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VW Camper Van Restoration 'Project Paws' Part 1

Text and photos by Adrian Chandler - edited and presented by Aidan O'Rourke

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Search for a VW camper suitable for restoration Once I had made the decision to seek out and restore a VW Camper the hunt was on for a bay window model. I have always liked the older look of the split screen VWs but prefer the improved rear suspension arrangements and 12 volt electrics that make the later models a more practical proposition, with better driving characteristics. I also had to take into account accommodation for myself and 3 children on regular excursions, so a pop-up roof of some description was essential, as was a pre-1973 registration to qualify for tax exempt status. This restoration was to be carried out on a shoestring budget, no concours requirements here, just a thorough and solid rebuild that will last us for years to come.

A constant trawl of eBay finally flagged up a 1972 Devon with pop up roof and hammocks. This was ideal, it was described as a ‘basket case’ in ‘paw’ condition (it had paw prints crudely painted all over it), and it was my aim to replace all rust rather than buying one that had been bodged and sprayed over.

Fit for restoration despite rust and filth

It was languishing outside an abattoir in Somerset, without an engine, and was purchased for £250 in September 2004. It was described as 'rough', although some areas were surprisingly good, e.g. the roof guttering was rust free. It was all complete except for its engine and the accelerator pedal linkage. The front panel was very rusty all around the windscreen edges and parts of it were missing as a result, also most of the cab floor was rotten. The front chassis members were bad in places, but the rear chassis was good except in the usual engine bay areas. There was a belly pan fitted, so the condition of the middle chassis was unknown. The usual bottom 6 inches of bodywork was badly hanging off with rust. The concertina roof was in good working order but filthy. One hammock was rotten due to a skylight leak. The front rooflining was intact, with a (masticked-in) glass removable sunroof.

VW Camper with an uncertain history

The history to this camper is uncertain. The chassis number shows it started life as a factory fitted windows 9-seater minibus, but was clearly converted at some stage with a Devon style roof and rear storage shelves. There was however a full width rear seat, and no sign of any cooker or other camping fittings normally found in a Devon. It seems they may have given up the conversion half-way!

Returning home with the camper on a trailer, I was aware of the major work in store for me.

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1968 VW Beetle renovated by Adrian ChandlerAdrian Chandler offers detailed air-cooled vehicle inspections at £95 plus travelling expenses of 75p per mile (one way) from Ringwood (Hampshire, southern England/UK). He can also undertake travelling mechanical restoration services on air-cooled VWs, priced at £40 per hour. Adrian restored this 1968 1500 Beetle, and has over 27 years experience with air-cooled VWs. To contact Adrian, e-mail adrian@cwad.fsnet.co.uk or phone 07785 941676.

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