Turn the clock back to May 2012, my wife and I were celebrating our silver wedding anniversary and had gone on a small road trip. We were sitting in a queue waiting to get on a Ferry across to the island of Islay, just off the West coast of Scotland (and famous for its whiskies). In front of us was parked a red bay window campervan. We both commented on how fantastic it would be to own one. When I realised my wife was serious I didn’t think twice. As soon as we got home I started researching VW campers, and we found a company based in Morecambe, England, who specialised in full restorations.
Very quickly I realised I wanted to go down the splittie route, and ideally wanted a 1964 model – the year I was born. All my friends thought I was mad. There was lots of advice about how unreliable these old VW’s are, and how I’d be constantly spending money to keep it on the road. All these horror stories started coming out the woodwork thick and fast.
I ignored the warnings, and so began a 2 year journey.
The guys at Morecambe and Wize scout around California for suitable vehicles to import, and they had found a nice 1963 15 window delux bus which had been partially restored. Did we want it? Hell yeah !!!
The bus eventually arrived at the restorers at the end of December 2012 with the shipping having been delayed due to Hurricane Sandy.
Because it was now going to live in Scotland we chose a scottish theme for her colours. The blue is not the standard VW L360 Sea Blue, but instead we went for a choice which turned out to be Porsche Ossian Blue, on the bottom and standard L90D Pastel White on the top. This was to be finished off with 2-tone grey interior and red tartan curtains.
She was also treated to disc brakes on the front and a Creative Engineering steering rack upgrade.
Her name – Silvia – was given to her because we had been celebrating our silver wedding anniversary when we decided to buy her.
Eventually she was finished and delivered April 2014. She arrived on the back of a trailer at half past midnight on a wet and windy Thursday night. The next day we drove 150 miles to a family wedding and my gorgeous niece used Silvia as a wedding car. Her first official engagement, and her first problem….the windscreen motor packed in. This was a new experience for me – driving into rain with no wipers. I had my first philosophical moment………for the brief 10 minutes they did work I realised they weren’t much use anyway.
Since then we have driven around most of Scotland clocking up around 5000 miles.
One place that was first on the list was to go back to Islay, where we decided over 2 years previously to get a VW campervan. We had fallen in love with this island and it’s beaches looking our onto the Atlantic.
A particular highlight has to be visiting the Outer Hebrides, a group off islands off the west coast of Scotland. This was the first time we had visited these islands. To get there requires a 6 hour ferry trip, and when we arrived the weather was superb. We had 30 degree heat (85-90 Fahrenheit), clear blue skies and the clearest seas I’ve ever seen. It really was heaven on earth.
A couple of weeks later, having arrived back on the mainland at Ullapool we had a clutch failure just after we drove off the ferry and into the campsite at half past midnight. I could hear all those voices in my head saying ” I told you so”….but as far as I was concerned we were lucky. The clutch gave way just as I pulled up onto our grass pitch for the night. How lucky was that !
This was Friday night – and over the weekend there were no local garages open. So we setup our drive-away awning and enjoyed the weekend. The tow truck appeared on Sunday night and took Silvia to the garage so she’d be there first thing Monday morning. That night we had the worst storm ever (or so we thought) with 3 lightening storms over our heads, and a flash flood through the campsite which soaked everything. There was a river running through the tent at one point.
It took a week to get a replacement clutch supplied and fitted at a local garage. When Silvia came of the ramp for a test drive there was a strong smell of fuel, and so began the start of another week waiting to get a replacement carburettor fitted. However, during that week the tail end of Hurricane Bertha hit the east coast of Scotland. The storm the week before paled into insignificance, and this time the drive-away awning took a real pounding through the night, and by morning was a flat crumple on the ground. Everything soaked yet again.
Courier delivery for the replacement carb was delayed. Initially because the company only sent a seal kit and no carb. Then when the storms hit the only road from the south was closed due to landslides.
Eventually, there a real sense of ‘escape’ when finally at 9pm on a Friday evening I was able to drive out of Ullapool for the 170 mile drive home, in the dark, and still no windscreen wipers !!!
Last week I drove 600 mile round trip down to Morecambe to the original restorer’s to get the carburettor replaced for a third time – again in rain storms, and still no wipers. Yesterday I drove to my local petrol station to fuel up and lost use of the gears. Luckily this was an easy fix, the bolt had come out of the coupling which connects the gear change linkage to the gear box.
Do I regret buying a 51 year old bus? Never – I wouldn’t change it for the world.
There are two pieces of advice I would give: avoid half past midnight, that seems to be when trouble hits most, and avoid hurricane season, even in Scotland 🙂