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1968 VW bus...What do I do?

Ok, so this is part life advice and part car advice.

I inherited the '68 bus (camper) 2 years ago. It had been sitting in long island, under a tarp, for 9 years. Prior to that it was a CA bus, and was taken care of pretty well. She did come with a name, albeit a little…corny: Moonbear. Whatever.

I finally, last fall, towed it myself to a friend’s parents barn (I won’t even get into what that was like), where it has been sitting ever since.

I am 28 and broke. I am wondering if:

1) I should keep my fingers crossed that I soon WON’T be “broke” and can dump money into this relic.

2) How much could possibly be wrong with it? I know I’m not giving any specifics on its condition. It doesn’t turn over, but I don’t think it would take much.

Minimal rust on the wheel wells and rocker panels. Gears move smoothly. Brakes still work. That’s all I can say.

I love VWs and always wanted one of these.

Car Talk fans, what should I do???

Sorry, meant to post this in general topics…I’m new. I would like to add, a good friend of mine is available to do all necessary work for free. Cost would only be parts.

The first thing you’re going to be faced with is the fuel system. That gas went bad nine years ago. So, unless you have the money to restore the fuel system, You ain’t driving it.


I still think there is a place in the economy for a person to have a hobby like this bus would be for you. You say you love VW’s and always wanted a Bus so feel free to enjoy your hobby without guilt. Read all you can about VW’s and start attending “Bug ins” and soon you will know all about VW’s.

For now keep things together as much as possible, don’t start part of this project and stop, things get lost this way.

Keep it Keep it Keep it!
They will only go up in price.
Start reading up and learning about them, maybe go to vw ralleys.
When you get ready 1st thing you want to do it get it running so you can check on trans and transaxle to see how much repair needs to be done.
It would help to tackle rust before it becomes a problem and it should not cost much.
If and when you get it done you will have 1 cooool ride.

I owned and drove a 1971 VW bus for eight years. It was one of the most reliable vehicles I’ve ever owned, and I remember it fondly. However, progress is a wonderful thing, and a VW bus is not something I’d want to drive in twenty-first century traffic.

If you have a place to store this vehicle, by all means keep it. Just don’t delude yourself into thinking you can pour some gas in the tank one afternoon and start driving it. The fact that it is now indoors is a good thing. Sitting outside under a tarp is not good.

It will cost money to put this bus back on the road. How much is debatable, but it will cost money. The fuel system is most likely ruined, and will need to be completely overhauled.

If you can turn the engine by hand, with a wrench on the crankshaft pulley, you’re in luck. If you can’t the price just went up significantly. I’m amazed that the brakes still work.

Everyone needs a hobby, and this can be yours. You can work on it a little bit now and then, as time and money permit.

Start doing research on air-cooled VWs. I suggest you buy a copy of “How To Keep Your Volkswagen Alive,” by John Muir. It’s one of the best books about air-cooled VWs, ever. It’s packed with practical advice and it’s fun to read.

If you’re really serious a VW factory service manual should be on your bookshelf.

Have fun, and send pictures.

To mcparadise’s excellent advice, I want to add a couple of points.

While the brakes appear to be working at this point, they won’t be working much longer unless you purge the water-diluted brake fluid that is presently in the hydraulic system, flush the system, and fill it with new fluid of the correct specification. Brake fluid is hygroscopic–meaning that it absorbs moisture from the air–and sitting for such an extended period of time (with fluid that could be literally decades old) means that the metal parts in the hydraulic system are slowly but surely being eaten away by rust and corrosion.

The effects of this would be most obvious when you make the first hard stop and wind up with no brakes due to a blown brake line. Do not wait any longer to take care of the brake fluid situation, otherwise you will be adding the replacement of most of the brake system to the overhaul of the fuel system, and if your funds are limited, this would subject you to really high costs, not to mention the damages from the accident that you will cause when your brakes suddenly fail.

My other point is to reinforce mcparadise’s comment about this vehicle not being something that you would want to drive in 21st Century traffic. The VW microbus was noted for acceleration that was almost glacial in nature, and to attempt to merge onto a modern highway in one of these vehicles is not something that any careful 21st Century driver would want to do.

Trust me–the acceleration of these vehicles–when new–was so slow as to create a traffic hazard. After 40 years, I can’t even begin to imagine how slow this vehicle would be. It would make a nice conversation piece, and it will be fun to drive it on local roads, but it is not fit for travel on 21st Century highways. Then, factor in the absence of modern passenger protection from impact (the “crush zone” on this vehicle is the legs of the driver and front passenger), and you have the perfect storm for serious injuries, thus making this vehicle not something to use for highway driving.

Storing it in a barn may create another problem. Critters like to chew on car stuff, especially wiring. Set a few mousetraps under the car and see if you get anything.

Glacial! That’s a perfect description of how a VW bus accelerates, or doesn’t accelerate. If I remember correctly top speed is about 68 mph, and that’s downhill with a tail wind.

While climbing the mountains of West Virginia (in second and third gear) I was passed by loaded logging trucks.

Then there’s the feet-on-the-front-bumper safety factor.

A bus would make a great toy, but I wouldn’t go anywhere near a modern highway with one.

Luckily, I live in brooklyn so I don’t actually “need” a vehicle. I do spend lots of time upstate, where the bus and my parents are, so it really wouldn’t be a travel vehicle.

The engine hasn’t seized up, it can still turn by hand.

I agree with the others, keep it, as long as it’s fine with your friend’s parents. If you can’t afford to spend money fixing it up right now, do spend some time sealing up the exaust and intake to keep critters out, they can make a real mess of things. While VW fans love these, in it’s current condition it’s not going to sell for a lot. Rough running ones seem to bid up to about $2000, clean ones to $5000 on Ebay.

I will make one very big important suggestion.  Find a copy of buy it of John Mires (sp) [i] How to Keep Your VW Alive [/i] 

It will be the most important thing you ever buy for your baby.  Then remember like any baby, it will take a lot of time, money and love.

Proof positive that love is blind.

I owned one of these way back when too. Mine was a '71. The good news is your motor is a standard VW motor. Somewhere around '71 and newer they put a larger more powerful Porshe motor in the micro bus. The small motor means less power, but more readily available parts and easier to restore.

The cylinder “pots” are bolted to the crankcase so if the motor needs rebuilding you can do it rather easily. Aftermarket parts are widely availbable as these motors are used in dune buggies and many are still running. If the carbs are shot due to varnish from old gas, just order a new aftermarket carb and manifold. The original VW carbs weren’t too good anyway and the aftermarket ones perform better.

The motors take freguent maintenance. They have old fashioned ignitions with points, condensors, and timing that needs to be reset with a tune up about every 10K miles. They only have 3 quarts of oil in the pan and no oil filter, so oil changes are frequent - every 2,000 to 3,000 miles. The valves need to be adjusted manually every 5,000 to 10,000 miles too. They are reliable, if you take care of them. The motors ard sturdy and take abuse so many are “tired” and yours likely will need a pretty good overhaul.

At best it will be a very slow car, but it will get you back and forth to town. I drove mine cross country and you do drive it like a truck. Get up plenty of speed going downhill, because you need all the momentum you can get to keep going uphill. This is not a high reving motor, but you have to make it rev to the screeming point going uphill or when you upshift you’ll just have no power at all.

Pop the top to let the canvas breath a bit and air out. And critters will get in and eat the wiring and fabric and take the seat stuffing for nesting. They seem to know when a vehicle is abandoned and eager to set up house in your stored car.

The battery is probably long since gone. The battery is in the back and stuffed into the side behind a rear tire well. Very hard to service and access, so put a good no maintenance battery in there. Any battery that you have to add water to will be neglected. Batteries in these old buses never lasted long because the owner’s could not contort themselves into position to check them, pull the caps and get any distilled water in the holes. They either went dry, or got overfilled, and died an early death.

I’m a huge air cooled VW fan and have owned a number of them; both cars and of the bus variety.
They’re simple to work on, parts are cheap, and a camper bus is somewhat desireable and worth something.

However, that bus looks like it may have some rust issues based on the pics.
If that rust is superficial, fine. If an inspection underneath shows the rust is eating through the floor pans and the suspension/transaxle mounts, etc. are eaten up then you should rethink this one.

Mechanical problems are a work-around; severe rust is another thing altogether.

The author of How To Keep Your VW Alive was the late John Muir. I found this book to be invaluable for keeping my '73 Karmann Ghia running well.

I have been thinking about starting a project where I will take an old van or truck and turn it into a home-made RV. My grandmother did something like this with a Chevy cargo van and traveled all over the country with her sister after they both became widows. This VW Bus will be a good start for your project. Keep it.

You want to get a “dual port” engine in that bus. You also need the latest fan shroud oil cooler set-up and a alternator would be nice. Find a actual VW mechanic as domestic guys have trouble with the VW way.

I admire your optimism.
I also read your statement “I’m 28 and broke”.

Having read your description(s) and seen the pictures, I have to ask…have you considered offering this on EBay and looking for a better one when you find yourself more financially secure? Left unworked on the van will continue on a downward slide and by the time you ind yourself able to support this type of project it may no longer be restorable.

I’m trying not to sound like a pessimist, but we’re headed for a long stretch of economic difficulties and I’m not sure holding on to it is prudent. It may be a long time before you can begin to put money into this. And you will need to.


I have a copy. So far, obviously, i haven’t put it to use…