Sunday, August 21, 2011

Bringing the Vanagon back to its former glory...

As of my last blog post, I've covered all the cars I've owned. So, as you can see, I'm a car nut, and a do-iy-yourselfer. I'd much rather tackle a repair job myself than pay someone else and trust that they'll get the job done right and not rip me off. With 100-ish miles of driving daily each between my wife and myself, routine repairs and maintenance add up quickly.

The downside of this is that I have little free time for anything other than fixing my cars.

The upside of this is that I have plenty to film and write about for you fine folks.

With so much on my plate, my projects need to be handled in order of priority. Sometimes, one car gets a bit neglected in favor of a needier one. That's just the way it works out.

If you've been following my blog, you know that my second car was the Vanagon. I bought it back in 2003 and it's currently the second place record holder for the car I've owned for the longest amount of time. The first place record holder is still my first car - the 1982 Mercedes 240D, which I had for a hair shy of nine years. The Vanagon will assume the first place slot next Spring. Despite this, it's also the car I've driven the least (only counting among cars I registered and actually drove). Although I do take it camping and use it for hauling on Home Depot runs, it's in pretty amazing shape for its age, and I've tried my best to keep it that way, despite living in New England.

Shortly after buying the van, I joined a VW club. My original motivation was to meet some people who knew about these vans and maybe abosrb some knowledge to help me fix the van myself. I really liked the group. The club is now somewhat defunct. We were all in the same age bracket, and over time, we've all been less active on the car "scene" as we've moved away, gotten married, or miscellaneous. We're all still good friends and in touch, though.

Anyhow, although I didn't learn anything maintenance-wise from the group, we had a lot of fun, and attended a lot of car shows together. Eventually, they convinced me to start entering the van into shows. I didn't think the van was show-quality, but others disagreed. I entered the van into competition for the first time at H2O International in Ocean City, MD, in 2003, and walked away with first place in my category. I kept entering it in shows and I kept winning for two reasons:

  1. Almost nobody brings Vanagons to these shows. I had very little competition in my category.
  2. When I did have some competition, I usually won. The van is just that nice.
Of course, it's been more than a few years now since I showed the van competitively. Other projects got in the way, and New England weather and road salt started to take a toll on it. This past winter, as my Jetta was constantly breaking down, I drove the van a lot, which I hate to do in the winter. It handles poorly in the snow and I hate exposing it to road salt.

I knew the van was dripping oil, but the drip had gotten much worse. On top of that, the van was dirty and grimy in and out, and very small surface rust spots which I'd ignored for years were really starting to bother me. So, as soon as the "new" Subaru was on the road, I got serious about repairing the van, and bringing it back to a condition approximating the way it was when I bought it.

First up, I tackled the oil leak. I replaced a bunch of oil seals, but the problem turned out to be one of the oil pressure sensors, which had developed a large leak. After that, I got to the bodywork. I pulled a dent that had been on the van since before I bought it (back in 2003, I simply Bondo-ed over the dent) and did some touch-up painting. I also removed the surface rust spots and coated those areas in Miracle Paint before applying the final touch-up paint. I also pulled the bumpers and brush guard for repairs and touch-up painting.

When all that was done, I gave the interior a massive cleaning, including all the interior glass, which hadn't had a good cleaning in a couple of years. As of this blog post, I'm not done, but am NEARLY done. I still need to do a final bits of touch-up on the brush guard and need to give the van a good wash and wax.

But, when I'm done, the van will once again be a pleasure to drive, and I hope to take it to a show or two this season yet.

(before - old touch-up paint failing and seam rust showing)

(Bondo ground away and dent PROPERLY pulled)

(completed repair - light gray on left is dust)

(rear emblem chrome had flaked off - repainted it black)

(bumpers off for some much-needed attention)

(video I did of exhaust and oil leak repairs)

(short video I did on Vanagon armrest repair)

1 comment:

  1. hey I tried posting this on your channel earlier, but it didn't show up so I'm not sure if you got it. But I thought you might find this interesting: