CARRY ON KAMPING
Just Kampers Insurance recently overhauled a 1977 Bay Westfalia Camper that had come to their attention as an unfinished project
Last year, Just Kampers Insurance ran a competition to win a Karmann Ghia cabriolet, which went down a storm hence, when it came to picking a vehicle to overhaul and give away in 2018, the JK team certainly had their work cut out for them! Mark reynolds called together his staff to discuss some options and, whilst chatting, it seemed that one of the sales team, alex nole, had just the kind of vehicle they were looking for in the shape on an unfinished Bay window Camper project.
Like so many JK employees, alex is a pretty serious VW fan and always has a project of some kind on the go. He explained, “This Westfalia Camper was a project I’d started a while back, but just hadn’t had the time to complete, as I was working on other VWs at the same time”. and so, selling the project on to his employer suited alex as it would slim down his fleet of projects, and it was perfect for JK too as they wouldn’t have to waste months chasing up leads, plus they knew exactly what would be required to complete the overhaul.
It seems the project had initially turned up via a chance conversation with a customer. as alex explained: “The customer mentioned that he was looking to sell a Bay window project, which had been imported from Germany some years earlier”. He continued; “it sounded like a decent Bus, hence I went to take a look and ended up buying it and driving it home that day’. The Camper was pretty much complete and, best of all, it was rock solid underneath, however the upper body was in need of restoration work, as it was both dented and rusty (in all the usual places).
The vehicle came with an MoT and was running and driving, but it was clear that it wasn’t exactly ‘good to go’, hence alex decided to tackle the obvious body issues first, which started with the replacement of a rear corner, battery tray and the mudflap panel. next, alex tackled the outer sill on the non-sliding door side of the body before replacing the sliding door with a good, used panel. He said: ‘There was still some way to go, but that’s as far as I’d got before Mark bought the Camper from me”. But that wasn’t to be the last time alex worked on the Bus – far from it! Mark became what is probably best described as the ‘project manager’, as Mark asked him to continue with the overhaul, albeit now with the assistance of the team at JK workshops. Of course, this also meant that alex not only had a skilled team and a fully equipped workshop at his disposal, but also access to the JK stores (i.e. all the parts required to complete the job!), hence things moved along quite quickly.
Before long, the other sill had been replaced and repairs had been made to the lower front section, the offside rear quarter (lower section) and the B-pillars, too. Closer inspection revealed that the front steps and wheel arches had already been replaced at some point in the past, so the JK team moved
straight on to the front panel. apparently, the old Westy had been fitted with a spare wheel carrier in the past, which was not just ugly, but had also twisted and damaged the front panel. The obvious solution was to replace the entire panel, hence alex grabbed the required sheet metal from the stores and set about fixing the nose.
With the side windows removed, the JK team moved on to fix some rust around the window apertures, the worst of which being the lower section of one rear window frame, which required a section of metal from a donor Bus to be grafted in place.
alex continued, “Fortunately, the cab doors were in good shape, so we stripped those – along with the rest of the body – so that we could begin to prepare the body for paint”.
With the metalwork repairs now complete, the stripped body was handed to Sylvester Coachworks where it was repainted in a custom-mixed teal green hue. “This was originally a Westy Berlin, however, but it seems a previous owner didn’t like the factory green, hence it had been repainted to a high standard in the teal colour you see here”, explained alex’. as this had been a comprehensive colour change (i.e. incorporating the interior and engine bay etc.), the JK team decided to repaint the exterior in the same colour, as this would save a lot of time... plus it looked good against the white Westy pop-top.
Speaking of the pop-top, this was removed from the Camper and treated to some TLC while the body was at the paintshop. The fibreglass top sections were painted white while the inside was covered with some fresh ‘stretchy carpet’ material, which suits the theme perfectly. When it came to refitting the roof, a fresh canvas was added and as you can see, it now looks as good as new.
When it came to refitting the body, alex decided to replace the original (and somewhat ugly) double-glazed side windows with regular glass using fresh rubbers and seals from the JK stores. In fact, the stores were raided for many other trim pieces, seals and parts required to build this body back up to ‘as new’ condition.
alex explained, ‘regarding the interior, the decision was made to retain as much of the original Westfalia charm as possible, hence the woodwork, fittings and seats are pretty much exactly as they were when I picked the Camper up’. However, the flooring has been replaced and more recently, the faded front seat covers were swapped for top-quality replacements in the original Westy plaid material (the seat covers were changed shortly after our photoshoot).
Moving beneath the Camper, alex overhauled the brakes and fitted new flexible hoses, cables and dampers before equipping the gear linkage with fresh bushes and joints throughout. The van now stops on a dime and the once-sloppy gear change is now as tight as the day it left the factory, thereby making this Westy real treat to drive.
Finishing off the rolling stock is a new set of 14-in steel wheels (from the JK stores), which have been painted and fitted with new whitewall radials and fresh chrome hubcaps.
This left just the engine to tackle. “as the Westy was running when I’d collected it, we decided to remove it, clean things up and check it all over before treating it to a full service and some fresh ancillaries”, added an obvoiusly very pleased alex. With repainted tinware, a new carburettor and a complete exhaust and heat exchanger kit
fitted, the engine was refitted to the van and it was soon time to take it for an MoT inspection prior to displaying the vehicle at some VW events. However, following a few issues on the test drive, the Westy was soon back in the workshop. as alex summed up later: “Despite our best efforts, it soon became clear that the engine wasn’t as good as we’d hoped and the Bay has been fitted with a brand new 1600c long block engine’. Incidentally, this isn’t just some reconditioned motor we’re talking about, it’s one of the ‘Preservation engines’ that JK stock, which includes a new crankcase, crankshaft, complete cylinder heads… That’s right, this is essentially a factory-fresh, zero-mile power plant that’s been fitted to this great looking Van.
The end result of all this hard is a great looking Camper, which has been overhauled to a very high standard – although the Westy’s gas and water systems haven’t been restored and the interior is largely as it was when alex collected the Van. This means that the Bay’s new owner will now be busy stamping their mark on this superbly restored Van in time for some serious camping adventures when the long sunny days make a welcome return.
The standard of finish on this rebuilt Westfalia Camper can only be described as excellent.
This isn't your normal T2 engine – its a more powerful Just Kamper's 1600 long stock unit and produces a decent amount of extra grunt. Raising the Westfalia pop top roof provides a decent amount of extra headroom in the living area
One job that took a while to accomplish was refurbishing the glass fibre pop top, which was also lined with a 'stretchy carpet' material to help insulate the interior.
The left-hand drive configuration makes this the perfect van to take on an extended European tour chasing the sun. Equipment levels are generous and the rear bench seat folds down to make a comfortable double bed.