Ask The Mechanic – Checking spark plugs

An article from Chairman Malcolm Marchbank

Spring has sprung and those classics will be
starting to come out of hibernation. After months
in the garage with the occasional start up to
keep it ticking over, your engine can suffer. I have
personally experienced this after months of an
engine sitting during restoration work and being
moved from one side of a workshop to another.
Once the work was complete, trying to drive
away from the workshop, my T2 Bay Campervan
wouldn’t accelerate down the road. Reason –
fouled spark plugs.

I have also had a spark plug with a closed gap
(don’t even ask how that happened, but it
involved losing part of the carburettor through
the engine… lucky it didn’t do any other damage!)
The condition of your spark plugs can make a
massive difference to the running of your engine,
so it’s worth checking them every so often,
especially after a period of time unused.
Hopefully the following information will help to
make you a spark plug expert.
Before starting work on checking your plugs, it is
helpful to have the right tools to hand; accessing
the rear two spark plugs at cylinders 1 and 3
can be a real fiddle, especially on later twin-port
engines where access is further compromised
by the inlet manifolds. A short 21mm socket and
universal joint may give you a bit more flexibility.
When checking the plugs, it can help to remove
each lead and plug individually so that you don’t
get them mixed up. This will cause an incorrect
firing order and your engine will not run.
When removing the ignition lead from the plug,
be sure to pull it off by the connector, not the lead
itself, as you’ll run the risk of pulling the lead off
the connector (trust me!)
If you notice any damage to a connector or if a
lead is a lose fit, it is best to go out and buy a new
HT lead set.
Make sure you have the socket on the plug
properly when you’re undoing them and it’s also
best to do all this while the engine is cold to avoid
burning yourself!
Once the plug is out, take a good look. Is it brown,
grey, sooty or oily? If the engine is running right,
it should be light brown or grey. If it is sooty but
dry, your engine is running rich and not burning
all the fuel. If the insulator is white and flaky then
your engine is running too lean. Either way, you’ll
need to tune your carb to adjust the fuel/air
If the plug is wet and oily, there are a couple of
possibilities. The first is that you’re not getting
a spark, in which case you may have noticed
a misfire. If this is the case, check the HT lead
connection at the plug and also where it pushes
into the top of the distributor cap.
A worse scenario is that your engine has worn
piston rings and/or valve guides, which means a
rebuild is on the cards. If there is serious carbon
build up on the plug, or what looks like molten
bits of metal, chances are your ignition timing is
Whatever their condition, while the plugs are out
of the engine they will benefit from a good clean
up using a brass wire brush. While you are at it,
check the spark plug gaps using a feeler gauge.
For most air cooled engines the gap should be
0.024” or 0.6mm, however check your workshop
manual because the gap will be different on
some engines. If the gap is correct, the gauge
should slip in and out without much resistance.
If it is too loose, you can adjust it with a gentle
squeeze in a vice to close it slightly, or if the gap is
too tight, carefully prise open the contact with a
flat bladed screwdriver.
Spark plugs should be checked every 3000 miles
and replaced every 10,000 miles as part of your
service routine. If you suspect a poor running
engine there is no harm fitting new ones sooner,
they are relatively cheap for a set.
When refitting, always start screwing the plug
back in by hand, only using the socket for the
final tightening, otherwise you risk forcing a cross
thread. If you feel any resistance early on, unscrew
and carefully try again

Ask The Mechanic – 171 – E10 fuels

The mechanic has noticed a recent uplift
in questions and concerns surrounding the
upcoming introduction of E10 fuels. The
following is information provided by the
Federation of British Historic Vehicles Clubs
that we hope members will find useful.
Federation of British Historic Vehicles
Clubs – Introduction of E10 petrol
After an extensive consultation process, the
Department for Transport has announced that they
will legislate to introduce E10 petrol as the standard
95-octane petrol grade by 1 September 2021. They
will also require the higher-octane 97+ ‘Super’ grades
to remain E5 to provide protection for owners of
older vehicles. This product will be designated as the
‘Protection’ grade.
The introduction of the 95-octane E10 grade and the
maintenance of the Super E5 protection grade will be
reviewed by the Government after 5 years to ensure
they remain appropriate to the needs of the market:
In relation to the E5 protection grade, such a review
will examine market developments over the period.
HM Government have sought to reassure FBHVC
members and historic vehicle owners that, without
a suitable alternative becoming available, it is highly
likely the Super E5 protection grade would continue
to be available.
Filling stations that stock 2 grades of petrol and
supply at least one million litres of fuel in total each
year will need to ensure one product is the Super E5
protection grade. While not all filling stations meet
these criteria, almost all towns across the UK will have
a filling station that supplies the ‘Super’ grade and
currently one major retailer, a national supermarket
group, has committed to offer the product. The main
exception to this is in certain parts of the Highlands,
north and west coast of Scotland, which will be
covered by an exemption process and allowed to
continue to market the 95-octane E5 grade.
The Federation therefore recommends that all
vehicles produced before 2000 and some vehicles
from the early 2000s that are considered noncompatible with E10 – should use the Super E5
Protection grade where the Ethanol content is limited
to a maximum of 5%. To check compatibility of
vehicles produced since 2000, we recommend using
the new online E10 compatibility checker: https:// .
It should be noted that some Super E5 Protection
grade products do not contain Ethanol as the E5
designation is for fuels containing up to 5% Ethanol.
Similarly E10 petrol can contain between 5.5%
and 10% ethanol by volume. Product availability
varies by manufacturer and geographical location
and enthusiasts should check the situation in their
Latest News:
The federation’s fuels specialist Nigel Elliott has
received some new questions with regards to
ethanol and the use of E10 in historic vehicles and his
thoughts are as follows:
There are three key areas of concern with Ethanol
compatibility with historic and classic vehicle fuel
‹ Corrosion of metal components
‹ Elastomer compatibility – swelling, shrinking and
cracking of elastomers (seals and flexible pipes)
and other unsuitable gasket materials
‹ Air/fuel ratio enleanment
Corrosion of metal component
Ethanol has increased acidity, conductivity and
inorganic chloride content when compared to
conventional petrol which can cause corrosion
and tarnishing of metal components under certain
conditions. These characteristics are controlled in the
ethanol used to blend E5 and E10 European and UK
petrol by the ethanol fuel specification BS EN15376 in
order to help limit corrosion.
Corrosion inhibitor additives can be very effective
in controlling ethanol derived corrosion and are
recommended to be added to ethanol in the
BS EN15376 standard. It is not clear if corrosion
inhibitors are universally added to ethanol for E5
and E10 blending so as an additional precaution it is
recommended that aftermarket corrosion inhibitor
additives are added to E5 and E10 petrol.
These aftermarket ethanol corrosion inhibitor
additives often called ethanol compatibility
additives are usually combined with a metallic
valve recession additive (VSR) and sometimes an
octane booster and have been found to provide
good protection against metal corrosion in
historic and classic vehicle fuel systems.
Elastomer compatibility
As the ethanol molecule is smaller and more polar
than conventional petrol components, there is
a lower energy barrier for ethanol to diffuse into
elastomer materials. When exposed to petrol/ethanol
blends these materials will swell and soften, resulting
in a weakening of the elastomer structure. On drying
out they can shrink and crack resulting in fuel leaks.
Some aftermarket ethanol compatibility additives
claim complete protection for operating historic and
classic vehicles on E10 petrol. The FBHVC is not aware
of, or has tested any additives that claim complete
fuel system protection with respect to elastomer and
gasket materials for use with E10 petrol. The FBHVC
therefore recommends that elastomer and gasket
materials are replaced with ethanol compatible
materials before operation on E10 petrol.
Air/fuel ratio enleanment
Ethanol contains approximately 35% oxygen by
weight and will therefore result in fuel mixture
enleanment when blended into petrol. Petrol
containing 10% ethanol for example, would
result in a mixture-leaning effect equivalent to
approximately 2.6%, which may be felt as a power
loss, driveability issues (hesitations, flat spots, stalling),
but also could contribute to slightly hotter running.
Adjusting mixture strength (enrichment) to counter
this problem is advised to maintain performance,
driveability and protect the engine from overheating
and knock at high loads.
Modern 3-way catalyst equipped vehicles do not
require mixture adjustment to operate on E10 petrol
because they are equipped with oxygen (lambda)
sensors that detect lean operation and the engine
management system automatically corrects the fuel
mixture for optimum catalyst and vehicle operation.
Operating classic and historic
vehicles on E10 petrol
If you should decide to make the necessary vehicle
fuel system modifications together with the addition
of an aftermarket additive to operate your classic or
historic vehicle on E10 petrol. The FBHVC strongly
recommends that you regularly check the condition
of the vehicle fuel system for elastomer and gasket
material deterioration and metallic components such
as fuel tanks, fuel lines and carburettors for corrosion.
Some plastic components such as carburettor floats
and fuel filter housings may be become discoloured
over time. Plastic carburettor float buoyancy can also
be affected by ethanol and carburettors should be
checked to ensure that float levels are not adversely
affected causing flooding and fuel leaks.
Ethanol is a good solvent and can remove historic
fuel system deposits from fuel tanks and lines and
it is advisable to check fuel filters regularly after the
switch to E10 petrol as they may become blocked
or restricted. If your vehicle is to be laid up for an
extended period of time, it is recommended that the
E10 petrol be replaced with ethanol free petrol which
is available from some fuel suppliers. Do not leave
fuel systems dry, as this can result corrosion and the
shrinking and cracking of elastomers and gaskets as
they dry out

Member’s Motor – Rachel – Skype

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

Spares by Ian Crawford

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!

• Accelerator Cable
• Aluminium Tube
(To Fit Inside Fuel Hose
If Leaking)
• Battery Earth Strap
• Brake and Clutch Fluid
• Brake Pedal Return
• Spare Bulbs
• Cable Ties (Various
• Carburettor Return
• Clutch Cable
• Coil
• Condenser For
Distributor (Make Sure
You Have The Correct
• CV Axle Boot Cap
and Grease
• Distilled Water
• Distributor Cap and
Rotor Arm x2
• Distributor Contact
• Dynamo Brushes
• Engine Oil (5 litres)
• Fan Belt x2
• Fuel Hose and Clips
• Various Fuses
• Handbrake Cable
• Rocker Cover Gaskets
• Spark Plug Set
• Starting Relay and
• Tyre Valve Cores
• Voltage Regulator
• Walking Boot Laces

• Allen Keys
• Battery Diagnostic
• 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
• 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.

Ask The Mechanic – 169 – Solar Panel Charge Controllers

For this instalment of The mechanic, we welcome a submission from the club’s chairman;
Malcolm Marchbank.
SR PWM MPPT – A question of control

If you have or thinking of getting a PV (photo voltaic)
solar panel, then these terms may concern you.
There have been several articles about the use of
solar panels to provide power in vans when there
is no hook up available. The panel(s) will almost
certainly be used to charge a battery for use when
there is insufficient power available from the sun. The
maximum power available from any panel is in a very
clear set of circumstances, the sun needs to have an
energy at the panel of 1000 watts per square meter,
the sun’s rays must strike the panel perpendicularly,
the air temperature should be 23 deg C. So, if you set
up your panel at noon on a cloud free midsummer’s
day carefully angled so the sun strikes it at 90 deg and
there is a gentle breeze, a 100w rated panel will give
100w of electrical power. In any other circumstances
the power will be substantially less. So, in reality it
is better to estimate the average power to be 30 to
60w from a 100w panel.
The next thing is how to make the most of the power
we do get. If you examine the “rating plate” fitted to
almost all solar panels you will see some numbers.
Ok you see 100w max power but look at the “ipmax”
this is the current at maximum power, ”vpmax” this is
the voltage at maximum power. A typical example
of a 100w panel ip max =5.55a vp max =18v 185.55 =100w. So we need a control unit to regulate the power sent to the leisure battery. Small panels less than about 30cm square sold as “trickle chargers” to maintain a battery while laying on the dashboard have so little power they are self regulating (SR) as the current is so small as never to damage the vehicle battery. Those for phone or device charging rely on the internal battery controller in the device to regulate the power and prevent overcharging of the internal battery. This leaves the choice of the two types of actual control unit PWM (pulse width modulation) or MPPT (maximum power point tracking). At first the generally available controllers were all PWM and cost from £8 up to around £35. These work by monitoring the battery voltage and sending pulses of power to provide an average voltage to the battery. Initially when the battery is low, the power pulses are very wide, but as the battery voltage rises then the pulse width is reduced. It is important then for the controller to “know” when the battery is at full charge so the pulses can be reduced. Different (lead acid) batteries fall into at least 3 types; Flooded, AGM and GEL. Each has a different charging requirement. So, any controller needs to be set to the correct type. Cheaper controllers may have no settings at all or be described as “automatic detection” and are probably best avoided! When you look at the typical full power voltage and current from a solar panel you will notice the voltage is too high as the maximum needed for the battery is 14v so the best this controller can do is to give 145.5=77w. The rest of the power is wasted due to
the effective internal panel resistance.

So around 25% of the power we do get is just
wasted, to overcome this a MPPT controller can be
used. This is often a combination of PWM control (for
trickle charging when full power is not needed) and
an inverter which is controlled by a microprocessor.
This changes the 18v 5.55a into 14v 7a, this is an
example as the controller constantly measures both
panel output (change in sun intensity) and battery
condition (low, charging, full) and adjusts the inverter
to maximise the power to the battery. This results in
an efficiency of better than 95%.
Transporter Talk Issue 169 | 23
I have tested this and can confirm that just changing
the controller increased the current from 5a to 7a
. If as I have, you have more than one solar panel
(I use 3) and they are all slightly different outputs,
the MPPT sorts out the balance even when one is in
shade and 2 are in sun.
The MPPT controller is as you would expect, more
complex and expensive up to around £70. This may
mean that some suppliers may claim to be MPPT
when they are not. I was fooled by this but claimed
back from the seller as the description was clearly
false. I have some photographs of the various types;
PWM 10 amp, fake MPPT (plenty of usb points on it!)
and a real MPPT 10 amp unit. So check that you get
the correct item!
I have 2 panels on the roof of my Westy and when
raised the angle is quite close to optimum. I also have
one on the front luggage rack so I can get power
even as the sun passes over. I have this arrangement
to support not only lights and water pump, but the
compressor fridge that is of course run 24/7. I would

not want to run out of ice for our G&T’s after all!

Upcoming event – Club Camp, BBQ & AGM Banbury, Oxfordshire – 13th to 15th May 2022

This event has proved to be so popular that we are now operating a waiting list as we are over-subscribed! If you are not already on the list, please do not book with the site.

The 30th Anniversary Club Camp (delayed a year), BBQ & AGM will be
held at Barnstones Caravan & Camping Park, Main
Street, Banbury OX17 1QU.

Please get in touch with our Events Manager Lorna at, or on our Facebook page with any questions.

The next club magazine is on its way

The next edition of the club magazine has been finished by our Editors and looks fantastic. It should be arriving through your door soon! If you are enjoying the club magazine and have a story about a trip, an upgrade, a restoration or just a tip, send a contribution to our Editor Phil at

Wakey Wakey!

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Yes, it is that time again. Hurray! Finally, after the long winter in our non-mobile houses, we can get out our beloved vehicles.


Hopefully you all followed the article Time for bed/ to help put your vehicle to bed for the winter. Now that spring is in the air and we are starting to think about getting out and communing in nature, this is a key time to get things ready.

Doors locks – there’s nothing more annoying than a failed lock. get it fixed now before the season really gets going. Door lock issues can be very straight forward but a simple lubrication can be key. Pun intended. A non residue lubricant is best to move the dirt away as WD40 can leave enough gunk to create issues. We favour silicon spray. A little into each lock.

Windscreen wipers – did they perish in the cold winter freezing them to the windscreen. Inspect and replace now.

Water – check the radiator if you have one. Ensure that the bottles that you emptied in the Autumn / fall have no mice, carefully hidden Christmas presents or mildew. Clean with a weak Milton solution if it is drinking water or food related.

Batteries – check the charge on each battery with a good meter. A flat battery can indicate an earth leak. A failed battery needs careful investigation.

Carburettor – Or equivalent. Check for good operation, no stuck flaps or other deterioration over winter. If you are a professional, this will be straight forward. If you are an amateur, a test drive very close to home will highlight problems! But only after the other checks.

Brakes – your vehicle should roll easily, otherwise this can indicate jammed brakes. Parking in gear for long periods of time can be better for your brake health than a jammed set of brakes. Check the brakes for operation. Check the brake fluid level. If it has been more than 5 years, change the brake fluid as it is hygroscopic and slurps up water incredibly quickly. Water is not a good fluid for applying the brake pads to the disks.

Seals – inspect all door seals for any signs of damage, water ingress or other problems and sort them out now. Glue any loose bits back down with the correct glue.

Windows – ensure that they all open and close fully. Or at least as fully as they did last year if applicable!

Ignition – Once you are feeling confident, get in to your pride and joy and turn on the ignition to number 2. Look at the lights on the dashboard. Check there ARE lights! Are they what you expect / are used to seeing? Have you got fuel (for those with a working fuel gauge)?

Crank it over – don’t expect it to start immediately but things should kick into life within a few seconds.

A little test drive on your driveway will allow you to test the brakes, maybe the steering and other important parts. Softly, softly.

Stay local, take your phone with you and warm clothing. Just in case!

Once you get home, assuming that you have a big smile on your face, make a list of snags, get indoors, put the kettle on and start planning for your summer.

Check out the events page and come and see us at a meeting soon!

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

168 – Reader’s Road Trip – John and Ruth Garrett

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