Looking underneath - a cautionary tale

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

  1. Definitely good advice. It depresses me how many people, new to campers, are having miserable experiences due to bodgers. It happened with beetles in the 90s and its happening again, only they seem to be better at hiding it. I have seen some amazing sculptures in filler, some of it good enough to fool even an enthusiast. Crawling around underneath is definitely the best way to check, as they don't count on people doing it. And they're right! Before I sold my old van, I dealt with the only rust patch on the underside, a 2 inch square patch of rust in the driver's floor. I spent several evenings grinding it back, making a panel, butt welding it in, dressing the welds, etch priming it, seam sealing the joins underneath, topcoating it and then waxoiling underneath. I figured no-one would buy a 40 year old van without lifting the carpets. I completely wasted my time. Not a single person who looked at it lifted the cab mat or got underneath. Most thought the fact that the paint was 8 years old was a downside, rather than reassuring.

    On imports, the only point I would add is not to forget that none of them will have been cavity waxed, which means they rust from inside out. Even in the desert some moisture comes out of the air when it gets cold at night. So every night, every box section gets just a little moisture inside. It's nowhere near as bad as in a wet climate, but it catches people out. Unless it's accident damage, the first time you see rust, it has gone through the steel completely and the surrounding metal may be thin. A bubble or two won't mean sanding back or touching in, it will mean welding.

    Finally, it still amazes me how many people pay out to have bodywork restored and new paint, but then don't cavity wax every box section. There are a lot on a bus - A, B and C pillars, the sills, front arches and steps, the front top hats, the front deformation panel, the rear quarters, the chassis rails, the box sections round the engine lid, plus 5 doors. It takes several hours to do them properly and a lot of cavity wax, and that's without any underbody wax protection. It's also a horrible job, but without it I can't see these imports lasting in the UK.
  2. Going to print out these pics and take them with me on my continuing search... :)
  3. It's very simple. Check out jokers pictures earlier - all should be clean lines or at the worst neat repairs.

    That goes for front arches too. There is a range of possibilities here covering the fitting and quality if they've been replaced. It goes without saying that the doors should be as flush as a modern car.
  4. What about an underneath that's good/solid but has had a few repairs and then wax oiled? How would I tell?
    Still clean lines or walk away? I'm a complete newbie so this is all fantastic info - if a bit scary!
  5. From my personal experience I would never buy another with side belly pans or underseal. That gunk is the work of the devil.
  6. You need to become familiar with what it should look like. Some repairs are acceptable, some repairs are unavoidable and a good thing. If the chassis for instance has been repaired and you can't tell, then that's probably a good repair that time has been taken over. If the chassis is made of patches that's bad. And everything in between.
    As a general rule if the entire underneath is black, and blobby, that's bad. So often I see vans that have been undersealed over the top of rust/mud/whatever else happens to be there and the owners thought that was a good sign. Underseal can be a good thing, but it depends on what it's painted over. If it looks really thick it may well be there's buckets of seamsealer underneath holding all the rust flakes together.
    Not for nothing is underseal known as "bullsh1t black"
    Motspur Hotspur and Merlin Cat like this.
  7. Ours had underseal under the plywood on the cargo floor. Took ages to scrape and sand off. That revealed fibreglass repairs, corrosion, black mould, the usual horrors.

    What alternatives are recommended for when I eventually scrape the rest of it from underneath? Im currently coating it all in red oxide (Im old school) then want a good top coat brushed on then perhaps just brush on clear waxoil. Will this be okay?
  8. me I would rather put black unseal than red oxide ,as you say red oxide is very old school ,rust prevention treatments have moved on...
  9. Well Im figuring on top coating it all white or something similair. That way if anything does start creeping through Itll be easy to spot, unlike black underseal. The sills needed repairing, the rearmost tophat, cargo floor welded and the front outriggers renewed. All of which could probably have been avoided in the absence of underseal. I think once its on some owners just think thats it and forget, this stuff was everywhere.
  10. Remember it was 40 years old when you tackled it. The first 20 were likely rust free just with paint and perhaps underseal. Red oxide isn't the same formula as of old.
  11. Use grey ,white will give you paranoia..:)
  12. The actual chassis and rails etc were a nice grey, albeit with rust patches. I know its generally frowned upon but a lot of people still use it. The whole thing is a confusing nightmare, with different folks preferring different methods, por, rustoleum etc etc. I need to brush it on as Im underneath it on my back.
    It isnt a bare metal chassis restoration as it wasnt needed, more a repair job.
    Last edited: Apr 14, 2015
  13. A fascinating subject, especially as a newbie as I've no previous experience of these vans at all. I've seen one for sale less than 5 miles from me but it's a crossdresser I think, low front indicators and long lights at the back 1973. It's £14,000 but I can't afford to lose such money because of this very subject. These photos are both insightful and scary at the same time.
    The van I was thinking about was originally advertised for £22,000 and then dropped to £14,000. No apparent bidders. I'm a home carer and have no vehicle so not easy to go and see vans anywhere. This is what attracted me to the van, but as has been said, you can repent at leisure if you're not careful. These stories both open my eyes and fill my underwear.
    zed and dan H like this.
  14. You only have to have a look! You might be surprised how many people don't and instead assume that because it has an MOT it must be structurally sound. Wrong!
  15. Precisely, in our ignorance we think an MOT means a nice knowledgeable mechanic has gone over every inch of the van and found/fixed any problems and if none are mentioned then that means there are none. The MOT doesn't give us anything like the protection we think it does and we get burnt for relying on it so much. Does anyone know someone who could look a van over on my behalf near Hitchin? £14,000 a lot of money for a pretty looking skip after all. The van's in Baldock. There are photos of it on EBay and it's had restoration work on it etc. No photos of underneath though which concerns me. I
  16. When you get pics post them in a thread and let the guys give them a once over, more than once they've steered me clear of a rotter! and it's
    @lost-en-france favourite part!
  17. Im not far from there and could do it on Saturday for petrol costs
  18. Thanks Matt that's very kind of you but as it's a family buy I have to be 100% certain everyone's happy with going ahead with things first. orange van1.jpg
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  20. orange van3.jpg orange van2.jpg orange van4.jpg orange van2.jpg

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