Looking underneath - a cautionary tale

Discussion in 'Buying a VW Camper' started by zedders, Feb 21, 2014.

  1. Looking at campers?

    When you've finished
    Before looking at the interior, laughing at the choice of curtains and planning how much better you'd make it look and admiring the shiney paint, to avoid accidentally falling in love with it dive underneath. That's right UNDERNEATH. I know it's dirty, I know it might be wet on the ground and I know you have a bad back, but honestly LOOK UNDERNEATH FIRST.

    When a minger comes in to the workshop, by now it's owners have put shiney alloy wheels on, eyelids, a sun screen, roof racks and all. They've started to notice the paint is a bit bubbly and think it's about time to have someone look it over. Before looking the typical conversation goes like this. Bare in mind I'm nosey.

    How long have you had it?
    We got it last spring and it's been great fun all last summer etc etc
    How much did you pay if you don't mind me asking?
    £8,500 What do you think?
    I'll have a proper look first but it looks ok for the money at a glance. :) Did you take someone with you who knows about these old buses?
    No, but we looked at a few that looked worse and were more money so this one seemed like a good buy.
    Did you look underneath?
    It had 12 months MOT and we wouldn't know what we're looking at/for anyway.
    Looky, looky, looky...
    I'm afraid it needs a complete restoration - look at this, that and the other. It should look like this (show 'em a good one).

    Now I have a look underneath and do indeed get a bit dirty, but a piece of cardboard does the job if it's wet, it doesn't take long really.

    If you don't know what you're looking for/at don't worry about that. You're looking for welded on patches, underseal on top of mud, underseal like christmas cake icing, holes, patches on patches... or hopefully nice clean lines.

    If it looks like this:

    Please don't buy it - unless you like welding and know what you're doing of course.

    If you're cheeky, have a scrape. I scraped this with a bendy thin blunt scraper and it made holes with no effort. I wasn't trying to make holes, no jabbing or stabbing, I was removing underseal.

    More on that bit later. This one already bought but I had to adjust the handbrake for customer. It kept jamming on because the cable was frayed. The cables wouldn't come out to replace. :thinking:

    Stay with me, I'll get to the point. Belly pans - if it has them, are the belly pans WELDED on? How would you know? Because there are no bolts or screws holding them on. Simple. That's ALL three pans. On our example, the side pans were bolted on. I'd removed one earlier to run a pipe and found nice neat chassis patches typical of repairs after moving the pans, original floor and supports in good condition. Nothing to alarm.

    Back to the handbrake cable. It was jamming a few feet into the conduit where it's within the space between the centre pan and the floor. There was a 1" bung in the pan - good stuff - someones waxoyled? I pulled it out and lying right over the hole was the heater tube. This is it later. That'll be why the heating didn't work then!

    So no choice but to cut the pan off to get to the conduit. Here's what I saw. Pic is looking forwards at the crossmember and right hand main chassis rail.

    Remember I'm just trying to adjust the handbrake. :(

    It get's worse... more in a moment, please don't post yet. ;)
    Last edited: Jul 4, 2020
  2. Sound advise zed
  3. That chassis shot in the last post, the last picture (now lost), is the other side of the bit I was scraping later.
    Out with the grinder and remove some patches (0.8mm thick) and some of the outrigger. This is just behind the front wheel.

    Your eyes do not decieve you, you can see clear though the chassis, the only bit left is the top of what should be a 2mm thick box section at this point. I imagine this is why someone has removed ALL the jacking points. Testament to the bus design perhaps. It'll be the same at the rear outriggers/cross members so each chassis rail is effectively in 3 pieces.

    I've had 12 feet of chassis made and making the fiddly bits right now. There's more, but you get the idea. I'm supposed to be adjusting the handbrake, but that'll have to wait a mo.
    ALL the neat looking chassis patches, of which there are many are 0.8mm. With pans removed I can bend the chassis with one hand.
    Be careful out there.

    Post away, I just didn't want the piccies broken up with "eek" posts. :)
    Last edited: Jul 4, 2020
    paradox, Beakey, 1973daisey and 6 others like this.
  4. Silver

    Silver Needs points/will pay!

    So what does the top half of the bus look like?
  5. Ok, a bit of bubbling on the rear corners. Not a show winner, but not a minger. It's got power steering! 1971 crossdresser.
  6. Someone KNEW it was like this, covered it all up with tinny patches, bullMarmite black and flogged it. They should be in court on charges of deception IMHO, it's dangerous. When I've finished I'll post some more pictures.
    PanZer and jivedubbin like this.
  7. Although I do feel sorry for them it makes me feel a little better as I thought mine was bad - purely cosmetic by comparison!
    zed likes this.
  8. Silver

    Silver Needs points/will pay!

    Just shows that it's easy to hide serious structural problems from the MOT guys and the buyer. Photos of the condition of the top would be nice, gives potential buyers and idea of what can and is done to make a very dangerous bus look 'nice'!
  9. Top's a bit boring after seeing the jagged bits. :) Devon roof, nice grey and white paint, doors don't fit great but it looks solid enough. I won't post ID pics as owner not a TLBer.
  10. Can you see they had a lovely time before they brought it to you ,I think you ask too many questions ,really it is up to the bad mot man ,then you pick up the pieces.....;)

    I would never have that conversation, especially the how much part...:D
  11. bernjb56

    bernjb56 Administrator

    Makes me slightly nervous :thinking:
  12. i can't think about it. *stick fingers in ears and sings loudly* *deposits head in sand*
  13. Good info zed, they're too many people buying rot boxes without looking, too many sharks getting away with it. Here are some pics of how one should look underneath;



    In this next pic you can see the shiny factory paint under the flaking wax oil


    Even a UK bus which has been here all its life, or had any welding or restoration work should display clean straight lines like this


    I actually displayed this bus for sale at vanfest. Some idiot who didn't know what he was looking at commented that its was an overpriced rot box. The van next to mine was 'restored'. Well, it had shiny paint and new curtains, looked very nice but it was 'fat' no panel lines it had at least 1/4" of filler all round . The same guy said, 'now that's what a bus should look like'

    I took a look and the chassis rails outriggers and sills were covered in fibreglass, as was the front floor.

    The owner was asking £13k.

    If you take someone with you who knows what they're looking at you can see beyond faded paint and dings and dents at spot a minger straight away


    paradox and 1973daisey like this.
  14. first thing I looked at when we bought Madge, I had old clothes on and disappeared underneath, good advise Zed....:thumbsup:
  15. Come on @zed ... stop teasing... have you fixed the hand brake cable or not? ;-)
  16. I ask everyone, it fascinates me that people will part with the best part of £10K on a 40 year old vehicle without looking underneath. :)

    @Joker Thanks for posting those pics. Nice clean lines, no repairs, a joy to behold. :)
  17. No but I got the old cables out. :thumbsup:
    Now all I have to do glue some flattened bean cans over those small holes and spray it with yucky black stuff. Job's a good'un!
  18. Nice post! This is why arseholes with bean tins and black crap are still out there. For a part of my varied working life I was a cabinet maker, people would always compliment the shine of the polish or lacquer and how smooth it was. That amounted to just a few hours work, very few people ever commented on the construction which may have amounted to several hundred hours and many years of hard practice to learn
    Merlin Cat and physiopro like this.
  19. I don't know why somebody wouldn't? Even if you don't know what you're looking for you can spot rust or a botch job
  20. In the good old days cars were always full of rust and us now old guys remember buying a few rotten vehicles spending hours on our backs trying to fix them up … it was part of the learning process … nowadays cars bodywork seems to last longer they aren't used to rotten cars and this makes some people less inclined to have a proper look ……….

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