Caribbean Queen - 1967 Kombi
This '67 Split underwent its rebirth and transformation in Mark's hands. Mark's had VWs of various descriptions as long as he can remember (well, since he was 17) which included a huge long string of Beetles. After a while though, the yearning for something a bit larger started to grow. This culminated in the van you see here. Before this one came along, Mark had started working on another '67 camper. The work went on for a while, but all the time Mark started thinking that he was doing the wrong thing. Well, he was doing the right thing, but to the wrong vehicle. The '67 in question had an elevating roof, and Mark really wanted a solid roofed bus. Also the body needed a whole lot of work, and the combination of the two led to the bus being put up for sale, minus some bits and bobs. It was time to try again.
A local advert and the handing over of £1000 resulted in Split #2 ending up at the Hopley residence. It had originally been a solid roofed Devon, with Velvet Green and Pearl White paintwork. However it didn't look like that when Mark took over ownership... the previous owner had started a renovation, but didn't get much further than stripping the paint off, ripping out the interior and windows and leaving it outside for a while. The while became a longer while, until Mark came into the picture. The resulting rust was blasted out and treated, and now a clearer picture of what was needed started to emerge. Ooh, dear! In true fashion, it needed close to everything. Front lower panel, front arches, cab and cargo floors, inner and outer sills both sides, outriggers, rear arches and corners, battery trays etc. etc. etc. Happily the main chassis rails were in good nick, which was some sort of consolation, and the upper body was in great shape. It's not often that you find a Split that doesn't need work around the windscreen scuttle and/or the rain gutters, but this one had escaped the metal 'moth in those areas. However add to the list a pair of cab doors (purchased from Rob in Aberystwyth), cargo doors (Arizona-sourced minters that Osterley Californian Classics turned up), a replacement engine lid and rear valence and some repairs to the tailgate and other small bits and pieces, and you'll get an idea of how much work was needed to get this baby in any fit state for a paintjob.
When the paint stage finally arrived, Velvet Green was out. Green was still in, but this time it was Caribbean Green - a stock VW colour dating back to the '50s and which can still be seen on modern Sharans (apparently). The ivory on the top half and the bumpers is a BMW shade, although Mark can't remember the exact name. Never mind. After the paint had been stuck to the body, the usual uphill struggle of refitting everything started. New rubbers and seals all round caused a serious dent in the finances, as much of the chrome was replaced as possible (mostly coming via Justin at Custom and Commercial) and all those little details that mean so much were, well, detailed, such as the pop out windows that are (okay, were) new old stock.
Turning to the inside of the van, the door panels were made from scratch by a local trimmer, while the furniture is mostly from that '67 Devon. Some bits have been heavily repaired or
built from scratch though, like the back cupboard. The cooker is the original item, and looking up and around as your egg is boiling, you'll see the new headliner. That was fun to fit...
Getting underneath the van, all the newly repaired chassis bits received the paint treatment, as did the original stuff. The reduction box transmission was rebuilt, but that only lasted a couple of weeks before Mark had the letters I, R and S pinging around his brain. He got in touch with Paul Miller from Harry Harpics, who steered him in the right direction. The gearbox is from a 1303S Beetle, while almost everything else is from a '72 bay (apart from the rear drums). The control-arms were cut and re-welded to fit around the gearbox mounting forks, while the original spring plates were paid a visit from a plasma cutter and modified to mate up with the new hub carriers and control arms, which saved the need to go searching for pre 1970 items. A simple 1600cc twin port motor provides the power. It was stripped and re-built as an old engine should be, a twin choke Weber carb was fitted instead of the Solex, and the thing buzzes along really happily. This is a van that has no problem bombing down the motorway for miles on end!
The beam at the front is a ball joint item. This was in place when the van came into Mark's hands, but there is a theory that because this Split is one of the very last to be produced, the beam in question might just have been fitted at the factory. The state of the axle was certainly in keeping with that of the surrounding chassis, so who knows? Anyway, it didn't escape Mark's attention, as you'll notice the van's much lower than standard. To achieve this, Mark created his own adjusting mechanisms, employing the original centre block in the beam - sort of a cross between a Foksy and an Albatross, really. Neat. Of course the other usual stuff was replaced, the brakes were totally rebuilt, although much consternation was caused by a succession of dodgy Brazilian master cylinders. The BRM replicas originally had 155R15 tyres all round, though the backs are now 165R15s. The ride is bouncy but not unduly bone-rattling, and happily the interior furniture doesn't squeak too much.
Mark got itchy feet, and wanted to restore a 21 or 23 window bus, so sold this bus, but was very pleased when Caribbean Queen bus was featured in TotalVW magazine July 2002 issue, with its new owner.