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mauldin Fri Sep 04, 2020 11:07 am

This story starts back in 1982. I lived in Atlanta back then and would ride the bus every day to get to work. My commute would take me past a Mazda repair shop with this navy blue split window panel van always sitting off to the side. I had a 68 bug at the time, but always loved the split window type 2s. It was there every day and didnít move. Each time I passed by I had the line from the Doors song The End ďThe blue bus is calling usĒ going through my head. Finally one day I decided to go ask about it. The owner of the shop told me her name was Ester. He had driven her down from New York City (a beginning that haunts her to this day). She ran fine, but he didnít drive her anymore so she was just sitting. He asked if I was interested in buying her and $400 later and she was mine.
I was in love. The split windshield made me think of a B-17. The sliding door windows Ė it was all just awesome. Up close I could see that there was a business logo under the blue paint. She apparently had belonged to a painting company in Brooklyn. When they were finished with her, they repainted her navy blue Ė with house paint and paint rollers it looked like. Even back then she was showing signs of past in NY. The driverís side wheel well was rusted through and covered with a piece of carpet. There was also a hole in the floor by the driverís side door. The bottoms of both cargo doors were rotting. Back then, I thought that was just looks and didnít care so much as long as it ran well.
Iíve always been mechanically inclined. I had the Idiots Guide and had done all kinds of work on my bug, including rebuilding the engine. It wasnít long before I was giving her new brakes. The compression fell off and I did a rebuild of the engine. Brought the 1500 up to a 1600 cc and added a header (extractor). Put in a cassette tape deck and life was awesome. About that time I was finishing up college and had a job lined up in Boulder. I had gotten rid of by bug so Ester was going to be my ride out there. After putting in a used transaxle (3rd gear kept popping out) I loaded her up with all my worldly possessions and was off. Two days later, we arrived in Boulder in January 1986.

Ester and friends 1985. That's me in the middle. I had hair then :)

Leaving Atlanta - Jan 1986 (me on the right)

We made it to Boulder Jan 1986 (me on the right)

Just Ester - 1986

Icy Day 1987


Fast forward to 1993. Married now and my wife at the time and I wanted a vehicle for camping and touring Colorado. Ester was the obvious choice. I rebuilt the engine, put in a rebuilt tranny, put in some cabinets and gave her a new paint job. She was good to go. Not quite a four wheeler, but the high clearance let us go lots of places our Jetta couldnít.

Icy day 1993. Missing her VW emblem. Someone thought it was better off with them :(

Ester in the snow 1995

At the Pawnee grasslands 1996


Time kept moving and by 2009 she was in bad need of more TLC. I had tried to keep up with the mechanicals. The latest was having the kingpin steering refurbished. But the rust was beginning to take its toll. I was single at the time and had just gotten an inheritance. A good situation for her. I found someone who specialized in working on VWs and was excited about doing a panel van. Was willing to do it for cheap as long as I didnít want her back soon, maybe a year (Ha Ha). So, she (and $$$) went to the hospital. Work progressed slowly. I would visit and saw holes getting patched and what not. Then things sort of came to a halt. I also was the best at visiting and pushing.

Ester in the hospital 2010

In the hospital 2010

Ester in the hospital 2012

In the hospital 2012


March 2019. New wife, new kid. The person working on her had moved out of their shop and was working from home. Work had resumed, but the expectations had been drastically lowered. Then sadly, they passed away. Ester came back home, but nowhere close to the shape she had left. I had driven her to the shop, but now she was now very disassembled (as you can see). At least everything fit inside her for the ride home on the truck.

Leaving for home 2019

Arriving home 2019


I started poking and googling around the internet, watching Youtube videos and learning. Then I found thesamba.com. What a great site. Seeing all the posts gave me the confidence that I could actually do this myself. Sheís not in nearly as bad of shape as what I see some people starting with. I donít know how to weld, but have been told easy to learn. Other peoples post show me the steps involved for any repair I need to make. I decided to jump in and just do it. Iím not aiming at a show quality van, I just want to get her to a point where sheíll last another 50 years. I owe her that. So, without further ado, here is my journey and education on restoring my 1966 panel van.

johny__utah Fri Sep 04, 2020 11:47 am

welcome, cool photo's and story!

vwuberalles Fri Sep 04, 2020 11:52 am

Welcome! What a cool story, glad you've kept her all these years! What's your end plan for Ester?

AS350driver Fri Sep 04, 2020 1:00 pm

Great story! Will definitely be following along

Manfred58sc Fri Sep 04, 2020 1:56 pm

Awesome story and great pictures! I grew in Boulder in the 70's and the "vibe" was still there through much of the 80's ( long gone now ). It was paradise. A Bus and a wolf pack of "heads" was the ticket to good times.

mauldin Sat Sep 05, 2020 11:06 am

September 2019
My vision for her is to have the cancer rust gone and get her into shape to be a "reliable" ride. Into a place where she can survive for a few more decades. In her present state, this means replacing a lot of structure, painting inside and out, new engine and tranny, disk brakes, and seats :)
So this is what I'm starting with.
As you can see from the above photos, the front valances and left rear corner were replaced along with the front left dogleg panels. She also had the left rear outrigger and jack point replaced and there was also a patch job done to the hole under the driver's seat.

Ester at hospital 2012. Left dogleg repair.


Left rear outrigger and Jack point repair.


Patch over driver's side wheel well hole


I'm not starting from zero, but there are still a lot of rusted out parts underneath that still need replacing. While the left rear outrigger and jack point were replaced, all of the others need it too. Also both front and rear cross braces are rotting. The bottom of the driver's door and both cargo doors have major cancer rust, and of course the battery tray area. Looks like I've got a lot of cutting and welding ahead.

Right front jack point and outrigger.


Right rear outrigger


Rear cross member


Cargo door bottoms


Driver's side door bottom


Battery tray


She was originally a painters van and the inside shows it. The dips in the corrugated floor are filled with 40-50 year old house paint. When I took her to the hospital, I pick out Neptune Blue as the color for her to be painted both inside and out. Blue bottom and white top on the outside and blue interior. The person I took her to tried a test section in the rear of the cargo area, but it peeled. The metal needs a lot more preparation. They also put a rust preventative/sealer down in certain places, but it was coming up too. So (avoiding scary cutting and surgery) my first order of business is to strip the entire cargo section down to bare metal and prime.

Inside of cargo area


Peeling paint in rear cargo area

mauldin Sat Sep 05, 2020 11:37 am

November 2019
Starting to remove the cargo interior paint. I started with a sander, but found a angle grinder with a wire wheel (I used a cup wheel) worked better. Then, after more reading, I tried a polycarbide wheel. That's the way to go. Can get them cheap from Harbor Freight. The floor is just nasty (I had a piece of plywood wood over it all these years in blissful ignorance)


Trial and error with paint removal tools


Making progress. It looks so much better.


About half way through this little endeavor, it occurred to me that paint this old maybe has lead in it. I've been wearing an N-95 mask, but I have trashed my garage with paint dust. I've tested the dust quite a bit and get negative lead results. However my VERY unhappy wife is making me clean up and move the operation outside. She needs the garage for her car anyway...
Seriously, the lead paint is nothing to screw around with - lead in general (can we say Flint, MI). The dust is the most dangerous. Despite getting negative tests, I wiped everything down and bagged the rags, vacuumed with a HEPA filter vacuum, and wore a respirator and Tyvek suit.

mauldin Sat Sep 05, 2020 1:37 pm

May 2020
We're outside now and the weather has turned nicer. Almost done with the paint removal in the cargo area.


WildIdea Sat Sep 05, 2020 3:49 pm

Welcome aboard! Great read on my work break. Pretty awesome you hung onto it all these years. Thanks for sharing.

Iíd say your actually in pretty good shape rust wise, canít wait to see where you take it.

Riff Raff Sat Sep 05, 2020 7:09 pm

Very cool that you have kept your bus with you all these years
Great pics, great resurrection.

Carry on

AS350driver Sat Sep 05, 2020 8:42 pm

I was re-reading the thread in detail since I kinda speed read it earlier, but did notice you left At-lanta and made Boulder in two days. Holy sheet..You must have had that little 1600 SP hammered down! It took me 2 days to drive my 65 Westy from Tucson to Laredo TX one time....about 950 miles. It was warm weather, so held it to 55-60 at most.

Blue Baron Sun Sep 06, 2020 12:43 am

Great story, and it's neat that it's a walk-through panel.

German Krew Sun Sep 06, 2020 7:16 am

Looking good! Keep on grinding in the free world. :lol: :lol: :lol:
There are plenty of great build threads on here to guide you in the right way.

LAGrunthaner Sun Sep 06, 2020 5:08 pm

Great thread of your resurrection, love the pics from the very beginning.
Keep her going, she is so happy you are committed to this.


mauldin Sun Sep 06, 2020 7:49 pm

Hi All, Thanks for all of the welcomes and encouragement. I am looking forward to this whole endeavor. For me this is about the journey, the destination will happen. Besides, we've been together for so long. And yes we really did make it to Boulder in 2 days. My friend and I put in two long (14-15 hour) days. It was back when the speed limit was 55, so she fit right in with everyone else. The high point was going through a construction area in Kansas. There was a narrow chute with concrete barricades on either side. Doing 55, and her with a steering dampener that had wasted tie rod ends. You had to "feel" which way the wheels were going to be pointed after each bump and be ready at the steering wheel. White knuckled bliss :)

AS350driver Sun Sep 06, 2020 8:31 pm

mauldin wrote: Hi All, Thanks for all of the welcomes and encouragement. I am looking forward to this whole endeavor. For me this is about the journey, the destination will happen. Besides, we've been together for so long. And yes we really did make it to Boulder in 2 days. My friend and I put in two long (14-15 hour) days. It was back when the speed limit was 55, so she fit right in with everyone else. The high point was going through a construction area in Kansas. There was a narrow chute with concrete barricades on either side. Doing 55, and her with a steering dampener that had wasted tie rod ends. You had to "feel" which way the wheels were going to be pointed after each bump and be ready at the steering wheel. White knuckled bliss :)

Haha, I didnít disbelieve you, I just know how long distance trips like that are in an old VW, pedal to the metal, yet hanging out in the slow lane. You had a copilot, thatís a huge help. Epic thread by the way!

Question: are you painting it back to original or perhaps recreating the repaint after you came out West? (Blue w white stripe)

TRS63 Sun Sep 06, 2020 10:20 pm

What a cool story and a solid bus to start with!

Antoine

karl h Sun Sep 06, 2020 11:10 pm

awesome story, keep us updated!

mauldin Tue Sep 08, 2020 10:06 am

June 2020
Finished removing the paint and wiping things down. My goal here was to get the house paint out of the inside and prime it so the metal won't rust. I'll do more finishing type work before I put on the top coat. Decided to go with Kirker Enduro Prime DTM epoxy primer. While it's not finished, it looks so much nicer than what I started with (and have been living with).

Inside cargo area all cleaned up and primed. So much cleaner looking :)



Removing the layers of house paint from the floor uncovered some rust holes. From looking at the underside, I think I'll replace both sides of the cargo floor along with the lower reinforcement pillar sections. Yay finding more work.


mauldin Tue Sep 08, 2020 1:38 pm

August 2020
Been away from Ester work with home projects for a bit. Finally got around to ordering stuff for the next phase of work. Got a nice box from KlassicFab with all sorts of pretty green (and slightly expensive) goodies. Rear apron, cargo floor repair sections, heater tube, battery tray, outriggers, jack points, cross braces, door bottoms for the drivers and cargo doors. Even though they're more expensive, I decided to go with KlassicFab. From the research I've done, it seems people have fewer problems with their parts fitting. Guess I'll find out.



Also pick up a little welder from Eastwood. I decided to go with the multi-process model. I've had a few people tell me for the price this is a good and versatile unit. 110V and it should be able to handle all the body work. I've had a couple of short lessons, watched Youtube videos, and practiced with scrap pieces. Getting the technique down. It's fun!!! Plus I've already fixed a few things around the house :) The cheap little cart is very convenient too.




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