Eric the Viking – a restoration in many parts – August 2021

Spend since last report: £471. Total hours labour since last report: 31.3


For those who had forgotten and for those who have joined as new members recently, I will start with a recap. My name is Nick, I am 50 and since I was a teenager, I have always wanted to restore an old vehicle. My previous experience and skill until I bought this first project was minor tinkering with renovating a set of brake disks, and replacing an alternator. My wife Lorna bought a 1972 Volkswagen called Poppy back in 2011 and that gave us the bus bug and we joined the committee of this club back in 2016, you may have met us on the club stand at some point.

Six years ago this month, I put in a bid on a 1973 converted panel van online having never seen it and I knew nothing about which is a good one to buy. My offer was accepted and Eric the Viking came to live with us. Named after my comedy hero Eric Morecambe, the panel van came with a plastic full length roof called a Viking roof and the most famous Viking being Eric, it all seemed to work and Eric was born. At that point I owned minimal tools and had never used a welder. I went online, started reading, bought a book on restoring Volkswagen Bay windows and started having a go. If you try woodwork and make a mess of it, you throw it away or glue new bits on. When working with metal, if it goes wrong, you take the angle grinder, chop out the wrong part and have another go. No-one knows! Well they know if you write about it at length in a club magazine.

The more recent story

Apologies for the delay in further work, you may have heard of this COVID thing. I spent the first month of lockdown in the garage every day then I was asked to help dig some footings in the garden. 6 months later, every weekend had been spent building walls, foundations, a sun terrace and a lot of new lawn planted. Winter came, spring came, then more gardening and Eric was left languishing. Finally in July, I decided to get back to the grind (literally).

Pull up your drink of choice and join me on my next journey of discovery about how badly treated Eric was under previous ownership.

Rear brakes

Rear brakes on my Bay are drum, and with Eric spending a lot of time rotting outdoors, they were in a shocking state. The castle nut in the middle of the rear wheel was so rusted to the end of the hub that no amount of leverage would shift it but an hour with an angle grinder got it off in pieces! Then the drum refused to budge until a lot of heat and persuasion on the bench freed it off. Inside looked ok at first but a CV joint bolt was jammed and needed cutting off which meant that I had to chop through the brake back plate to access it!

Rear suspension

The rear offside was dismantled last year, stripped and primed. That left the driveshaft (whatever that is) and the CV joints (vaguely heard of them) attached to the gearbox somehow. In other words, I was vaguely familiar with the concept but that was about it. Everything was filthy covered in rot, rust, grease, grot and generally in need of love.

Front suspension

Waiting on parts deliveries from Just Kampers (don’t forget your club discount), I turned my attention to the front suspension and brakes. Calipers are expensive to replace and generally only need a good clean, reassembly and new rubbers on the ends of the pistons. I did that job 15 or so years ago on my Matra Bagheera as the only job I really did on it. Quite pleased with the bright green caliper paint finish and you can follow 2 articles on how to do it that are on our club web site (thanks Jonathan!) as well.

Starter motor

The starter motor was in the way of getting to the underside of the fuel tank to restore that, so I unbolted it, separated the two cylinders and cleaned them before spraying them black.


Eric has been on his side now for 20 months and I finally got him ready for the topcoat on his bottom. I chose to use L90D synthetic enamel as I wanted hard wearing and easy to apply since I am a novice.

Front suspension

Attached to the front beam are the front suspension arms. Pressed into the tops of 2 of these on each side of the Bus are the ball joints. I dutifully borrowed a ball joint press, inserted the arm and ball joint but could not work out how to press it out. I tried various options, I made a little jig out of 10mm steel railing, I watched Youtube videos and eventually with the help of friends, I found out the trick. The ball of the ball joint sits in the cup of the joint, if you angle grind the shoulders off the ball joint, you can remove the ball, once that is done, you angle grind from the top, cutting just the top of the ball joint and not the arm holding it.

Once the top of the ball joint is ground through into a hole with the angle grinder, you need to cut it with a hacksaw to split the ball joint cup into 4 pieces being careful not to cut the arm at all. It is back breakingly tiring, hot and dusty. Each one took an hour and I have the other 2 on the other side later this year – if anyone has any faster ideas do please get in touch! FINALLY the 2 ball joints were clear of the arms allowing those to be cleaned up ready for top coat and with their ball joint holes ground back of dirt and rust ready for the new ball joints to be pressed in using the borrowed press.

More another time, hope to see many of you at Busfest!