By on March 6, 2012

Like the Fiat 124 Sport Spider, your typical second-gen VW Transporter typically spends many years as a never-started project in a back yard or driveway (because everyone loves an air-cooled VW bus!), then washes ashore at a junkyard. I’ve been seeing these vans in about the same numbers in junkyards for a couple of decades now, even as only the nicest street-driven examples have been kept alive. Here’s a ’78 with some extremely Malaise-y custom touches that I spotted in a Colorado yard last week.
It’s hard to imagine anything more 70s than a brown Transporter with hideous crypto-Native-American custom striping, also in shades of brown.
Like most junkyard VW vans, this one sat for many, many years before taking its final tow-truck ride.
The question here is: did the van’s final owner store the engine inside, or was it placed there by a junkyard customer who pulled the engine and then decided not to buy it?
It’s not especially rusty, by air-cooled VW standards (i.e., it’s not a vaguely vehicle-shaped red stain on the pavement), but it’s pretty much used up. Next stop: Crusher!

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63 Comments on “Junkyard Find: 1978 Volkswagen Transporter...”


  • avatar
    MarkP

    There is no way you could ever call one of these a “good” car, but I had one and I loved it while I had it. I drove it all over the West, slept in it, kept the dog in it … but I never went fast in it and I was never warm in it in the winter. It could barely keep out of its own way, and I think bicyclists passed me going up the mountain roads in Colorado. Its best use was sitting in a roadside picnic area and eating lunch with the gigantic sunroof rolled all the way back.

    Occasionally I wish I had it back again, but then I slap myself and come to my senses.

    • 0 avatar
      VanillaDude

      My namesake was an especially honorable and admirable man. He had one fault – he never could buy a decent vehicle. Every vehicle he owned turned out to be a horrible lemon. The list of his vehicles would make you question his sanity. Other than that, he was awesome.

      So, he owned one of these. In Colorado. He somehow thought it would be a great vehicle for traveling and camping. He imagined great gas savings. He bought it new, back about 1973.

      So, we would come out for a visit from Chicago, and he would take us into the Rockies in this vehicle. We loaded nine people into it and take along the stuff we would need for the day.

      It was the world’s slowest vehicle. The first hill would require that he downshift into first gear and then hopefully get enough speed up to shift into second. It often didn’t make it. This meant that not only did we literally watch each freaking blade of grass roll past us, it meant we had a line of cars waiting to pass.

      I would lay across the back of the panel over the engine and hide. Then I would peek over the window to witness another cursing, frustrated motorist riding our back bumper trying to get around this anemic excuse for a vehicle.

      On steep hills on Rt 40, crossing the mountain passes, it seemed that we could have pushed this vehicle faster than it could move itself. The engine would spin and sound like a sewing machine, and the line behind us would grow as we crept up the road.

      See the USA? Are you crazy? I hid from view of the hostile crowd shaking their fist at this barely mobile object. The only time this craptastic piece of junk proved itself worthy of anything was when it was STOPPED and turned into a Bavarian picket table. Because that is really what it was, not a vehicle, but a strand korb that should have never left Dangast Germany.

      I grew up crouching from view in many of his cars and I remember him asking me why I wasn’t watching the beauty of the scenery around us. But this VW was one of the very worse.

  • avatar
    mcarr

    I just met someone who restored a 1978 camper version. It’s beautiful and they had just returned from a 4,000 mile cross country trip out to Colorado and then down to Key West. It sounded great until he told me about the top speed of 60-65 and going up most of Colorado’s passes in 2nd gear, and sometimes 1st. So yeah, I think I like the idea of this, rather than the reality.

    • 0 avatar
      tonyola

      My older brother owned a couple of 1970s VW campers and I got to drive them at times. I can tell you that 65 mph is absolute flat-on-the-floor top speed and not something you’d care to maintain. A more realistic maximum cruising speed is around 50-55 mph. However, the bit about having to downshift to 2nd or even 1st for steep hills is accurate. Also, the high roof and barn-door aerodynamics made for great and scary fun in crosswinds.

  • avatar
    rdsymmes

    Mine was a ’78 Champagne Edition with the world’s best sunroof. Funny, but we were on a long drive yesterday in stiff winds and I was telling my ladies about the fear I used to have driving over bridges when there were sidewinds. I recall more than once holding the wheel at 45 degrees just to stay straight. It had a heater?

    • 0 avatar
      MarkP

      It had what they called a heater. Or at least heater controls. I once went to visit my brother in Pittsburgh, PA, in mid-winter. I rigged a transparent plastic curtain behind the front seats. I had to wear a heavy coat and gloves the whole time, but it was even colder behind the curtain. So maybe there was a slight amount of heat making it that far forward. Or maybe it was just body heat. A friend told me that a gasoline-burning heater was available, and it did a good job heating the interior. On the other hand, his bus burned to the ground one day. I don’t know whether a gasoline heater was involved.

      • 0 avatar
        joeaverage

        I drove a ’78 VW Rivera camper that a friend still owns. It has 80K miles and came from arid New Mexico. It had heat b/c the tinworm hadn’t attacked all the heater components yet.

        Each of the different engine eras for the vans had a different heater system. Same idea, different details. The Beetle I had made great heat – like melt your tennis shoes heat. I went through that heater and made sure everything was tight and worked right. The bus my friend has made so much heat that one evening at about 32F my wife asked me to turn the heat down b/c it was too warm inside the bus which we’ve laughed about for years b/c the story goes that it shouldn’t be able to make that much heat.

        The exhaust on a ’78 leaves the exhaust ports going towards the front of the engine, and then makes a U-turn into the heater boxes. That U-turn pipe is a double walled pipe. As long as the second wall is intact, the exhaust retains plenty of heat as it enters the heater box. A few years of winter salt and that outer pipe wall disappears entirely. Heat is reduced. Add to that a drafty cowl vent flapper and it’s cold in the bus. Add to that a bad engine thermostat, broken thermostat flappers, something not adjusted correctly and you’ve got no heat. There never was alot of flow. Even after the aux heater blower was added for stop and go traffic there wasn’t alot of air flow. Take a bus like mine with the popup top and there are yet more opportunities for cold drafts.

        The early Type IV (’72-’74) heaters were a better design. What the ’75-’79 got was something that made compromises with air pollution regs and fuel injection design challenges that led to high head temps in the summer and if not addressed would have led to more durability problems. It made the heater more complicated and had more potential failure points.

        The aircooled VW heater systems are very easy to work on and very easy to maintain. What we lacked were affordable parts, helpful dealers that were affordable, etc. In comes this fellow that might have money and so the prices were high. I think in some ways this continues today. I can’t get much happiness from the dealers but the aftermarket has affordable parts and these vehicles are much cheaper to care for in other markets b/c in those markets VW is a bread and butter brand.

      • 0 avatar
        joeaverage

        I suspect the VW heaters were good to about 25F. I can vouch for those temps. Then they became more like warmers. My ’65 Beetle that I have now made good heat after I plugged the heater channel rot that it suffered from. These VWs had no galvanized body or chassis parts. Paint and seam sealer is all they had which was fairly typical for the era.

        We took my Beetle to go snow skiing in the Abruzzi Mtns east of Rome several times. We’d come back to the frozen car sitting on a snowy parking lot at 28F. I’d reach in and pop the trunk, pump the gas with my handle twice or three times to reset the carb and prime the engine with a little fuel, pull it into neutral and bump the starter. It started up eagerly everytime. We’d stand at the front of the car shedding our snow gear and by the time we were done and inside the car it was warming up nicely. Much faster than my modern watercooled cars.

        The ride home was toasty except on long coasting downhill rides. Then the engine would cool off and despite having plenty of airflow from the heaters, the temp wasn’t impressive at all. Once I reached the flats at the bottom of the mtn the heaters would rejoin us in less than a couple of minutes.

        I also found that depending on my engine speeds I’d have to fiddle with the heater levers. On the highway I’d close the flappers almost completely. Once I slowed down for city streets I’d need to open the heaters more. If I was coasting along a mtn road it was a trade off between wide open to catch any heat or running the heater flappers mostly closed so that what air I allowed into the cabin was warmer b/c it stayed in the heater boxes longer.

        So we dressed differently back then. Today I travel with our modern cars in winter temps in a light shirt with my jacket or coat laying in the back of the car with heater turned way up. Back then we’d wear a shirt and a sweater and who complained about a little cold on the downhill mtn roads?

        Besides my circle of friends we’d have coffee after skiing and then again along the way – who was in a rush to get home? The fun and adventure was out on the roads.

    • 0 avatar

      I saw a beautiful example of one of these coming the other way on Rt. 9 between Brattleboro and Bennington Vermont on Sunday. It looked to be in great condition.

      Regarding side winds and having to keep the wheel turned 45 degrees to go straight, I’ll never forget driving across the Bay Bridge on my way from Boston to Stanford in my ’62 Falcon, and my shock at having to do that to go straight in the side winds.

      One of my close friends has a Vanagon with a Subaru engine.

      • 0 avatar
        FuzzyPlushroom

        Route 9 in Vermont is /entirely/ between Brattleboro and Bennington. ;-) Must be a bit hair-raising going over Hogback and Woodford in an air-cooled Type 2.

        Still – it’s their natural habitat, after all. Last time I drove across Vermont that way, I did it in a Subaru Outback – the next best thing, culturally speaking, and with power and braking (…and heat) to spare.

  • avatar
    Franz K

    As a kid , growing up in the 60′s 70′s my old man had a VW micro bus from about 67 on . Buying a newer model about every five years or whenever there was a significant improvement . We traveled the length and breadth of the US & Canada , as well as much of Mexico and in all honesty I loved it . Some of my best ‘ road ‘ memories come from VW Micro/Transporters . No seat belts in the back . No video , crap stereo ….. gee what did one do back then ? HTH did we survive ?

    By bringing books , watching and learning about the landscape you were driving thru and actually walking away with a pretty darn good knowledge on what the US was all about .

    So slow ? Oh yes . A bit wonky ? You bet . One of the all time best vehicles with which to travel the Blue Highways of the US etc . Damn tootin !

    Maybe thats why the kids of today have zero appreciation/loyalty for the Country they live in . With their noses stuck in their Smart Phones / Lap Tops / Video Games / iPods they have no clue WTH the US is really all about or why its so important .. never mind how bloody lucky they are to be living here .

    Solution ? Stuff em all in a VW Micro/Transporter and make em go on a few Blue Highway road trips . That’d learn em a thing or two ;-)

    • 0 avatar
      Ryoku75

      The cellphonelaptopgame thing concerns me too, but putting them in an old 70′s Bus would be torture.

      I’ve taken trips in a Caravan with my Grandfather, that helped me appreciate USA. Even if the van had a Japanese motor.

    • 0 avatar

      Cross country trips are some of my best memories of my prepubescent childhood. We went from Palo Alto to Boston when I was 4, Boston to Seattle when I was 7, and Seattle back to Boston when I was 8. I was enthralled by the scenery, even in the midwest, but the mountains were fabulous. We didn’t even have a radio in the car, although on the last trip my brother had a small transistor.

  • avatar
    wstarvingteacher

    Well I know you are all right about it’s limitations. However, without this would there have been a minivan?

  • avatar
    fiasco

    One of my high-school English teachers had at least one transporter of slightly earlier vintage (I think before I had him as a teacher my senioritis year). I seem to recall a blue one and a whitish one with a psychedelic flame job on the nose. Maybe they were the same van.

    I do remember going on a field trip of some sort (I can’t even remember where, and it may have been back as far as elementary school, but I remember it being in Mr. Allen’s VW bus), and getting to ride shotgun. Eerie feeling having the front wheels behind you, and I recall going to adjust the vent window and getting told to stop before it fell out! I think it hit an indicated 60, once, and that was all that thing wrote!

  • avatar
    nikita

    The unwanted engine was probably pulled in order to get the transmission out. The “091 five rib” transaxle in a ’79 is worth hundreds by itself for Baja and dune buggy use. My Thing has a bus tranny. 5.375 final drive is why the top speed is 65mph.

  • avatar
    Sammy B

    Love the Toyota Van next to it! Based on the rear wheel visible in the last pic of the VW, that looks like it might be a 4×4 Toyota Van (thus 86-89 or is that 87-89….not 100%)

  • avatar
    volksman

    People’s comments on VWs always crack me up. If you had a late 70′s Bus that would barely do 60mph, there was something wrong with it. That or you were scared to have the engine revved up a bit. The engines are loud and sound like they are screaming when they’re really not.

    I daily drive a Beetle (36hp) and a Bus with a 1600 dual port and while I’m not the fastest on the roads, I very often am the one weaving through traffic passing others, especially in stop and go traffic.

  • avatar
    afflo

    I’ve always had a weird dream of getting one of these as a toy.

    What’s it like to live with them? How slow is “slow?” How reliable? I know my entire generation has been spoiled by thinking of Honda/Toyota reliability as “normal,” but do these constantly eat parts like GM vehicles? At least it’ll never need a water pump I suppose.

    • 0 avatar
      volksman

      An aircooled VW is as reliable as you want it to be. Just like any old car. They are maintence intensive but so was anything else from the era.

    • 0 avatar
      Ryoku75

      Reliable as in “once you fix it up and pour cash into it it’ll start everyday”.

      Slow as in “Others will think you’re an old man, while really you’re frantically throwing the shifter around trying to get any speed”.

      • 0 avatar
        volksman

        Reliable as in build it right the first time and maintain it and it will be fine.
        The ’64 Bus I sold back in November had only had the engine lid open for checking the oil and belt for about a year and a half. This was inculding a couple of 3-400 mile out of state trips.
        Again, as reliable as you want it to be.

    • 0 avatar
      DC Bruce

      A reasonably acceptable vehicle for doing 50 mph. Not for today’s Interstates, as top speed is under 65 mph. Zero occupant protection in a crash, especially in front. Fairly noisy (engine). Very sensitive to cross winds (short wheelbase; height and not much weight). Not possible to get enough heat from the heat exchangers off the exhaust manifold to heat the entire cabin in any kind of cold temperatures. For speeds under 50 mph, you have essentially 3 gears to help you manage to get 60 (or less) hp to move the vehicle.

      As I said, a “Blue Highways” vehicle, reflecting the prevailing type of roadways available for use when it was designed.

      And not particularly economical, either. The VW engine was durable, simple and reliable in the car. But pushing the van was really beyond its capacity, and durability suffered.

      • 0 avatar
        afflo

        Not trying to be nitpicky, but weren’t speed limits higher prior to 1974 when this was designed,and consistently higher than 55 throughout the Kombi’s native lands?

        Also, while the rose-tinted view of the pre-gas-crisis American highway is everyone driving around in a 500 cubic inch monster that would knock the earth slightly off axis with its torque application, what was the reality of the typical highway car’s ability to accelerate and effortlessly maintain speed compared to today?

        /was not alive in that era.

      • 0 avatar
        volksman

        The top speed of a 78 is not 65mph. I have driven a completely stock late 70′s Bus (IIRC a 78 actually) even still had the fuel injection and it topped out around 90mph. It will do 70 all day long.
        As far as economical, it was economical in it’s day, it’s not so much now. It was also built in a time when engine overhauls were more frequent for every car.
        My 1967 split window Bus, with the reduction box transmission would go 65 all day long. It topped out at 80. I drove it on many out of state trips on the highway at 65-70 with a worn out ol engine even.

    • 0 avatar
      Lokki

      Slow as in 22.5 seconds to 60 mph. Volksman – I’ve taken trips in one and while I might believe 70 mph I can’t imagine anyone being brave or foolish enough to drive one at 80 or 90 even if you could. I suspect some speedometer error and/or drugs. Those things were a barrel-roll waiting to happen when a semi went by (or giving you benefit of substantial doubt) you went by one.

      • 0 avatar
        volksman

        VW listed top speed for these in the mid 70′s as 79mph. I’ve always been able to go a bit faster. I never cruised at 80+ but I tried it to see what it’d do.

        I don’t do drugs, don’t even drink alcohol for that matter. I’ve had many aircooled VWs. 65-70 is a nice cruising speed for a late model Bus. My point was that if it’s all over the road at 50 and/or can barely achieve that speed, you need to do some work.

        Are they slow? Yes, but are they undrivable vehicles? Far from it.

      • 0 avatar
        nikita

        Its all relative. A brand new six cylinder Powerglide Chevy in the 1950s did 0-60 in 28 seconds according to a magazine road test at the time.

        I had a ’72 bus with the dual carb 1700cc engine and it was slow, yes, but still passed early Japanese pickup trucks on grades.

        As far as cross winds, no worse than Dodge vans with V-8 engines that we have owned over the years. Any slab-sided box is a handful in places like the California deserts when it gets windy.

      • 0 avatar
        joeaverage

        Lokki – I drove mine to a meeting 150+ miles away at 80 mph. I couldn’t do the hills at 80 obviously but the flats I could and down hill I let off to keep from over-revving the engine.

        The Beetle powered buses 1971 and older were a little slow. They were geared low to make the most of their small 1.6L engines. The ’72-’74 Were Type IV engines with a bigger bore and stroke and higher gears. The last of the Transporters had a 2L with a higher gear yet. The torque grew modestly while the HP was about the same.

        It’s not going to last as long running that hard in my opinion but they’ll do 80. I prefer to run mine at 65 mph. Pretty good for an old van that was engineered for 55 mph speed limits.

  • avatar
    wstarvingteacher

    Some years back I read some articles by a guy who had put a 17__ toyota engine in one of these. Seems like he had real good luck with amplified power and economy. The name of that beast was the “road cow” and he had painted it with the black spots, white background of a milk cow.

    I think the articles probably still exist because I did a quick hit for vw van/ road cow. I doubt that I’m telling this readership anything they don’t know. However, there is a company named Kennedy Engineered Products that let you put just about anything in an air cooled vw.

    Consider googling it. I found road cow really interesting.

    • 0 avatar
      joeaverage

      All sorts of easy swaps. Well easy defined by what your skills are. I’ve put a Corvair flat-six in mine. Have seen Subarus in them. VW TDI engines. Fiat DOHC engines. Buick V-6. Porsche 911. Toyota I don’t doubt. Etc.

      The problems involved where to put the radiator and living with a gearbox that could benefit from an extra gear. I’ve seen one bus that had a radiator hidden in the base of the nose behind a second cowl vent grille. I have seen nose mounted spare tires that were actually radiators. The factory continues to build these vans in Brazil with a watercooled inline four and they also have a nose mounted radiator that looks pretty good.

  • avatar
    Lorenzo

    If Dodge had put a little more flair and romance into their old 1960s A-100 van, there would still be people restoring them.

  • avatar
    MarkP

    Mine, a 1972, was quite reliable. It’s about as complicated as a brick. If you are at all familiar with old air-cooled VWs, you know everything you need to know about these.

    Slow means really slow. I have no idea what the zero-to-60 time is. In fact, depending on road grade and wind direction and speed, you might never even reach 60. It would be fine for a leisurely jaunt through the countryside on a back road, but it’s definitely not for merging onto an interstate with tightly packed cars moving at 70 mph.

    And, by the way, if you drive one of these much, you will find yourself putting the nose of any other vehicle out into cross traffic at stop signs. You get used to sitting at the very front of the van. If you lean forward, your head is right about even with the front bumper. If you ever see a car coming for a head-on collision, remember to lift your legs.

    • 0 avatar
      joeaverage

      http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zzDWQ_D0ZS4

      http://www.youtube.com/watch?NR=1&feature=endscreen&v=-1B7EDDz-8s

      http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1tXf58t_mII&feature=related

      http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pityxv0DW7M&feature=related

      And finally – watch for the bus…

      http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uKV9PVHw2xA

  • avatar
    I've got a Jaaaaag

    The engine wires are still intact, so from my self-service junkyard experience the engine was pulled by the owner.

  • avatar
    monomille

    I remember being passed by one of these maybe 30 years ago as I was traveling up I-95 along the CT shoreline. A few miles later it and its passengers were scattered all over the median. Sometimes those crosswinds were more than just a challenge.

  • avatar
    Roberto Esponja

    Why are these things considered cool, but current minivans aren’t? I’ll take a modern minivan any day…

  • avatar
    idiotking

    Sigh. I had one of these Back In The Day; a ’73 camper van. Gutless, yes; cold in the wintertime, naturally. But oh so worth the hassles to be able to pop the top and sleep in the hammock on a hot summer evening, listening to the aftermarket radio with cold pilfered beer in the fridge at the end of my parents’ driveway.
    And yes, lift your legs. My fairy tale ended with a granny in a Sentra at 30 mph–the girl I was riding with kept her legs with only about six inches to spare.

  • avatar
    Jimal

    I’m renting a camper version of one of these next week to go to the 12 Hours of Sebring. Sounds like I’ll be glad that the drive from Tampa to Sebring is more or less flat.

  • avatar
    Lemmy-powered

    Am I the only one who thinks the “crypto-Native-American custom striping, also in shades of brown” is actually kind of cool?

    Not as nice as the navajo pattern on old Cherokees, but…

  • avatar
    Ryoku75

    My cousin yanked one of these from the junkyard and threw a new engine in it, it ran and shifted fine but had a huge dent up-top from sitting under an Escort.

    I ended up driving this thing at one point, it was dead-scary with an off-center steering wheel, no low-end power, and it felt top-heavy.

    The good news is my cousin had a spare engine in it.

  • avatar
    Geekcarlover

    My dad bought a camper version in ’68 or ’69 when the Rambler got too small for our growing family. Great memories of riding around the upper mid-west and then Europe when we moved to Sicily for 3 years.
    As an adult I’ve had a few friends buy them. Nostalgia always crashes into reality. Maintenance is constant,, and there is always something on the “I need to check that” list. They are loud, slow, scary on interstates, but when cruising around in one, you can’t help but smile.

    • 0 avatar
      joeaverage

      As much as I love our old Westfalia – I tell non-antique carpeople to stay away. I meet far more folks that figure anything since the 60s ought to be just like owning a modern car. Not so by a long shot! I can keep our’s ready to roll easily but I don’t mind crawling under the adjust brake shoes or a clutch cable. A person that was reliant on a mechanic for all these little maintenance items would likely go broke.

      Was your family in Sicily with the Navy? I did three wonderful years in Naples, Italy when I was in the Navy in the early 90s. Whether a person enjoyed that experience was like the aircooled VWs – it had alot to do with how adaptable and adventurous a person was.

  • avatar
    Athos Nobile

    I spot EFI and a power steering reservoir in that engine.

    • 0 avatar
      volksman

      It was fuel injected but there wasn’t power steering available until the Vanagon came along.

    • 0 avatar
      joeaverage

      The top cap is an oil/air separator. A crankcase breather attaches there. The second drive pulley you might be spying is the alternator. If it had air conditioning you would see the top of the compressor on the left but not the belt. It was hidden almost entirely.

  • avatar
    Sinistermisterman

    Despite how ‘used up’ it appears, it is a shame to see a non rusty example go to the crusher. Back in the UK it’s damn near impossible to get your hands on an unrestored one that the tin worm hasn’t turned into a crusty sieve.

  • avatar
    bill mcgee

    My BIL had one , a 1971 or 72 , a Campmobile in a mustard color and his brother had another one, same year in white. They used to use them to go camping on some land they owned. Remember lots of mechanical maladies and complaints about expensive VW parts and lack of power.The ugly plastic tape stripes on the van shown here brings back bad memories of shopping for a new economy car at various VW and Japanese dealers in the late 70s Jimmy Carter gas shortage era . Every car on the lot would be slathered with these ugly wide tape stripes in somebody’s idea of a contrasting colors. Cheap and awful looking new and generally awful after a couple of years. They would also have debatable rustproofing and every other cheesy extra-cost dealer markup ripoff – you had to special order at least here in Houston to avoid all that crap.

  • avatar
    karlbonde

    I was born in ’74. Dad bought VWs and ran them until the rust reduced them to ashes. We had the same color 1978 bus as above, but without the tacky striping. He finally sold it 1993. This was rare only because we lived in the coldest part of the rust belt: Brainerd, Minnesota (made famous only by the Coen Bros. film, “Fargo”).

    Although a lot of people bitch about the heaters on the air-cooled VWs, our had an “auxiliary” heater either installed by the factory or the dealer. It ran off of the gas tank, and it was POWERFUL. Hell, it even had a timer on it so you could start the heater prior to turning on the ignition: go into the garage, turn the dash nob, then come back after 15 minutes (be mindful of the CO fumes), and you’d have a warm bus! This was a huge luxury compared to our orange ’71 Squareback – it is difficult to scrape the inside of a windshield with an ice scraper.

    Anyways, the combination of the auxiliary heater, the high ground clearance, and the weight of the engine over the rear axle enabled our bus to be surprisingly adept at driving through very deep snow, especially compared to all of the RWD malaise sleds.

    That said, I remember the long throttle cable freezing in-place while driving in temps of -10 F on the freeway. We’d finally reach a stoplight after two hours of driving, and dad would have to get out and run back to the rear engine compartment and pull the throttle loose to stop the engine from hitting what I’m assuming was a rev limiter.

  • avatar
    karlbonde

    I forgot to mention: I still remember that the U.S. version of the 1978 transporter’s air-cooled, 2.0 liter, fuel-injected boxer engine pumped out a huge 67 horsepower. If I remember right, the torque rating was a hell of a lot better ~ 90 lb/ft…

  • avatar
    Moparman426W

    These aren’t really popular with the microbus crowd, most want the earlier models with the cool front end. When I was growing up we took six trips a year from Ohio to my parent’s hometown in Tennessee in our station wagon. I remember seeing many VW vans traveling from far away places loaded to the max with kids and luggage. They would often barely be crawling along, straining on the slightest grades. It had to be torture on the driver and passengers. I wonder how long it took the travelers in these things to get to their destination? Seems like getting there and back would take up alot of their vacation time. I remember one time someone installed a 4 cylinder chevy11 engine into one of these, I wonder how they got airlflow to the radiator? I was very small at the time, so I don’t remember many of the details.

    • 0 avatar
      joeaverage

      I traveled all over Italy with a 40HP Beetle in the 90s. I never felt like the lack of power was a big issue. A big hill would be behind me in a minute or so. A big sedan with alot of power might save me 30 seconds.

      There are benefits to traveling the slow pace of an older vehicle. Handling, braking and ride isn’t nearly as important at 45 mph as it is at 65 mph on a country highway. You can see more, life with the windows down is pleasant (not as noisy), and with all that open glass you can even smell the scenery.

      Sometimes though the interstate is the right way to travel and the old car/van/truck isn’t the right vehicle.

  • avatar
    Cabriolet

    We had a 1974 VW camper that we used for camping. Went all thru Canada and the maritime’s with that van. The kids loved it and it was slow. On level ground we could maintain 65 with no trouble but steep hills we down shifted to 1st gear. Easy van to maintain but you had to keep a check on everything. As far as heat went if everything was tight with no leaks you got good heat. I have a 71 beetle that i use for shopping etc and i get heat in that bug 5 minutes after i start the engine. Of course you have to maintain the system as cables come loose and hose clamps get loose etc. Had a lot of fun with that old van and my kids still tell the grandkids about those days.

  • avatar
    Andy D

    I took my road test in the family’s 65 bus. I had a string of 6 volt bugs and buses for 20 yrs.

  • avatar
    -Nate

    I see the VW haters still exist .

    They’re not overly slow *IF* you bother to maintain them .

    Pops went to Germany in 1954 and bought a Kombi , this being the very cheapest VW Van made , it had rear seats but no inner trim panels , in New England’s freezing winters it wasn’t so cold when stuffed full of 6 kids and two Adults .

    In time , I became an Indie VW Mechanic and drove air cooled VW’s across the U.S. , Canada and Mexico more times than most , as I’m not too lazy to take basic care I was never left afoot , never .

    Hanging a sheet across behind the front seat area really helped the heat issue, I remember one chilly night in Reno , Nev. when a kid was following in his bus that he’d declined my offer of free heater parts & installation we stopped for gas and his wipers froze to the glass .

    My bone stock single port 1600 engine never had any difficulty ascending hills in 3rd. gear .

    If you’re a whiner , any cheap vehicle will be the fault , not you of course . lots of kids in here who miss out on how wonderful a gift life and living in America is by whining non stop instead of learning to deal with whatever the situation is .

    My son still has my old # 211 one ton VW Panel truck , it’s no cherry but runs *perfectly* *easily goes 65 MPH .

    -Nate

    • 0 avatar
      volksman

      Yes, every time something is posted here or on something similar it’s the same BS. I don’t even read comments on aircooled VWs in bring a trailer anymore because they are just so asinine.
      People think these are fragile creatures that only do 50mph.

      Thank you for your post from a regular driver of a ’63 Standard Microbus.

      • 0 avatar
        joeaverage

        Am currently restoring a ’78 Westy. Chassis wise they are a tough vehicle but some have been so badly neglected by multiple owners over the years that they have incomplete engines (cooling pieces and heater pieces missing) or have badly installed “upgrades” that simply contribute to the crapification of the vehicle as detailed in another TTAC article. I have driven some of these old aircooled VWs and some truly can’t exceed 50 mph. One belonged to a friend.

        Told him to follow me (I was in my Beetle) and before we got there his car stalled. When we opened his engine cover the carburetor had literally fallen off the intake manifold. The distributor was installed incorrectly. It had electrical problems. The brakes pulled. My 40 HP Beetle was much faster than his 65HP Beetle in that condition and had zero electrical or braking problems.

        As the saying goes – cheap cars attract cheap owners.

        I’ve owned a half dozen aircooled VWs now and once they were all sorted out they were really good cars though basic – easy to maintain and inexpensive to repair if you will do the work yourself with quality parts – but – stay away from the cheapest shiny parts from places like JC Whitney for example. You’ll be constantly re-repairing those parts b/c the quality is hit or miss or was back when I used JC Whitney on a regular basis. Some of their parts required annual replacements which was obviously false economy.

        Basic cars can be really satisfying if the places a person needs to drive don’t require long distances at high speeds. Personally my commute is less than ten miles each way and the speeds don’t exceed 50 mph so I could commute in a 1930 Ford Model A if I wanted to.

        I took my Beetle and Westy on many 300+ mile trips, a few 1200 mile trips too. Both are well suited to a 60-65 mph speeds but that’s pretty slow on the modern American interstate. ;)

  • avatar
    -Nate

    That’s what ” Blue Roads ” are for ! .

    I commuted in four different Ford ‘A’ Models during the 1980′s & 1990′s in and around Los Angeles after simple up grades of brakes and adding overdrive – they were good reliable cars . -Nate


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