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Date:         Wed, 21 May 1997 15:21 -0600 (MDT)
Sender:       Vanagon Mailing List <>
Subject:      '91 Westfalia Hunt Succeeds - Kinda Long posting

Don't know if introductions are de rigeur on the list, but I've noticed that prose certainly is.

I'm about two days old to the list and five days and 1600 miles into the ownership of a `91 Westfalia. I've been interested in buying one for a while now, and had even planned on renting one from Roamin' Holidays here in Albuquerque to go to a reunion in June.

While stationed in Alaska in 1979, I borrowed a co-worker's 1970 European Westfalia (full front seat, extra rear seat) for a trip to Denali Park. I was stoked! Then, in 1980 I bought a `71 Kombi with a Z-bed (remember those?). I added a small Westfalia center popup, jalousie windows, and eventually replaced the Z-bed with a widened Westfalia bed. Finally, I bought a wrecked `69 and installed the full pop top and "hammock" and sold the rest of the interior. I kept the car until 1988 when my ever-growing kids made camping in it impractical (besides, I was now in Illinois where there are only two good camping months a year).

In the same period, I also had a `59 panel (I was the second owner), but a tempted by a windstorm, a weakened Black Maple crushed it horribly just short of its 30th birthday. For the past 8 years, I've been driving a complete, but slowly fading `66 Deluxe (which is now for sale).

Time for a new(er) car (and my first car payment in 18 years)! Getting a full-value loan from the credit union meant looking for a `91 or newer. Not being progressive enough for a Eurovan (and they're even harder to find than Vanagons here), I started fishing for a `91. Daily newspaper scans and Internet searches. Only bite was one in South Carolina, 128K miles, all the options, but auto tranny (uggh - my only experience was with a 411 auto - sorta like stepping in warm butter). I kept looking, but kept coming back.

Check the location on MapQuest. Turns out, my Father-in-law lives just 100 miles from the seller, so he packs the camera and checks it out on Mother's Day (took the M-in-law along). Since they're coming out the next day (building a retirement home in Durango), he brings me the pictures; he was impressed. Boy, was I stoked! Car looks great, and has the VW mag wheels to boot. Tuesday thru Thursday mean daily trips to the C.U. to do the deal. Saturday, my Dad and I fly out to Atlanta (Mom was glad to have him out of the house, and it ended up curing his periodic urge to take a road trip). Meet the PO (he got his check on Friday; (the C.U. and) I own it now) at the outlet mall in Commerce GA, grab the keys and head out.

A/C must need a charge, but the weather is bearable without it. Automatic isn't bad either (but remember, I'm used to reduction gears!), and the engine seems plenty strong (I try to get Dad to keep it under 65, but he's used to driving a TownCar). Make it to NW Alabama before midnight, find an all-night Wal-Mart, and buy a blaket and a couple of pillows; "camp" at a truck stop. Dad's up at 5AM (He only needs 4 hours a night - decided not to ask about the multiple daylight cat-naps he's getting in), and we're headed west again.

Cruise control seemed to be engendering a surge in the engine, so we quit using it first day out. It's getting plent warm; A/C in the car little help. Make it all the way to OK City Sunday and we opt to crash at a motel with a pool. After we check in we find it isn't cleaned for the season - closed - bummer. It had been a hot day, too, but most of the country (California and Hawaii excepted) insist that summer begins on Memorial Day and ends on Labor Day. We're zonked by 7:30 (missed part one of "The Odyssey" - guess we're having our own).

Guess what? Up at 3AM. Heading out through a Severe Thunderstorm area that encompasses I-40 all the way to the state line. Scanning the horizon for wall clouds and funnels everytime lightning flashes (almost constantly); if I see Helen Hunt (thinly-veiled "Twister" sub-reference) anywhere nearby, I'm gonna head the other way! Wipers work good, but there's a little drip-drip leak at the lower driver's corner of the windshield (probably because of the US made windshield - they never fit 100%). No other leaks, but the 40 knot cross wind is doing its darndest to get under the pop top and fatigue it into breaking loose. Decide to use my web belt to connect the right side roof support to the seat belt anchor and the bumping diminishes considerably.

Surging hasn't been a factor for 800 miles, so I try the cruise again. Drat! Now it's intermittent all the way to Albuquerque. No additional excitement (except for a stop at Drew's Ice Cream in Texas - liked the ice cream; worried about the less-than-spotlessness). Roll into town by noon and deposit Dad with profuse thanks at his home. Mom likes the bus and I get the expected grief about finally cleaning the garage and parking it inside.

Drop by the dealer to check the recall status - needs the F.I. refit. Parts guy comes out and puts an add-on between the throttle position sensor box and the wiring to see if it cures the surging. No long trips since then, but no problems around town and on the freeway to work. Fingers still crossed.

Finally remember to look at the idiot light array before starting the engine. Hmmm, no oil light-up. Clock's screwed too; keeps time, but only in some parallel universe; won't adjust. Okay, let's take the cluster apart. Gasp! Something ate the Oil LED!! It's nowhere to be found! 1600 miles with no warning of impending meltdown; good thing I checked the level several times. Pull a LED out of the "Train" box (model railroader) and try it both ways; new control unit? Not `till I do all the checks in the Bentley Book. Well, guess what's at the top of the list to fix?


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