My search for a Vanagon has finally come to an end.

July 1999

Well, it wasn't easy to leave my hot tub, computer, peaceful life, California sunshine and head for Seattle for a couple of weeks of visiting. No, I rather spend "my" vacation time rattling around out there in the vast wilderness somewhere and even that I find less appealing now that I have a hot tub. But, anyway...

We left Mendocino, Ca. the 1st of July. Evening found us camped on the Illinois River a few miles short of Cave Junction, Oregon. A quiet spot I had previously discovered amongst the piney trees with a swimming hole near by.

The 2nd of July we did the lazy morning get up and then moseyed on over to Grants Pass and jumped onto I-5 and drove as far north as Cottage Grove, Oregon, then left I-5 and drove back roads until we found a quiet spot up a logging road. The clear cut allowed an expansive view! Lots of birds and, here and there, some coyote poop for the dog to sniff. Everyone is happy.

We spotted this sign in Sutherlin, Oregon but didn't order anything!

The 3rd. we arrived at the southern end of Seattle just in time for the afternoon commute so stopped in at my son's house. We hung out with him until 7 pm, waiting for the commute to ease off, and then drove on up Lolli's mom's house in North Seattle. It only takes one hour after the "rush hour". Otherwise it take about three hours of stop and go.

Because of the rain and clouds the 4th. of July get together at Camano Island was called off and all of Lolli's relatives gathered at her mom's house instead.

During the week Lolli and her mom would go off to visit Salvation Armies and thrift shops while I stayed at Lolli's mom's house and puttered around fixing things, mowing the yard or reading books.

It was during one of their various thrift store adventures that Lolli spotted two different Vanagons. Finally, the day we did head for Camano Island, we decided to check them out on the way. The first bus was a blue, 1981 camper, but they were asking $4900.00 for it.

We then drove over to see the other one. The sticker price on the windshield was $3995.00 but it was a 1984. We were looking at it when the car salesman came over and started talking to us. He didn't seem to know much about the bus; how to pop the top, how to turn the front seats around, etc. He gave us the keys and told us to go take it around the block. We hopped in and took off.

It seemed to run fine and the power steering and comfortable seats were a real joy after driving Roadcow. We liked it. When we pulled back into the car lot we were sitting there letting it idle and then I could hear one lifter knocking. Oh oh. I shut it off and talked to the salesman about the lifter noise. I told him we had 770 miles to drive back to California and I didn't want a bus with an engine that could blow up during the drive. He said "It won't blow up". "Make me an offer". I kicked the tires a while and finally said, $3,000.00.

He said. "Okay. Let's go write it up."!

Well then I really got worried. I'm thinking. Something is wrong. So I'm standing there still hesitant and then he says. "$2,800.00".

I'm thinking. Well, I have been looking for a Vanagon with a bad engine so I can replace it with a Subaru engine. This bus has all the camping stuff we have wanted, the body is in great shape, etc. If I can just get it to Elk....

I finally say, "Okay."

We go in and sign the papers and buy the Vanagon. I sign the document that says. "Vehicle purchased AS IS". Once I put the key in and drive it out of the lot - it is mine. If it blows up a half block away the seller has no responsibility!

Oh boy. I hop in and Lolli gets into Roadcow and off we go to Camano Island. I drive along listening to every possible sound and worrying about trouble. It zooms along just fine! After about 45 minutes on the freeway we reach the Camano Island turn off and I ease down to the stop sign. The oil pressure light comes on. Oh oh! When I rev the engine up a bit the light goes out. If I let it idle below 1000 rpm the light comes back on. Hummm?

We drive on out to the cabin on Camano Island and park. I get in Roadcow and drive back into Stanwood and buy an oil filter and four quarts of 20w50 motor oil. Back to the new Vanagon. I drain out the old oil and put in the new filter and heavy duty oil. That was it. No more lifter noise or low oil pressure! Perfect!

We pop the top and get ready to camp in our new Vanagon. We check out all the drawers and the swivel front seats. We find that all the curtains are there and that there is even a mosquito screen that can be snapped into place when the back door is open. The screen looks like it is brand new! In fact all the camping related stuff looks brand new. It is like the bus was never used as a camper. It has a two burner propane stove. A sink with a faucet that actually works! Turn the knob and water comes out! I discover that there is a 13 gallon water tank by reading the VW Camper Manual I find in the glove box. It has an electric water pump! The bus has an electric/propane refrigerator and that works too - even makes ice cubes, tiny ones! Everything is here except the two tables. They are missing.

Anyway, we are like two kids on Christmas morning! The back bench seat folds down to make the bed and that night we sleep on it and it is more comfortable than the bed in Roadcow! Of course we made love because that is the way you "gronk your bus" and "establish harmonic unity with it's soul"! We are happy. The bus seemed happy!

We stay at Camano Island a couple of days. The sun is out, the Olympics are beautiful, the bald eagles are flying around.

On Friday we zip down to my son's house and he puts together a barbecue and has my other son and daughter and their significant others over for a visit. We spend the night camping in their yard.

I noticed a noise from the transmission during the drive to their place and so, Saturday morning my son drives me to the auto parts house and I buy some 90w140 heavy weight gear lube and then drain the transmission. The magnet on the drain plug looks like a paint brush with all the metal particles on it. Oh oh! I clean the plug and then put the gear lube in. That quiets down the noise. In fact it shifts great and does not pop out of any gear, but I know things like this don't usually get better.

A couple more days at Lolli's mom's house and then we talk mom into coming back to California with us for a visit. She and Lolli in the new bus. Me and the dog in Roadcow. Away we go.

We stay at Wolf Creek in Oregon with Lolli's mom staying in the lodge and Lolli and I camping in the campground. The next day we are home by 5 in the evening.

During the drive down the new bus only had trouble one time and that was south of Crescent City. It started losing power and Lolli coasted to the side of the road. I check things out and discovered one spark plug was gunked up. I cleaned the plug and put it back in and then we were back up to speed and on the road again. Perfect!

So. Here we are.

The Vanagon does have some problems. I will get the tranny rebuilt but it isn't life threatening and there is no rush. The engine does seem to be weak on one cylinder and I have not figured out why yet but either it will be a simple fix or an expensive one. Either way I will go ahead and start looking for a Subaru engine to do the conversion which was my original plan anyway. Meanwhile, it still runs and I can probably get a couple of thousand miles out of it as is; do some camping in it meanwhile.

Yes, it has extra seats which make it a seven passenger bus. In fact, this is the first camper I have seen with extra seats mounted to tracks in the floor. They slide right out and I know I won't use them much. I don't have THAT many friends!!

The usual suspects are gathering at Ed and Suzanne's this Sunday and I will get to see Stefan's Zitron for the first time. We are talking about planning a short trip to Jackson State Forest for a campout in the near future.

And so, there you have it. More than you wanted to know about the mechanics of my new Vanagon but.... well, you know me. My friends in Elk all want to know when I am going to paint it like a cow. Lolli likes it just the color it is. Already she is calling it "Cafe Latte".

Meanwhile, I think I will go fire up the hot tub and while it's heating, wash and wax my new bus!

July 22, 1999

I did a compression check. Number 2 cylinder is zip, zero, nada. The other cylinders come up to between 125 and 130 psi. I'm thinking I will just try a head rebuild on that side for now. Knowing nothing about the Waterboxer, it will be a learning experience. I have been checking the Web for information. The only other problem I have found is that the high beam light indicator is burnt out! Of course, the tranny is still noisy. Other than that. What a sweetheart. I like it. ROADCOW, with 290,716 miles on the odometer is heaving a sigh of relief!

July 30th, 1999

Well, I have noticed white smoke coming out of the exhaust pipe when starting up, now and then. Obviously there is a coolant leak into one of the cylinders. That's it. I'm going to just go ahead with converting to Subaru Power.

I called Jeff Fields at

Transaxle Engineering

about the noise in the transmission. (They are the ones who rebuilt Roadcow's transmission and did a great job). Anyway, he thought the noise might be coming from a CV joint.

I later crawled under the bus and tried wiggling the half shafts. Sure enough, the right one had some slop in it. Jeff might be right! I will check them out when I take out the waterboxer engine during the conversion to Subaru Power! One thing I did notice while under the bus: now that the later busses have switched over to coil springs they have really made access to the outer CV joints almost impossible! The stamped steel box that supports the base of the coil spring completely surrounds the outer CV joint!

Ain't "improvements" wonderful!

Click here for the continuing story.

Click here to return to the bus conversion page.

Return to blabberon