Saturday, July 4, 2015

Resurrecting the bus

I had spent quite a few weeks getting myself and Aimee mentally prepared for this particular project -- finally doing something with our old VW bus. Neither of us was particularly looking forward to having another junker lying around, but Something Had to be Done.

This vehicle was a gift from a college friend and helped me get through my college years. I first drover her twenty-two years ago. I've had her ever since. For the first thirteen or fourteen years, she was my main vehicle, and saw daily use. I drove her through my B.A., M.S. and Ph.D degrees. As I began my teaching career, with more responsibilities but not much more money, she was eventually relegated to summer-only use, and I began using other vehicles in Maine's cold, snowy winters. I drove a long series of second-hand Saabs, all towards the end of their working lives. They were an improvement on the bus, mostly because they had heat and could handle the snow. (The bus originally came with a gas heater, but it never worked, and eventually I removed it.) 

I drove across the country east to west and north to south in this vehicle. I visited Canada in it, used it to tow sailboats and carry canoes, camped and toured and studied in it. I built a house and a barn carrying materials in this bus. My old dogs Liza Jane and Cocoa loved it, and so did I.

But, after Aimee and I got married in 2004, the poor old bus languished, and was eventually abandoned over at the Bale House, mostly due to lack of money and time, where it began to rot into the ground.

But all such things change. I now have a pretty well equipped workshop and automotive lift, and, despite having a baby, I have more time, at least in summers, mostly because I'm not building any large buildings for the foreseeable future. It was time to do something with the van, before it rusted so badly that nothing at all could be done with it except cut it up for scrap.

The first job would be to get it over to my workshop. On Wednesday afternoon, I trundled over to the Bale House with the Rover and an air tank, pumped up the tires and tugged the vehicle out of it's nest of weeds, just to make sure it could roll. The next day I went back with a tow dolly.

Using the tow dolly turned out to be more difficult than I thought, mostly because my earlier experiment had failed to show that the passenger side back wheel was locked up, probably because the engine is seized. There was too much mud and wet ground at the Bale House to know this. The wheel just slipped, out of sight at the back, and for all intents and purposes acted normally. It was only once the vehicle was down on the road that the resistance was obvious. After dragging her for about half a mile, I came to a suitable turn-out, and, with some extra labor, switched from rolling on the back to the front wheels.

There was also the matter of having to change a wheel without a proper jack, but we won't go into those details. Suffice it to say that by the end of the day I was pretty pooped out.

Yesterday Aimee decided to take Roo to town to shop and to the doctors for a routine check-up, so my services were not required. Instead, I was able to spend the time getting the vehicle positioned on the lift, not easy with a locked-up wheel, and then removing the camper furniture, carpet, and engine.

There was a lot of dirt and junk, as well as various nests of insects and mice.

Here's the engine in the process of being removed, a job made a lot easier with a lift. The engine needs to be rebuilt, but pulling it early in the process would make a "rolling chassis", which would be a lot easier.

Here's the engine on the ground. These VW engines are relatively light and easy to handle, as engines go. Next job is to grind out the rot and see just exactly what's left.

All this heavy work took a toll after Thursday's major efforts. Today is an official federal holiday, but also, now, by declaration, an official Husband Holiday.

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