Nemo the Bus Captain's
1970 VW BUS
My Westfakia SUV
(Slow Utility Vehicle)

My bus was adorned with the rare Desert Edition paint scheme applied with a paintbrush (probably by an intoxicated artist); a late westy poptop/upper bed (welded/installed  rather well by Uncle Bob); z bed and rear cabinets out of a late westy; two jumpseats from early westy's; and sliding windows out of a 78-79 bus (installed backwards?).   The body is nice and solid, as one would expect an Arizona bus to be.   The engine is a freshly rebuilt 1600 DP built on a universal case- both case and heads look new.   Doesn't leak, no odd sounds, and pulls well.
Update 7/04

> upgraded to an alternator;

> replaced the horrid 009 dizzy with a nice combination centrifugal/vacuum advance distributor (Mexican 034 off the late Beetle) purchased from  with pertronix.  Why lose the "high performance"  009?  See the library article on
vacuum advance vs. mechanical advance and distributor advance;

> tracked down a vacuum leak.  What a pain in the arse.  I didn't even know for sure it was the problem until I checked with a vacuum gauge.   Those things are the bees knees and should be a standard part of any VW diagnostic kit. 

> replaced the loud, header exhaust with a beetle exhaust.... I just cannot resist that beetle "fweem" sound! 

> installed all-terrain load-rated truck tires (LT27x8.5x14 Load Range C, 6 Ply Rating) in place of the passenger tires on the bus, which immediately helped with the front end sway.  They aren't that much taller, 26.5 inches versus 25.7 for the stock 185R14C tires.  If I had known that my favorite 185R14C's, Cooper SRMII, were available again, I would have purchased those. The other 185R14C tires are highway tread tires that just don't cut it where I like to camp. 

> disabled the choke, per Muir.  Now it runs like crap when it's cold--reminds me of my old 76 bus with a weber progressive and no manifold preheater pipe except that my 1600 does warm up and run well, without being too rich, EVENTUALLY once the preheater warms up.  

>installed a CDI from

>installed the front spare tire holder.  I know some people don't like them... but I just love the look of those on a bay bus.

>gapped my NGK plugs at .045 and bumped up my main jet to 130 in order to utilize the CDI.
>brushed some almond rustoleum onto the bus.  Not a nice job, and I REALLY wouldn't recommend doing it.... unless your bus already has a three color paint job applied by brush.  I considered making it desert camo or maybe a
zebra bus print, but as the old cliche says discretion is the better part of valor.   I sorta hoped this would look a little more beige, like the factory Savannah Beige or Mexican Beige. 

Anyway, it looks good enough from 20 feet or so...closer if the bus is moving.  :)  The sad thing is that the DPO (dumb previous owner) who had the bus before me did a better job, I think.  They were also smarter and used a satin paint instead of oil based rustoleum.  I guess now I'm the future Really Dumb Previous Owner.   Not likely.... I have no intention of ever selling.  Anyway, at least I have knocked off the rust, converted what was left, and put something on the metal.  Maybe someday soon I'll spring for a real paint job, but I know it will be very difficult  (and pricey) as the old house paint crap will have to be completely removed.  Still thinking about putting a kokopelli on the bus, as symbol of both Arizona and the
Buskatiers.  May also put a big moon to represent the Full Moon Bus Club.  I also consider my paintjob a antitheft device... and I don't have to worry about scraches.   :) 

Someone asked about the canvas.  It is literally an old tent, I believe.  It was sewn pretty well.  Note the horizontal seam under the windows.  There are snaps along this seam which allow the top and bottom to be installed separately then snapped in the middle.  If you've ever tried to intall the stock canvas-- staple, screw, stretch, STRETCH-- you'll agree that this is lots easier than the stock arrangement. 

Nothing done to the interior yet, except cleaning it and removing the remnants of the old headliner material, the part on the columns and such.  (This was a deluxe remember.)   The headliner stuff on the walls tore like paper.  It smells much better.   I will eventually install some floor (carpet, linoleum, rhino liner with a throw rug?) and will replace all the foam and vinyl.   I also plan on widening the rear seat/bed to full-width, like on the 74-75 westy.  I just like the greater passenger capacity and wider bed for sleeping.  I have installed seatbelts in the back using the stock mounting bolts present behind the panels and on the bulkhead.  I am rigging something for the middle jumpseats. 

>retarded my timing a couple of degrees.  It is set at 5 BTDC now.  I forget the total advance.  John's Connally's tech stuff regarding the CDI said this may be a problem with the hotter spark and wider plugs.  Seems to be running fine now. 

>brakes!!!!    The master cyl is leaky and I just heard some weird sounds.   You know what that means.  It was more of a job than I thought it would be.  Got a nicely priced master cyl from  It had only one switch but otherwise looked like the stock deal.  I think it was only 39.00.   Anyway the hitch was that after turning the drums and installing the new shoes, I still had problems.  One of the bleeders didn't seem to have much pressure and another seemed below average as well.  Got on the horn with Ronnie at (Old Volks of Havasu, Arizona).  The webpage wasn't much but the service was excellent!!!!   Ronnie answers the phone himself and told me what I probably needed.  He had previously talked me out of buying new drums because the stock German ones-even turned ones- were better than new Brazilian and out of a few other parts that I probably wouldn't need  The parts were on the on the door step in a hurry.  He's the best!!!! 

Also, adjusting the brakes was more problematic than I thought it would be.  Apparently, I didn't know how to properly adjust a VW drum brake.  They are way more picky than your average American pickup truck.  I adjusted the way I always had (under the tutelage of a Chevy driving buddy), and I didn't have any darn brakes during my test drive.  I must have been driving around for years using only the front disk brakes on my previous 76, 71, and 74.   Basically, tighten those star adjusters until the wheel locks up then back off two or three clicks.  Check the library for good articles and maybe the archives for a post by Dolan.   Quick test, if your emergency brake pulls more than a few clicks (say 1 inch), you need your shoes adjusted.

03/05 Finally went camping!!!
Found some remote BLM land that was calling my name.  Had to take a little trail through many washes to get where we were going.  No problem for the bus.  The sand was pretty compacted as it had rained a few within two weeks. 

There wasn't a single light on the horizon in any direction at night.  Took my buddy and his little boy and my middle girl.  All slept in the bus.   This is what a bus is all about.   Pics didn't turn out so well, but I'll take some next time. 

>widened the rear Z bed/seat.  I really liked the 74-75 full-width westy bed.  That makes for one huge comfortable bed. 

I have a real appreciation of the quality workmanship from Westy.  I'm reusing the hingers, most hardware and the parts of wood that don't need to be widened.  My bed won't have dados, fancy curves, or fine finishes on the stuff I'm building though.  It will be functional but no work of art.  That seems to be the theme of the bus anyway.   I will cover it with high density foam and some appropriate long-wearing fabric. 

Finally installed KYB gas-a-just shocks all the way around.  I had a dead shock on the back.  Handling is much improved.  Ride is fine.  I know that some complain about the ride of these shocks, but I actually would lean towards even FIRMER handling even if the ride was worse. 

Saw Greg Potts in Phoenix.  We met at Everybus a few years back, but I don't think Greg remembered it.  :)  Didn't have much time, but it was good to see a fellow bus geek. 

Had to replace the starter with a new Bosch.  Thought about putting on a relay, also, but I'm so happy with that rapidly spinning new Bosch starter that I'll put off the relay for another day.  I wish I had pictures of the guys in white shirts and ties push starting the bus at work.  :)

Other plans
>will need a tranny: Uggh.  Popping out of 4th gear. It's fine around town, but once I heat it up on the interstate, it pops out of 4th.   I will probably get one from Daryl at 

fix the crazy hackjob sunroof: DPO added a standard popup sunroof and somehow the glass and popup mechanism are now gone.  Odd bits of plywood and what appears to be plumbing caulking fill the gaps in the contoured westy top and the sunroof frame.  Ill-fitting plexiglass and duct tape reside there now, but something needs to be done.  Luckily it doesn't rain much in southwestern Aridzona.  What will I do?  The first aftermarket sliding ragtop on westy?  My kids love the big sunroof in my Previa and my former sunroofer vanagon.  The roof sure does increase airflow.   And the fiberglass is already hacked....

sway bars:  While fixing the brakes, I noticed that I need the shocks like yesterday.  I also have several busted boots on baljoints and tie rods. Some of those have been on the bus for a long while. 

> maybe add a spare gas can or two and a second spare tire mounted outside, like I've seen on old trucks and vans and on a splitty desert rat-style camper around here.  You can never have too fuel and water much while traveling in the desert.  Besides I like the look. 
This arrangement would be ideal. Anyone else want one?  Click on my name above and send me an email.  Gary says he cannot jig one for a bus for only one order; so I'll need a few others to be interested before I can order.  I believe he isn't convinced that those of us driving old hippy busses have the bread.  Maybe we don't since no one has answered.  :)

> fix the saggy rear or even
baja it, as in raise it a little.  When traveling on the desert roads around here, ground clearance is always useful... but, mostly, I like the look.  You can take the boy out of the hills, but not the hillbilly out of the boy.

> more interior work.  I need rods and curtains!!!!  My daughters want some psychedelic curtains and probably wild throw rugs.  I will also need to insulate a little and cut new interior panels. 

> apply a Westfakia sticker, designed by Greg Potts, the
father of Westfakias.

Happy bussin'
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