From the classic split screen camper to the cool little pop-top roof; the VW Bus certainly does capture all the romance of endless summers, surf life, and sojourns for the body and the soul. VW Buses bring so much joy. They look cool, they offer the opportunity to bed down just about anywhere, and of all the campers – they seem to hold their value. Of course, being a few decades old, renovations come on a sliding scale – from full-blown restorations to mechanical and comfort tinkering. Here are our top tips on what to consider when renovating your VW Bus.
1. Weigh up the worth of renovating
Think carefully prior to making the plunge and buying a VW Bus. While they do have a ton of benefits, they aren’t for everyone. For a start, consider if the VW Bus is going to offer enough space for the style of traveling you have planned. Second, you need to think about budget considerations and the cost of upkeep. While classic buses can be cheap and easy to fix, often you want a specialist to take a look. Try and find someone who knows how to deal with these kinds of cars.
It is worth, getting right down to the details when you make an evaluation about a renovation. Sometimes so of the most expensive parts of the renovation can get glossed over in a starstruck planning/dreaming session. Plan, plan, plan and be conservative with the cost of implementing everything. You can expect your renovation to cost more than you budget for and take more time than you expected. Try to calculate for it all as best you can and then decide whether this is worth it.
2. Consider the model before you buy
When planning to buy a model for renovation, think about how classic you want your classic camper to be. The pre-1967 campers are going to offer weaker engines, smaller window screens, and only 6-volt electrics. Post-1967 and you still have quirks but will find these models to have slightly more power in their engines, and 12-volt electrics at least. Make sure that you buy right when it comes to the scope of the project. Know your limits, know your budget, and prepare to be tested on both along the way. Why not try renting one before buying to see how it works for you!
3. Prioritize demands over dreams
While we all dream of the day when we can throw a couple of cushions in our VW Bus and hit the road, it makes sense to prioritize your list of renovations. The most important aspect of mapping out your VW Bus renovation is to get the mechanical stuff sorted first. Most notably, start by paying attention to the engine and then the bodywork before moving into the interior. The next priority should be solving any damp issues on the inside. Afterward, you should sort the electrics so they are up to scratch when it comes to safety and modern standards.
By starting with the engine and body, you can be certain that you are building on a strong foundation and make the rest of the renovation a breeze. That said, don’t let go of your dreams in the meantime. Take the opportunity to plan out different designs and be in your bus until the hard work is done and you can make your dream come true!
4. Know your rust
Remember that rust is one of the most time consuming and expensive things to tackle when it comes to renovating. Surface rust isn’t such a big deal and you can even DIY it simply with a sanding wheel, primer, and paint. Rust or even full-on rot on the chassis, around the suspension mounting points, and around seatbelt mounting points is going to be a more financially incumbent thing to sort.
The best way to avoid a heavy rust fee is to catch it before you buy the VW Bus in the first place. Take along a trustworthy mechanic with experience in welding. They will have the best chance of spotting weaknesses. However, even with heaps of experience, sometimes it’s not possible to tell until you strip the vehicle. Prepare for the worst!
5. Vehicle upgrades
Renovating a VW Bus gives you the freedom to keep things as pure as possible or to sneak in a few handy upgrades. For example, you may want to upgrade your security system by getting central locking fitted in the van. This is especially worthwhile if you are doing a big overhaul. Another point of consideration may be getting a power steering upgrade too unless you want to put those biceps to the test.
Again, think about all of these options before diving into your renovation. If you want to do these upgrades then it will be worthwhile doing it near the beginning of the renovation, to avoid backtracking and more awkward installation procedures.
6. Renovating for functionality
We all adore VW Buses thanks to their unmistakable style. Yes, the Instagrammable decor is the cherry on the top, but when it comes to mapping out and renovating your interior – you need to think about functionality first. This means considering storage opportunities, space, cooking facilities, and materials. By materials, we mean choosing lightweight materials over heavy wood if you want to improve fuel efficiency. Many building materials can even be toxic, which is another consideration.
It’s worth considering blinds over curtains for better temperature control. You may also question whether you really need a fridge or an oven as this adds to the weight and reduces space. The best thing is that you have the opportunity to design your VW Bus to your exact specifications for your own comfort. Try to spend as much time in your bus to get a feel for the space and what you might need before diving into the interior renovation.
The Vanlife academy course contains all the information you need for renovating your VW Bus.
7. Renovating the roof
Another aspect you may get to decide when renovating your VW Bus is whether you can raise the roof. Often, a VW Bus will come with a fixed roof. The number of people you are hoping to accommodate in your VW Bus may make the decision for you. A pop-up roof means more sleeping space. Even if you decide not to put a bed up there, it provides a little more (much needed) headroom. It will also improve air circulation when it comes to keeping your bus cooler. Try to find a VW Bus with a pop-top already fitted, as fitting comes are a significant cost.
There is plenty more to think about when piecing together the VW Bus of your dreams. We encourage you to check out our article, What to Look for When Buying a VW Bus. Keep an eye out for new articles in the magazine too.
What advice do you wish you had been told before beginning your VW Bus renovation? Share it in the comments!
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