So where do I start?
Well the first thing to think about is the condition of the van – Look for rust!
Unfortunately some vans go unloved throughout the long lonely winters and can be left standing in drive ways and garages. Even in the best of times a summer outing will leave a beautiful van in a soggy field. Not exactly the best conditions.
If buying a Bay van you need to have a good look around, this is a huge vehicle and can be tricky to clean properly so you should pay particular attention to the underside. Thoroughly check the condition of the front beam, check the cab area under any carpets or rubber mats and the door step, door bottoms and front wheel arches for rust.
Make sure you check the inside and outside of the windscreen corners – vans are prone to rust around the windows. Stand back and look along the long flat sides. If you can see large ripples they are a sure sign of some kind of repair or previous accident damage.
The rear wheel arches will often have undergone some kind of repair. Like the split vans, the rear corners are often rusty, so have a good look inside the engine bay and underneath the vehicle to check. If the van isn’t a Kombi (i.e. it didn’t have side windows cut from the factory) and has windows fitted, check around the edges for rust. Companies like Danbury started with panel vans as the basis of their camper conversions, so be vigilant!
It seems to be the case with most VW vans that overtime problems can develop with the steering.
Check for excessive play at the wheel and underneath to see if the steering swivel pin mounted on the beam has any play. New pins and bushes are available but can be tough to fit.
Brakes are often pretty good and inexpensive to repair. Look for scored discs on late models and vans that pull to one side. Servo brakes were built-in to some vans; check the servo for leaks as replacements will be pricey. Gearboxes are rarely problematic, even the automatic range. Just check the CV joints for clonks and damage.
Engines in most vans will have had a tough life. Lots of miles pushing a heavy van takes its toll so look for oil leaks, smoke and excessive crankshaft movement. 1600cc motors are essentially the same as Beetle units and are cheap and easy to repair. Other variations include the 1700cc, 1800cc and 2000cc type 4 motors. These are more powerful but also more expensive to run. Look for worn carburetors, oil leaks around the pushrods and check for oil pressure. Heater boxes and exhausts can be expensive to replace on the type 4. Listen for leaks.
Differences between Split Screen and Bay Window Vans
From 1967 the Bay Window campers had a few important improvements!
• Larger and higher bay window
• 12 volt electrics
• Superior suspension and handling
• From 1972 the type 4 1700-2000cc engines offer more power
• Some models had servo brakes
If you’ve got your heart set on a pre-’67 just bear in mind a few things.
It’s a 40+ year old vehicle so be prepared to deal with…
• 6 volt electrics
• Less powerful 1200-1500cc engines
• Smaller and lower split windscreen
Don’t panic! There really is no reason why you can’t have a wonderful and trouble free experience with a VW campervan. If a van has been maintained and restored by someone with the right know-how and tools, you can start your journey with the classic style and retro cool that only a VW camper can offer.
Just make sure that before you hand over your hard earned cash you check all the basics and make an informed purchase to avoid upset in the future. Hopefully this guide steered you in the right direction towards happy and breakdown free motoring.