CALIFORNIAN DREAM BUS
THE TRANSFORMATION OF A BURNT-OUT WRECK INTO A HIGH-SPEC HEAD-TURNER.
Inspiration can come from the most unlikely of sources. Around 10 years ago we imported a few fire-damaged buses from California. They were all solid and rust-free but were destined for the crusher or at best, left to rot in a garage, so we brought a few over to the UK to extend their lives a little longer.
Photo credit: myburbank.com
The chosen one
The last one to board the ship had something special about it – we're not sure exactly why, but we decided that this bus was going to be given some very special treatment, we wanted to restore it to an extremely high standard. It was going to be a real show stopper and would highlight the quality, attention to detail and workmanship that we apply to everything we do.
We stripped the van to its bare metal frame and any damaged panels were replaced. It was then given a thorough inspection for structural integrity before going to our paint department for the next stage; rubbing down and priming.
Materials and suppliers
In order to achieve a show-standard quality, we needed the best materials we could find and the best suppliers to provide the many services we needed.
For the power steering we used Lite Steer, Bears Motorsport provided the gearbox, Vanwurks supplied the interior and the upholstery was supplied by Hill Upholstery. We also managed to source a lovely chrome belt kit from Creative Engineering.
Rub down and primer
This is a time-consuming but very important part of the project. If there is the slightest hint of a dent, ripple or imperfection in the bodywork then it will stand out like a sore thumb once the final layer of lacquer has been applied. We spend a considerable amount of time rubbing down and checking every square inch, and it won't go to the next stage until we are 100% satisfied that we have achieved the straightest, flattest surface possible.
The stuff you don't see
Underneath the van is an area that is never really seen but is a key factor in the life and longevity of a vehicle. Driving on wet roads, being attacked by all manner of debris and the abuse that a floor gets over the years will eventually take its toll and weaken it, so we pay extra attention here and give it some added protection by applying two coats of etch primer, three coats of 2k primer and three coats of 2k Karmann Ghia Green top coat. This is effectively better than when it was new.
Roll, roll, roll your bus
Our roller jig has proved to be one of the most useful pieces of equipment we've invested in over the last couple of years. Being able to inspect and work on the underside of a van without needing to use a jack or raise it above our heads on ramps makes life so much easier – not to mention a lot safer!
The top coat, lacquer and polish
Once we're happy that we've achieved a nice flat finish during the primer stage, we then apply four coats of the final colour and finish it off with five coats of lacquer. It's then buffed and polished to achieve a mirror-like finish.
A little story about the colour and interior choice...
We'd often sit around during lunch breaks and chat about what colour we'd paint a bus if it was up to us, and the green and white combo from the Karmann Ghia and split screen palettes were always a clear favourite, but the colour and styling of the interior came from a totally unexpected source.
One of our customers, Eddie Small, popped into the yard one day and saw the bus after it had been painted... he immediately fell in love with it and decided it had to be his. So discussions were had about how he'd like the interior kitted out and arrangements were made to sell his old van for him, not only to free up funds, but also to make room on his driveway for the new arrival.
Keeping it as original as possible
Although we won't hesitate to replace anything if we think it's necessary, we do like to keep as many original parts on the vehicle as we can, and in this case we were decided to restore the original suspension and brakes. For extra comfort we added aviation-grade sound-proofing to the doors and panels.
All in all, the project took us about 12 months to complete. Doing a ’nuts and bolts’ restoration like this is a real labour of love and a huge commitment, but the results speak for themselves and we feel like we’ve built a camper that will not only last forever, but is even better than it was when it rolled out of the factory for the first time.
The finished project
And so for the big reveal! To view the finished bus in all its glory, click the button and we'll show you the results of our hard work and dedication.