Our “new” 71 Westy!

We had a fine Sat last Sept driving up to Philadelphia  to check out a bus for sale.  Most of the morning was spent crawling in and around the 1970 camper.  The outside was in good shape, minimal rust, new paint, rebuilt engine and trans… But the inside?  Well that needed a fair amount of work!  We could do it, that wasn’t the question, but rather did we want to spend a fair amount of money for this bus and then not be able to use it for a bit while we pumped more money into it.  After all our purpose for this new vehicle was to head out with our children and camp!! We walked around the block a few times mulling things over and eventually decided to table this option for now; perhaps we could return to it after we saw what else was out there.  We had already seen a few disaster buses, but had one more that looked promising over the river in NJ.  Unfortunately, we hadn’t been in contact with the other option’s owner for a couple of days and his schedule was fairly full.

Fortunately, we have good friends in Philly who were around that day.  We dropped in on them for a visit, to peruse the VW ads for additional “for sales”, and to try to contact the seller in NJ.  Of course we visited the Ghia in their garage.  Luck was not with us; we could not get a hold of the NJ seller and nothing worth looking at was found in the classifieds.  We decided to head out and leave our gracious hosts to their weekend and go to NJ.  I have family there and we hoped we could beg a visit and dinner to prolong our chances of seeing the NJ bus.  After all, we drove this far and it would be a shame to turn around now!.

My Uncle Tom and his family were kind enough to take us in and help us with our quest.  Tom was the right choice to go visit.  He understood our journey as he has spent many hours behind a VW steering wheel.  He was also my co-pilot (or I his) for the first leg of a x-country bus trip. When we did not hear from the NJ seller after dinner, we decided to head back south.  We would just have to come back another weekend.  But in the nick of time he called and agreed to show the bus!!!

We didn’t know at the time if we’d be able to drive the camper the next day.  The seller let it be known that the bus was not street legal and we could not test drive in the rain.  The weather did not look good for Sunday.  But we were this close; if we could rule it out then we could rule out another trip north, at least for now.

Sunday morning spawned dark and dreary, but the rain was holding off.  Until we got in the car. It was drizzling when we got to the sellers, but the bus was in a barn and we were able to look her over.  Not a speck of rust and only some minor dents and dings.  The only parts of the bus never touched by the seller were the trans and engine.  Everything else had been worked on:  shifting linkage, front end, wheel bearing, brakes, paint, canvas, interior etc…. And everything was done well, with the exception of a couple spots on the body.  She looked good, but could she drive?  The seller did start her up so we knew she made noise and then engine checked out OK.  But I really wanted to get behind the wheel.

We must have spent an hour climbing around this bus, my wife talking with the sellers wife, Tom (he came along to act as an unbiased observer – too bad he got as excited as us) and I scurrying around like field mice checking everything we could.    During that time the rain stopped and although everything was pretty wet, the seller agreed to let us go around the block – just watch out for the police!!  Well let’s just say going around the block just made us feel more comfortable in plopping down the money.  With some adjustments I knew she would be just fine.  Although the transmission did give me some worries as did the engine because they were unknowns.  The seller couldn’t remember what the PO had done to them.  Both seemed OK on our test drive though!

The rain held off long enough for us to get her up on a tow dolly and head for home.  Good thing Tom came along because he had the truck.  Not sure we would have gotten her home that day with the caravan!  We made one l
ast stop at Tom’s house so we could show off our new family member (and also smile brightly at Tom’s wife when we told her he was driving us back to VA).  Can’t say enough about them – couldn’t have done this without them.

Martha (my wife), me (Erik), Tom Before departing NJ for VA

Up next: Our “new” 71 Westy comes home…….

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