Microbus’n!

by William

vw_type2_t2a_bus.jpg

The creator of the 24 Hours of Lemons recently purchased a VW Microbus for $800 dollars. The bus, a ‘73 I believe, is part of an ingenious penalty devised by the creator to make life miserable on the track for drivers who aren’t obeying the track rules. I could say more but I don’t want to ruin the surprise. However, the race is still months away and in the mean time the bus is just sitting out in front of a seedy looking warehouse.

Having never driven a VW Microbus I had to jump at the chance to take this thing for a spin. After all, despite its horrible-bordering-on-dangerous tires, the bus was registered and reportedly ran fine. To make things even more interesting I had just participated in a photo shoot for my editor’s neighbor who is a professional photographer. At the shoot I met young guy from Germany who was interning over here in the States. He also had a strong interest in type 2 Microbuses. Some times things fall into place in an astonishing way. After the photo Sebastian, my new German friend, and I grabbed the keys to the Microbus, fired it up and headed onto the dangerous public streets.

bus.jpg

I think it is safe to say the VW bus is the slowest licensed vehicle I have ever driven. Combine that with vague shift linkage and I quickly figured out that I needed to let any car behind me pass. Shifting this thing was like rolling dice, about 25% of the time you hit the gear you wanted, the rest of the time it wouldn’t engage, you got the wrong gear or you heard a terrible grinding noise. Even if you did manage to steadily up shift through the first 3 gears, 30 mph hour was about all it wanted to do, unable to push to 35 MPH as if it were the speed of sound.

Performance aside, and it should be well aside because this is a VW Microbus, the bus is a total hoot. The steering wheel is nearly horizontal to the ground giving it a genuine bus like feel, and the driver sits so far forward that the when you turn it gives you the impression that you are hanging off the bow a ship. This particular bus was well used, with no upholstery and a giant rust hole on the driver’s side floor, but the Spartan German interior still had a bit of charm left.

photo008.jpg
The actual $800 Microbus

The best part of the whole trip was when I turned the controls over to Sebastian and let him drive. The 21 year old German was so ecstatic to drive this piece of junk that he didn’t stop smiling even when we sat for an entire traffic light cycle trying to get the bus into first gear. He told me that busses were fetching a high price in Germany and how he was thinking about trying to bring one back from the US. We must have made quite a site driving around the streets of the east bay, two tall, skinny, blonde guys in a Microbus. The fact that I have a lot of German ancestry, and the fact that I got to share my first Microbus drive with a genuine German Microbus enthusiast made the whole event a really cool affair. I have to admit, as terrible and slow as the Microbus performs, it really is a cool little bus.

-Bill Mertz

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7 Responses to “Microbus’n!”

  1. eAuto Mall » 24 Hours of Le Mons adding $800 VW Microbus for rule enforcement Says:

    […] You may remember our post on the 24 Hours of LeMons last October, but if not we’ll refresh your memory. The 24 Hours of LeMons (pronounced like “lemons” if you didn’t get the joke yet) is an endurance race of cars purchased and prepped for $500 bucks or less. The entire event is perhaps the greatest automotive parody we’ve ever encountered, with the prestigious 24 Hours of Le Mans being the subject of its satire. […]

  2. Automotive Articles Magazine » Just another WordPress weblog » Blog Archive » 24 Hours of Le Mons adding $800 VW Microbus for rule enforcement Says:

    […] You may remember our post on the 24 Hours of LeMons last October, but if not we’ll refresh your memory. The 24 Hours of LeMons (pronounced like “lemons” if you didn’t get the joke yet) is an endurance race of cars purchased and prepped for $500 bucks or less. The entire event is perhaps the greatest automotive parody we’ve ever encountered, with the prestigious 24 Hours of Le Mans being the subject of its satire. […]

  3. Joe Ehrlich Says:

    It is likely that, after 30+ years, the front and rear shift linkage bushings are worn a tad, accounting for the “vague” feeling when shifting.

    From the description of the driving experience, it is clear that this bus was not in good running order, otherwise it would have no trouble running at proper speeds while carrying 3/4 of payload.

    While not a sportscar, VW buses of this vintage are well-loved and are now valued much higher than their original selling price.

    Try that with an Econoline!

  4. AutoNiche » 24 Hours of Le Mons adding $800 VW Microbus for rule enforcement Says:

    […] You may remember our post on the 24 Hours of LeMons last October, but if not we’ll refresh your memory. The 24 Hours of LeMons (pronounced like “lemons” if you didn’t get the joke yet) is an endurance race of cars purchased and prepped for $500 bucks or less. The entire event is perhaps the greatest automotive parody we’ve ever encountered, with the prestigious 24 Hours of Le Mans being the subject of its satire. […]

  5. Turbo Tuning » Blog Archive » 24 Hours of Le Mons adding $800 VW Microbus for rule enforcement Says:

    […] You may remember our post on the 24 Hours of LeMons last October, but if not we’ll refresh your memory. The 24 Hours of LeMons (pronounced like “lemons” if you didn’t get the joke yet) is an endurance race of cars purchased and prepped for $500 bucks or less. The entire event is perhaps the greatest automotive parody we’ve ever encountered, with the prestigious 24 Hours of Le Mans being the subject of its satire. […]

  6. Blog About Toyota Cars » Blog Archive » 24 Hours of Le Mons adding $800 VW Microbus for rule enforcement Says:

    […] You may remember our post on the 24 Hours of LeMons last October, but if not we’ll refresh your memory. The 24 Hours of LeMons (pronounced like “lemons” if you didn’t get the joke yet) is an endurance race of cars purchased and prepped for $500 bucks or less. The entire event is perhaps the greatest automotive parody we’ve ever encountered, with the prestigious 24 Hours of Le Mans being the subject of its satire. […]

  7. DaveP Says:

    In the UK we call them Camper vans rather than microbuses but man, I love the things! I even went to a VW exhibition last year, where people exhibit Campers and Beetles they’ve done up in weird and wonderful ways.

    I would love to buy a 70s van, and get it back to looking and driving like it would have back in the days of flower power.

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