Ironing out those creases…
A great thing about owning a classic Volkswagen is the army of other vehicle owners, who tend to be ‘like minded’ people. Clubs are run up and down the country holding local ‘meets’ throughout the year, opening up the opportunity to show off your ‘dub’ and meet your new found community. Being a newbie to the scene, I haven’t got myself involved in any of this yet although it’s definitely something I look forward to participating in. What I have found so far, are some fantastic Facebook groups. These offer the opportunity to share pictures (invaluable for ideas), see how others are using their vans and to ask those more experienced for their advice. As long as you keep in mind that this is the internet, and therefor you will always encounter your fair share of keyboard warriors, these groups are brilliant. I’m really pleased to have found them. The largest group I’ve joined is the VW T25 Club. There are over 10,000 members and some truly inspirational vans on show. I find myself using Facebook for the sole purpose of VW’s now and have almost forgotten I have other friends! To celebrate our membership I’ve ordered a club sticker from a small business going by the name of Stickerpig.
I have since discovered a young lad in the midst of his GCSE’s is responsible for the whole operation and could not be any more impressed. Not only is the service efficient, but when I ask for a variation on the club sticker, he’s more than happy to oblige with something bespoke. Between us we came up with a design that incorporates Rita’s ‘Westy’ High Top roof as well as a standard looking ‘ride height’. So I get a personalized club sticker for a mere £3 delivered all within a few days of inquiring. It is excellent quality and I think ‘looks the business’.
Following my night out, I set about sorting all the issues my night out has thrown into the equation. A trip to Calorgas in Sherriff Street, Worcester revealed a full gas bottle. So my lack of supper wasn’t caused by a lack of gas after all. Suspecting a faulty regulator to be the next culprit I purchase a shiny new one and attach that. Still no gas.
From what I can see there is a very simple gas supply, I can’t see any kinks in the hose between the regulator and the stop taps. Pipes carry on from these taps up to the hobs so unless there is a blockage I can only assume that I have a problem with a tap. Doing my research into some new taps I come across a picture online showing how the taps should look in the ‘closed’ position. The penny drops. It dawns on me that unbelievably, despite all my infuriating attempts at lighting the hob I hadn’t realized one simple thing. The bottom tap was is the opposite direction to the remaining two! I had tried them horizontal or vertical, but always all three the same way. This meant I had either closed off the gas before it had reached two open taps or I had opened the main tap only to feed two closed taps! My lack of understanding is silly and embarrassing. Proof, if anymore were needed, that I really am a newb! Armed with this knowledge, Rita’s cooker works without an issue.
I’ve owned Rita for six months now and although we haven’t drove all that many miles together yet, I decide she deserves a full service. Before we travel any significant distances I feel she should have a good once over by a trained eye. After looking around, VW Retro Restorations were recommended to me by a fellow member of another more local Facebook group: ‘West Midlands T25 Club’. This group, a personal favourite of mine, has members with a lot of local knowledge so it is particularly helpful to be part of. Steve, the garage owner, drives a VW T25 himself so I feel is ideally suited to know all about Rita’s little eccentricities! Looking around Steve’s workshop, there is an array of air-cooled vehicles: Splittys, Ghias, buggys, bays, bugs and everything in between. I definitely feel as though Rita is being left in safe hands. After giving Rita a good check over he is complimentary about her overall condition. He gives me a list of little things he feels are required, along with photos of any worn or perished part he feels could do with replacement. Pleased with a reasonable quote and a mechanic I feel I can get along with I authorize the work and have Steve carry out the repairs. Along with the mechanical work I give Rita a new set of tyres all round. This is so I know they’ve all got even wear and I know where they’ve been. Rita has got new Shoes!
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Back from the garage and ready to roll, I’ve decided to take Rita to Newquay, Cornwall for a family holiday. We’ll be travelling in excess of 200 miles, which I think can be achieved at a steady speed in roughly 4hrs. We’ll be setting off on Monday, camping for four nights, before heading back home on Friday evening. Knowing the plan will be to remain camped in just one spot for the week I’ve purchased a drive-away awning from JustKampers to give us a little more room. Rita now has quite a lot of camping equipment, a BBQ, and soon the awning, all struggling for space in an already compact van. She needs an extension, the best way to do this is make use of her tow bar and get a little trailer to tow behind us. I purchase one from e-bay for peanuts with only a 20 mile round trip required to collect it.
Once back home I’m pleased with it. On the negative side it’s been used for garden waste, is very dirty and the paint has flaked off in many places, it looks in a bit of a sorry state. On the positive side, this is exactly the reason I got it so cheap. It’s solid, made of steel with only very little surface rust, has leaf-spring suspension, and I think has the potential to clean up really well. On top of that it’s a perfect size, small and lightweight but with room for all the extras Rita doesn’t have space for. I give it a good clean and then wire brush off all of the loose paint.Then I hand paint it with Cream and Black Hammerite. To finish it off I stick a large vinyl VW sticker either side and get a tarpaulin in black as a cover. A quick rebuild of the mechanism along with a thorough greasing of all moving parts ensures smooth function. Hooked to the van, it’s functional and looks great!
We’re ready for our first ‘real’ trip…