BODY & CHASSIS REPAIRS
OCEAN PLASTIC TOUR BUS - VW Camper, or Combi vans are symbolic of the earth movement, made famous by the likes of Joss Stone, Jamie Oliver and BBC Top Gear presenter, Richard Hammond - all great fans of Volkswagen campers. The Volkswagen van uses the same air cooled 4-cylinder boxer engine as the famed Beetle designed by Professor Ferdinand Porsche. Seen here the front bumper mount was rusted so badly that it was decided to remove it and weld in more substantial panels. This was long before we were given use of the vehicle. Copyright photograph Blueplanet Universal Holdings Ltd 2007, all rights reserved. You will need the permission of BUH Ltd to reproduce this picture.
Production of the air cooled VW T2 combi van, or camper, ceased in Germany after 1980. Our van was one of the last to roll off the production lines and is unusual in that it has twin sliding doors and an alternator instead of a dynamo.
These vehicles were made of steel welded construction from pressed panels ranging from 20 to 18 gauge and in the days before design for corrosion treatments were that comprehensive. This means that they rust badly over time, and the patterns of corrosion are near identical. As the areas prone to rust have been identified, specialist steel folding companies have produced repair panels for enthusiasts. They started with door panels, then wheel arches and sills. Now you can buy a whole floorpan if you need one.
We are not trying to faithfully repair this wagon to original factory specifications for club shows and the like. We are repairing this bus so that it is strong and reliable in service as a project support vehicle, and for showing our robots and giving presentations about ocean pollution.
THE NITTY GRITTY - Always wear a breathing mask and eye protection when cutting out rotten sections of bodywork or chassis with an angle grinder. Here our expert restorer is using a 1.5mm cutting disc to accurately slice out the old chassis outrigger. He works with the precision of a surgeon - the workshop is his operating theatre. Do not attempt this level of repair unless you have a great deal of experience with sheet metal and as a welder. Copyright photographs, 30 November 2016, all rights reserved. You will need the permission of Bluebird Marine Systems Ltd to reproduce this picture.
SEAT BELT MOUNTINGS - This is an example of an area where it is vital that your repairs are spot on. We could have fabricated a large plate to remount the seat belt threaded section, but thought it better to weld in a new section as supplied by Alan Schofield. This company are specialist producers of body and chassis repair sections. Copyright photograph, 1 December 2016, all rights reserved. You will need the permission of Bluebird Marine Systems Ltd to reproduce these pictures.
STEEL THICKNESS CONVERSION TABLE (gauge - inch - mm)
Birmingham Wire Gauge for Iron & Steel Wire
BODY & CHASSIS RUST SPOTS - [LEFT] The 'B' post always rusts where it mates onto the front jacking point and sill intersection. Alan Schofield make one and two piece jacking point repair arms, but there is nothing you can buy for the junction. We will have to fabricate joining sections. [RIGHT] Detail of the butt from a chassis repair section to the original framework. We used some of the excess steel to make reinforcing corner plates. Copyright photograph, 1 December 2016, all rights reserved. You will need the permission of Bluebird Marine Systems Ltd to reproduce these pictures.
CHASSIS OUTRIGGER - This part of the frame supports the front bumper and 'A' post that takes the front door hinges. In the event of a crash, shock loads are transferred from the impact area to the chassis via this beam. The company that produces the chassis repair section are specialist also producers of body repair sections and suppliers of original pressings. Copyright photograph, 1 December 2016, all rights reserved. You will need the permission of Bluebird Marine Systems Ltd to reproduce this picture.
DIGITAL STABILITY - The heavy duty drive on this versatile inverter based machine provides a crisp melt and just the right amount of penetration for an extremely strong weld. Once you find a voltage and amperage combination that you like, you can store the settings to recall as you swap between metal thicknesses. Copyright photographs, 6 December 2016, all rights reserved. You will need the permission of Bluebird Marine Systems Ltd to reproduce this picture.
A & B POSTS - All VW combi vans corrode in the same places. It all depends on how the vehicle is stored and how well the previous owner painted underneath. Here you can see how we repaired the door mounting post and the door catch post. Note the high quality earth clamp of the R-Tech equipment. Copyright photographs, 14 December 2016, all rights reserved. You will need the permission of Bluebird Marine Systems Ltd to reproduce this picture.
DOORSTEP - The inner and outer step panels are available from Alan Schofield with a very fast delivery service if you need it. Be sure to check clearances before seam welding. We tack weld until we are sure it all fits. Copyright photographs, 14 December 2016, all rights reserved. You will need the permission of Bluebird Marine Systems Ltd to reproduce this picture.
We are using the best industrial welding equipment that we could find from R-Tech Welding Equipment. The first thing for our welders to get used to is that the torches are much heavier duty items compared to a lot of other DIY and professional garage equipment and the fittings are superb. We needed production quality equipment for when we produce the AmphiMax and SeaVax machines. We have MIG and TIG machines in single and three-phase, and a spool on gun setup especially for aluminium. You'll see more details of these machines as we move ahead with the project.
RESTORATION - These vans are all pretty old. This is a very rare twin sliding door wagon from 1978. At this age, unless garaged in very dry conditions there will be a lot of rust that a purist will want to eradicate. Our advice here is not to cut out too much - only the really bad sections. Then again, it is sometimes quicker and cheaper to weld in new formed steel parts, especially where chassis members are being repaired - when strength is the priority. Copyright photographs, 30 November 2016, all rights reserved. You will need the permission of Bluebird Marine Systems Ltd to reproduce this picture.
CLAMP MEASURE & WELD - We test fit new replacement panels, especially when they have to be accurate enough to slide a door on and not get either jammed or be too loose. Once we are sure that the doors will close with acceptable tolerances to the shut line, then and only then do we spark up the welding kit.
JACKING POINTS - The chassis main member have outriggers that are strong enough to jack up the vehicle. These are nearly always rusted away beyond repair, when plating will not produce a satisfactory repair. Our mantra is to have a strong vehicle, mainly because it will take a beating on the road on tour.
WELDING ON RUST - It is near impossible to get the smooth welds you will see on clean metal and production items. Paint and rust dust and residues will affect the quality of the weld. Even where the rust has been ground away, the thickness of the steel varies enough to make smooth seam welding extremely difficult. Our advice is not to get flustered, but to do the best you can, so long as the metal is joined sufficiently and the repair is solid. We put in extra reinforcing under the seating arch section.
REAR ARCH - The sill to rear arch corners also rust like crazy. You may be lucky and might be considering a bodge, but it is usually quicker and safer to cut out the peppered metal and weld in a new section.
SILLS & MORE - Alan Schofield do six piece kits for anyone faced with replacing the sills and sliding door runners. Don't tackle this unless you are feeling exceptionally brave, or have considerable experience as a panel beater.
R-TECH MIG - This digital welder can be used in MMA or TIG mode, but here is fitted with a Eurotorch and is being used to weld in a chassis member at the front of this classic surfing wagon. Copyright photographs, 6 December 2016, all rights reserved. You will need the permission of Bluebird Marine Systems Ltd to reproduce this picture.
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