VW Bus Frequently Asked Questions (1950 to 1967)

This page attempts to answer a plethora of questions that I always get from people who want to know more about split-window busses. I got tired of typing the same answers over and over, so I created this FAQ (Frequently Asked Questions). You should check here before emailing questions.


Index

What busses does this FAQ cover?
This faq covers VW busses built between 1949 and 1967, otherwise known as "split window" busses. I am limiting this faq to these years because that is the where my experience and interests lay.

Can I install a Corvair motor in a bus?
You *can* install a corvair motor in a bus, but its a lot more hassle than its worth. Sure it makes more power, but at what cost? The corvair motor is bigger, so you have to modify the engine compartment. It also turns the opposite way from the VW motor, so you have to modify the tranny by flipping the ring gear. In the end you've buggered up a perfectly good bus for what? For a motor that has more problems and is harder to find parts for. And what are you really going to do with all the extra power? When it comes down to it, you're still pushing a brick through the air, and you have to stop it somehow, which leads to brake modifications... For those of you who didn't know, a Corvair motor is a flat six cylinder motor, similar to the Porsche911 motor, and actually even more similar to the motor used in the Porsche 906 race car.

Can you help me find a bus?
Unfortunately, no. Its an awful lot of work and very low pay (like $0) to help someone find a bus. When I first started this page, I used to try to help people find buses, but after the first few, I realized its just too much work. It would take a lot to persuade me otherwise.

What is a crank start?
There was an option available up until 1959 for a crank start. On bugs this was available until 1950 (I think) This consisted of a special rear apron and rear engine tin with holes in the back, a special crank nut, and a hand crank. The hole in the engine tin was covered by a small flap that swung up out of the way when in use. The nut has a special ramped slot, which accepts the hand crank, and then pushes it away when the engine starts.

To crank-start a bus (or bug):

What year bus should I buy?
It really doesn't matter. Get one that appeals to you. Earlier busses are cool, but parts can be more expensive and harder to find. There really isn't a "best year" bus or a year to stay away from. Later busses have slightly better creature comforts and details like gas guages, 2 speed wipers, windshield washers, etc. but are not necessarily "better."

Do you know where I can find a bus
In short, "no." Not to be a prick, but I can't possibly know where all of the busses for sale are. The very nature of this sort of information is transitory at best, and is highly dependent on where in the world you are. I can suggest that you dig up every newspaper in your area, and try to get the newspapers from the larger metropolitan areas around you. As a rule, the bigger the city, the better your chances of finding a bus. The best thing to do is to attend a couple VW events, so you can see other busses and get a feel for what you are getting yourself into. Your best bet is to sign up on the Vintagebus mailing list and wait for a bus to comer to you

What should I look for in a bus?
This is a big one, and depends on several factors: how much cash do you have to spend? How much work do you want to put into it? What is your level of mechanical skills? In most cases, you are probably better off buying a nicer bus, rather than trying to restore a total beater. For a first bus, I recommend getting the straightest, driest (rust-free) bus that you can. You have a rather steep learning curve ahead of you, and a good solid bus will help reduce the slope.

What are reduction boxes?
Reduction boxes came on all busses through 1967. The effectively lower the gear ratio of the final drive, giving you more oomph at the cost of lower top speed and higher engine RPM's. You can eliminate them by converting the bus to IRS. However, when you buy the kit to convert to IRS, they want your reduction boxes as cores. For a reason. Some day, you, or the next owner, is going to want to put the reduction boxes back in. And where are they going to get them? You guessed it. The place that took your cores, and is stockpiling them.

Can rust on a bus be repaired?
Yes, it can. But its not an easy task. A lot bus busses get rust in the battery tray, the floors and the rockers. Busses used in very salty areas also get bad frame rust. In rainy areas, rust under the windshield frame is common. The proper way to fix any kind of serious rust is to cut the area out and section in either new pieces or pieces cut from a donor bus. Anything more than light surface rust will probably need to be sectioned. If there are any holes, then sectioning is your only option. Sure, you can fiberglass the holes over, etc, but how long will it last? I have fiberglassed very small holes in floors, where it won't be seen, with good results, but I don't recommend it for body panels, and definitely not for structural components.

What is my bus worth?
In a nutshell: whatever you can get someone to pay for it. Bus prices range so greatly by model and condition and location, that its impossible to set any kind of baseline. For instance, a '67 kombi may only be worth $500 in rust-free California, where they are as common as fruitflies. The same bus could be worth $2500 in Minnesota, where nobody has every seen a rust-free bus. Other factors in value: body condition, mechanical conditon, originality, options, model. For example, a rusty '60 ambulance will fetch a much higher price than a '60 kombi. As an arbitrary rule, the "pecking order" seems to be 21/23 window deluxe, 15/13 window deluxe, standard, panel, kombi. Then there are double cabs and single cabs, with doublecabs usually fetching higher prices. Then you have special models, such as ambulances, fire busses, hearses, ladder trucks, among others. Campers are in a class all by themselves, and to determine the value of a camper you have to take into consideration what model camper and how complete and what condition the camper kit is. Tents are a very nice bonus for a camper! Other options such as double doors, RHD, ambulance dividers, sunroofs, racks, safari windows, and walk-thrus can also raise the price.

Where can I sell my bus?
When selling a bus, you should use similar avenues as when buying a bus: newspapers, classified specials, the Vintashows, a sign on the window, etc.

How many busses were made?
Sales Figures for busses, 1950-1967
1950 2
1951 50
1952 93
1953 75
1954 827
1955 3189
1956 7375
1957 19118
1958 25036
1959 32133
1960 35697
1961 22754
1962 32514
1963 39383
1964 41051
1965 34054
1966 40198
1967 29049
Export totals, by major country for TYP2s up to 6/30/90:

Belgium        131750
Denmark        113140
France          95643
Greece          31503
Great Britain  172874
Ireland         23025
Italy          160788
Luxemburg        5849
Netherlands    283202
Portugal        12766
Spain            7181
Finland         43724
Norway          78475
Austria        215320
Sweeden        146882
Switzerland    155358
Nigeria         81804
South Africa   141801
Canada          81804
USA            964167
Mexico         110800

How can I get the factory information about my bus?
Write to the factory to find out more about your bus - have your chassis number handy!

What welder would you recommend? I have a Lincoln Model 100, which is whats called "gasless MIG" and it runs on 110v Works great for all of the stuff I've done so far. You can upgrade it to full MIG for ~$90 plus the cost of a bottle and gas.

What compressor/sandblaster should I get? Don't get a compressor less than 5hp. I know the pricing of the smaller ones will tempt you, but if you're serious about doing this work, then bite the chicken and get the big one. Also get a 2-stage compressor, not the cheap single stage ones. Unless you have a place to make a mess, stay away from the sandblasting. If you have to get one, try to rent it. A decent blaster runs ~$400, and media is about $15/100lb bag. There are also places which will do the blasting for you. There are even ones who will come to your place and do it - let your fingers do the walking.

Did split-window busses ever come with sliding doors? Yes, starting in 1964, although some were made in late '63. You could also get sliding doors on both sides. All models (except pickups) were available this way. The door hardware is different than on later busses, although early '68 models had the same hardware.

What does my chassis number mean?

Explanation of Chassis number: for model years 1949-1967 267-000-001A

TTYNNN-NNN

Model
21Kastenwagen (Panel Truck), later also High-Roof Panel Truck and Fire Truck)
22Achtsitzer-bus, Neunsitzer-bus (Station Wagon 8-seater, 9-seater)
23Kombi (Kombi, Kombi for Fire Trucks, and Campmobile)
24Sondermodell (Special model, 8- and 9- seater)
25Sondermodell (Special Model, 7-seater)
26Pritschewagen (Pickup Truck)
27Krankenwagen (Ambulance)
28Siebensitzer Bus (7-seater bus)
29until 1950, for the entire model line
Model Year
9 1949/59
0 1950/60
1 1961/61
2 1962/62
3 1953/63
4 1954/64
5 1965/65
6 1966/66
7 1957/67
8 1958
Sequential Production Number

Whats a governor/whats that aluminum-covered thing between my carb and intake manifold?
Governors were available on the later split-window busses; they operated by a spring loaded vane, which kinda looks like the choke. When you enough air/fuel mixture to overcome the spring tension, it cut off the flow, at which point the spring pulls the vane back again. You can adjust the spring tension via the adjuster at the top - tighten to allow higher speeds, loosen to cut in earlier. The governor is put together with special screws with holes in the sides of the heads, through which a wire was run and clamped with a lead tamper-evident seal.

What busses does this FAQ cover?
1950-1967


How do you mount a speaker in the stock location in a bus?



What size wheels & Tires should my bus have
225/60R15
From
Chassis Number
To
Chassis Number
Year Part # Size Tire Size
Bias Ply
Tire Size
Radial
20-000 00020-117 9011955211 601 023 A3.5 DX16
20-117 902 1 219 510 1963 211 601 027 E 4.5 KX15 175R15 (closest to stock size)
175/80R15 (really the same as above)
185/75R15
195/70R15
205/75R15 (Best compromise!)
1 219 511 211 601 027 F 5.0 JKX14 185R14 (closest to stock size)
185/80R14 (really the same as above)
195/75R14
205/70R14
235/60R14

How does the VW Part Number system work?
The part number is of the format TMV-MSG-PDS X T = Type 1-4 MV = Model version (211= Delivery Van (Double door right, LHD). 213 = Delivery Van (Double door right, LHD). 214 = Delivery Van (Double door left, RHD). 215 = Delivery Van (Double doors left and right, LHD). Etc....) The last digit of the first three digit group also tells if it is for a left (Odd numbered.) or right (Even numbered.) hand drive VW. Left designated side drive parts will more often than not, fit RHD. While no RHD parts should be able to fit into a LHD. M = Main Group (1 = Engine. 2 = Fuel tank, Exaust, Heating system. 3 = Transmission. 4 = Front axle steering. 5 = Rear axle. 6 = Wheels, Brakes. 7 = Frame, Hand lever, system, Pedal cluster. 8 = Body. 9 = Electrical equipment. 0 = Accessories.) SG = Subgroup PD = Part Designation S = Side (Odd for left (American driver side.), Even for right (American passenger side.), Niether side = 1) X = Modification Letter