Members Motor – Helen Brown – Delilah

For this edition of Member’s Motor, we look at
Helen’s Bay, called “Delilah”. This is what she
had to say about it.
Why would any sane person want to buy, let
alone suffer the ongoing trauma of owning a VW
T2 camper van? Firstly, as well as the initial hit of
buying the thing, they cost a ridiculous amount
of money to keep on the road. They simply do
not go uphill unless they are in 2nd gear and
labouring at 10mph. They break down in the
most embarrassing and inconvenient of places
and no matter how many gaskets and cables and
bits and bobs you carry on board – you never
seem to have the part you need to get them
going again.

Then there is the small matter of hypothermia,
induced as you’re trailing along the road at
22mph. There are indeed two sliding things on
the dash for hot air – a red thing and a green thing

but what do they do? By the time the warm air
gets from the back to the front to warm you up,
it’s gone stone cold anyway and you end up
chugging down the road in a vintage refrigerator
wearing a full ski suit and matching bobble hat.
The exception is when it’s a baking hot day. On
baking hot days, your air-cooled engine serves
as a stifling sauna and even reaching for the air
conditioning that exists in the form of a window
winder, you definitely still get a good sweat
on. Not only that, but on hot days, you have to
pause your journey, not for a coffee or even a
toilet break, but to let your engine cool down!
Generally, this happens about ten miles from
your home! Perhaps these monsters were indeed
designed for travel on the back of a low loader!
The answer is that T2 owners tend to think
‘outside the box’. Perhaps we are slightly insane,
but T2s’ tend to be driven by ‘freedom seeking’
folk with such a sense of adventure and love of
more simplistic times gone by, that even the
hours spent on the side of the motorway waiting
for the low loader to arrive are an experience to
be cherished.

It’s like owning a grown-up’s Mechano set.
Everything on your beloved T2 can be taken apart
with a spanner (or some tool or other) and easily
bolted back together again. Rusty panels can be
cut out, replaced and lovingly repainted to match
the original colour. Everything can be restored
to original. Who would even want to travel at
70mph and be nice and warm, when you can
pootle and be freezing and wave to folk at a top
speed of 45mph? And as an added bonus, when
you do stop, your gorgeous T2 leaves behind it
a gloriously, glossy puddle of oil. Nothing could
be better!


I’ve had the best adventures in Delilah. Delilah is my pride and joy.
I can’t even look at her without grinning maniacally. She is a 1973
Westfalia Continental. Everyone has a story about how they ended
up owning a T2. I ended up single at the tender age of 50 and rather
than trawl through dating websites looking for a new fancy man, I
decided to push the boat out, fulfil my pipe dream and get myself
a VW camper instead. Delilah was being stored in a garage and
although sad and rusty, she was in ok shape for her age and was
fitted out with most of what turned out to be a Westfalia Continental
interior. The interior did have denim and Barbie pink fluffy fabric
glued all over it and it did smell of mould but nothing that couldn’t
be sorted out.
The basic restoration to get her back on the road took around ten
months. I wanted to keep her as original as possible but also needed
her to be reasonably practical and reliable. With that in mind, I had a
new air-cooled engine fitted with the larger twin Weber carbs, jetted
correctly. It gives just that little bit more oomph going uphill and
on motorways I can pootle at around 55-60mph. Everything else
mechanical wise was cleaned up, checked and put back. A must
have, is an oil temperature gauge. It is definitely worth having one.
The needle only ever moves on hot days, but it gives peace of mind!
The bodywork was stripped back, rusty panels replaced and a full
respray and triple Waxoyl underneath had her looking ship shape.
The next step was to get the interior restored and put back. I love
the look of the 1970’s original interiors. Westfalia literally thought of
everything. To have a full-sized double bed, a wardrobe, sofa, cooker,
sink, kitchen cupboard, overhead locker, storage cupboards, a “not
quite a fridge” and an upstairs bedroom with a double bed in such a
tiny space is a remarkable piece of interior design

The interior all got scraped, cleaned up and put back in. New
cheerful orange canvas completed the pop top. Sadly, the original
mustard upholstery did not survive restoration.
My travel companion is a crazy collie called Dobbie. He likes sitting on
the furniture with muddy paws. Therefore, I took the furniture to be
covered in dog proof pale grey vinyl and I did give strict instructions
to keep the mustard fabric on underneath. The poor lady doing the
stitching job couldn’t cope with the rancid smell of the mould and
removed the mustard fabric….and burned it! I had to agree with
her that it did smell awful! Over the course of the following year, I
acquired a door for the wardrobe, a primitive hand pump, water
tap contraption for the sink and even a table to sit and work at
and eat my beans on toast off. (Martin Dorey would be horrified at
my campervan cookery.) Original Westfalia Continental items are
difficult to find, so I was really chuffed to have been able to source
some of the pieces I was missing via the T2 forum on Facebook.
Finally, just to get it completed, I actually bought a complete interior
and sold on the pieces that I didn’t need.


In 1973 people must have been hardier or perhaps we had warmer
weather back then. I could not cope with the cold journeys. It was
no fun rolling out of the van in a frozen lump at the end of a long
drive. So, after looking at the various options including the diesel
heaters, I finally went for what I felt was the safe option and got a
Propex heater installed in the cupboard under the buddy seat with
a digital thermostat fitted to the back of the wardrobe unit above
the driver seat. It is a real game changer. Pricey to buy, but it doesn’t
seem to be desperately greedy with the Camping Gaz and having
heat when driving and when camping without electric hook up has
made it worth every penny. Even on the coldest of days, the van
is beautifully toasty in a matter of minutes and it keeps everything
onboard dry.
Whilst on the subject of comfort, I like my comforts. I can live without
hot running water in the van but there were a couple of creature
comfort things that I needed to sort out. Sleeping on a bed with
gaping cracks in the mattress where the cushions fit together isn’t
great. Nor is waking up tied up in an impossibly twisted sleeping
bag. The back of my van stores a memory foam mattress topper,
decent pillows and a goose down duvet. I slumber in comfort, all
nicely tucked up between the dog and the spare wheel!

I learned the hard way not to sit up and crack my
head on the overhead locker. I keep my bottle
of gin in the wine rack under the driver seat.
And as for a toilet, I decided that being on my
own, I needed a toilet on board. I very accurately
measured the space between the two front seats
and after some diligent research found that the
smallest chemical toilet that Thetford makes, fits
perfectly. It was the final thing I wanted. Imagine
my joy at finally having onboard toilet facilities
and my despair when I realised that although the
toilet fitted in the space between the two seats,
my backside would not!
Naïve, I was at the beginning. I thought after this
wonderful restoration and new engine, there
would be no further problems and I’d just sail off
into the sunset. This was far from the truth. Delilah
had lots of little problems. One of the rocker
cover gaskets was loose, resulting in oil dripping
onto the exhaust and rancid smoke belching
everywhere. Being a newbie, I thought I was on
fire! Thankfully not! I eventually limped home and
replaced the spring cover with a bolt on one and
by tightening everything up every few journeys,
the oil leaks are a thing of the past. Then she was
pulling to the left. Every little problem takes a bit
of investigating and trial and error to sort out, but
it turned out that the pulling problem was the
brake callipers binding. New brake callipers were
fitted to keep her on the straight and narrow and
new Spax shock absorbers made the ride more
comfortable. Her battery died and no sooner
than I replaced it, her starter motor gave up.
Fortunately, some kind soul pushed me and her
down a hill to bump start and we managed to
get home.
To be honest, I lost confidence in her. I could
never figure out what was wrong with her and
I did consider selling her. Then I realised that my
VW coping mechanism was relying on the RAC.
This was no good! I bought ‘How to Keep Your
VW Alive’, navigated the Haynes manual and got a
genius mechanic to do the impossible and teach
me! To own a T2, you have really got to have some
understanding of the mechanical side. Although
my knowledge is somewhat limited, it has meant
that I now know enough to have confidence in
what needs to be done to keep the old dear on
the road.
I love to hike, so Delilah is a welcome sight for me
and Dobby at the end of a long day of walking.
Somewhere to sit and chill, cook, eat, watch
beautiful sunsets and sleep. You are always
guaranteed to meet other VW owners to chat
to. Just being able to jump in the van on a Friday
night and go on an adventure. What’s not to love
about owning a T2? I’ve had so many absolutely
wonderful adventures in mine that I could write a
book! It keeps me sane

Helen Brown