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"Minihome" VW Bug Motorhome Conversion
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Thanatos
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PostPosted: Sun Dec 13, 2009 7:19 pm    Post subject: "Minihome" VW Bug Motorhome Conversion Reply with quote

Hello, I'm looking for any and all information on the "Minihome" motorhome, as seen in Mechanix Illustrated in the 1970s and offered in plan form by Robert Q. Riley. Information on specific parts used in the build, upgrades to the VW chassis, tires/wheels, brakes and engine, and ideas for how to finish, decorate and outfit the inside would all be great, or stories about building, driving and/or traveling with a Minihome would also be nice to hear. Also, is it possible to use a Super Beetle as a donor vehicle?
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Wolfgangdieter
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PostPosted: Mon Dec 14, 2009 4:27 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

http://www.rqriley.com/minihome.html

I don't see why a Super would not work as well or better than older std model - as you use entire front end sheet metal. Wouldn't a more powerful used '72 up bus be simpler and cheaper though? Just parts for Riley are $1500 plus bug and lots of hours. Guess you'd stand out with the bug one!
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Thanatos
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PostPosted: Mon Dec 14, 2009 4:36 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Thanks, WolfgangDieter... yes, a late-model Bus would be cheaper, but the curiosity factor is appealing to me, as is building a new body and interior on a bug chassis. I may have to bite the bullet and order the plans from R.Q. Riley's, I'm handy with tools (carpenter's tools, as well as mechanic's tools Cool) and I know of a few tatty but running Super Beetles around my neck o' the woods, so I might just go ahead and do it.
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Derek Cobb
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PostPosted: Mon Dec 14, 2009 5:15 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I've always thought that those things would make more sense if you extended the chassis a couple of feet. Since you have more than one bug to use as a donor, I would thing that splicing two pans together wouldn't add very much complexity to the project and would create a significant increase in usable space inside.
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Thanatos
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PostPosted: Mon Dec 14, 2009 5:53 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Derek Cobb wrote:
I've always thought that those things would make more sense if you extended the chassis a couple of feet. Since you have more than one bug to use as a donor, I would thing that splicing two pans together wouldn't add very much complexity to the project and would create a significant increase in usable space inside.


Brilliant, Derek! Smile One bug has a good front suspension and bodywork but no engine, one is a rollover with a good engine and transmission, and both have excellent pans, so splicing the other bug pan onto the other with the length being similar to a mid-80s Toyota or Nissan king-cab pickup would be a good idea.

Does anyone have any input as to what a Porsche 914 2.0 engine (I know it's a Volkswagen Type 4 engine in drag Wink) or a Porsche 911 flat-six would be like in terms of added power and torque and in ease of adaptation, since a friend (who knows little about cars but still knows that a Porsche and a Volkswagen are somewhat similar mechanically) told me that a Porsche engine might be good. I plan on taking the finished Minihome to Eastern Oregon (Deschutes National Forest, Fort Rock area, Steens Mountain) for elk hunting and summer vacations, so a Porsche engine or even a souped VW engine might be good for RV use and mountain travel.

Also, is it possible to lift the suspension a la Baja Bug and still use the Minihome conversion, for purposes of ground clearance, since I will be using it in the mountains and desert? My VW knowledge is mostly Ghias, Busses and VW-based kit cars, so I would appreciate any input.
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Wolfgangdieter
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PostPosted: Tue Dec 15, 2009 6:50 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Sounds like you are specing out a Subaru OutBack or Forrester! Or Yota/Nissan 4x4 with camper cap. Or VW 4WD synchro bus.

You need very deep pockets for a Porsche 911 engine - minor rebuilds are easily $5k. The Type 4 engine is good strong engine - 2-3 times more costly to rebuild than a T1 but longer life for sure and about 80 hp out the gate. I would think cooling an air cooled engine on that camper might take some thought on getting cooling air to it. More oil capacity and remote oil cooler with thermostat and electric fan are surely required. Don't forget to upgrade the brakes too - as you are doubling the weight --- and majority is in the back.
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didget69
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PostPosted: Tue Dec 15, 2009 8:18 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

You might consider a simple 2 liter T4 motor with some mild add-ons to enhance performance. Also, consider installing wider trailing arms in the rear, maybe Porsche 944 Turbo arms, for increased rear track width & stability.

Or just go with this camper design...
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=56XL0TysIn0

bnc
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Thanatos
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PostPosted: Tue Dec 15, 2009 3:32 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

didget69 wrote:
You might consider a simple 2 liter T4 motor with some mild add-ons to enhance performance. Also, consider installing wider trailing arms in the rear, maybe Porsche 944 Turbo arms, for increased rear track width & stability.

Or just go with this camper design...
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=56XL0TysIn0

bnc


Great ideas on the engine and trailing arms, I know of plenty of busses and moribund dune buggy projects with good Type 4 engines, and there are a few Porsche 944 Turbos in the boneyards, so those would all be a walk in the park as far as acquisition.

As far as progress on the project, I've ordered the R.Q. Riley plans and am planning a different interior design since it will be longer than standard with the extended pan (1 1/2 Super Beetle pans will be spliced onto another Super pan, close to the length of a long-bed, king cab compact pickup truck), and here's a question: would a Super Beetle Baja kit and suspension lift be a good addition to the front since it will be used on unimproved roads part of the time?
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didget69
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PostPosted: Tue Dec 15, 2009 4:34 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Old Grimey wrote:
didget69 wrote:
You might consider a simple 2 liter T4 motor with some mild add-ons to enhance performance. Also, consider installing wider trailing arms in the rear, maybe Porsche 944 Turbo arms, for increased rear track width & stability.

Or just go with this camper design...
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=56XL0TysIn0

bnc


Great ideas on the engine and trailing arms, I know of plenty of busses and moribund dune buggy projects with good Type 4 engines, and there are a few Porsche 944 Turbos in the boneyards, so those would all be a walk in the park as far as acquisition.

As far as progress on the project, I've ordered the R.Q. Riley plans and am planning a different interior design since it will be longer than standard with the extended pan (1 1/2 Super Beetle pans will be spliced onto another Super pan, close to the length of a long-bed, king cab compact pickup truck), and here's a question: would a Super Beetle Baja kit and suspension lift be a good addition to the front since it will be used on unimproved roads part of the time?


FWIW - I'd be inclined to use a widened VW king-pin beam & skip the Super Beetle front suspension... however, since this is all bench-racing & I'm spending your money - If I were making something like this, I'd be inclined to use a beefed-up 'fiberglass buggy' style of tube-frame, like the ones that a couple builders sell here on the Samba Classifieds. By going this way, you can make the chassis as long as you deem necessary & add in stouter floorpans, then use 944 or tubular 3x3 trailing arms on the rear with corresponding longer axles, a widened link-pin front beam, and then add in a Bus gearbox & T4 motor - THEN build your 'camper' on top of that. The Super Suspension will show its weaknesses quickly, IMHO, once you try to go off-road...

bnc
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PostPosted: Tue Dec 15, 2009 6:05 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Really just when I had just about seen it all in the crazy world of VW campers.

That thing looks aerodynamically inefficient. Surely it would be better to buy a Kombi?

Do you just want to build one of these because they are hilarious eye catchers? I've never seen one in the street and I am even astonished to have seen one on the internet. Smile

Does that thing fit temporarily to the car or is it a permanent mod?
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PostPosted: Wed Dec 16, 2009 1:30 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

There was one on Seattle Craigslist about a month ago, they wanted all of $5500 for it, was in good condition but I believe not running. It might not have sold yet, this was only recently.
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PostPosted: Tue Dec 22, 2009 3:48 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

There always seems to be one popping up for sale every month or so. There were actually quite a few factory built versions on the road. I'd love to see someone build a longer version of one. Ive seen probably 8-10 in of them in person over the years and havebeen in a couple. They are pretty small and an extra 20-30" of wheelbase would be welcome and much more like a real RV.


Ya done yet????? Very Happy
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PostPosted: Tue Dec 22, 2009 4:40 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Alright, here's another pearl of an idea. Suppose you took the chassis of a van from the torsion housing back, including the type IV transmission and engine and mated that to your bug tunnel. Now you have an extended chassis and a very stout engine and tranny to push your camper around, and to top it all off, the engine is a pancake design so the rear shelf can be significantly lower than a type one based camper. Maybe you could do away with the bug tunnel and pan completely and simply run frame rails from the rear torsion housing all the way up to the bug framehead. Ta-da! Now you can have a nice flat floor, front to back.

I can't wait til I'm retired so I can build something like this.
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Thanatos
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PostPosted: Tue Dec 22, 2009 4:53 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Derek Cobb wrote:
Alright, here's another pearl of an idea. Suppose you took the chassis of a van from the torsion housing back, including the type IV transmission and engine and mated that to your bug tunnel. Now you have an extended chassis and a very stout engine and tranny to push your camper around, and to top it all off, the engine is a pancake design so the rear shelf can be significantly lower than a type one based camper. Maybe you could do away with the bug tunnel and pan completely and simply run frame rails from the rear torsion housing all the way up to the bug framehead. Ta-da! Now you can have a nice flat floor, front to back.

I can't wait til I'm retired so I can build something like this.


Combining the chassis of a bus with the front framehead and front sheetmetal of a bug is indeed a great idea. With the pancake engine and low rear shelf, I could install a refrigerator and a furnace in the area where there is only an icebox and a tiny closet in the standard design, or alternately, running frame rails between the framehead and torsion housing would be a good idea, but working out the gearshift and handbrake linkage might be a little bit of a problem.

I've got the plans now, as well as part of a 1970 bug (the front of the car minus the hood and fuel tank, and including the cowl, and the front suspension and brakes), and I also have parts of different bug, Ghia and bus chassis that might possibly be pieced together if I go with the frame-rail route. But due to financial reasons, I'm just bench racing and collecting information for the time being. Smile
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PostPosted: Tue Dec 22, 2009 8:04 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

here is one from the gallery, it says it is a factory made version
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PostPosted: Fri Apr 09, 2010 10:53 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

I found a beat down baby blue one. Its got me seriously considering selling the squareback. But the gf said hell no she is not sleeping or riding in the bed bug. She thinks the square is cool and stylish and the minihome is just fugly. I told her I'd trick out the mirrors like the vespa kids. I don't even know if the owner would sell it, I'd wanna have atleast some money in hand when I talk to them just in case. Freaking loving them and the article they ran a while back in volksworld on a red one they featured but its not the one pictured above. How did it not get the cover? Maybe they are a lil ugly!
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PostPosted: Tue Aug 03, 2010 6:50 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

http://weburbanist.com/2010/06/13/vw-rv-ftw-the-amusing-amazing-beetle-minihome/

I found this old clipping from 1978 of a friend of the family who built one.
We where the friends house

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PostPosted: Wed Aug 04, 2010 7:46 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

34FN - Sounds like Hotel Frankenstein! You'll live a lonely life camping in it alone.
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PostPosted: Wed Aug 04, 2010 8:38 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Wow,.. to each his own, but to me, that is about the ugliest thing I've ever seen on wheels! Of course, maybe that's the appeal. So ugly it's cute?
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PostPosted: Wed Dec 15, 2010 8:34 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I was doing an online search tonight with my new DROID X - which also happens to be a cell phone <g> - and I came across this thread. I registered on this forum quite a while back, but I have not posted recently. Anyway, I wanted to add my "two cents" to this thread, FWIW.

{It will probably end up being about "four cents" by the time I get done typing, so bear with me.}

Greggholmes posted this link:
http://weburbanist.com/2010/06/13/vw-rv-ftw-the-amusing-amazing-beetle-minihome/

FWIW, I also found this "Weburbanist" webpage while was doing my online search that led me to this thread. I was searching for "Volkswagen Minihome" IIRC.

There is a photo near the bottom of the Weburbanist webpage that shows a Beetle with a light blue 'nose', and the words "GENE BUG" on it. Above that are two other photos of VW campers. The 'nice' looking one to the left, and a partial view of a 'less than nice' looking one to the right. The 'less than nice' one is {or was} called the "VWinie", and I owned it from 1980 to 1985. That photo was taken in 2002 by a lady doing survey work in Pinellas County, Florida {where I'm originally from}. I no longer live there, and I have no family or close friends in that part of Florida, so I've not been able to find out what became of the VWinie since that photo was taken. The lady who took the photo does not live in Florida, and she emailed me {a few years ago} and said that she didn't remember exactly where this location was.

This is what the VWinie looked like in the first half of the 1980's:
Image may have been reduced in size. Click image to view fullscreen.

You can see that photo, and a few others, here:
http://www.flickr.com/photos/rockiteman_2001/sets/1547048/
{I'm "RocKiteman" on that photo website. That photo is also my avatar here on TheSamba.}

The VWinie was built by the OZARK BUG SHOP in Ozark, Alabama, prior to 1980. They did NOT go by the MiniHome plans, but scratch-built it after the Beetle got rolled over. {That's what they told me anyway}.

The VWinie had the stock 1600cc engine. It was underpowered, and top speed was usually about 45-50 mph. I've read that "MiniHomes" that were factory built - or built from plans - can go faster. As I have said, I did not build the VWinie, but I know it had a partial welded steel frame for the camper, so it was probably heavier than a MiniHome. And that weight, plus all that frontal area, is a lot for a 1600cc to push. {IIRC, I never had the VWinie 'weighed' while I owned it.}

I don't know if any of this is any help, FraserNash. PM me here if you have any more questions. Remember that the last time I saw the VWinie - other than that DEPRESSING PHOTO from 2002 - was in 1985, so everything I know is from memory.

-Allan, aka VWinie Prime, aka RocKiteman
N.E. North Carolina, USA

PS There are a couple of drawings on the Weburbanist page of a Beetle with a camper body on it that retains the front of the Beetle to the back of the driver- and passenger-side doors. There are also some little drawings of something similar 'decorating' the pages of my copy {1980 printing} of the HOW TO KEEP YOUR VOLKSWAGEN ALIVE manual by John Muir. I have no way to test this aerodynamically, but if I were EVER to try to build another VWinie, I've wondered if retaining more of the front end of the Beetle - instead of putting that nice flat AIR BRAKE of a windshield there - might help the aerodynamics just a bit.
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