andyrunsalot Member posted September 03, 2003 09:27 PM
I bought Pancho, my '80 Westfalia from my wife's ex-boyfriend's parents, great people--for a buck. Took the greyhound from Salt Lake City to Reno. Luckily my sister was on a road trip and passing through Reno so she could follow me back home--in case, you know.
teh ex-boyfriend's dad--who had loved the van as had his family, loved it a lot, for twenty years of kidding, traveling and general mayhem--had told me he gave me eighty percent odds of making it back to Provo. I figured for a buck and the security of my sister tailgating me it was well worth the risk. I arrived at the Lightfoot household at about 9 am. Pops handed me a folder containing the title, a receipt and a two page list of stuff I should know about. We went over the list and planned to stop in Elko and Wendover as they were spaced roughly a gas tank apart--the busted gas gauge as on the list.
At the first pit stop--three blocks from point A ex-boyfriend's dad passes on his way to work but stops, pulls in and immediately hops out and does a dive for the gas tank side of the vehicle. gas was pouring out such that he could see it from the road. He cautioned me against topping it off anymore. Resolved. About twenty minutes east of Reno I'm chillin' trying to hear Willie Nelson coming out the one good speaker--over on the passenger side, and I hear this thumpin' and whackin' coming from the back end. Fully ready to abandon ship and get a ride with my sister, I pull over. It was just the driver side rear tire de-treading itself. So I got out the jack, spare and lug wrench to try to remove the now-naked tire. No dice. It was WELDED. I sent my sister back to Sparks to purchase some WD to retry our luck. She returned about fourty minutes later and we unloaded the can into the lug nuts. It worked. Replaced the tire and as Willy put it shortly thereafter we were on the road again.
A few more miles down the road I feel the wheel start to pull to the left a bit. A gander in the rear view revealed a now deflated spare. Luck smiled again on Willie, Pancho and I giving us the perfect offramp into a fairly remote and very Nevada tuckstop.
Resolved to not backtracking we headed to Lovelock where we purchased two new tires and a lunch at a great steak and eggs type joint.
a couple hours later we were again moving east.
Things went fairly smoothly from there out. I was baptized into the world of westies trying to make it up to Truckee and over the pass. I was rechristened every time I had to pull off to the choulder going uphill cause if I didn't every driver headed East would first shake her head then her fist. I spent a lot of time on the shoulder and a LONG time on the road.
What has been a five hour ride turned into a homeric journey. I finally made it home about 17 hours after leaving Reno.
Well, I rolled the dice in Reno, and luck (and some overpriced tire boys in Lovelock) urged me on to Utah. While the house won, somehow it still felt like a victory.
(Pancho was named after the song "Pancho and Lefty" by Towns Van Zandt made famous by Willy, enjoyed on that first trip. He's now entirely gutted awaiting his new soundproofing, apholstery, and carpet.)
Just bought an '87 Syncro Westie in Oregon and drove it back to Maine. Lots of Willie on my iPod, too, although I have the version of "Pancho and Lefty" that he did with Dylan at his 60th birthday party. It seemed right that the first song was "Ripple." I had only two speakers that worked - the right ones.
Although I had been on the road for about 20 hours, I immediately pointed the Syncro toward Mount Hood and took off. Spent three days in Oregon, camping in state parks at Deschutes Canyon (Good), La Pine (Great) and John Day (Average) before swinging over to Boise and picking up my wife and daughter at the airport. All systems are go.
We spent the night in Three Island Crossing State Park in Idaho, and boiled our way through Idaho to Jackson, WY, and a day in Grand Teton. From there it was four days in Yellowstone, much of the last spent investigating a coolant leak. (Diagnosis: old hoses and clamps re-used when the engine work was done, and the cold nights caused things to contract and leak under the pressure. Repairman at Yellowstone won't charge for the work he did.)
We went out the Northeast entrance and decided to take the Chief Joseph Scenic Highway in Wyoming. Steep. Got it out of second gear on the switchbacks at least once.
Camped one night at a commercial campground in Cody (my daughter was enthralled by the rodeo cowboys' girlfriends doing themselves up in the bathroom in the morning) and another at Glendo State Park in Wyoming (campground rowdy and dirty, park littered, scenery impressive). One hotel in Denver (Motel 6 - very tacky) and then the family takes off for home by plane.
By Oberlin, Kansas, a new noise in the engine has added some smell. Trying my comedian act out, I ask at a gas station if there are any VW dealers around. I am a success! I get a huge laugh! I have Karl's Approved Vanagon Repair Shops on my laptop, and there is one in Kansas - 225 miles away.
I call him and ask if he can help.
"No," he says.
He's retired and just happens to be in his shop. He has advice, though: "Anybody who's been in business any time at all in a town as small as Oberlin, Kansas, has to be reputable. Go into his shop and if he has a lot of sh*t on the walls, he's OK."
The guys back in the gas station recommend "Tracy" at the big white building down the road. That turns out to be Lincoln Auto, and Tracy says he doesn't know anything about VWs. I talk him into at least taking a look, and he can see right away its the A/C clutch. He recommends I cut the belt (the clutch turns even on idle), and the problem is dealt with. (Tracy doesn't want to charge me, either. I insist. He will take only $5.)
Spent the night at a seedy rest stop in Kansas, and am off first thing in the morning (despite the very friendly greeting from the guy hanging around the men's room before dawn). Missouri is depressing. But I find a VW dealer in Springfield, Illinois, for an oil change (and confirmation that I am OK without the A/C belt), and I make it to Moraine View State Park for the night. (Outstanding campground.)
All the way through Illinois, Indiana and most of Ohio the next day (top speed 60 miles per hour, never any freeways). Stay at Belmont Lake State Park in Ohio (very nice) and then on to Black Moshannon State Park in Pennsylvania in time for the next day's Penn State game (Park great, Nittany Lions stink). Strange sound starts in the engine - sounds like it's running rough, or missing, at mid RPM ranges. (Still undiagnosed today.)
Headlights fail at 11 p.m. Saturday night, but I am able to see by pulling on the high beam lever and steering and shifting with my thigh and right hand through gravel mountain roads near Salt Spring State Park. (The guy working there who comes out to see what some guy is doing driving around confused with his lights going on and off says his son has a 70s Westie that is registered in some state that requires no inspection and apparently no residency.)
Park is so secluded and beautiful that I oversleep the next day, meaning I have to high-tail it to get to Maine before dark, so I do a steady 60 miles per hour on freeways across New York, Massachusetts, New Hampshire and Maine to cross the finish line.
Just bought my '80 Westy last week, thanks to my wife and plain good luck. After an inspection and a new spare, we were off on our first trip, from Ft. Myers, Fl, to Columbia, SC. We camped next to Disney, then hit the park the next day. Afterwards, we're back on the road and all is well. Our next gas stop and the Westy wouldn't start. All I got was a click. So we push start her and are on our way again. Roughly 250 miles later, same problem. So we push start her again and go to find a battery, only to find out that's not the problem, but the shop appreciated the laugh when we asked if there were any VW places around. Now I was forced to put my "new" Westy in the hands of a guy who had never even seen one. We pushed started her to get her on the rack, and after about 4 hours, she was still starting every time. (funny) About 250 miles later in the middle of Georgia in the middle of the night, I happened to turn down the radio just in time to hear the engine knocking like crazy. (oops, I underestimated the small oil leak!) Scared out of my mind and trying to tune out my wife's yelling I pulled off the next exit to a gas station. We put a couple of quarts of oil in and let it sit. Great time for that starting problem to come back. Simple enough, we'll push start it. Once...twice...nope. So there we were, middle of nowehere, middle of the night, I can't start my bus, and if you ask my wife, this is ALL MY FAULT. Some frendly folks helped us push and finally we got her started and she sounded like death was on it's sweet way. I let her sit for about 30 minutes and she sounded better than when I got her! I couldn't believe it! So we finally made it to my mom's in South Carolina and found out the starting problem is a small part that Napa says is a glow plug relay, which is actually an ignition switch relay to the starter, mounted under the chassis near the back. The part should be here in the morning, and we'll see if that's it. Till then, I'm parking on hills, but I don't mind.
I guess my trip will sound all too familar. I bought an 82 diesel westy on Samba based in Washington State but formally from Calf. I was so impressed by the exterior-only pictures i decided to buy a one-way ticket from Nova Scotia, Canada. (that's the easterly most mainland province). When I arrived I was devastated, as the interior was junk and the engine had a 'little' miss to it. I was told a simple turn-up was all that was needed. I hesitated, beat himn down some bucks and bought it. Heading East I hit the mountains. The little "miss" got worse. I could drive 250 yards then had to pull over to let the old girl settle down. 3 hours and 6,000 feet higher I prayed I was over the mountain. What a fool. After a $500.00 injector pump overhaul in Spokane I headed out with a blessing from the mechanic and a warning that my problems were only beginning. He was right, it ran well for 20 miles then started in missing again and with no power and an oil light that was intermittant. I had complete electrical failure in the middle of nowhere in Kansas and in the pouring rain/snow I discovered the two alternator wires had been 'stuck' or jammed into the socket on the back of the alternator and consequently had burned off. Fixing that I headed out again. What was to be a 10 day cross country trip ended up taking 21 days at 35 mph trailing a cloud of smoke. I got home on a sunday night and arranged to drive to my mechanic on Wednesday. When I arrived at his place ( 30 kilometers distant), the oil light would not go off. I shut the van off left it and went home. He called to tell me that he was unable to get the van started again. Seems the third main bearing was GONE- MISSING - NADA. $4,000 later and a rebuilt 88 turbo jetta engine and two years and $10,000 dollars(Cdn) later we have a Westy that is absolutely new inside out- top to bottom. We have added so many extras- a diesel furnace - a 120watt solar panel - a second propane tank, yellow top battery- all new interior - new high tech insulation - new wiring - plumbing everything.Would I trade it, never, my wife would divorce me.