Something Pretty for a Lonely Lady VW Bus


Part 1 of 2 - Lottie's (Proposed) New Look

As I quickly run out of this year's allocation of camping weather, I am painfully aware of my lack of restoration progress. I'll plead poverty, but my disappointment doesn't accept excuses. Six months have slipped through my fingers. Lottie has sat in the garage; a lonely lady, surrounded by the piles of her parts and I haven't had the means to pay her any attention.

But things have begun to change! I have a few dollars in my pocket and, like a young man on payday, I plan to come-a-callin' to Miss Lottie, eager to earn her affection again. It's going to take flowers (exterior parts), candy (motor parts), and a pretty dress (paint), but I'll have this neglected lady preening in society soon enough.

Dress Shopping – What Haute Couture Gown Will Suit Miss Lottie?

In the previous post, A Spectrum of Volkswagens, we touched on the question of what color(s) Lottie should be painted. I have a mild desire to stick with factory colors, but I'm not fond of the limited options that were available in the 1978 Campmobile model of the bus - Dakota Beige or Sage Green. Also, my co-pilot, April, and I agree that we prefer 2-tone color schemes, so with that, we can rule out the original-looking paint.

To compare the innumerable options, I could have been content with looking at pictures of other buses' paint, but, no … that would be too easy. I'm much too obsessive/perfectionistic/nerdy/creative to NOT go to all the trouble of creating a photoshop layout that will allow me to change Lottie's colors on demand (yeah, I just shake my head at myself, too.) 

(click images to see full sized)
Want to choose your own colors? How-to article with templates coming soon!

So, after looking at the options, the winner is ……………… I WANT THEM ALL!! I'm going to have to buy more buses so I can paint one each color scheme! But since we can only choose one, we have decided to go with Red/White. Both April and I like the classic look of these colors and, as University of Georgia graduates and frequent tailgaters, it will be great to slap on some magnets and create a Gameday Icon!

Michelle Branch Video - All About a Bus


I'm not much of a Country Music fan, but it's easy to like this video. Nearly 3 minutes with a beautiful 1968-1971 baby blue bus as the center of attention. I'm not usually a fan of lowered buses, but for some reason, I really like the stance of this one.

Michelle Branch doesn't look that bad herself ;)

[YouTube Link]

The Amazing M-Code Plate


Imagine a man sitting comfortably in the driver's seat of a 1978 VW bus.  Now take your imaginary man and flip him upside down (I hope you didn't imagine him driving ... that could be dangerous.)  Cram his head and shoulders on the floorboard and wedge his knees against the steering wheel.  Congratulations!  You have just imagined a very close approximation of the position required to fleetingly glimpse the fabled M-Code Plate on a 1977-1979 bus.

Had we placed our little man in a 68-76 bus, he would have had an easy task.  The plate was simply riveted to the metal wall behind the driver's seat.  Not so on the later buses ...  it is riveted to the upper backside of the fresh air vent.  That would be a large metal structure crammed, stuffed, stuck, and wedged above and behind the dash.

Even if you were to give your little man a flashlight, he could only lie there on the floor, struggling in vain to see enough of the plate to make any sense of it.

Perhaps you imagined your imaginary man as the Indiana Jones, type, though.  If so, you could give him a bit of charcoal and some paper to make a rubbing of the plate.  However, if your imagination is normal (aka hum-drum-boring,) he's just an uncomfortable man, squirming on the floor.  So you should just give him a camera to poke into the space.  Your miserable puppet won't be able to see where he's aiming the camera, exactly, but with enough tries he'll certainly get a picture that shows the whole plate and isn't washed out by overexposure from the flash in a confined space.  His picture will look much like this:

Now what to do with this picture?

This handy plate is something like the DNA of a Volkswagen.  Not in the being a repeating structure, integral to all parts sense, but rather in how it is a code that, when deciphered, tells the makeup of each particular bus.  This code is the proof of what you felt all along; your bus is special and different from the rest.

Even if your particular options were very common, those specific features were only produced in a small subset of all buses produced that year.  Then if you take into account how few of those were imported via your particular port, it's an even smaller number.  If that small group of buses isn't small enough for you, well, at least your serial number is unique!

Here are the specifics from my M-Code Plate and a little info on how to read it:

If you're ready to decipher yours, you can simply go to to have it done automatically!








C – Chassis Number        M – M codes (optional extras)   P/I – Paint & Interior Colors
D – Production Date       U – Unknown Code        E – Export Destination   X – Model Type
T – Transmission & Engine Type

82 : 1978 model type 2
127 718 : serial number
227 : detachable headrest in cab
246 : Windshield fee from import-duty for USA
9826 : paint code, L13A (Dakota Beige)
46 : interior, cloth camping brown beige
D52 : USA specifications group - speedo in miles, sealed beam headlamps, rear window defroster, back-up lamps, side marker reflectors
P27: SO Conversion - Campmobile deluxe with pop-up roof, folding spare tire, combined gas/electric refrigerator (76-79)
005 : Heater outlet in seat box of rear bench seat
073 : Pop-up roof campmobile
19 5 : week of production and number of weekday of production, my bus was "born" on May 12, 1978
7457 : somehow related to production planning
UJ : Export destination, Jacksonville was the port of entry
231 : VW Kombi, LHD, sliding door right
9 : Campmobile
6 : Type 4 engine, fuel injection
3 : Automatic transmission

Lottie in 360 degrees of glory


The BEFORE view of Lottie.

Pan around 360 degrees by clicking on the image below and dragging left or right. (Note that most of the "rust" is actually brown rustoleum paint the previous owner put on top of all the places that looked like they may be starting to rust)


[360 Degree View Link]

Many thanks to c4l3b from, for putting this together. You can check him out at his website,

A Spectrum of Volkswagens


"The soul becomes dyed with the color if its thoughts," said Marcus Aurelius. If so, my Magellan soul has become a spectrum of Volkswagens lately.

Unable to decide how I will handle the issues presented in my last post, I'm ignoring the them and thinking about paint colors!

I had another bus when I was a senior in high school and I gave it a high quality spray paint paint job (no really, it actually looked good - I spent lots of time prepping.) It was a beautiful candy-apple green below and pastel white above. I'm inclined to reproduce this color scheme, but my girlfriend is against it. She would prefer yellow/white or beige/cream. While, I like the look of yellow/white, it feels a little too girly for my camping bus imaginings. What to do, what to do ...

Here are some images of buses that I have liked. Mostly, I'm drawn to the camping and exploring represented by these pics, but some are for the colors.
Image credit goes to individual bus owners on and to a New Mexico custom bus restoration shop called Catch The Bus -














"Don't be pushed by your problems. Be led by your dreams." - Unknown

Having no disposable income has led me to get creative in my pursuit for progress in the restoration of Lottie. My family has a beautiful cabin in the N. GA mountains that we passively rent (by passively I mean that we have a listing on rental site, but we don't actively market the cabin and we certainly don't have it included in a rental pool.) I have begun listing the cabin in the barter section of craigslist stating that I'm open to nearly anything, but would prefer something relating to air-cooled volkswagens. Some interesting offers have come from it - an 80's arcade game, pest control, handyman work, photography sessions, etc - but the one that finally got me excited was an offer to sodablast my bus.

Sodablasting is like a gentle, but effective, form of sandblasting. It was the method chosen for the restoration of the Statue of Liberty and I figure if it's good enough for Lady Liberty, it's good enough for Lottie! (Actually I researched it extensively and it seems like the perfect method for prepping the bus without risking damaging it.)

As with every other aspect of restoration, planning one task, reveals a cascade of 30 other tasks that are dependent on it or concurrent with it. It's like deciding to clean up some litter, only to realize that you're actually standing on a landfill.

Related issues I would have to handle:

  • pick colors (fun!)
  • decide whether to simply strip and paint exterior or go whole hog and gut the interior to strip and paint it too (the interior is the only part I'm happy with, gutting it will be a big job)
  • drop the engine so the engine compartment can be stripped at the same time (big job, but it needs to be done anyway, to solve my compression issue)
  • remove the top
  • immediately after stripping, the bus will need to be primed to prevent rusting (I have no means of painting it)
  • decide whether or not to remove all the windows and door seals so that the job will be thorough (this will require buying hundreds of dollars worth of replacement seals)
  • if I remove the seals, I will likely need to repair the metal beneath the windows that is typically rusted. I also will need to repair the rusted out pivot for the triangle "smoker's" window in the back.
  • repair rust damage to the rear quarter panels
  • cut rusted battery pan out and weld in new one (did I mention that I have never welded and don't own a welder)
  • repair dents in rear quarter panel and nose area
  • who knows what other issues I'll find underneath the paint

Transmission Moving - '78 VW Bus


[YouTube Link]

Is this the source of my "ka-chunk, ka-chunk" sounds when reversing at low RPMs? I think so and I think it's cause by loose motor mounts. This would actually be good news. I was afraid it was something wrong with the transmission, which would be hundreds of dollars to fix, I'm sure. Motor mounts are only $12.

Work, work, work


Work, work, work - after blissfully allowing bus work, bus research, bus dreaming, etc to occupy all my free time for several weeks (much to my girlfriends displeasure) I have become overwhelmed by long hours of work at my "real" job followed by long hours of work at my side job. The result: ZERO time and attention for the bus (and still zero for the girlfriend - I'm lucky she puts up with me.)

My hope is that my time spent at the side job - managing the internet presence for Real Estate Investment speaker Pete Youngs ( - is an investment in myself. Developing a new subscription website for his students (, has been a major undertaking, but very pleasurable. I would love nothing more than to be untethered from a desk job, working wherever I could get an internet connection. I don't think this has to be exclusive to web building/managing, but it is certainly more conducive to it. The only problem is that my knowledge & experience are way insufficient to support myself doing that. I have some ideas on how to make it work, but we'll have to see if it's worth the time and energy it would take to get it going.

Not firing on #1?


Poor performance (not that an aging bus ever has great performance) started me wondering ... messing with my spark plugs led me to be concerned.

I'm can't even remember why I did it. I decided to remove the wire from one of my spark plugs. Not being experienced with engines, this sounds like a bad idea, so, like I said, I'm not sure what prompted me to do it. The funny thing was that when I did it, nothing happened. The engine didn't sputter or shake, it just kept on running. Surprised, I decided to try it on other cylinder's plugs. Each of the other 3 had slightly different reactions, but they all changed the way the engine ran.

You'll see in the video below that when I pull the plug wire off the #1 plug, there is no change in the way the motor sounds or runs. If I pull the wire off of any other plug the motor hiccups, bucks, and backfires. Does this mean that #1's not firing?

I'm pretty sure I'm getting juice to the plug - I think I can see the spark jump from the boot to the plug (and hear the click.) I pulled the plug out and it looks clean and normal (light brown.) Not sure what this mean, but it's definitely time for a compression test

[YouTube Link]

This bathtub is getting too small


There's nobody to read this yet, so I'll keep it brief. "Magellan Soul In A Bathtub" was a piece of a chorus to a song I started writing some time ago ... I never finished the song, but the sentiment is and has always been with me. I'm a wanderer and a dreamer enduring the mundaneity of daily life so that I can make it to my next adventure.

We'll see how this blog develops, but I suspect it will be occupied primarily with my newest obsession, restoring a '78 Volkswagen Camper (bus, hippie van, kombi, campmobile, westy ... so many names.) This is my current dream of escape. Once I can rely on it's mechanical soundness and my mechanical aptitude the plan is to take some grand tour ... Anchorage to Tierra Del Fuego, maybe?