Righteous Kombis Blog
Back in 1998 I was restored my first VW Kombi - an 1800 panel van with webber carburettors - she used to go like the wind... OK, more like a big white brick plowing its way through a gale, but fast nevertheless. My biggest headache was that there was no seat in the back - or a bed for that matter! My surfboards and partner at the time deserved better. It took a LOT of stuffing around and knockbacks from the RTA before I finally got a working solution.
You may have your own reasons, in fact many of the original rock n roll beds are now failing, unsafe or simply not big enough for those who desire a bit more leg room. So where do you start once you've had that lightbulb moment, and decided that your deserve something more in the back?
The first thing to consider is your complaince plate or rego papers. Do they say 2 seats or 5 or 9? If you are in possesion of a valid 5 or 9 seater kombi, then you might say that you're kind of in the clear - Just go and buy any aftermarket seat and get it installed - there are plenty to choose from for $600 or less. If your Kombi has been continuously registered as a 5 seater or more, the motor registry assumes you havent messed around with the fittings, and you should be "OK" if you're in an accident.
But what if you only have a 2 seater Kombi? Maybe you want to carry young kids in the back? Maybe you've heard that some of those aftermarket beds are not ADR (Australian Design Rule) compliant. How do you install a solid rock n roll bed that will pass safetey inspection and get your family on the road? We've done a few of these now, and each job has had its challenges.
1. Get a bed/seat - We have been using the ADR compliant bed frames that are made by Kustom Kombis on the Gold Coast. These are the only legit bed frame we've found that can be used for either a T1, T2 or T3 Kombi. The soliution consists of the 2 brackets, frame, 2x boards and foam and fittings. Price - $950 incl. freight.
2. Find a good upholsterer - We have used a couple of auto trimmers over the years - The key issue is to ensure they understand the design you want. The price will depend on the complexity and the finsh you want. Spend some time looking at other peoples seats, checkout Google images or your mates Kombi magazines. The price will range upwards from $700 incl. a matching rear cushion. Make sure you check in on their progress - we have done 7 or 8 now and its important to be sure that everything lines up and looks right. Often they can take 6- 10 weeks before they can fit you in.
3. Order your seatbelts - You will need 2 static shoulder mounted belts (one for each side) and a middle lap belt. Make sure you have brand new seat belts that have been fitted with a white ADR label. Cost $300. We use the Seatbelt King for most of our seatbelts. Panel vans and 2 seaters often had the 10mm bolt holes for the shoulder mounting bogged and sprayed over in the factory, but these can be drilled out and cleaned to reveal the standard holes with an embedded nut inside the body of your Kombi.
4. Find 2 x seatbelt lifter brackets - These brackets lift the shoulder mounted seatbelts up above the window line, and in line with your seat back. They will help with the angle of restraint in an accident.
Good luck finding these, as most people throw these away when they first remove a seat from the back. The last few we had custom made at a fabrication workshop for $90 pair.
5. By now you have all your elements ready to assemble. Fit the seatblet lifter brackets and seatbelts first, as they are much harder to bolt in around a bed frame. Then drill your holes and install the bed frame (instructions are supplied). You might realise that your upholstery guys have stuffed up, as its only NOW that the pieces are coming together. Don't worry, it's part of the fun!! Fitting the frame and belts normally takes us about 3 - 4 hours depending on the job, so budget $250 for labour or use your own time and effort.
6. Whether you have kids or not, an automotive engineer will want to see child harness securing points in the back. Its the law. So you can either secure these bolt points above the engine bay (which messes with your rear cushion) or you can get a crab bar installed by a professional installer for $450.
7. Now you are ready to have an automotive engineer signoff on your work. These guys can be found on the RTA website. They will charge you $500 to inspect and certify that the car is indeed safe to seat 5 people now.
Obviously this all adds up - You're looking at over $3000 just to get a basic, child friendly, but street legal solution. I don't mean to scare you off in any way, rather its better you approach any project with your eyes open and with a clear expectation of the end result. Maybe you have more questions than answers - just drop us a line at email@example.com
Originally we referred to this kombi as "The Honey Badger". It just seemed to have that kind of "I don't give a crap" kind of attitude. His undercarraige was loaded with bucket loads of mud from the unsealed roads around Bulahdelah. He had a few scars and some wounds that had been covered with a generous helping of bog and lashings of house paint. As usual the quarter windows were rusted out, but overall, his body was straight, and his bones looked pretty solid and free from rust. Purchase price $1500 - no motor included.
While the engine bay was empty we got stuck into the battery trays and drained the fuel tank.This is one of the hardest areas to clean and gurney. I have never enjoyed the task of removing the black tar that is used to seal the welds which has cracked and shrunk over time.
Worse still is the process of cleaning years of caked on grease and road grime. Every surface needs to be rubbed back and prepared before finally applying fresh seam sealer and a few coats of 2pac. Nice! Thankfully my mechanic had just finished rebuilding a solid 2 Litre engine that would marry up to the existing gearbox, so now we have a running Kombi with a nice clean engine bay.
A few other details needed to be sorted out like new ball joints on both sides, new brake calipers, starter motor, CV joints and some electrical issues that had our VW specialist scratching their heads for a week! The engine was running pretty rough at first, but the boys from Nymeyer were right across it and soon had our kombi purring like a kitten.
The front nose of our kombi also needed serious attention, as we discovered a minor crack that revealed a frontal impact that had been repaired with INCHES of bog. The workshop was filled with dust and rust as the grinders set to work. The more you grind the more you find, and the Honey Badger was no exception. The A-pillar (next to the windscreen) needed a cut here and a weld there, and the doglegs needed some attention as well. I'll admit that by the time we had addressed all the damage and rust affected areas, there wasn't too much of the original colour left behind.
In fact, by the time the primer and undercoat had been applied, our kombi looked nothing like the original Honey Badger. This is when Louise paid us a small deposit and asked if we wouldn't mind painting him turquoise - just like a lowlight project we finished 1 year ago called the Eagle. Hmmm, another name change might be needed... How about Ariel? As soon as we applied the first coats of paint, the name stuck.