For this edition of Member’s Motor, we look at Mel’s Bay, called “Platybus”. This is what she had to say about it. Back in 2010, my husband Mark announced one day that he’d always fancied getting an old camper van. This was news to me, but I figured it was just a passing fancy and that he’d soon get over it! Anyway, to cut a long story short, he did some research and after a couple of false starts, eventually found a van that someone in North Wales was selling.
The van had originally been imported from Australia and had eventually ended up in sunny Wales. She’d been converted to run on both petrol and LPG. Bearing in mind that Mark had never driven a camper van before, he persuaded a mate to drive him to Wales and then Mark would drive the van back! As you can imagine, my main concern was that the van would break down on the way back and I would have to go and fetch him from goodness knows where. Fortunately, the van behaved itself and he got safely home, after an epic 5 hour journey. Over the next 3 or 4 years, our family had a couple of trips in it down to Wales and 2 trips to Devon. Despite a couple of hiccups, we got there and back in one piece. Then about 5 years ago, we went to an open day at Just Kampers down in Hampshire. We’d already discussed having a full restoration on the van and we met a chap from a company called Voodoo VW. We duly agreed to take the van down to his workshop in Newbury so we could talk about what we wanted done on the van. We felt totally reassured that they would carry out the work we wanted done and basically left them to get on with it. You know the saying “be careful what you wish for?”.
Well, unfortunately things didn’t pan out the way we wanted them to; the company went bust and we had to fetch the van from down near Newbury and pay someone to fix the bits that hadn’t been done properly. We eventually got the van back and at present it’s sitting on the forecourt of a friend’s garage, waiting for the engine to be taken out to investigate an issue with the hydraulics. We love the van, she’s been brilliant when she works, but it’s like they say, it’s been a labour of love.
She’s called the Platybus, because when we were cleaning out the glove compartment, we found an Australian coin with what we thought had a platypus on it. It transpired that it’s actually a Spiny Anteater, but we decided to stick with Platybus. I really hope that one day soon we can get to go camping again in the bus and that we can iron out all the little niggles we’ve discovered since the van was “restored “. We’ve since discovered that the chap who ran Voodoo VW is back running a company restoring camper vans, after declaring to us that he wanted nothing more to do with the VW scene… ! Hey ho…” Best wishes, Mel
We head into Aberystwyth to pick up some essentials; dog food, milk and petrol! Not wanting to waste the trip into town, we head to the seafront and take a drive along the promenade. We are pleasantly surprised by the lovely Victorian buildings and a funicular cliff railway too! Stocked up with supplies and the tank full to bursting with petrol, we head north and are looking forward to today’s route which will take us on a B road that follows the coast around the southern part of Snowdonia rather than going through it and then into the National Park to camp for the night. The start of the coastal road happens immediately after crossing the river/estuary at Machynlleth via an old stone bridge and then turning left off the main A road and following the river on your left. As roads go, this one is beautiful. The surface is smooth, with a stone wall on one side and a cliff face the other, it undulates over and around the coastal features, giving us amazing views over the river and sea. As we get closer to the coast, the road becomes lined with old oak trees, growing out of the cliff and hanging over the edge. Our first stop on this route is a small seaside town called Aberdovey. There is a golf club, a beach and beach related stuff. We drive through, noticing people pointing and commenting at the camper… this often happens and I sometimes wonder if they are pointing at something falling off! But you get used to it and you soon realise that driving a bright blue camper van with an exhaust that announces your arrival everywhere you go is going to get you attention. The road picks up as it comes out of Aberdovey, but its only a short run before the next small town called Tywyn. On our way in we notice the large amount of static caravans surrounding the area. The town is pleasant and has all the makings of a seaside location, with a decent looking Co-Op if you need supplies! The beach is clean and there is also a narrow gauge steam railway here too.
From Tywyn the road heads inland to avoid another river estuary and make the crossing via a bridge.
There is a ferry that can take you across, but we took the road to save time. Once you cross over the river, the road heads back towards the coast and is it does, starts to climb. As the road meets the coast you are met with one of the most beautiful coastal roads we have driven. There are numerous lay by areas to pull over and appreciate the view, which we did. We followed the coastal road until reaching the larger town of Fairbourne. To continue from here there are a few options; a ferry direct to Barmouth, a modern road bridge several miles inland or an old rickety wooden bridge that resembles a seaside pier… guess which option we went for?! The old wooden bridge at Penmaenpool is a toll bridge, costing 80p for cars and £1 for motorhomes. We are technically driving a Motorhome, despite being car sized, but I don’t mind paying the extra 20p to keep the bridge maintained. The crossing is bumpy as the wooden sections are uneven, but we make it across safely without encountering any trolls who want to eat us for their supper! After crossing the bridge we head into Barmouth. Barmouth is a seaside resort with everything you would expect; amusements, chip shops, sandy beaches and a long promenade. It was busy. Really busy. We stopped for a while on the promenade and watched the crowds but didn’t venture out of our own space inside the camper. From Barmouth we follow the road all the way to the end of the coastal route at Penrhyndeudraeth and make our way up to the campsite which is only 5 minutes up the road. Nearby is the village of Portmeirion; a tourist village, designed and built by Sir Clough Williams-Ellis in the style of an Italian village, which is now owned by a charitable trust. We didn’t visit as we didn’t have any time left in the day, but it’s worth a look if you’re in the area!
In the evening we pop back into Penrhyndeudraeth to look for some dinner and find several takeaway options including a Chinese, Indian, kebab and chippy. What a fantastic selection. We opt for the Indian and head back to the site to rest up in preparation for the next day – Snowdonia!
We set off from our site the next morning heading for Anglesey. It’s a shorter trip today, taking in the sites that Snowdonia has to offer. On the route we pass through Beddgelert, which has an interesting story. The town is home to a legendary site called Gelert’s Grave. In the legend, Llywelyn The Great returns from hunting to find his baby missing, the cradle overturned, and his dog Gelert, with a blood-smeared mouth. Believing the dog had savaged the child, Llywelyn draws his sword and kills Gelert. After the dog’s dying yelp Llywelyn hears the cries of the baby, unharmed under the cradle, along with a dead wolf which had attacked the child and been killed by Gelert. Llywelyn is overcome with remorse and buries the dog with great ceremony, but can still hear its dying yelp. After that day Llywelyn never smiles again. You can park in the village and walk to the site, however the morning has brought much rain with it and so we decide to carry on with a journey.
We follow a road that takes us past a beautiful lake called Llyn Dinas, there are a few spots along the side of the road to stop and if you’re brave enough, take a paddle
The road starts to meander and climb slowly, this becomes more apparent as you come past Llyn Gwynant. There are some tight bends on the climb and I notice views in my mirrors! We eventually come to a small car park which boasts a view of Snowdon. The Peak of Snowdonia and the highest peak in England and Wales at 1085m. We get a few snaps here as the clouds break over the mountain and also take advantage of the ice cream van parked here too… it’s never too cold or wet for an ice cream! We continue our journey through Snowdonia, past Snowdon, and Pen y Pass, where there were many cars being turned away as it was so busy. We climb up and over the pass that flows in the valley on what started as a miners track, down to the village of Llanberis. You can walk Snowdon from here as well and if your legs aren’t up to it, take the train up too! From Llanberis we make our way out of Snowdonia, the landscape changes quickly from Mountains to flat land and trees. We arrive at Bangor, singing the famous song as we do and then travel over to Anglesey on the Brittania Bridge. We notice the large amount of farming and gorgeous rolling countryside. We stop at some beaches at Cemaes in the northern part of the island and on our way to our campsite stop off at a lovely harbour in Amlwch Port. The next part of our journey will see us leaving Wales and heading north towards the Scottish border, stopping over in the Lake District en route. Phil Aldridge “Tales From The Driving Seat” is on Instagram @talesfromthedrivingseat and blogspot www.talesfromthedrvingseat.blogspot.com
It was a real treat to head north in Dennis the Dormobile last month. We had three glorious weeks in Scotland in July (despite the roadside Yellow Storm Warnings on route!). We broke journey in Crianlarich and travelled on to Skye the next day. Probably busier than usual, the island was far from overwhelmed and Dennis loved the rolling single track roads. We did notice a huge expansion of motorhome hiring since last year. We were surprised by our 1978 T2 having become a rarity and a conversation piece; several people asked to take his photograph! All of which made the campsites even more sociable than usual. Set up in Glen Brittle, we hiked up onto the rugged Cuillin Ridge and got our only soaking of the trip on the way down. From Dunvegan, we used our bikes to explore a landscape that is still only a generation or two away from the crofting life. There was a whole trail of makers and artists on Skye and we dropped in on a weaving shed and a print and glass gallery.
We had been keen to follow the last stages of Euro 2020 despite being away, which meant listening to a crackly quarter-final radio commentary on the road to Crianlarich (did they just score??) and also the semi-final at Dunvegan (the only pub in the village wasn’t open on a Wednesday…). At the small site near Staffin, we asked about the nearest pub for the Sunday night final and the lovely owners told us that they had a couple of spare TVs and they could lend us one to set up in Dennis. So with a low tech but safe hook-up and a bent wire aerial, we watched the match! A first for us. More hiking and cycling to explore the stunning Trotternish ridge and the coastline, before heading down to Loch Rannoch and a campsite near a remnant of the ancient Caledonian forest and some hot and sunny Munros. The evening midges were repelled successfully with some Miss Haversham-style headnets! Three nights with friends and family around Glasgow and north Ayrshire also gave us the chance to do a washing load (!) before our final week down in Galloway in Scotland’s overlooked southwest. If you get the chance, see if you can book a space at quirky North Rhinns campsite. It’s not many miles from Stranraer, but it’s another world; 12 or 15 pitches tucked among a small wood, well looked after by the enthusiastic and sociable owners, who would love to host a T2 rally sometime!! Linda and Stewart Shuttleworth
For this edition of Member’s Motor, we look at Rachel’s Bay, called “Skye”. This is what she had to say about it.
We have a blue T2 called Skye. We originally found her in May 2018 when someone local to us used to hire her out, so we hired her for a trip to Scotland. We took the van around the highlands, including to the Isle of Skye. My husband Kyle (then boyfriend) proposed to me on the trip, which was a total surprise, so that trip and the van had some very special memories for us. In June 2019 we got married and I was waiting for my wedding car to pick me up, instead of the car arriving with my dad in it, Skye the T2 arrived with our friend as the driver! I was shocked as I had not seen Skye since we had got engaged and I thought “How lovely, he’s hired her again as a surprise”. He had decorated her with wedding ribbons and bunting inside etc. When I got in the van (with my dad inside) Keith our friend who was driving, passed me a note which had the typical wedding phrase: Something old: Skye is from 1975. Something blue: Skye is blue. Something borrowed: She is borrowed for the wedding. Something new: actually she’s not borrowed, Skye is yours!
Unbeknown to me, the guy who owned Skye was selling her and Kyle bought her as a surprise for our wedding day, so that’s how we came to get her! What a surprise. Since then we have had a lot of trips away, even in current circumstances. We took her to Glastonbury 2 weeks after our wedding and then managed to do the NC500 in September last year, as well as lots more local weekends to the Lake District and Northumberland where we got married. We have a rescue fox terrier called Delilah who loves van life as much as us 😍
We learnt a valuable lesson in September when doing the nc500; we broke down in one of the most northerly areas of Scotland and had to wait 8 hours for recovery to be towed back to the campsite, which was so embarrassing. The problem was a snapped clutch cable, which we have since learned is quite common and should have carried a spare!
Typically the day we had to wait for 8 hours at the side of the road was also the sunniest, warmest day of our whole NC500 trip and we spent it at the roadside! By the time we had been recovered we were just grateful to get back to the campsite and get it temporarily fixed, celebrating with a big glass of well deserved wine! We have been having problems finding someone decent and reputable in the north east to fix our van, there’s a few things we needed done and ideally wanted it done before this summer. We’ve been trying to find someone since last year, but no one wants to touch it, so it’s getting a bit stressful.
Many people will be away and wish they had something with them – here is a list from club member Ian Crawford on spares he packs in his 1971 Bay window that he bought at 1 year old in 1972. I am not sure about corks – leftover wine is not something I really understand!
Parts • Accelerator Cable • Aluminium Tube (To Fit Inside Fuel Hose If Leaking) • Battery Earth Strap • Brake and Clutch Fluid • Brake Pedal Return Spring • Spare Bulbs • Cable Ties (Various Lengths) • Carburettor Return Spring • Clutch Cable • Coil • Condenser For Distributor (Make Sure You Have The Correct “Bung”!) • CV Axle Boot Cap and Grease • Distilled Water • Distributor Cap and Rotor Arm x2 • Distributor Contact Points • Dynamo Brushes • Engine Oil (5 litres) • Fan Belt x2 • Fuel Hose and Clips • Various Fuses • Handbrake Cable • Rocker Cover Gaskets x2 • Spark Plug Set • Starting Relay and Fuse • Tyre Valve Cores • Voltage Regulator • Walking Boot Laces
Tools • Allen Keys • Battery Diagnostic Tester • Feeler Gauges • Hacksaw Blades • Insulation Tape • Magnetic Dish Holder • Magnifying Glass (My Eyes Are Dimming!) • Multi Meter and Spare Battery • Plastic Wire Cutters • Pill Pot Containing Matches, Lighter, Flints, Water Purification Tablets, Sweeteners, Sewing Kit, Safety Pins and Buttons. • Shorting Links • Stanley Knife • Tyre Pressure Gauge • Vaseline • Wine Corks • Other Various Tools Ian has provided a pretty extensive list here, very cautious! We would also recommend a timing gun if space allows, a foot pump, warning triangle, decent jack, various sockets and spanners and maybe even a fuel pump! (We even carried a spare carburettor once!) Thanks to Ian for his submission, hopefully this will help members when putting a kit together.
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
For this edition, we join John and Ruth and their adventures in Spain.
Back in 2007 my Wife Ruth and I embarked on our first major foreign jaunt in our Type 2 that we’d owned since 1993. We had previously visited many parts of the UK but decided that now was the time to be more adventurous. The ‘van had been reliable other than a very occasional hot start problem, but that always resolved itself after a few minutes, but we still felt we needed breakdown cover for this trip abroad. Once arranged, we booked the Portsmouth-Bilbao ferry and in mid-July headed off. We had a fairly loose itinerary but had arranged to be in Madrid to meet up with Spanish friends for a couple of days. Having successfully achieved that, we decided to head to Cuenca, of the famous ‘hanging houses’ and La Ciudad Encantada fame. We had earmarked a site in advance and found it readily enough. It was a scorching hot day and so we parked in the shade of an enormous tree outside reception, while Ruth walked onto the site to have a look at the facilities before we committed to stay. She came back and said it looked good, very good in fact and so she went back to book us in while I fired up the van. It wouldn’t start! “Aha” I thought, I‘ll just leave it for a few minutes and all will be well… It wasn’t. It refused to offer any signs of life. After an hour or so of trying, leaving it and trying again we realised that it was not going to start. What to do now? We decided that we had to call for breakdown assistance.
At that time the breakdown cover was with Europ Assistance, so there was an English speaking number to call. They passed on our difficulty to a local garage and a further hour went by before a flatbed ‘relay’ type truck appeared. Panic. We did not want the van to be taken away. Ruth speaks some Spanish and explained as best she could that we needed the van for our holiday to continue. He seemed to understand so we relaxed a little. His first act was to get under the FRONT of the van before hauling himself out looking a bit sheepish. Under the back he went, fiddled about, presumably looking for the starter motor (I wasn’t sure that he found it) and after several minutes he surfaced and with a faint smile and went to his cab. He started to reverse his truck to the van, at which point much flapping of our arms and shouts of ‘no’ took place. He stopped just short of the front, raised the flatbed of the truck and then proceeded to winch our van onto it. By now we were beside ourselves but, with a shrug of the shoulders he clambered up into our van, put it in gear and let the handbrake off. We looked on in horror as it very quickly rolled backwards down the ramp with the tailpipe missing the pebbly ground by no more than half an inch, before he let up the clutch and it started. He had been oblivious of how close to wrecking the engine it had got, but all was well it seemed. Our van was now running but what if it happened again? A brief discussion took place and the gist of it was that a new starter motor was needed. He couldn’t provide one and all he could offer was ‘to was always park on a slope’. Now us seasoned campers know that flat surfaces are best, but for the rest of that holiday we were the only campers looking for sloping pitches. Did we have any repeat performances? Yes we did, but fortunately not too often. Usually it started when cold without any difficultly, but petrol stations were an issue as that would almost always be a stop when the engine was hot and then it didn’t always want to start. Ruth became very good at pushing after several such occasions, much to the amusement of onlookers. We did however complete our intended holiday and once back home had a new starter motor fitted. At this point the van was 34 years old, had done 100k and had the original engine and ancillaries so I thought I’d write to VW UK and ‘complain’ about the poor quality components. This was firmly tongue in cheek and I expected a humorous reply, but to my disappointment the joke wasn’t spotted. We still have the van and have since taken it on several trips through France and Spain.
Post Covid we hope to be able to do it again, but probably not this year
With the UK’s first Covid lockdown lifted in July 2020 and some travel restrictions relaxed, we decided to make the best of the situation and use the time we had booked off for our now cancelled wedding, to travel some parts of the UK in our ‘79 Bay. You can’t get much more socially distanced than travelling and sleeping in your own vehicle. We started our road trip by following the Welsh coast from the Gower Peninsula in the south, to the Isle of Anglesey in the north. The countryside on the Gower is beautiful. Unfortunately we don’t have long to explore as we have some miles to cover before our next stopover and other sights to see on the way but have just enough time to head to the far point of the Peninsula to a spot called Rhossili. Rhossili Bay is famous for an excellent beach and beautiful views over the bay to Llangennith and Worm’s Head. The beach is popular for surfing and the surrounding area with walkers. Rhossili is also famous for sunflower fields that engulf the area during the summer months. After a quick stop to appreciate the view, we head off and make our way to Pembrokeshire. There is some fantastic countryside here and it reminds me very much of Devon and Cornwall. Having done some research, we head to a spot called Martins Haven in the hope of some seal and dolphin spotting, maybe even some Puffins.
We walked Ruby (our Springer Spaniel) down to the seafront, but don’t spot any Seals, or Dolphins, or Puffins! But the trip wasn’t wasted, on our way out of the area we spot farmers digging up Pembrokeshire New Potatoes, also known as Pembrokeshire Earlies, which are famous for their distinctive, delicate and almost nutty flavour. We come across a handwritten sign advertising them for sale at the side of the road. We like to buy food for our travels in this way, it’s a great way to support local business and get an authentic taste of the area you are visiting. We stash the “earlies” with a plan to enjoy them with some fresh, local fish – the search is on! The next day, we decided to have an early-ish start and hit the road, setting off on our route up the west coast of Wales towards Aberystwyth. I had scouted
a few places using Google Maps that I think might be picturesque but quiet and with somewhere to park. One such place was Abercastle; a beautiful bay with fishing boats bobbing on the sea. With a break in the rain, we headed down to the water and did some coastal foraging whilst Ruby had the run of the beach to herself. We didn’t find much to forage, but Ruby found part of a lobster’s head that she paraded proudly for a while! WONDERFUL WALES PART 1 Jumping back in the camper, we continue our scenic route, climbing higher and higher towards cliffs where we can see the weather rolling in from the sea. Our destination is a working lighthouse at Strumble Head. The lighthouse was erected in 1908 and replaced a light-vessel that moored in the nearby Cardigan Bay. The tower is 55ft high and one of the last lighthouses to be built in Britain. When we arrive at the lighthouse there is one other Motorhome there that looks like it spent the night, the rocks under their wheels are a giveaway… I don’t blame them though!! The cliffs here are shear but beautiful. We watch the lighthouse flash for a few moments before continuing off along the coastal road to Fishguard. Fishguard has a lovely little Harbour (presumably the original fishing harbour) in an area called Lower Town and you are able to drive all the way along the harbour edge which is lined with pretty houses and yachts bobbing gently in the water. We park up and make a cuppa, watching the surroundings for a while; there are gulls preening on rocks and a cormorant fishing too. On our way out of Fishguard, heading towards Cardigan, we pass a dairy farm that is selling milk direct to the consumer via vending machine! Another roadside food purchase, perfect!
We decide to take the back roads between Fishguard and Cardigan and end up on roads with grass growing in the middle, the best kind for slow paced Campervan driving, allowing you time to appreciate the views and surroundings. On arrival at Cardigan (and still in search of fresh fish!) we spot a fish restaurant… closed. Ending up at a nearby chippy for lunch, our search for fresh fish continues as we head off from Cardigan to our campsite. The next leg of our journey takes us further North along some beautiful coastline and into Snowdonia. Join us next time with more tales from the driving seat
For this edition of Member’s Motor, we look at Kirsteen’s Bay, called “Mou.” This is what she had to say about it.
June 2015 – Mighty Dubfest, Alnwick, Northumberland… unbeknown to me, my brother (at the Dubfest with his T4 Autosleeper) informed Ron (my other half) that “she would love one of those” – a T2. My parents had owned a succession of 5 bay windows and a T25 in the ’70’s, ’80’s and ’90’s, so I had grown up with VW Type Twos! My 50th birthday was looming and we started looking, we thought we would have to head down south on holiday to be able to actually view some. However, a chance conversation at the classic car show at our local heritage railway and I heard of a van for sale in Alnwick (5 miles from home). It was RHD with a pop top – my two must haves – only possible issue – it had a Subaru Impreza engine! My eldest son (petrol head) was concerned that as I always hear a water cooled engine approaching, I might be disappointed with the van. I decided that as my daily drivers for 20+ years have been Subaru Impreza turbos, that wouldn’t be an issue (can’t imagine where my son gets the petrol head from!!) So three weeks later Mou arrived, bought from the mechanic who had put the Subaru engine in. She needed lots of TLC inside, her Devon furniture had seen better days, but we cleaned and scrubbed her up and used her as she was for Summer 2015 whilst we decided what we would like to do with the interior. Externally she was painted ‘Landrover blue’ – the previous mechanic owner had done a lot of bodywork repairs which he then painted with what he had in his workshop.
In October 2016 we stripped out everything – furniture, panels, floor, roof bellows, passenger seat etc and I had a very noisy drive south of the Tyne to get her re-sprayed back to original – Orient Blue and Pastel White. We then replaced the roof bellows, the metal rods needed to be taken out of the old bellows and slotted into the new ones, I did this on the living room floor (the only place in the house big enough) during my Christmas holiday 2016. I had to cut the new bellows to put the metal rods in – I measured many, many times before making the first cut!! I laid the floor tiles whilst Ron was recovering from a knee replacement (that meant I could escape to the garage!) Stephen, my eldest son, as well as being a petrol head, also likes turning his hand to anything, he made the cupboards and table (not bad for a scientist!). The cab seats, bed cushions, panels and headliner were all completed by a local upholsterer and we fitted them in.
I have taken Mou to a number of local classic car shows, in various states of completion, people are always interested in what you have done. We have enjoyed many holidays and weekends away – The North Coast 500, the Welsh coast, annual visits to the Lake District, to name a few. Hopefully we will get to Skye in 2021 (postponed from 2020). We have been to the Mighty Dubfest, Beach Gathering, Volksfling and Volkspower festivals regularly as they are relatively local. Tagged on the end of a holiday to East Anglia we went to Viva Skeg Vegas in 2017. On the end of our holiday around the Welsh coast we went to Volksfest Wales in 2019 where Mou won ‘Best Bay’. After 17 years of living together, Ron and I got married on 27th August, we were already booked to go to the Budle Bay Beach Gathering on 28th August for the bank holiday weekend so that became our ‘campermoon’ obviously!
Whilst looking through photos on Northumberland Transporters Facebook page I spotted a van for sale that had belonged to my parents in the ’70s – it wasn’t the original colour anymore but I recognised the number plate, so not content with owning one T2, February 2020 I bought a second; but that’s a story for another time….
For this installment of The mechanic, we welcome a submission from Jonathan Bruton. You may recall his submission for issue TT166 concerning brake overhaul, this is the second chapter of that story. Not long after I had put my tools away and given myself a smug pat on the back for having successfully installed new callipers and discs on the front wheels of Mortimer Henderson (TT Issue 166), my ’73 Bay, I happened to see a Facebook post from Nick Gillott to the effect that the master cylinder also needed replacing at regular intervals. The master cylinder, as its name suggests, pushes brake fluid through the lines to the slave cylinders at the wheels when you hit the brake pedal, operating the brakes through hydraulic pressure. Anyway, I tried to ignore this unwelcome piece of advice but could no longer do so when it became obvious that the pedal was getting spongier by the journey; when I finally got around to checking the level of the reservoir, it had gone down quite sharply, and I could see brake fluid dripping out of the hole in the front pan beneath the pedal assemblies. So, action was clearly needed.
Once the pan was removed, the first thing to do was to locate the cylinder, which I had never looked for or seen. As you would expect, it is bolted to the frame beneath the brake pedal assembly, and the brake pedal rod fits into it through a rubber boot, which itself fits through a hole in the frame and is designed to keep out dirt and debris. Two brake lines lead away from it – one to a T-piece which then feeds the front wheel brake assemblies, and the other to a pressure equaliser bolted to the offside edge of the frame, which feeds the rear brakes. The main fluid reservoir crouches on it piggyback style and is attached via two nozzles that run through rubber grommets. Finally, the brake light switch screws in at the back (on my replacement cylinder, there were two holes for the switch, and a video I watched for the same job on an early Bay showed two brake light switches, for reasons I’m not clear about).
At first glance it was immediately apparent that all was indeed not well. The boot was in shreds, and the assembly was clearly leaking, presumably because dirt had penetrated the seal. But replacing it looked pretty straight forward, and I naively anticipated that it’d be done in a single afternoon! It really needed to be as well, because we only have one parking space, which has the charger for our main car, a fully electric Nissan Leaf, which we can’t use if it’s blocked by a hulking great immobilised van! This has been a point of friction between me and my long-suffering partner in the past, but I blithely assured her that there would be minimal disruption. In this optimistic spirit, I ordered the replacement part from JK and offered it up to make sure it was the same as the one on the van, which it was. So now it was a matter of whipping off the two 13 mm nuts holding it on, unplugging the brake light switch and undoing the two brake pipes, emptying the fluid reservoir in the process. Yeah, right! For some reason best known to themselves, VW had opted for nuts and bolts rather than studs to hold the cylinder on. Which would inevitably mean that the whole bolt would just start rotating. Which both of them did. With one of them, I could get a wrench on the bolt head and get the nut off no problem. The other one, however, was conveniently located in a recess, making it impossible to access with a wrench, so there was no way to hold the bolt still. In the end I had to resort to a mechanical nut splitter to remove the offending nut. With a bit of persuasion by hammer, I was then able to loosen the cylinder and start moving it backwards. The next issue was with the two brake pipes. When new, of course, the nut rotates freely around the pipe. After 47 years of exposure to God knows what, however, muck and corrosion do their worst, and the nut sticks fast to the pipe. Once I’d been forced to buy a new 11 mm wrench (inevitably, the only wrench missing from my set was the one I needed), I ended up doing what the guy in the early Bay video had earnestly warned me I really didn’t want to do, which was to shear both of the nuts right off. After a few seconds of panic, however, I realised that both sections of pipe were relatively short and could easily be unbolted from the other end: at the abovementioned T-junction and the pressure equaliser.
Perhaps this kind of damage is more consequential in an early Bay. Whatever, I then relaxed and let the brake fluid drain out through the fractured pipe ends into a handy receptacle below. My advice would be to assume that these pipes are going to be toast and simply order replacements when you order a new cylinder; it’s no big deal. So, having broken both pipes and removed the retaining bolts, I took the cap off the brake light switch and pulled the cylinder out, complete with fluid reservoir. Now, this is attached to the secondary reservoir in the cab by a length of plastic pipe held in with two plastic hose clips, themselves secured by two tiny cross-headed screws. These are a bit pesky to reach, but I got the lower one out easily enough, assuming I wouldn’t need to move the uppermost one, and removed the whole assembly. The reservoir plugs into the cylinder in two places, as I said above, and it’s a very tight fit – which it needs to be – so I had to use a screwdriver to exert some leverage to get it off. No problem there. It was in good nick, with no cracks or splits, so I could simply reuse it. The new cylinder comes with the sealing grommets, so you just have to use some elbow grease to push the reservoir on. Just make sure you get it the right way round! Once it was all in place, I bolted the cylinder in place, having replaced both nuts and bolts. Annoyingly, I missed the delivery driver when he came with the new brake pipes the following day. That day being Friday, it meant that the van would have to sit on the space until at least Monday. I averted a charging-related roasting by offering to take the Leaf up to the nearest charging station, so harmony was restored. Monday came and the eagerly awaited pipes with it. As they have a diameter of 3/16 “, they’re very easy to bend without kinking. The only issue here was that the length of pipe that went to the pressure equaliser was only just long enough, meaning that I had to carefully plan the shortest possible distance. Having removed the old pipes, it was then something of an epic task to get the nuts to engage with the threads at both ends – I would get one in place, only to find that the other end simply wouldn’t oblige. In the end, I had to loosen the cylinder body again, and, after rather a lot of swearing, the nuts were finally in place, and I could reattach the cylinder to the frame and reinsert the brake pedal rod into the boot. Surely it would now just be a simple matter of reattaching the plastic pipe to the bottom reservoir, refilling it with fresh fluid, and bleeding the brakes. Ahem. Not quite. To start with, there was the second hole for the missing brake light switch. Not much point putting fluid in for it simply to run out again through a great big hole. As automotive bolt threads seem to
be narrower than their DIY counterparts, my local hardware store was unable to provide a suitable blank. Happily, they directed me to a garage round the corner, and the chap there fished around until he found a bolt with a nipple, which looked like it came from a carburettor assembly, that had the right thread and would do the job. Now, it would surely all work. With great lightness of heart, I tightened everything up and started to refill the cab reservoir – only to discover that the fluid was dripping out at the bottom almost as fast as it was going in! Yes – it was the hose. Leaking at both ends. Meaning that, to investigate, I’d also have to undo the topmost clamp, which was virtually impossible to reach from underneath. Filing that away as a problem for later, I replaced the pathetic little plastic clip at the bottom end of the hose – where it joined the lower reservoir – with a proper jubilee clip and tightened it nice and snug. I then had the blindingly obvious realisation that it would surely be possible to undo the reservoir in the cab and lift it out to get access to the clamp immediately below it. But I couldn’t see how to release the reservoir. Fortunately, the Samba came to the rescue, and I was soon undoing the two little screws that held it in, which enabled me to lift up the reservoir and shed light on the problem. Sure enough, the hose at the top end was split, so I trimmed it and replaced the plastic clip with another metal pipe clamp. I also realised that the nozzle (I can’t think of the proper word for the protruding part the clamp attaches to!) and was supposed to have a plastic sleeve around it to aid the seal, but this sleeve was missing from both ends, so all I could do was make sure the clamps were located on the slight bulge in the nozzle and done up nice and tight. And then – glory be! – the leak was finally sorted! I filled her up and fetched my handy little Draper oneman bleeding kit, which is a bottle with a one-way plastic hose that fits snugly over the bleed nipple and doesn’t permit any backflow. When you’re lying under the van, you can operate the brake pedal from underneath and watch as the air bubbles shoot out of the bleed nipple and disappear into the bottle, to be replaced by a lovely golden bar of brake fluid, which is a fine sight. So, there it was. All done. Except that I couldn’t find the cab fluid reservoir cap. Anywhere. I’m sure many of you will know what it’s like not to be able to find the tool you’ve just put down and to have to spend ten minutes searching for it until you find it in your pocket or somewhere. Anyway, as my frustration and incredulity increased, I resorted to rummaging through the recycling until I found the top of a squash bottle which could be made to fit. Better than nothing! Anyway, I could finally triumphantly drive the bus off the parking space and swap it for the Leaf, which I plugged in, thereby ensuring that domestic harmony would continue without a ripple. And then, there was the reservoir cap. Perched on top of a wheelie bin, where I’d left it. Laughing at me. Jonathan Bruton