More fun with f***ing window rubber on the Westy

July 11, 2007 at 12:50 am (VW bus/Westfalia restoration)

With most of the big jobs out of the way — including new exhaust — it’s the little things that are taking unexpectedly big amounts of time. For example, exhaust replacements usually suck, simply because the heat and roadcrap usually make removing the bolts an almost impossible task. In this case, disposing of the dented-in muffler and replacing it with a new on took all of 30 minutes.

I replaced most of the black rubber during the painting process — as described before. After I learned the trick — something of an upward curve there — it was no problem for me and the wife to replace most of the black rubber seals.

Did the side camper windows this past weekend … Given that these things screw in, should have been a no-brainer. Oh, hell no. Getting the windows out: easy. Getting all the little bits of internal rubber and flaps over the individual window sections involves removing the frames, digging out some epoxy weld material and hammering the frame free in at least two places.

Finally got the new rubber installed — make sure to bend the inside parts of the frame back over the interior screw — otherwise frames won’t pivot back into the camper right because there is not enough clearance between the top and bottom of the aluminum inside lip.

But here’s the real kicker, the new rubber seals are just a tad to big for the frames, especially with a new layer of paint, etc. After failing to succeed with brute force, finally tried alternating between gently coaxing the windows into the van and pounding on the edges with palm of hand. It works, but you have to make sure seal does not roll off the window or tuck under. Have something flat, but not sharp, like butter knife, to help feed the seal into the frame and uncurl any sections that try to go that route.

All told, expect to spend a couple of hours per camper window removing it, replacing all the rubber parts, and getting it back in. This is also a good opportunity to make sure screens are in good shape and to lubricate the crank and all other moving parts that help lever the windows open.

Also a word of warning: Aluminum window frames are brittle and will crack if abused. It takes very little force to bend or break the frames, so handle with care.

Next up will be replacing all the door rubber. Most of the rubber replacements came from the Bus Depot (again). I put this off until the painting was done with so no overspray or splatters on the new rubber.

Should have more pics after all that is done. One question for the Bus enthusiasts out there: Does anybody have any idea what cable is used to replace the defrost control cable? Can’t seem to find it listed by any parts dealers online. Any help would be appreciated.


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73 Westfalia photos

May 21, 2007 at 1:47 am (boardsports, VW bus/Westfalia restoration)

Spent part of this weekend on kids birthday party — skater party with everyone hanging out on the halfpipe.

Still doing a few things here and there on the bus. Mostly little trim work. Wife’s new curtains look great and she has bought the new upholstery fabric for the back seats. Also hunting down solid flooring for the back … Still debating linoleum over wood or carpet over wood or some sort of hardwood laminate. Details, details.

As promised here are some pics.

73 VW Westfalia side

73 VW Westfalia

Notice the Freebord. Got the Slasher wheel set in this week. A welcome replacement for the stock wheels. Kill the stock wheels learning. Then buy slashers. It took a couple of hours riding and tweaking the setup for the board to feel right again. The new wheels are amazing. I thought by 70 Flashbacks on my Sector 9 were good, but for sliding, nothing beats the slashers. Make sure you also get the upgraded centers — then throw out the stock bearings and replace them with something better — Bones Reds at the least. Props to the folks at Freebord for putting out these wheels. If there is anything better for combining slide with grip, I have not seen it. Well worth the added expense.

Also, on the old school Ashes to Ashes deck, I picked up a set of Zflex Smooth wheels. These things feel like butter for park and ramp riding. Love em. Again, not cheap, but well worth the price. Thanks to Brian Kelly and the folks at Ride Skate Shop and Veterans Park in Alabaster for keeping me supplied locally with stuff for my boards. Check out the park if you get the chance. They have a fantastic bowl and the park has some great runs for Freebording/Longboarding.

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VW Westfalia mostly pimped

April 14, 2007 at 8:46 pm (VW bus/Westfalia restoration)

Left my digital camera at the office, so images will have to wait until next week, but I have most of the 73 Bus put together.

This has been a family project — again, this is not a show camper, just something that we want to look moderately cool for camping and taking to skating events, etc.

Since the weather has warmed up, and between severe weather — three events in two weeks so far, we have managed to sand, paint, bondo and repaint the van. Luckily, there was only a few spots of rust, limited to under the battery tray and a weird dime-size hole in the floorboard of the front passenger seat. Nothing that required cutting and welding and nothing other than some light surface spots under the window rubber. The undercarriage looks almost new. This van has not seen northern road salt or the beach. Best guess is it was driven around central Georgia and the mountains.

I was pretty particular about having a solid core vehicle — both mechanically and body-wise. I don’t have time to do any cutting and welding. I recommend anyone looking for an old VW read Richard Atwell’s pages about what to look for — gear noise, problem rust areas (like under the windshield) and the like before buying. Something really rare (this is especially true in places like the coast or north where salt and the elements take their toll) like an old 23-window delux might be worth more trouble than, say, an 83 Vanagon transporter. Since I was looking for a bay window and live in the mountains, plus have little free time — the core of the vehicle had to be in pretty good shape.

Thanks to Samba (and a friend of mine who is a fellow VW freak — kudos Rob) I was able to find an ugly but solid 73 Westy used by a mechanic as his daily driver in Atlanta. The engine was upgraded to the 79, with the FI removed (not the best for performance, but in my small-Southern-town world, we have no mechanic willing to deal with the old fuel injection system) and replaced with dual Solex 40’s, properly balanced and jetted.  It needed a few dings filled, a small kink in the bottom of the nose (not even really a dent), new fabric, a new passenger seat (the one in there was bolted in from an old Chevy conversion van), solid cleaning, new cot and pop-top canvas, curtains, window seals, interior door panels, glove box, shocks, and the stereo moved from hanging under the dash to the radio hole — plus lots of other stuff.

The trend here, is that just about everything I needed to do was a bolt-on project or weekend job — which ended up taking more than a year thanks to eight months with my left handed left arm in a cast after I shattered my wrist dropping in at a skate park (wear those damn wrist guards kids. Tried to buy them that day, but did not have them in my size… damn).

What the bus did have is the back half of the camper interior, table and rear-facing seat. We have the sink and other stuff in now. The lack of bolt on stuff and other missing widgets were easily replaced thanks to online stores like Go Westy, Bus Boys, Wolfsburg West, Bus Depot … links to which can be found on Atwell’s page. Plus the fact that, on Alabama 78 near Oxford, Alabama, a few miles up the road, Bruce Key has acres and acres of scrap VWs. Buses, campers, splittys, bugs, things — you name it.  And he has no problem with people climbing through all that stuff with tools, pulling what they want, then trying to charge them too much (haggle, he likes it. Also, he is a total VW enthusiast, so if you get him talking, show off your ride, complement his, prices are more neogtiable). He also has a top-notch mechanic on site who can either fix it or tell you how. I have used him now for parts on several air-cooled jobs, and highly recommend his lot. Also, it’s just cool to check out everything out there — some of which could be salvaged if you have enough time and money.

He also has a load of old VW’s in running condition for sale — including a hard-top camper now. Where  his parts prices may be a little high, his vehicle prices tend to be on the cheaper side. So if you are looking, take a drive over there.

So, now we have a complete running Westfalia, new paint (actually the undercoating for what will eventually be a wrap-around mural done by the artist wife, probably something surfer is in a deco, Japanese wood-block print style) complete camper set up and rock-solid engine.

And we did everything ourselves. Again, props to the artist wife, who can also apparently work with bondo like it’s clay. I will have more details when I get the pictures up in the next week.

Front license tag reads: All your Bus are belong to us.

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Stupid politicians

April 6, 2007 at 12:00 am (Dumb criminals)

OK, generally we cover stupid criminals, but in this case, there is a very real feeling that our state legislators, who just voted their jackass selves a massive pay raise, have decided to do nothing. A small group of Democrats and Republican allies are throwing a tantrum in the state Senate, since they lost a powergrab attempt during the organizational sessions earlier this year. So far, the result, our newly wage increased Senate is accomplishing nothing. It’s all part of the Alabama pay more, get less form of government.

This led to the following quote — one for the books:    ‘‘I wish the psychiatric department of UAB were here because I think we’d provide an excellent training forum for them.’’ — Sen. Parker Griffith, D-Huntsville.


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Retards, plus plea for VW Westfalia answer

April 4, 2007 at 11:55 pm (Dumb criminals, VW bus/Westfalia restoration)

Designed a shirt at the Art Life Collective shop awhile back that says Save the Planet, Kill Yourself. I am sending it to these two guys. Actually, I noted before, there are as many stupid victims as there are criminals. These two fall into a growing category filed under “thinking with penis, not brain” victims.

Victim No. 1

An incident and offense report this week listed a local guy as the victim of theft. He admitted a strange woman into his house to use the shower …. then decided, while she was in the shower, to go grocery shopping. When he got home, the strange lady was gone, as was a metal box containing his personal papers and what he described as lots of “old money.” Our guess is he was sitting on a pile of Confederate bills. We are also betting he is short all or most of his frontal lobes.

Victim No. 2

Actually, this is a repeat offender. One of our reporters noticed the same man’s name on I and O reports and the local Sheriff’s Department over and over again, week after week, as the victim of petty theft. The reporter asked the public information officer what the story was. He said, “The guy keeps letting crack whores stay at his house. We told him, if you don’t want to get ripped off, don’t let crack whores stay at your house.” Duh. Though apparently no amount of negative reinforcers are going to stem the fool’s crack-whore habit.

That’s all for today.

Actually, I have done a ton of work on the VW, it is almost pimped. As soon as work becomes something less of an albatross (bleeding sea-bird flavor) I will get that up to date. Just a question to throw out there, while I’m thinking about it. The old Westfalia — mechanic’s vehicle — replaced the engine with a 79, ripping out the old VW fuel injection system. The dual Solex 40 carbs run well, but the entire thing is fed by an old Facet 12 volt fuel pump that is leaking, and covered with crud — encrusted actually.  I have no way of telling the model. After checking the Web, I have gotten seriously conflicting numbers on what the fuel pressure coming off the fuel pump should be to adequately feed without flooding two Solex 40 carbs. Anyone have any ideas, please let me know. Kudos. All your bus are belong to us

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Thinking ahead important when planning a drive-by

March 26, 2007 at 10:47 pm (Dumb criminals)

Been out of the office breathing new life into the old Westy, but more on that later.

Nothing warms the heart more than returning to work to find a pile of interesting things local criminals have been up to — really stupid, but interesting.

First off, when you are going to do a drive-by shooting, and the apartment complex you are going to shoot up only has one entrance to the parking lot, it’s a good idea to do the shooting on the way out. Some local men, three of them, found out that, if you do the shooting on the way in, by the time you get to the end of the lot, turn around, and head back out, the guy whose apartment you just blew full of holes has had time to get his 12-gage shotgun.

One of the shooters got buckshot in the ass, another in the hand. Police have not got their hands on the third guy yet. To pour a little salt in the wound, one of the shooters may also be charged with possession, since he got caught with a pack of smokes with crack rocks (just like Pop Rocks, but different) in it.

What’s better, when we reported where the suspects lived — not hard to find since they had to give the ambulance the address — he complained vigorously that we were making his neighborhood look bad. His troubles alllllllll stem from the evil media, not the house full of gang-bangers living across the street.

Some more advice, from dipshit criminal case of the week No. 2: If you are running from the police on a motorcycle, leading most of the city law enforcement on a high-speed chase at two in the morning, and decide to discard your fanny pack because it has in it, say, drugs packaged for sale, scales, drugs not packaged for sale, an illegal gun, and a list of your clients’ names and numbers, it’s probably not the best idea to leave your cell phone, registered to you, in the bag. It’s also dumb to dump the stuff in the neighborhood where your parents, one of them a municipal employee, live and where everyone will recognize you … Not that it mattered a whole lot in this case, because 1. the cops already got the tag of the bike and, 2. The neighborhood only has three ways in and out, which really makes it easy for the police to limit your exit options.

What’s better? The slob ran from the police when they tried to stop him for running a stop light — a simple ticket. Though, and this should be just simple common sense — if you have a load of drugs and other illegal stuff on you, don’t do stupid shit like run stop signs or speed. There is no end to the number of people around here who get busted for possession or illegal firearms or other felony-level activities because they failed to yield the right-of-way. duh.

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Not all VW busses are slow

March 14, 2007 at 11:33 pm (VW bus/Westfalia restoration)

The nice thing about a VW bus, if you want to hot-rod it, there is plenty of room for a big engine.

Definately not a stock powertrain in this splity.

See Video  of  Bus beating AMG

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Some strange laws still on the books here

March 13, 2007 at 12:29 am (Dumb criminals)

Just a short post here on spending the night with your woman, then spending the night in jail.

It’s only a minor crime, but adultry is still on the books.  Saw an incident and offense report, filed under domestic violence today. Usually not a funny subject, but…

Apparantly a wife came home and found her husband and someone going at it in the kitchen. She filed a criminal complaint against her husband. Adultry is still actually a crime here and considered a form of domestic abuse. I actually saw a copy of the police report — complete with names, since they are, after all, public record.

Who would have thought.

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New Westfalia rubber

March 11, 2007 at 11:56 pm (VW bus/Westfalia restoration)

Much-broken arm finally healing up enough to get back to doing some serious work on the 1973 VW Westfalia. Now, understand, this is my sixth VW – four Westys (three plus a transporter that became a hard-top camper) and two beetles, not to mention a couple of transporters and several bugs I rehabed for a car dealership I managed way back before my journalist days.

First off is body work, mostly stopping surface rust and putting in new window rubber. Did the windshield before I hosed my arm. Learned something there. I had to replace the glass, since it was cracked. I ended up with a new piece ordered from a local supply shop … Looking back, if you can, get your replacement from a junk yard or some other salvage, do it. The new stuff barely fit. This has not been a problem in the past, so best guess is the new stuff is not quite up to spec.

Now, all of my frames are in relatively good shape.Still, something I highly recommend doing. If there is any question about the integrity of your paint that will be under the seal, sand it and put a coat of protectant, rust preventative paint on it. In fact, if you are dealing with any body areas where this is an issue, some rust blocking primer and paint are never going to hurt. Now, lets get this straight, I am not factory restoring this bay window. If I was doing a show car, it would be down to the metal and starting from scratch.

What I am looking for is a daily driver that I can take camping and that, to some degree, pisses off the right people in this small Southern town. Soooo. The paint job will not look factory and I am not too worried about particulars here. Still, when repainting where window seals will go, I have had great luck with Rustoleum paints designed for farm equipment.

They are usually in an ugly orange, but I will be painting over any overspray, so it does not matter. Most importantly, though, they are designed to protect tractors and such from all sorts of chemicals, oxidants, etc., and do a great job on old VWs. Again, I am only using this where it won’t be seen — window seals, under rubber bushings where the luggage rack attaches and the like.

I have never had rust using this paint. Though it is oil based and I apply a lot of light coats to keep the surface smooth for a good seal, so expect long drying time — maybe a day if you have the vehicle covered or the weather holds for more than 24 hours, always questionable here.

Taking out the window was a breeze. I have seen a few sites that tell you how to do this and preserve the seal. Only my opinion here, but it’s not worth the risk. It’s a good way to break your glass (hundreds of dollars possibly, especially for a window with, say, a defogger) and is a huge pain in the ass. The seals only cost 20-5o dollars, and you might as well put a new one in while you have the window out anyway.

I used a utility knife to slice off the outer edge, pull out the glass and chuck the old seal. Then painting, and clean the entire surface with alcohol — a great cleaner that won’t hurt your existing paint. It also acts as a drying agent for any water lurking in cracks and such.

Now, putting the window back is is always a two-person job. Again, there are Web postings on how to do this one man, but the Cal-look seals I use are always a tight fit and I would wrather hammer nails with my forehead than try this one alone (speaking from experience here).

There are tools out there to get the seal in place over the rim in the frame, but they are expensive and, quite frankly, don’t work as well as the rope trick.

Another aside: Most car places sell universal black putty strips for putting in windows. I used this once at the dealership out of necessity on a VW Bus that, well, was so hosed it did not really matter. The stuff does work, but it looks ugly and, worse, people tend to play with it. I actually saw an old GM station wagon where the kids had been pulling the stuff out from around the back windows and playing with it like clay. If you need an emergency repair, use it, but go to one of the online stores, like Go Westy or Bus Boys, and get some real rubber seals.

Quick tip: I have tried everything from large cotton twine to heavy speaker wire for this next part and found that synthetic yellow rope of medium size works best.

First, clean the window and the edges, then lubricate the glass groove on the seal with dish detergent and a little water. Then spend the next 20 minutes cussing and putting the seal on the glass. I find it easier to do one long straight edge first, then go around the corners. Again, you can do this one person, but I have never gotten one of these things on without two people, with the extra person holding the seal that is already on the glass in place while the other works. (NOTE: The wife is actually far better at doing this than me. I absolutely lack the patience for it. It’s one of her many rare talents. Props to the wife.)

Now, making sure all your painted surfaces (and any small filled spots — if you have large rust holes, you really need to replace the metal, cut and weld, etc.) are smooth and dry, it’s time for the rope trick.

Again, a little soapy water in the seal groove that will fit the rim on the window frame is a good idea. Start at the top, or bottom, depending on which window you are doing and how easy it will be to get to the rope inside

Put the rope in the groove all the way around and overlap the two ends just a bit. Make sure you have enough rope on both ends to get a good, firm grasp of. The person outside the Bus (or Bug or Squareback, whatever) needs to get the window in place and push to get the seal lined up right. Once the iner seal is next to the windo lip, it’s time to start pulling the rope. Have a small, flat-head screwdriver close by on the inside just in case it is necessary to get the seal lip over the rim if the rope misses a spot (happened once on the back hatch window.) Start pulling. The person outside is responsible for making sure things line up properly and pusing and holding the glass in place. Person inside is responsible for brute force of pulling the rope out and watching for problems.

As the rope comes out, it should — in a best of possible worlds — seat the window perfectly, though expect, on occassion, to have to do this more than once, especially with after-market glass that does not alway fit perfectly. Person on the outside needs to watch to make sure the seal is not tucking under anywhere. You can actually see the window sort of “sucking” into place — cool.
This weekend’s work was easy — for friggin once — and everything went well. Got the windows on the first try. Now on to the battery tray and a couple of small rust spots, then we are going to paint a Japanese, wood block style mural all the way around the van.

One last word on choosing the rope. Too big, and it won’t fit the groove or make the seal work right. Too small, and this really sucks because it means buying more rubber, and it will cut into the rubber and generally mess things up.

Hope this helps.

Also, took off the luggage rack, sanded the roof, and put a heavy coating of Rustoleum in all the hidden parts. That’s an area which will trap things like sticks and leaves which hold water for long times against the body, so some extra protection here is always a good idea. It also does not get sun, being under the fiberglass, so won’t dry out as fast. Same treatment for the rain gutters. People can’t see into them and they can be real problems to rebuild if they rust out — a common problem in the Southeast.

I do envy those folks in the Southwest when it comes to the rust thing. Check out Samba’s classifieds (great place to do business — got a heater blower there super cheap) and you will find a small handful of rust-free busses in the South and tons out West.

Also, go with the Boge oil shocks that are as close to the original as possible if you are keeping your Bus stock. I have used several different systems and the oil-filled shocks work the best. Put these on six months ago and they are great — no small feat since the folks who fix our roads around here do it by feel.  A Bus should ride like a Bus. People who want super handling need to get something like a GTI.

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Looking for input from artists, custom t-shirt designers at At Life Collective

March 4, 2007 at 2:33 am (Artwork, t-shirt design)

We are planning some significant changes to the look and feel of the Art Life Collective Web site, with the goal of enhancing the experience of our artists and customers. Because you are the heart and soul of our community, we would like to know your thoughts on some of our proposed updates as well as other ideas you may have that we have not yet considered. Your voices are important to us, and we hope that you will take a few minutes to share your thoughts with us by completing a brief (10 question) survey by following this link. All responses are anonymous, so please feel free to share both your positive and negative thoughts. We appreciate your time, and look forward to incorporating your ideas into the next steps as we move Art Life Collective forward. If you have additional questions or ideas that are not incorporated into the survey, please feel free to email us directly or to post your thoughts on the bulletin board at
Anyone with suggestions, I would appreciate them.

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