Saturday, 20 February 2016

My 1969 Microbus Gets A New Coat Of Paint.

This weeks blog is not the usual VW show review, it's all about my 1969 deluxe microbus which has finally been treated to a new coat of paint. I purchased my bus in September 2011 from The House of Dub, who imported the bus from Sacramento, in California which meant that although she wasn't the best looking bus on the block, she was very solid and virtually rust free due to the lovely climate they have over there. If I remember correctly the only welding that she needed was a new battery tray and a small section of the cab floor. However once in the U.K. the sun scorched paint quickly deteriorated into the RAT look and this is how she has looked for the past 4 years. While I quite liked her RAT look the British weather was taking it's toll and I had a few rust spots starting to appear, mainly at the bottom of the windscreen and at the bottom of the rear side windows and if left, this would only get worse until it got so bad that repairing or replacing body panels would be the only option. I decided to get her repaired and painted before it got to this stage and as my best mate for over 35 years, owns an air-cooled VW repair shop called 'Oil Droppers',  it was obvious as to where I would go to get my bus, 'Fiona' repainted. 'Oil Droppers':   (you may need to copy and paste the link) have their workshop based just outside Aylesbury in Buckinghamshire and when I asked Stuart (the owner) about having the work carried out, he said sure, bring her into the workshop. Stuart asked what I wanted, and I said that as she's a 47 year old bus with an age related knocks and bumps to the bodywork. She's had new rear wheels arches and possibly damage to the front clip in the past so she's never going to be a show winner. The filler over the rear arches was stating to crack, and the front clip was dented and also starting to crack. I also said that the 'patina' paint had become porous and therefore some surface rust had started to appear so I told Stuart not to worry too much about making the body straight, I don't mind the odd bump or dent and I didn't want a £10,000 paint job, I really just wanted a coat of paint to make her water tight and protect her. So that was how I left it, and I just let Stuart get on and do his thing. You can find out more about Oil Droppers on their facebook page here:
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My 1969 microbus prior to getting a new coat
of paint. She is quite straight considering her
age, but it was the porous paint that made me
decide to get her painted.

My microbus from the side, I have to admit she
is starting to look 47 years old. Although she
is quite straight, the paint is looking very tired.

You can see by the different coloured paint
around the rear wheel arch that the arch has
been replaced at some point. I've just noticed
that the numerous stickers on the rear side
windows, that are so common on many buses
here in the U.K. actually make the bus look
worse, I'll have to get rid of them to smarten
her up before she's painted.

The rear end of my microbus. The multi-coloured
body panels, along with the rusty rear bumper
add to it's overall tired look. It's funny how your
bus looks different in photo's, you seem to notice
all the small things that you don't normally see
when looking at your bus in the flesh. 

The wheel arch on the drivers side has also
 been repaired in the past and touched up 
with a similar, but not matching colour.  

The front clip, which may have had some
accident damage in the past as the lower half
had quite a lot of filler in it which had started to
crack and let water onto the steel panel causing
surface rust to appear.

The same applies to both the rear wheel arches.
Both had been replaced at some point and the
filler used to make the repair smooth had started
to crack.

The rusty rear bumper is a little out of shape,
but that's they are there for, right? Once the
bus was in the Oil Droppers workshop, Stuart
told me I had a cross over bay rear bumper on
her, and not an early bay one, Oh well.

Fiona is finally in the Oil Droppers workshop.
This is the first time I have really seen the roof
of my old microbus.

Looking down from the mezzanine floor at Oil
Droppers, I notice a line of moss / mould that
has formed along the length of the roof. 

Time to start stripping her down before the
real prep work starts. It looks like the bus was
painted green with the tail / reversing lights
still in place as under the rubbers it was just

My microbus on the ramp at Oil Droppers. To
finally have the bus in the workshop having a
new coat of paint is quite exciting and long

Stuart carried on stripping her down as I helped
out by making the coffee. It really didn't take
long to strip her down, mind you the amount of
buses that Stuart has stripped down, he could 

probably do it with his eye's shut and it must
second nature to him now.

My bus is starting to look a bit bare. We were
both a bit concerned about the windscreen, as
it has to come out to make good the rust on the
front clip, but I have quite a big stone chip in the
screen and the chances of the screen cracking
whilst we try to get it out are quite high. 

Looking along the side of my microbus whist
she sits on the Oil Droppers ramp. You can
see she's quite straight, considering her age
but it's the paint that lets her down.

Stuart continues to work hard stripping down 
Fiona as I sneak outside for a break.

And so the prep work starts. Stuart leaves the
windows in for as long as possible to keep the
dust that can get inside the vehicle to the
minimum, although it always manages to creep
 inside somehow..!

Stuart starts to flatten off the old filler on my
front clip. Stuart did warn me not to take photo's
using the flash as you would be able to see all
the filler dust in the air that 
he is generating... 
but did I listen, No.! hence all the white dots in
this photo and the one above.

A better photo of Stuarts handy work. The front
clip has had the first application of filler to get
her smoothed out.

A few days later I popped back into the work
shop and Stuart had been busy with the DA
as most of the body had been rubbed down.

He had also put some filler over the rear arches
and down the rear of the larger vents I have.
These were extended whilst the bus was in
California, and whilst numerous people have
suggested I have them cut back to the normal
size, I like them, it makes Fiona different from
all the other buses.

The front clip had also had several more layers
of filler. I suppose purists would have replaced
the front clip, but I'm not a purist. She looks so
much better even at this stage.

More sanding done and more filler over the
rear arches. Considering her age, (47) she
really isn't that bad, I've seen much worse
on younger U.K. buses.

You can see the high and low spots over the
rear arches now that they have had several
layers of filler.

This was what we found once we removed the
middle side window. There was a lot of surface
rust, but luckily we caught it in time. Stuart
put some rust treatment on the rust, followed
by a thin layer of filler and then paint. I knew
the middle side windows were rusting as I had
brown water marks in the inside of the bus.

About a week later I popped back, and found
Fiona had had the windows removed and was
masked up and the first coat of primer was on
her. What a difference... she looked like a
different bus. Oh and yes, when the windscreen
was being removed, it did crack so a new
windscreen was added to my shopping list.

Although the bus looks so much better already,
I must admit that at this point I was kind of sad
knowing that the bus I driven around for years
and that I loved the look of, had gone. Those
days were over, it was time to move on. 

It was a strange feeling as I walked around
my bus, I felt sad yet excited at the same time.
There isn't any turning back now and she does
look so nice. This was the first coat of primer,
just to highlight any low or high spots on the
body which Stuart will address as necessary.

I can't believe how different she looks just by
being all one colour. Talking of colour, the bus
was originally Delta green (L610) with a cloud

 white (L581) roof / bumpers. I couldn't decide 
if wanted her back in the original colours as I
 thought it was a bit dark. Then one day I was
passing so I popped into the workshop and 
saw a split screen Stuart had just completed in 
velvet green (L512) and silver white (L82) 
and I knew instantly that  was to be the new
 colour for my bus.

I popped back the next week and was shocked
(in a good way), to see how different my old

 bus looked. The velvet green paint I think really 
suits her. I'm also glad I asked Stuart to paint 
the green up to the roof line and not just up to 
the middle belt line. 

You can see just how different my old 1969
microbus looks. I'm so pleased with the finish
of the paint. She looks a lot smoother all over
than I expected but as Stuart explained, although
I only wanted a paint job to protect her from the
elements, and wasn't really bothered about the
rough bits, it was his reputation on the line so
he couldn't just ignore the rough bodywork, as 

my bus is an advertisement for the standard
of work he turns out on a regular basis.

My microbus has a new shiny white roof. I do
like that silver white (L82). It's not too bright and
suits the velvet green. I think if the white was too
bright it wouldn't look so good against the green.
A closer look at the finish of the paint on the roof,
this is probably the last time I'll get a good look
at the roof. How nice and smooth are my gutters?

Wow, how smooth and straight are the sides
of my old bus now... That really is a nice
reflection, and it isn't even polished yet.

Looking at my bus through a beetle body that
Oil Droppers are currently doing a complete 

body off restoration on for another customer. 

You can't really see the true colour under the
artificial lights in the workshop so I took a couple
of photos using the flash, which gives a better
indication of the true colour. As my bus was
originally a deluxe microbus, I decided to buy
some new deluxe trim which I think finishes off
the look of the bus. I got the deluxe trim from
Just Kampers.

Stuart has started to re-assemble the bus. The
lights / number plate and Volkswagen script
also help to break up the fresh paint and make
the rear end look really nice.

Back to taking photos without the flash, but even
without the flash you can see just how nice she
looks now. Once the white bumpers go back on
they will help to finish off the look at the front.

The same angle just with a bit of zoom to show
how straight the sides of my bus are now. That
really is an almost perfect reflection. 

I can't believe how different the bus looks now,
I should have got Oil Droppers to paint her
years ago. Stuart prides himself on a clean
and neat workshop, so this photo I took of
Fiona with a kneeling mat still under her will
eventually drive him crazy.!

This rear side panel was by far the worst on 
my bus as the filler had cracked quite badly,
 but look at it now, all smooth and shiny and
 finished in that gorgeous velvet green paint.

The windscreen broke when it was removed,
(as we expected it would), so I had to get a new

 one. Having looked on e-bay nothing really 
appealed to me so I decided to get a new one 
from 'Cool Air' ( ) it
was a light green tinted screen with a dark green
 tint at the top (even though the top tint looks blue
 in this photo) It wasn't cheap at £149.95 but well 
worth it in my opinion.

The rear screen is back in, and I'm glad I spent
a few hours at home removing some of the old
stickers from not only the rear screen but also
all the side windows. 

You can see how clean the bus looks now
without all those stickers over the side glass.
I'm glad I decided to buy that deluxe belt trim
as I think it compliments the green paint and
matches the chrome Porsche 356 wheels.

I still can't believe how clean and straight and
shiny my old 1969 microbus is now, it'll be like
driving a new bus. It'll take some getting used
to that green top tinted windscreen as the
darker top tint must be at least 5/6" deep and is

just above my eye level when sat in the bus.

That rear panel / wheel arch looks amazing
compared to what it was, as does the whole bus.
The reflection on the rear panel and sliding door
is incredible, as anyone that knew my bus will
Whilst my bus was in with Oil Droppers I took
the opportunity to get them to also protect the
underside from the elements. Oil Droppers use 

a product called Shutz which is supposed to be 
the best product. I do like this photo, as at 
quick glance it looks like a two tone paint 
scheme which I think looks really cool.

Stuart from Oil Droppers sprayed the Shutz
over the complete underside. 

The underside of my microbus now looks
all black and shiny. Hopefully that will

protect her from all the salt they put on the
 roads over here in the U.K.

It's reassuring to know the underneath my
early bay is also protected as well as the body.
Hopefully all this work will protect my bus for
years to come.

What a difference to the front end. Freshly
painted bumpers and VW badge add a fresh
new look to Fiona. The twin mount aerial is
a new purchase as the old single mount one
I had kept leaning back over the passenger
door at speed (!) She does look good under
the artificial lights in the workshop, but to see
the true velvet green colour she needs to be
out in natural daylight.

I love this photo taken by Stuart in the Oil
Droppers yard. The sun is shining and the true
colour is bursting through. I do like the velvet
green as it gives the bus the 'old' look. The
deluxe trim is also another good purchase as
it suits both the bus and the colour.

The other side of the bus that is in the shade,
you can really notice the colour difference.
Oil Droppers also put new cab door window
scrapers / felt and rubbers in, as the old ones
had perished and rain would run down the 

windows and through the gaps into the doors. 
I just need to make new door cards now as 
the old ones are water damaged.

So that was Fiona getting a new coat of paint,
and much more. A huge 'Thanks buddy' to Stuart
at Oil Droppers for all his hard work and quality
workmanship. He did much more prep work than
I expected, but like he said it's his reputation on
the line. I can't recommend Oil Droppers enough
if you have an air-cooled vehicle. They can carry
out almost any kind of job on your air cooled ride,

including welding, servicing, restorations, engine
rebuilds and so much more. So why not get in
touch with them. You can find them on facebook:
or you can visit their webpage by going to:
So here's to the summer when I can get out
and about to all the VW shows across the 

country in my new look microbus.