Monday, January 24, 2011

The License Plates of Burning Van

When I was younger, personalized license plates were the punchline to a tale about an overinflated ego. "...and the bartender says 'his license plate is suprego'". Not so much anymore. Everyone has them. Syncro owners seem to like their inside joke... the joke being that you cannot afford this vehicle, and if you are unindoctrinated, you have not idea just how cool this thing is.

So they say it on their legally required identification mark:

And of course there is the one hometown representative:

This picture was taken for my wife who will appreciate the humor.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

The Busses of Burning Van.

For the record, we are not burning a van. There have been times where an engine block was burnt, for an idea of what a magnesium block would look like on fire, you tube has a few videos of just how bright that stuff gets.

Each year a group of busses (mostly vanagons) show up and hang out, a bon fire is done later. Last year we have somewhere in the mid-20's. This year we had 38 at maximum.

Photos here, and some of the betters ones are posted below.

Thursday, January 20, 2011


Since I haven't had much to say for a while, I thought I'd add a short update and some thoughts about the fellowship of VW bus owners.

These pictures were taken yesterday on my drive home. The other vehicle was a 1971 - same color, same options, and slowly being restored (much like mine).

Where I live I can count 30 VW's of various flavors and vintages within a 20 block radius. This one is located at a house in Sea cliff (one of the more expensive areas of San Francisco.

And then there is that guy who keeps putting flyers on every aircooled VW out there telling us about the problems with 009 coils and how he can make them better. His bus is looks like it is about to fall apart, it's not exactly the best advertising. I'll find the picture, but I'm sure I'll see him at burning van on Saturday.

There is a hobie cat vanagon out by the zoo, and a couple of syncros scattered in the outer sunset district. I'll post pics later when I can find them.

One of the pacifico busses is currently parked on fell street.

I live in a city where the VW bus was arguably raised to an icon, what with the Haight Ashbury days, the hippy living, and the weather all contributing to an icon that I love to drive. I get waved at daily, I wave back. Other buses drive by me slowly, I do the same.

I like our little club. We are weird. I like weird.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

A Tale of Three Generators

Most VW's these days use Alternators. For some reason, I've stuck with the generators. I'm not sure if it is some sick desire to stick with old tech, but I think it is a combination of being gun-shy with electrical matters, and not wanting to deal with a fuel pump. (Alternators require a larger stand, which also requires a change of fuel pumps. See this blog as to why I hate fuel pumps.)

My last road trip killed my generator. It was old enough that it might have deserved to die, but it died and that is all that matters. So I had it replaced.

And on it's maiden voyage home from the shop, it died. The generator light came on, it was not charging the battery. It just wasn't doing what it was supposed to do - generate power. So I headed back to the shop who gave me a quizzical look and said "they never break that quickly, that's weird". They installed another new one.

And less than a thousand miles later it died. Full death. The engine just stopped running less that 10 blocks from my house, so I pulled over and saw smoke from a melting fanbelt. Better yet, I didn't turn the engine all the way off, it was in the start position, so power was running to the generator. It was arcing and sparks/electrical cracks were coming of the pulley. (Yes, the pulley) The generator not only epically failed, it was competing for most spectacular failure ever on my bus.

Punchline to this was that I was only going a few blocks away, so I didn't bring my cellphone. I borrow some random guy on the streets phone, call the tow company, and three hours later, I'm back in my garage. I might have just pushed it, but I live in San Francisco, we have hills.

Big Sigh. Here we go:
Step one, pull off the failed parts.

Step two. Remove generator

Step three, bring generator back to shop, swap out, get replacement pulley, fan belt, and spare woodruff keys.

Step four, put it back and start it up again.

So I'm running again, and this time, it sounds as good as it did when I was driving through Nevada a couple of months ago. The sewing machine sound is exactly what is it supposed to sound like. Let's see how long this lasts. ;)

Some notes - When you put a generator/fan assembly back in the car, it is important to shim it correctly. The fan has about 1/8 of an inch of room in the fan housing, and will rub if it isn't perfectly straight and if the fan housing is not lined up correctly. When I was repositioning the fan housing, I noticed that the fan shroud had some rubbing where there wasn't supposed to be any, indicating that the shop may have not lined it up correctly. It's a difficult thing to do, and easy to over look is it isn't visible on the back side. But, it accounted for the inconsistent "fan rubbing sound" that I was getting when the car was cold starting.  Bottom line - engine tin is designed to go in one way and one way only. Double check that it is right, then triple check.

Introducing, The Squirrel

I have another VW. I know it's a sickness. I'm cutting and pasting the post that I put on the samba: The Back story: My grandpare...