am kind of expert for pre ´67 headlights. How wrong! There is so much more to learn. It will be the longest report for the blog so far. Something for the real VW-freak. Have a look here next week!
here is a little update from England. As you know, Mark Spicer shipped the decklid of the Samba to his workshop and he is just right now in welding action. So this goes out to all the haters in the various chats who keep on saying “he is never gonna make it”, “just dump it into the trash” etc: there are also a lot of good friends in our little VW-world and together we will definitely reach the goal!
here we go starting to produce the next item for our Samba. When we found the Samba there was one corner window still with the bus, but the other one was missing. Sure Plexiglas corner windows are extremely hard to find, especially the ones without the “Plexiglas” logo, which only the very, very first Sambas came with.
As chances are nearly zero to find such a corner window we decided to produce them. The first step is to create a data base for the production. So I drove to St. Vith in Belgium to visit one of our suppliers for sheet metal, Mr. Warny. He has a laser tool to scan any item for the data needed to build a production tool. Mr. Warny was so kind to support our Samba project by laser scanning our remaining corner window and now we have the data base to go for step number two and build a tool for producing the corner window itself.
Stay tuned as I will visit a plastic company next.
Last week Evelyn and Mark Spicer, the owner and restorer of the famous Kohlruss bus, visited me to have a look on the Samba wreck. It was amazing seeing Mark checking out the poor rest of the dashboard for more than 20 minutes. He was truly fascinated about little details I don´t have a clue of, but for Mark these dashboard pieces show that this is the very earliest Samba he has ever seen. For anybody out of the vintage VW-world this scenario must have looked so weird: an adult man totally fascinated by two very rusty pieces of rotten metal, declaring: “I had a theory about the early Samba dashboard, which must have been kind of prototyping, this here is the proof. The production of the very first Sambas was more or less a handmade process.”
Mark is not only a specialist for Barndoor Samba dashboards (he reproduces the entire element!) , but he does the same with Barndoor decklids. To get the body reconstruction started I gave Mark the decklid of the Samba wreck for restoration. So the decklid is already in England now and Mark promised to start right away. We both think the same way about the style the Samba should be reconstructed: the same way he did the Kohlruss! Not a shiny look-as-new Samba is the goal, but a Samba telling a unique story.
The decklid will be the example of how we would like the whole Samba to be restored. Stay tuned as Mark is probably faster than most of us think. I will show the result of Mark´s work here as soon as the decklid is ready.
In the meantime I will take care about the mechanical parts. The starter, the fuel pump, rear shock absorbers, the generator plus D-regulator are the next on the list. All these parts are still the original ones and worth a rebuilding. Read more about it here in this blog soon.
I was very lucky to find at the Bug-Show in Spa a Barndoor taillight. Have a look at it! I guess it is the correct one for the 51 Samba. What do the experts think? If you can confirm or disprove it, please leave a comment.
I also found a central brake light lens. Yes, a red one is not correct for 1951, I know it has to be kind of yellow and must not have a K-number neither a wave, but at least I have a sample with the correct old style Hella marking to produce a copy in the correct color.
The next find in Spa was a beautiful 1953 workshop manual! It wasn´t cheap, but I am happy to have it anyway. I guess it´s pretty rare and was worth the 270 Euro.
Just when I was ready to leave the swapmeet I found two separate barndoor taillight lenses for unbelievable 20 Euro each!
Today I received an interesting detail from the owner of the well-known 51 Samba found in Greece (see here: http://kombiclassics.com/1951_barndoor_samba/ ). He told me that the remaining Plexiglas windows of his Samba neither had any logo. As his Samba is younger than mine this information is very interesting as another hint that very early Sambas didn´t have the “Plexiglas”-logo which we all know from later Barndoor Sambas. At least the Barndoors which were really “born” as Sambas in the first place.
A real “born” Samba in the first place? What does it mean? There is the theory that the Volkswagen factory itself converted in the early days regular busses which were already sold and driven on the road into Sambas. I am still collecting facts which confirm or disprove this theory. More about this scientific detail soon.
Tomorrow I will have a look on another unrestored early Samba and I hope to return with some interesting news to share with you.
Next week the one remaining corner Plexiglas window of our Samba will be put into a laser box to create a CAD data as a base for a production of the corner windows. Our Samba needs one, so we will produce a whole load of corner windows based on the one original which came with the Samba.
my knowledge about Barndoor busses must have been very poor! So far I didn´t realize that the windshields of an Barndoor are significantly smaller than the later ones. What means I do have a lack in my VEWIB line of windshield rubbers. Sure I wanted to add VEWIB windshield rubbers for Barndoor to my line, at least cause I will need them some day for our Samba!
Fortunately both original windshields are still with the Samba wreck and we can use them for creating a tool. But the tool for the preforming of the rubbers is a real big investment, because when it comes to pre ´55 rubber items the chances to find the original tooling are near zero. For sure we can´t sell too many of these rubbers, but I decided to go for tool anyway. The project and the first seals will be finished in September. So, all Barndoor owners can ask their VEWIB-dealer for the windshield seals soon. The part numbers will be 211 845 121 (left) and 211 845 122 (right).
sure our Samba will need a pair of handbrake cables someday. As so many other parts these are different for Barndoor then for the later busses and as far as I know there are no handbrake cables on the market for Barndoor. So this a typical job for VEWIB to bring back a good German quality.
I contacted an old supplier of cables who produced handbrake cables for Barndoor decades ago. We found the old drawing in his archive and I gave order to start a new production again. Peter Reichler was so kind to spare with me a NOS handbrake cable, so we now have the old drawings and a NOS item to assure that the new production will be very exact.
The production will be ready in August and orders can be already placed either with VEWIB direct (if you are a registered dealer) or through our distribution network. The part number is 211 609 721.
our Samba was made in August 1951 and it is a real “born Samba”, so it was constructed as a Samba in the first place, not later converted from a stock bus into a Samba (the factory in Wolfsburg itself really did such conversions in the early days!). Björn Schewe and Eckberth von Witzleben checked the chassis number of our Samba in the Wolfsburg archives and they confirmed that this is “born Samba”.
Based on this fact I would like to clear an interesting little detail now. Not to many parts of our Samba survived, but all eight sky windows and one of the rear corner windows were still with the Samba when it was found. Sure all this windows are made of Plexiglas, but none of them has the typical “Plexiglas” script!
As we know this Samba is not a conversion and there are nine of the ten windows still with the car, we can exclude by 99% that this windows were exchanged later, because they were possibly broken. It would be very unlikely that nine of ten windows broke.
So could it be that the very first Sambas did not have the “Plexiglas”-script, because it came a little later than August 1951? What do the experts think? You are welcome to write me: firstname.lastname@example.org or come to the VEWIB-booth in Chimay this weekend.
thank you for your interest in our Samba-wreck! In this blog I would like to inform everybody who is interested about the restoration of this amazing car.
“Restoration” might be not the correct term as there is not so much left of the poor bus. We got an engine, a gearbox, a front axle, an ID-plate, some very rusty sections of the body and a few (but very interesting) parts. So we better call it a reconstruction.
I will write the blog in English language, so more people can follow our project. Please excuse my funny English terms, I learned my English with Beavis and Butthead, so don´t expect Oxford level from my side….
As this is my first blog ever I have to learn how to use this. It might need a few days until I am familiar with this medium, but I will do my best to give you an update of the project weekly. So have a look in the next days and I will share with you our progress to bring back this Samba on the road.