View original topic: Building the (im)perfect beast: The Saline Build Page: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5  Next
tschroeder0 Sun May 24, 2020 12:58 am

Hey all,

Well, never say never...If you would have told me 2 yrs ago that I would be doing the biggest most detailed vanagon build I have ever done, I would have laughed out loud, we go.

So, for the past many years I have been rolling a mint 1996 F150 4wd and a Mitchell Fishing Hut camper(see below), and I loved it. Recently after an incredible trip to the Saline Valley(Death Valley) with my good buddy Dave Phelps(Outwesty) I realized the old camper was getting a bit too old to handle the kind of abuse It was getting. I started a tear down and rebuild of the camper but it was quickly obvious that it was just too far gone...after seeing Dave's continuing journey in the farthest reaches of Death Valley with his incredible syncro (see:The Zincro Build), I once again started looking.

So, at the start of the covid lockdown I found myself almost alone on a plane wearing a mask, carrying a bottle of sanitizer and headed to Oregon to buy what I thought would be a fairly simple

So, here we go, building a van that will hopefully last me and my girlfriend Theresa for a very long will be a version that VW didnt make- an Adventurwagen topped, full west interior- ish syncro.

I have been deep in for the last 8 weeks 6 days a week ~ 10hrs a much more to come here, slowly. I just wanted to get a place holder started and will try to started posting all the craziness soon.
Thanks, good to be back!

the inspiration.

dobryan Sun May 24, 2020 6:19 am

:popcorn: :popcorn: :popcorn: :popcorn:

jimf909 Sun May 24, 2020 8:56 pm

You've gotta have more pics after being nearly 500 hours into this. :wink:

tschroeder0 Mon May 25, 2020 1:11 am

So, as I said the story begins with a very strange flight to Portland to get the van, being a nurse for a long time makes me, maybe, more comfortable than most in the land of covid but it was an empty flight followed by some desolate roads...but not to get ahead of myself this is a hard learned case of let the buyer beware. Some things were represented well and others, not...I will leave it at that.

the p.o. picked me up at a train station stop outside of Portland and we proceeded to drive the van back to his place to load up a lot of parts and an Adv. wagen was a pretty crazy feat but we got it done.

we exchanged cash, social distanced, wore masks and said goodbye.
Prior to my arrival there was a discussion about a bad coolant tank cap, it was replaced, the van was ran and all was, nope.

almost immediately there was coolant pushing out of the overflow and a lot of hand wringing on my part...I burped it, bled it, re read a Tencent post in a parking lot...and rolled my way down to Eugene kind of sick to my stomach.
I spent the night in Eugene and in the morning after a short drive another fight with coolant and pressure and having to face that I had a bad internal head gasket, made my way back to a U haul shop and loaded up the van.

A quick call was made to my Buddy Dave at Outwesty and I was headed that way (Tahoe), I arrived and being the guy Dave is, we were tearing things apart before I had my jacket unzipped.

Dave and I busted hard for many hours and got the head gaskets done, and found what would become a theme for the build, so many bolts barely tightened...including the passenger side head bolts(!)
While doing the heads it also became pretty apparent that the "rebuilt" engine, was not at all fresh and was not going to be able to be kept....more hand wringing.

I should say however that the bones of the van are bad ass. It is a one family van! The suspension is crazy! Fox adjustables, 16" trailing arms, 930 CV's, truly almost no real rust is a clean rig. The van also came with a ton of extras, which was great, so there was good and there was the other stuff...
Dave and I got it all put back together and it fired right up and ran perfectly. After some thought though, I made the call to keep the trailer and drive it back with the uhaul, there were just too many variables and what was going to be open in case of a problem in the vast stretches ahead was a big off I rolled...with truly more gratitude than I could state for having a good buddy that I met on a van trip in the Arctic in AK 12 yrs ago so willing to drop everything and help out!

getting some DeLorean mojo :shock:

The drive home was as surreal as it gets, alone on the interstates of NV, UT, WY, with a van in tow, wearing masks...finding it all pretty wild...I finally finished the trip in a snowstorm, got the van unloaded and took it for a little drive...the last one that would happen for a long while.

Home with the top still strapped down

So, the research began, calls were made( and luckily answered) It took me forever to find a picture of what an adventure wagen "cut" looked like. After some texts and emails to several people in the know ( thanks!! Joel/Escorial syncro/ Mblotz/J Charlton) I was able to decide how to go...not the full cut but more the NAHT cut for stability...another call to Mike at RMW/VC and I was able to head down to say hi to Mike and pick up a westy interior kit from Mike's vast storage of all things VW(thanks Mike!!)

the Full/stock Adv. Wagen cut.

After a lot of thinking, talking, thinking, my girlfriends son Ethan and I made it happen, truly one of the craziest feelings ever to cut a perfectly good top.

So, we found out the hard way that using a cut off wheel is not the way to do it, it cuts, but waaay to many sparks...use a nibbler if you do it!
But there it was a hole...cutting back the headliner was also a very careful job that requires a lot of thought about how you are going to finish it all.

Next came a two man bench press of a hard to balance and lift top, but we stuck the landing.

Bulli Klinik Mon May 25, 2020 8:39 am

You know the guard which came with the grinder you're using? You would be well advised to install it. I'm glad you still have fingers to type and eyes to see.

A good friend of mine sent me a picture a couple of weeks ago of the disk that exploded on him. It was neat in that you could see the inside of his calf prior to stitches.

Pro tip: Rough cut to a 1/4" from the cut line. Finish with aviation tin snips. Never cut to the line with a power tool.

Good luck with safely finishing your project.

Bulli Klinik Mon May 25, 2020 8:41 am

One other thing, if you're using a grinder anywhere near glass, cover the glass. Headliner too.

Good luck!

?Waldo? Mon May 25, 2020 8:43 am

I've used a metal cutting blade in a power jigsaw for cutting the hole in several vans. Put a piece of wood between the top and the headliner in areas you do not want damaged. It makes a very easy, clean, and accurate cut without sparks.

Zeitgeist 13 Mon May 25, 2020 11:07 am

Bulli Klinik wrote: One other thing, if you're using a grinder anywhere near glass, cover the glass.

Same goes for welding. I was working on some rather nasty splattery metal with an iPhone in my shirt pocket. The screen now has several pits where the sparks made it through the fabric.

10degnorth Mon May 25, 2020 11:14 am

Looking good! I remember cutting the hole in my tin top for the pop top conversion (yes, I did it the "wrong" way) it's nerve racking for sure. Looks like a ice build, keep up the good work.

ImAddicted Mon May 25, 2020 1:24 pm

Zeitgeist 13 wrote: Bulli Klinik wrote: One other thing, if you're using a grinder anywhere near glass, cover the glass.

Same goes for welding. I was working on some rather nasty splattery metal with an iPhone in my shirt pocket. The screen now has several pits where the sparks made it through the fabric.

And make sure you take off your fancy smart watch, too. Ask me how I know... anyone want a slightly used Apple Watch?

tschroeder0 Mon May 25, 2020 2:04 pm

I wondered how many comments I would get about the angle grinder, much appreciated. I am very aware of the dangers and very often find I cant get at the problems I face with the various guards on...and as I said use a nibbler if you do this, a grinder is not the right tool for many reasons, but in this case it worked and we were on to the next task...more to come...

Escorial Syncro Mon May 25, 2020 5:22 pm

Subscribed! Looks like fun, I'm excited for you.

What springs are on the rear? You know, the red ones that look about 3 feet tall? Just kidding. But seriously, I'm curious how they work since they look like they lack the smaller ends to center them on the perches.

tschroeder0 Mon May 25, 2020 7:52 pm

Hey Joel, *First, thanks for all the answered questions and advice!!

I wish I knew why springs they were, they p.o. told me each side was a different rating and he had them made when he got the fox shocks installed. They do fit in an odd way. I will try to find out more.
I can say that the ride when I was driving it for the short time before the build was really balanced and predictable, So, we will see, I hope to have it back on the road in about 6 weeks( Mr Gas/Greg did not have the happiest report for me...GT here we come,haha).

And yeah, its lifted up there, but honestly doesnt feel

Zeitgeist 13 Mon May 25, 2020 7:54 pm

I would definitely install centering plates and travel limiters on that rear spring setup. You want those spring ends fairly stable and constrained, lest they seek freedom at the most inadvantageous time.

tschroeder0 Mon May 25, 2020 8:21 pm

Zeitgeist- Good call, it has definitely been in the back of my mind, just haven't got there yet, any recommendations would be appreciated.

I've been seeking freedom at the most inadventagous times my whole life, so...who can blame, haha

syncroanddestroy Mon May 25, 2020 8:24 pm

Oh hell yeah stoked on this build. I saw photos of it on Daves instagram a couple weeks ago. That suspension is super gnarly, I'm really interested to find out what springs those are! Crazy amount of suspension travel this thing is sick.

Zeitgeist 13 Mon May 25, 2020 9:09 pm

tschroeder0 wrote: Zeitgeist- Good call, it has definitely been in the back of my mind, just haven't got there yet, any recommendations would be appreciated.

I've been seeking freedom at the most inadventagous times my whole life, so...who can blame, haha

Up top could be a fixed centering plate, but on the bottom I've seen something similar but with a pivoting central axis that allows the base to rock fore and aft as the control arm swings up/down.

tschroeder0 Mon May 25, 2020 9:13 pm

Syncroanddestroy! Thanks man, I love the enthusiasm!

So, with the hightop now at least sitting on the van, there was lots to do, check the fit, figure out the interior and especially the headliner fit, make the rear storage much to think about...

the overall fit was very good, but it took some thought to get the idea of how to trim it all out to look good.

The first stringer starting to be figured out so that we could build a nice storage base.

My idea to keep a little bit of the Adv.wagen look and because I like keeping some of the stock items happening( I had a lot of the trim pieces included with the van...)

More stringers, and Ethan making the base for the rear storage, with some really nice simple cut outs to maintain the use of the upper windows...

and very slowly the trim and headliner were taking shape...the hightop windows were another story though...absolutely terrible

All the old black goo that someone had used on them had to come off, they hand to be wire brushed, sanded would have been great to have everything powder coated, but maintaining the cost here was/is important, so just painted for now.

And...this, in the last pic you can see the test fit of the galley and cabinets which was exciting, little did I know how much work it was goig to be to get everything clean, wired and working...

One of the highlights of this whole thing for me was that Ethan was old enough to help out and learn some lifelong skills, truly a lot of fun teaching him how to work on this old van :lol:

YosemiteBound Mon May 25, 2020 9:27 pm

Oh man. Dream synchro for me. Even love the original decals. Sounds like she's making you pay for it - but she'll love ya for years. Can't wait to see her finished up!

tschroeder0 Mon May 25, 2020 9:43 pm

Making us pay for sure, I loved those decals too! Unfortunately what you are seeing is mostly adhesive residue after they were "removed" by the p.o.
So, eventually we had to do the dirty deed of removing all that old would have been so cool if they were intact though.

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