1956 Kombi Restoration Story

What it all cost

I sold this bus August 8th, 1999 to a gentleman from Arizona.

You are visitor number to this page since July 15, 1997. Last modified


I bought this kombi in March 1994 from a guy in downtown Sacramento for $400. My surfing buddy, Ray, (who has a '59 Standard bus that he's been driving since '70) saw it one day when he was driving through.

It was pretty well rusted: both rockers had holes you could put your hand through,the front floors were cheesy, and the battery tray and right side of the engine compartment were almost non-existent.

A hole had been cut in the roof and a large metal flap screwed on, kind of like a large metal hatch. The bus was missing the engine lid and turn signals, which were promised to be by the seller but he never came through. The title was also missing, since the bus had not been registered since 1975 and had changed hands a few times since then.The taillights had been cut out, and some funky truck lights put in. I also had to have the bus towed home, costing me an additional $25.

Needless to say, I was much overwhelmed when I got this bus home!

This bus had spent the last 20 years or so (last registered in 1972) sitting in Sonora, California. In the past couple of years it had been passed through several hands, losing bits and pieces along the way and accumulating dents. I guess nobody wanted to take the time to do anything with it. The first thing I did was try to get the bus running, which was actually pretty easy. I put in a new battery, plugs, cap and rotor (as a matter of principle,) poured in some gas, and after about a minute or so of cranking off and on, she started right up!

Sheet Metal Work

I bought a sunroof clip from Jim's VW's, Leeds AL, (thanx to Joel Walker for the lead) which fixed the roof hatch problem. This was my first big welding project, ever. I bought a MIG welder to handle, since I was going to have to do a lot of welding on this bus. Its a Licoln Model 100, and I paid just about $300 for it. Worth every penny.

I obtained taillight sections from a junk bus and welded them in, and for taillights I put in '58 and later style 3-piece units, which I used until September until they were stolen :(

I replaced the rocker panels with brand new metal on both sides. The inner rockers I got from Das Bulli Haus, in Conneticut, which were of exceptional quality. The other rockers (which come in 3 pieces, BTW) I got from Wolfsburg West, and I was not at all impressed with the quality. I had to do a lot of "adjusting" to get them to fit at all. Same thing for the battery tray and hinge carrier. The hinge carrier is the piece between the engine lid and rear hatch, which holds the engine lid.

I also replaced the front cab floors with pieces from Wolfsburg West, and I was un-impressed again (do I ever learn) I had to do a lot of re-forming to get the floor angles correct, and the hole for the clutch was not even close to where the clutch actually lives!

Paint and Body Work

Once I was done welding, I had to re-construct the nose, which was suffering from _way_ too much bondo. I only had to put a small amount back on, bumping out the rest with hammer and dolly.

I also had to do a lot of rust repair on the windshield frames, since there was a lot of rust on them. I soaked them in phosphoric acid, which removed almost all of the rust.

Once the sheet metal was dialed in, I set to work on a sano paint job :) (obligatory HVW Joke!)

I got a gallon of this paint that resembles Porsche Prussian Blue from Jerry's Paint, $20 for a gallon - it was some mis-matched stuff they had. For the top, I used Cessna Vestal White - a white so intense it would bring David Duke to tears!

I used PPG Deltron DBU with DCU 8200 clear, shot with an Astro gun, in my very own garage!


I put in a "new" engine built by Pozzis VW, everything is new except for the crank. I also put in a tunnel case transaxle, using a Bus Boys split-case/ tunnel-case adapter. The tranny was rebuilt by Carter's Gearbox Shop.

The engine is a 1600 single port, all new; the only thing used was the crank. The engine cost me $900 - I didn't have a good core.

One improvement I need to make is to fabricate a new transaxle front mount, one that is not solid. This one transfers too much gear noise into the cab.

Current status: Updated 11/17/95

I got the brake problem ironed out. Turned out that the early return springs (the 4 small ones) weren't enough to pull the shoes back. I obtained 4 sets of later springs (the long ones) and used the long spring from each set, 2 on each of the back wheels, to fix the problem. Replacing the master cylinder (again) also helped.

I also got the old steering wheel off, although destroying it in the process, but it was thrashed anyway. I put on a decent one, but I have another that I'm going to do up real special and put on.

I have fabricated all new interior panels, and covered them in a funky blue plaid. Sure, its not original, but I saved major $$$ this way. Next I gotta figure out how to do a headliner.

I just recently finished rebuilding the door windows, taking everything completely apart and stripping and re-painting them. I put them together with new rubber, and they look sweet. They also pass the garden hose test, too. The rubber cost $150 for both sides.

In Early October I put a new sunroof cover on. Ran me $92 from TMI.

Early November saw new front carpets with new 5/8" foam insulation underneath. This made it a lot quieter!

More pictures!