The Kombi Files

an ash's projects website

23/09/2004 12:00   Another Kombi   [General]

-- The following is an excerpt from an email sent around the team, explaining why we need to shell out for more German scrap-metal...

Hi boys,

I hope your holidays are still treating you all well. (Mike, any
idea when you plan to return?)

As for the Canberra connection, much as we would like to tell
you that the kombi is totally finished and a roadworthy
chick-magnet, it isn't.

We have however spent a bit of time looking at the (extensive)
rust. Ash prepped a spot on the front of the van and it came up
beautifully, but this is not a great deal of help with the big
holes right _through_ the panels. There are many of these, from
the big mothers around the air-intakes at the rear, to the
air-intakes at the front (Ash found some lovely holes around the
airvents and under the windscreen when he took the dashboard
out). Not to mention every door and window.

We are presented with two solutions to this problem.

1. Cut and fill rust holes.
Basically we get out the angle grinder and cut out all the rust.
Then, depending on the size of the hole, we either fill it with
body filler (bog), or make up small replacement sections out of
steel plate. There is also a (more expensive) variety of bog
impregnated with glass fibres which claims to have better
structural strength which we could use over bigger holes.

2. Find a "donor" van with intact body panels.
This involves finding a kombi shell, ideally with everything
else stripped out of it, and transplanting all the good bits of
the current van into it (engine, transmission, suspension,
interior etc etc) until we have one complete van. A
"frankenkombi" if you will.

The two approaches have their pros and cons, which Ash and I
have discussed in some detail. We were hoping to have a meeting
sometime this weekend to give you the full details, but the main
features would be labour time, the longevity of the van/resale
value, and of course cost.

Both approaches will take time. It's hard at this stage to say
which would take longer.

The life expectancy of the van would be much lower with the
first approach. When you repair rust in the method we propose
you are almost guaranteed to have the rust come back eventually.
This is because the heat from the welding and grinding tends to
sensitise the metal, and burn off any anti-corrosion treatments
applied at the factory. Unless a repairer can get to the rear of
every panel to re-treat it, rust is likely to reappear within

Cost. Well, we'd need a welder (~$150) and lots of consumables -
grinding discs, welding rods, bog etc etc. At least $250 total
to make a decent start.

The second approach will also take time. As I said above, we
don't know yet how long. Therefore we are taking this factor as
being the same for each approach.

A frankenkombi should last a lot longer than a single,
extensively-repaired van. If we do a good job on the painting
etc, it should last many years.

Cost of this method. Well, on Monday we went to a wrecker in
Mitchell and he wanted $800 for a wreck. There were a couple to
choose from, none of them had too much rust, and most doors and
windows were intact.

Yesterday (Wednesday) we went to the Beetle Exchange in
Fyshwick. They also had a few kombi shells to choose from, and
the dude in charge was very decent about leaving us alone to
check all the vehicles. This gave us the chance to scratch the
paint to see what was underneath, tear back upholstery
etc to really get a good idea what state the vans were in. Some
were complete pooh, more bog than metal. It seems a few folks
have taken approach (1). We also found a halfway decent van. It
really is just a shell, no doors, windows, suspension, wheels or
brakes. Blue in colour, the body is pretty straight except for a
dent at the rear on the driver's side. we are confident we can
hammer that out. There's also one rust hole under a rear window
(yes this one had windows in the back.)

The nice people at the Beetle Exchange wanted $150 for this gem.
However, if we were to buy this shell, we'd need to come up with
a trailer to put it on. This we will have to rent. "Absolute
Rentals" in Holt have quoted us $44 for four hours, $63 for

So the overall cost of option (2) looks like being ~$200-$250

So the initial cost of each option looks like being pretty
similar for both approaches. Ash and I really think the pros of
option two really outweigh any cons. Since Ash is happy to lower
the property values in his street even more by the addition of
another wreck, we propose that this is the best approach.

So unless you gentlemen have any major objections, this is the
option we are going with. As I write this Ash is calling around
rental places etc to get a trailer organised. He is prepared to foot the
cash for now. The actual move will probably take place on
Sunday, so everybody can help. After getting the thing onto the
trailer we'll probably take it thru the carwash to get it nicely
prepared for work.

Well I hope all that came across reasonably clearly. We look
forward to seeing you both when you return.


Nick the grease monkey

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