View original topic: 20-020744 "The Tocksfors Rhd" Page: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10  Next
busben Sun Dec 13, 2015 1:33 am

This story starts in July 2013 on our road trip to Hessisch Oldendorf in our old '51 Standard.

Following what can only be described as the VERY best vintage Volkswagen show in the world a bunch of us Brits stopped at Pats shop in Belgium for an open day on-route to EBI. At this open day I got talking to a bunch of guys from Sweden who had made the trip to Hessisch and EBI in their buses, and they were amazed to see me driving the '51.

Demian, the owner of the cool pgsg Barndoor, explained that last time he'd seen the bus it was being chopped up for spares by Bengt and Thomas to fix their '50, and that no-one had ever expected to see it resurrected. At first he didn't even believe it was the same bus :-) Anyway, I think he soon realised the calibre of idiot he was dealing with and was soon telling me that he knew of a very bad Barndoor in Sweden that might be available. So bad was this Barndoor that all the Swedes knew it was there and yet no-one had attempted to remove it from the forest where it lay rotting. Then came the punch line, it was the rhd panel that had been found in Tocksfors back at the end of 2008! I knew about this bus, which was built in January '52, and at the time was the oldest rhd Barndoor known to exist in the world, and currently still is. Apart from a few surviving ckd beetles built in South Africa and Ireland I also think that this may be the oldest German factory produced rhd VW to exist. With my rose tinted glasses on I was amazed that this bus was still lying there unclaimed and had visions of it rebuilt and driving again and so a plan was hatched to visit Demian and try and buy the bus. I went off to ask Dai if he fancied a trip to Sweden, and Demian promised to send me an email with a bunch of photos when he got home. This is what he sent. A bunch of photo of the worst one-owner-from-new vehicle in the world:

It was on :-)

busben Sun Dec 13, 2015 2:27 am

So my partner in crime, Dai, had managed to buy a burnt out '53 Barndoor from the North of Sweden which needed collecting, and being a pair of broke pikeys we decided that we could somehow collect both of these ruined buses in one trip and with one T5 towing one trailer, hence saving a whole bunch of money and a few precious days since we could simply tag-team the driving all the way to Sweden and back :? Demian, who has since become a very good friend, was an absolute star and I owe him so much for all his masses of help with saving this bus. He arranged for Dai's '53 to get delivered to the unit which he shares with a bunch of friends near where he lives in the centre of the country. This immediately saved us a lot of driving, and meant that we had a larger window of opportunity before the snow came and hampered our trip. It was decided to head over in September to grab the '53 and try for the '52, although so far we'd had no contact with the land owner and no idea if we could buy the bus. Demian spent time talking to Patrik, the guy who'd found the bus, but he was working in Norway and had no opportunity to speak with the land owner. Well you don't get anything without trying so ferries were booked, tools were packed and pot noodles were purchased ready for the trip.

And so one Wednesday evening in September Dai swung by my house after work and we set off for Dover, stopping in Wiltshire to collect a GRP 356 kit which he'd somehow agreed to drop in the Netherlands! This made for an interesting nights sleep as the van was full of someone else's fragile kit components but we managed to grab two or three hours after our 200 mile drive before the early morning ferry on Thursday. Disembarking at Dunkirk we headed to drop the car off and also to collect a genuine 356 roof which Demian had asked us to collect on our way through, and then up through Germany with the usual unexplained police tug on the Autobahn, Denmark and into Sweden for another few hours kip after a long 900 mile day.

Up early after a second 3 hour nights sleep :( and we ploughed on through Sweden to arrive at Bengts house 350 miles later on route to Demian but with no concrete plan for the next couple of days, and still no news on the '52. Bengt was a proper gent as always and over Pizza, and after the usual tour of his projects, he explained that our trip was all planned out for us :D Tonight we would drive out to a big Autojumble and meet with the other Swedish VW guys and have a beer and a look around, then off to the unit to collect the '53, and then to Demians for some much needed sleep. Just to make a perfect plan even better I abandoned Dai in the T5 and jumped in shotgun for an hours drive in Bengts ace '51 bus. The show was great, although pitch black by the time we arrived with only torchlight to search the stalls, and it was great to meet up and chat with the other guys. After a couple of hours we jumped back in the T5 and followed Demain and Gustaf to their unit to collect the '53 ......... which made Dai really happy.

Our plan was to chop this one in half because the centre chassis and roof were so toasty that it made it easier anyway, and then go and collect the '52 in one piece ........ if we ever heard back from Patrik or the owner which after two months of trying was beginning to look pretty unlikely! The guys insisted that the '52 was way worse and we should leave the '53 in one piece but the plan was decided and out came a grinder, then with the bus loaded and the workshop tour complete we headed off to Demians for some sleep after our long day with about 450 miles driven. What actually happened was we toured Demians barns and projects with a few beers, and then sat and talked barndoors all night over more beers, and finally woke up later than intended, with hazy heads and after about ..... yep 3 hours kip. What a great night though, and thanks again to Bengt, Demian, Gustaf and the others for all their hospitality!!!!

So, with the previous nights angle grinder carnage waiting for us on the trailer,

we set off to Gustafs house for some lunch because he too wanted to show us his projects. Gustaf lives on the way to Tocksfors which sounds ideal but in reality the '52 was starting to look really unlikely by now and we were fairly resigned to the fact that it wasn't going to happen, at least not on this trip :(

busben Sun Dec 13, 2015 2:59 am

So sometimes plans fail miserably and sometimes plans work out brilliantly. Thankfully for me this hectic, roughly planned, time starved trip turned out to be the latter and after a tour and some lunch at Gustafs house, and literally as we were getting ready to leave for home, a call came in from Demian. Patrik, the most laid back Swedish guy in a country of laid back Swedish guys, had just phoned to say that he'd spoken to the bemused land owner, and son of the original owner of the bus, and that it could be bought. No price had been discussed, leaving us in a pretty bad position to haggle, some 1500 miles from home and obviously quite keen to buy! and the bus was lying on its side deep in the forest with trees growing all around it. Demian however, said that the bus was so bad it should be free of charge so he couldn't imagine the owners son robbing us blind, and Patrik had a tractor and a chainsaw at the ready. It was back on. Tocksfors here we come :D

Arriving at Tocksfors a few hours later we had to explain to a puzzled Patrik that yes we only had one trailer, and yes it would all fit on ok :) We then unloaded the '53 at his house and set off to the forest where the '52 was, walking in through a forest track behind Patrik and his tractor for the first glimpse of the bus.

and the money shot

Whilst we had been driving to Tocksfors Patrik had arranged an agreeable price with the son, who remembers playing in the bus when he was a child, so that was one task out of the way. While chatting on our way to the bus Patrik also revealed that he'd managed to track down a few missing parts from the bus. Since the photos that I'd seen various people had visited the bus and the door top, decklid, tyre tray, fuel tank and badge had all been removed, according to Patrik all without the owners permission :( Patrik had therefore decided to make a few house calls for me and had managed to retrieve the tyre tray, fuel tank and front badge, although the other parts were still missing. What a great start to the rescue though :D

The plan was to try and strengthen the bus with timbers that we had brought with us, and then lift it and carry it out of the forest on the tractors forks. Patrik set to with the chainsaw to free the bus from its wooden cage, while we looked on and helped where we could.

then with the trees cleared the three of us pushed the bus up the right way ready to try and brace it up.

Oh bugger! That wasn't supposed to happen. I think Demain and Gustaf were right about this thing being in a very bad way :evil:

busben Sun Dec 13, 2015 3:40 am

So with time ticking on and dusk approaching a new plan had to be hatched. No way this thing was coming out in one piece. The long side had pretty much rotted to nothing, and most of the roof, which looked ok in the photos, was as thin as paper and completely unsaveable. The only way to rescue this bus and to save as much as possible from getting trashed was to break out the grinder again. Luckily Dai had packed the generator and a variety of grinders so we headed back out of the forest with the tractor to grab the trailer and more tools,

back past the building where the land owners dad ran his garage and where his bus used to earn its keep

and then one quick pose before chop time!

then the lucky new owner got cutting while the Welsh guy became chief photographer. I think Patrik was just laughing to himself by this point, but without his help this job would have been 100 times harder so massive thanks Patrik!

Loading her up, not quite as we'd planned!

and she was gone!

So back out of the forest again with every part that could possibly be saved, even in the hugely optimistic world in which Dai and I live :lol:

and back to Patriks house once more for yet more unloading and loading of the trailer

and we were finally loaded and ready to head home!!

We even managed to get a few miles done and head down towards the south of Sweden before pulling over for our obligatory 3 hours sleep, although the T5 was so full of rusty parts from the 2 buses that it made sleeping a troublesome affair. In the end Dai took the front seat, while I slept on a bed of rust for the night. Perfect :?

Sunday morning and we had a ferry to catch so cue a mammoth day of 1000 odd miles driving, most of which were spent hallucinating due to lack of sleep. As we drove through France Dai turned and asked me if I could see. Yes I could, why? Because he couldn't! And he was driving!! The lesson to be learned is to allow enough time for a trip like this. 2800 miles or whatever we'd driven doesn't cram well into a 4 day trip that also involves social calls, a show, and the rescue of two very rusty barndoors. Anyway we did make the night ferry from Dunkirk and landed back at my house on Monday morning, later than planned but safe and sound. The "bus" was unloaded and packed away safely in the garage

And then Dai dragged the '53 back to his place, and I showered and went straight to work! Not ideal and I don't think I was much use there to be honest. I slept damn well on Monday night thought!!

So yes the bus was home, and yes it was bad. Very very bad! It's safe though and I immediately started to collect parts and plan the rebuild. I'm sure there are people that think this thing is too far gone and should have been left where it was to return to the earth, but I'm excited about trying to put it back together and I also suspect that one day the VIN tag would have been "rescued" and the bus would have been resurrected with little or none of it's original parts. My plan is to save every part of this bus that I can and make it live again. Sure there are easier ways to build it but I like doing things this way and I'll have a proper go at achieving it, no doubt with just a little help from the usual suspects :wink: I'd love to get my hands on the original decklid which is probably hung in someone's garage in Sweden, so if anyone knows where it is or can help me with this then please let me know.

Lastly, for this post anyway, I'd like to thank everyone that helped with this rescue in any way. Dai is a terrible driving partner because we spend the journey convincing each other that all the worst ideas in the world are actually great, but it was a great mission and great to have a friend along for the ride. Bengt, Gustav and Patrik all played big parts in this story, along with some of the other Swedish crew, and without Demian, and his help and enthusiasm throughout, I wouldn't own this bus so the biggest thanks go to him for recognising the foolhardy idiot in me when we first met. Cheers again dude :wink:

Kasten68 Sun Dec 13, 2015 3:41 am

One more amazing rescue, but latest picture is just priceless :? 8)
busben wrote:

busben Sun Dec 13, 2015 5:01 am

Kasten68 wrote: One more amazing rescue, but latest picture is just priceless :? 8)

haha, thanks Yann :-) That was certainly a moment for some quiet reflection!!

So having collected a few major components for this project during the last year it was time to dig the Swedish remains out the shed again ready to work out a plan of action

First job would be to remove the body work and running gear from the chassis and get the chassis rebuilt. I was lucky enough to be offered an NOS rhd chassis leg for the side of this bus that had been sat in the dirt for years, (thanks Tonny :wink: ), and I collected it from Denmark earlier this year so together with a bunch of other panels that I had in the shed it looked like the first stage of the plan was ready to go!

We made up a perfect copy of the NOS chassis leg so I could keep the NOS item in stock. Really please with it ........ this thing is perfect!! 8)

Of course nothing is ever this simple and when we started to dig deeper more and more of the existing chassis was just rusty rubbish. I wanted t keep as much of the original metal as possible on this bus, but I also want it to last and to be safe. The chassis is obviously key to both these things and needs to be good and strong. What we had was going to need so much repair that little would remain so the decision was taken that full new chassis legs would be needed.

I spent a few weekends going through parts and working out what we could use, dropping various chassis cuts and parts to use as templates,

and we managed to manufacture these little beauties ........

Full length, perfectly copied Barndoor chassis rails, each made of a front and rear section as factory. All copied of OG metal, either from buses or NOS. Perfect!!!!!!!! :D

peter schepens Sun Dec 13, 2015 8:03 am

I am impressed... by the wreck you are going to restore and by the chassisrails... nice work and good basis to start with.

TurboedWestie Sun Dec 13, 2015 9:38 am

Just love that you have taken this on massive admiration for guys of your ilk :D bravo !!

busben Sun Dec 13, 2015 12:30 pm

Cheers guys. Well we've actually started work on the chassis now too. Whilst "Quality Sound" was being put back together we collected a bunch of measurements from both factory literature and unwelded buses and put together a chassis jig so that all future builds would be quicker and easier to get within a tiny tolerance. Before any of that could happen though we needed to decide what to do with the far rustier than I had thought cradle and torsion tube lump. This section was removed from the rusted out rear chassis but still wasn't clever and I did toy briefly with using a donor, but it's like the heart of the bus and it just didn't feel right. It was actually so rusty that it needed repairing where rust had eaten through the tube itself, and we nearly gave ourselves a hernia removing the torsion bars before any welding could take place.

The early "flat" tube cradle was really bad and we decided that this should be replaced with a reproduced section rather than rebuilding the thin, rusty original.

and finally, the torsion housing itself could start to be repaired. It felt good to see some new metal being welded into some part of this old crate!!!!

With the torsion tube cleaned up and properly repaired it could be laid into the jig alongside the new chassis rails

and tacked into position

The toolbox sides, which I'd also hoped to use, were toast, and so new pieces were ordered from Rick at Schofields. Over the last year or two I have lent Rick a bunch of OG barndoor metal to copy and know a few others have done the same. The result is some quality off-the-shelf Barndoor repro panels, particularly some of the chassis stuff. Nice to be able to ring up and get new metal delivered the next day ......

although Gerson played his part too, with a few green panels being dug out the shed. Schofields now sell good quality top hats, I-beams, outriggers, and jack points too and it's nice to have a few suppliers of these parts to choose from at long last ;-)

and finally we laid down some welds to properly piece the new chassis together.

Yes I'm gutted that I couldn't save more, but it's strong and safe and it's 1952 heart is still beating 8)

low54 Sun Dec 13, 2015 1:16 pm

Good work going on there mate 8)
It's good it's going to come back to life again
Those chassis rails look realy good.

andre b Sun Dec 13, 2015 4:02 pm

wow..really cool metal work!! now a days anything is doable!

mandraks Sun Dec 13, 2015 8:44 pm

well, at least you have something square and sturdy to weld the rest of the bus to.
great rescue story, looks like an insane amount of work. Looking forward to more of this story.

gatorwyatt Sun Dec 13, 2015 8:54 pm

Lots of talent and passion for saving the right busses in threads like this are what keeps us motivated and pushing the limits. Very nice work and a fun read.

campingbox Sun Dec 13, 2015 9:21 pm

Incredible. Good luck with the build.

bally Mon Dec 14, 2015 3:54 am

Great work Ben and Dai - what a mission!!

I'm glad to see you've started the build - I loved the Quality Sound thread and will follow this one with as much interested :)



Scotty Mon Dec 14, 2015 6:50 am

Fantastic work by Jeff as usual, he must love welding up the piles of rust that you deliver to him :D

Capriacci Mon Dec 14, 2015 8:14 am

Amazing history! Thanks for sharing!

streetwagens Mon Dec 14, 2015 11:42 am

And what a great trip it was! :lol: Good to see some progress on the old beast. 2 fitted on the trailer so easily, I reckon 3 would fit on it :lol:

I cant believe we didn't think of taking a roof tent on the T5, it would have been so much more comfortable to spend the nights! :shock:

Hellberg Mon Dec 14, 2015 2:30 pm

This is just hillarious!! And so amazing... remembering the first time I saw this one, looked so solid on pics... :roll:

I'll not hesitate that you'll bring this beauty to life again! If only I had 2% of your skill, I'd be done with my 55 long time ago ;)

Guess the Single cab needs the love first though...

Good luck mate!

Barndoor51 Mon Dec 14, 2015 3:02 pm

Really nice to read and be a part of the story :D
Good luck with the resto of this fantastic -52 RHD Panel van :)

Powered by phpBB © 2001, 2005 phpBB Group