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The Van

Tigger is a VW syncro. 

14” wheel base model with some modifications.
 
I had researched the type of vehicle that would best suit our needs and I eventually came up with the specification for a 16” Syncro so that’s what I searched for on google.
 
I came across said vehicle for sale in Barcelona and one in Dublin but the Spanish one had a better roof configuration and I guessed less rust. Unfortunately in my ignorance and naivety I didn’t realise that what our tricky Spanish friend was selling was a 14” syncro with 16” wheels!
 
Well we bought it and drove it home and as we unravelled the tangle of bodges decided to strip the inside completely and give it the works. So now it stands us proud as “ Tigger “. In no particular order here are the repairs and mods we carried out.
 
Read on to the end and I will start another list of mods and repairs on the road, along with lessons learned. 
 
  • New rear arms to accommodate the 16” wheels and extended wheel arches at the rear only.
  • New rear disk brakes.
  • Removed the gear box which the Spanish VW garage had bodged together incorrectly, changed the top 2 gears to give us a better cruising speed calculated according to the larger wheel size of course. Then added the correct oil!
  • New wheel bearings and rubbers.
  • Replaced one CV joint and checked the existing VCs where ok. ( The syncro has viscous coupling for the 4WD which is permanent ).
  • Serviced the diff lock which was supposed to be working but was playing up the day we bought it! It was actually non function due to  the pins being missing and the vacuum pump lines were made faulty and were blocked, so they never worked! Simply fixed by drilling the “T” piece so that the vacuum worked. Presto – perfect working diff lock. Thanks again Jose from Barcelona!
  • Strengthened the prop bars in case of impact with rocks etc.
  • Added a water tank that fits snuggly between the main chassis and the cill. Approx. 60 litres. This counter balances the auxiliary fuel tank the other side.
  • Replaced the fuel pump on this as it was faulty. Another Jose shoulder shrug, “ it was working just fine, must be a loose wire”!
  • Fitted a new fuel filler neck as the bodged existing was a poor fit and leaked.
  • Altered the re-fill pipe from the aux fuel tank to the main tank as that had also been bodged in a hurry and filled into the breather pipe rather than the main fuel filler pipe.
  • Modified the front skid pan / bash plate to serve as a hinged storage for spares the drive train.
  • Added extra tow point to the front bumper.
  • Upgraded the light bulbs and wiring loom to get max power to the headlights – now pretty good for a 27 year old bus.
  • New air horn!!
  • New gear linkage so that it’s not flapping around between gear changes any more.
  • Bespoke hinged 2 spare wheel carrier on new handmade bumper. Removed the old tin one and the tow bar and replaced the whole lot with the new kit. Similar to the GoWesty kit but hugely superior. Crafted by Simon Whitmore t3voloution.com if you want one.
  • Suspension already upgraded to Trailmaster shocks and springs. – Will consider upgrading again either in the US or Thailand to Foxx. Let’s see if we get there first and if we have the cash!
  • Built new interior and hand painted it. A bit like our kitchen which I built a few years previous. Cheap to do and easy to patch up when it gets scuffed plus it looks cool too.
  • Compressor fridge by Waeco from Campervan Culture along with various other bits and bobs.
  • New upholstery to rock and roll bed, roof bed, front seats, curtains and of course cushions! ( actually cushions from home that we recycled rather than make new ones )
  • New pop top roof canvas.
  • New veltrim everywhere not painted – nice stuff but every bit of fluff and rubbish seems to stick to it.
  • Electrics – many thanks to Huw Matthews, solarguru on twitter, for the sola install. We now have 3 new flexi panels to go with the existing 40w rigid panel so there is no room on the roof for any storage. We have 3 leisure batteries. One for the new internal lights and power sockets and a bank of 2 for the fridge, the Webasto x100 diesel hob and the Webasto c300 thermotop diesel heater and hot water combo. It’s a neat little instantaneous plate heat exchanger unit works like a combi boiler. This also supplies hot water to the outside shower! The  power management ensures that surplus electricity flows to the next battery when either is full including the engine battery and that the alternator likewise tops up the leisure batteries but I doubt this will ever happen.
  • Engine – we had this serviced by a guy in Telford who came extremely highly recommended within the VW community – my advice – avoid. Dreadful customer service, he left us high and dry with promised bespoke parts and spares kit still desperately needed. With 3-4 months to get sorted this should have been enough time to do everything 10 times over.  So if you are directed to Telford for someone who sounds like an arcade game plumber….. find someone else. Work was shoddy and poorly thought through. What we had done if you are still interested, after the spleen has been vented, was as follows. Gearbox taken out and sent to the gearbox specialist for service and mods, timing belt was supposed to have been changed but wasn’t ( that’s another story ) moved the ECU inside the van to protect from water damage. Moved the battery over to make room for the carbon fibre air filter and the pipe up to the vortex snorkel filter ( another story ).  In the left hand back corner where the filter was, added a new intercooler ( yet another story ). I bought a used LHD power steering rack off the internet and had this fitted along with the new hydraulic pipes and pre-loved pump.
  • Paint job and graphics. Paint finished 5 weeks before departure, 4 weeks to gas out, 1 weekend for the graphics as supplied by Iconic Signs in Cambridge, and the last few days was a scene from “ changing rooms” or some such TV house makeover fiasco programme but we kinda got there.
  • There are lots of little finishing details that I would like to have completed but everything took so much longer than promised even allowing for the “agro factor” plus more, it still dragged on and on.
There may be more interesting little bits of info that have been missed here so please feel free to ask if you want to know anything.
 
Thanks for reading this far zzzzzzz
 
The continuing vehicle development. 
 
Intercooler. The cheap plastic and aluminium unit failed in Turkey when the plastic pipe ends blew off. The new one did the same in China. In Thailand we had new aluminium replacement ends welded on and that has been great ever since. 
Verdict.....get a good quality one in the first place. 
 
House battery charging. We started with a simple solenoid split load to charge our two house batteries and this was not good enough for sustained use. Finally upgraded to a Stirling 0 volt drop splitter and added an alternator to battery charger. Vast improvement. 
 

Oh yes, the other stories.

So we had to leave the UK without the spares kit that we ordered from Telford ( spit ). A complete set of belts including the timing kit. A spare ECU, oil filter, the bespoke snorkel pipe and mounting bracket, a written report on the engine. An OBD device and lead with a list of error codes that was also promised. Etc. etc.
 
So… as James was joining us later in Turkey we thought we could get him to bring some of these bits with him but that also proved to be difficult. The engine number apparently did not produce the required part number for the timing belt, the Telford guy would not answer any emails or phone calls so no go on the snorkel pipe, ECU or any of those bits. All we got in the end was an oil filter. With this in our possession we sought out a spares shop in Ankara and bought a timing belt kit and used a recommended garage to fit it and change the oil and filter. This all took about 8 hours and was completed after a hideous amount of unprofessional banging, thumping and man handling of the engine. Eventually they got it to start and run smoothly but the damage was done.
 
We slept the night at a local hotel after the late night finish at the garage and headed off to the Black Sea. Several hours into the journey there was a bang and we lost a lot of power. What had happened was that they had over filled the oil and it had got into the intercooler and blown it apart. Luckily we made contact with a VW enthusiast group in Ankara who put us in touch with colleagues in Samsun who diagnosed the problem and found an exact replacement intercooler, used proper diagnostic tools and set the timing properly and saved the day!
 
The snorkel we got fabricated in a port in Turkey made from SS bracket bits and a heavy duty flexi pipe. We brought the vortex filter with us. It’s a bit ugly but will do for now and is working well judging from the dust I have emptied out of it so far.
 
Also noticed that the inspection plug had not been re-fitted after the first timing belt fitting so the nice guys in Samsun found us a genuine one and fitted that too.
 
Later into our adventure ( Azerbaijan ) we started to lose power again but only slightly this time. Found that one of the jubilee clips on the air pipe to the intercooler had worked loose and was allowing a false MAF reading. Easily fixed along with the securing bracket that had not been bolted back.
 
Think that’s all the “ other stories “  for now.
 
Written in haste from sunny Tashkent, Uzbekistan 23-6-15