A bus called Major

Major is a 1977 Westfalia Campmobile who lived all his life in Santa Cruz, California before coming to live with us in early 2011. He has been looked after in America and used a lot, this carried on with us and we used him for lots of adventures here in the UK. The bodywork, upholstery and engine need some tlc to bring him back to life and for the past couple of years has been resting.

Here he is when we got him home

We sorted the curtains out, wash & brush up, alloy wheels and some blankets and we where ready for action!

So, last September came and we decided to do a full refurbishment starting with the bodywork, chassis, running gear followed by the interior, cabinets etc. Me and my Dad did a survey on the bodywork to see what needed attention. The sliding door, cab door, left hand battery tray and part of the bodywork was found to be rotten. The motor has a misfire and the oil cooler needs relocating (or a Subaru conversion 🙂 ).

The first bit to tackle was the sliding door, there are a couple of drilled holes which do a good job of letting water spray in and allowing the door to rot from the inside out. Some subtle repairs and a respray sorted the door out nicely!

Next up, the left hand front door, the door skin was cracked and bits rattled loose when the door is opened and closed. We have de skinned it, replaced the rotten parts, rewelded the brace bars up and, as it stands, we are building it back up again.

With the door fully built back up, painted and lacquered, we considered it a job well done as it looks very good indeed, the paint has a nice shine to it now!

With that out of the way, Major has been moved to the garage for the welding to be done including a new front panel. I’m hoping we haven’t got too much to do but the mess a reputable VW specialist made didn’t do the chassis any good. This will be sorted along the way. Before we could move him, we had to take the roof off as he is too tall to fit in the garage!

Now we have all of the workshop facilities to work with, a start could be made on the bodywork. One of the easier bits to “sort” was the small section of rotten metal on the left hand side of the engine bay. This turned into a 2″ square section on the outer bodyskin and a 1″ piece on the inner D post and a complete new rear valance.

Nice and easy to sort, make sure any rust is cleaned up and treated with Vactan and a good coat of paint before welding up the new metal into place. We used a Custom and Commercial rear valance, its was very well made and fit as it should!

Looks quite good, we ground back and filled the weld holes up, flattened the filler off nicely, etch primed and high build primed the repair up until respray time. Very pleased with the end result 🙂


Now that the rear valance was sorted, we moved on to the front panel as it always let water in when it rained. There was some areas around the windscreen where the rust was bubbling away, we decided to replace the whole front panel and do a proper job of it and not worry again

Here is the reason why it leaked! The front panel had been replaced at some point as, we later found out, the front had been damaged and the air box assembly located behind it had moved backwards towards the driver by 2 inches. Something else to sort out.

If only we knew the amount of work we had to do.


This is was faced us when the old panel was cut away:

We had to source a replacement air box assembly, weld a new inner windscreen panel in, repair the plinth which the front panel sits on and align everything to ensure the windscreen will fit in its correct position. Quite daunting.

All in all, it went well and now its painted,  the effort paid off!

We successfully refitted the headlights, indicators, windscreen and wipers, repainted the dashboard, connected the wiring back up and electrically tested everything. Whilst we was doing this, we reinstated the heated rear window too. The dashboard has the benefit of an oil pressure gauge for monitoring the engine behaviour.


That’s another major achievement completed and looking good.

We managed to source a genuine left hand battery tray. New Genuine VW parts are becoming more difficult to source for the time being due to difficulties within Volkswagen.

Sooner than patch the existing one, we replaced it. A nice, easy fix to do, nothing rotten at all, old battery tray out, new one in, seam sealed and sorted. We have not painted it yet, this will take place when we repaint the inside of the engine bay. All in all, a job well done!

As of today, its the inside of the cab getting some attention, namely the wheelarch tubs, floor and walkthrough floor. These areas are mostly in excellent condition, two patches needed welding in, each behind the seatbelt anchor point. Moisture got trapped in between a bracing bar and the top of the wheelarchtub, roadside, trapping water and rotting upwards. We simply cut two square sections out and welded new steel in. Sorted and ready for rubbing back, priming and paint.

We have been busy these past couple of months, finishing painting the cab floors, and sorting out an area of rust where the tailgate seal sits. Both of these jobs took time but they are finished now, the cab floor was easiest whilst the seal channel had a rotten section which needed cutting out and a new section welding in:

Cab floors looking fresh!

The tailgate section was a bit more tricky as the area which had the rotten bit was inside the channel, behind where the seal sits, forming the rear bottom corner piece. It was around six inches long, some new metal formed to shape and the repair was done.

And all done, painted and the rear light clusters put back on. The tailgate hasn’t been repainted as yet!


With that done, we have turned our attention to the complete right hand side of the bodywork, which required the rear window removing..we found some corrosion & pitting under the seal, which got sorted out okay. The lower sills had some corrosion, which cleaned up nicely, the running gear on the right rear has been removed for repainting and the wheel arch lips have been rust treated.

The bottom right image shows rust coming through some underseal, the issue comes from a professional VW restorer being paid to paint the rust spots with epoxy primer and Dinitrol treat it all..the rust spots had been left well untouched.

Following on from the last update, we have sorted the right front and rear wheelarches and found a two inch square section of rotten steel which was easily replaced. Little steps and all that! Moving back to the wheelarches, it looks like the Dinitrol was applied directly onto rust where stonechips had chipped the paint away, which was definitely not what should have happened.


From this rusted and tatty mess

to a nice fresh looking arch which has been rust proofed, primered, stone chipped and had two coats of yellow paint. The suspension and brakes have had new rubbers, brake cylinders and steel lines along with handbrake cable.

We took the same methodology with the front arch, including a new section of steel, which couldn’t have been avoided, it needed doing!

Up here, we will rebuild the brake caliper with new seals and a piston set, repaint it, derust the suspension arms, paint those and replace the steel brake pipe with new.

Chuffed to bits with the result, much neater and hopefully, it will last a good few years to come!

We will ensure the brakes are up to spec all round with essential components renewed when necessary, the pads and shoes are all low mileage and will last for years. The brake calipers went from rusty to as good as new, quickly!

I cant believe how far we have come since Major’s blog was last updated back in April, lots of good progress has been made and one slight setback delayed us by a couple of weeks.

Both of the wheelarches on the left hand side have been completed and they look good:

The front brakes have had the calipers rebuilt with new pistons and seals, the bodies cleaned up and a fresh coat of paint applied whilst the rear brakes have had new cylinders, new handbrake cables and the spring plate bushes replaced. The brakes have been bled all around to ensure they work correctly.

With that little list of items sorted out okay, I mentioned a slight setback which put us back a couple of weeks. Well, we needed some more paint, however, when we had painted the long, left hand side panel, it became obvious the colour was different to the rest..hence the setback!


But with some patience and a fresh coat of the correct colour, the whole of the bodywork had been fully resprayed!

All we need here is a damn good wash and polish to remove any dust gathered and Major will look great.

The chassis and under floor is next for sorting out, the rust coming through the Dinitrol is terrible, the lack of preparation has shown up all over, I will never use Absolute VW again, nor recommend them. The treatment comes off by rubbing your fingernail across it. Best way forward, remove it all, rust treat, red oxide prime, top coat of chassis paint then stonechip and possibly colour.

Overall, most of the rust is purely surface rust, there is no rot from what we have found and should come good. The chassis rails are fine too, as are the outriggers and floor beams. So, when we say rot free US Bay, we know it is indeed rot free!

After hours of endless scraping off underseal, road dirt and rust, we got the floor Vactan rust treated, red oxide primed, chassis black painted then two good coats of Dinitrol underbody sealant with rust inhibitor and a coat of Waxoyl over the top. Much better!

That should be nice and solid for a good few year to come! The pictures don’t do it justice because of the Waxoyl coating.

The roof was next up on the list of things to refurbish, it looked grim, dirty all over from 41 years of road debris sprayed on to it plus a bit of moss for good measure!

A good scrub with fibreglass cleaner, wash down with soapy water, a roughen up with some 320 grit sandpaper and the roof cap was ready to be painted. Paint was special fibreglass paint from SupplyShed in white – 2 coats of primer and 2 coats of gloss topcoat and it looked totally different!

The luggage rack clips also got a repaint in satin black, which made them look much fresher and a little touch of a Flat 4 badge for the front cap, rear roof had the Westfalia logo put back on, the roof bar mounts repainted and to follow, will be the small Westfalia prancing horse logo’s for the side.

I’m pleased how the roof ended up, I restored that in Major’s new home in the garage in our garden and as I write this, Major is being prepared to come home!