How Much Does It Cost To Buy An Old Bus The Classic Volkswagen Kombi – Does It Still Make A Practical Daily Driver?

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The Classic Volkswagen Kombi – Does It Still Make A Practical Daily Driver?

The air-cooled Volkswagen Kombi is a motoring icon. It’s a classic van full of character, and many guys (and gals) still aspire to own one as a daily driver. But are they now getting a bit long in the tooth to make a practical everyday vehicle?

I drive my 1976 2 liter window every day and my experience gives a good indication of what you will need to do to make your unrestored Kombi safe and comfortable to drive as your main car.

Volkswagen Kombis are already more than 30 years old and it shows. I’ve spent a lot of time and money over the last few years getting mine back to reasonable condition, and if you’re buying a cheap Kombi you need to be prepared to do the same. Even a more expensive Kombi will probably need some repairs and TLC.

The 1800cc 2 liter models are the most practical because they have more lift and go than models with smaller engines, although the engines cost more to rebuild.

First raise it.

Kombis are cool, they’re iconic, they have character and they’re definitely not boring.

They are fun to drive and when in good nick are comfortable and handle well with good steering. The windows on the later model keep up with fine traffic and can cruise at 60mph all day, although they slow down on bigger hills.

And they are practical. There is a lot of space in a Kombi. It may not be as good as a modern van because of the rear engine hump, but it’s still a great camper or 8-seater van with room for luggage or shopping. Ground clearance is good and the rear-wheel drive provides good traction for two-wheel drive if you want to go a little off the beaten track.

Now, here’s what to consider if you’re planning on owning one of these as your daily driver.

Rust, of course, is the biggest killer of Kombis or any old car. It’s much better to spend a little more money and get a reasonably rust-free Kombi. Given that you find a rust-free Kombi, there’s still a lot to eat into your money before it’s practical to use your van on a daily basis.

The motor may be worn out. I rebuilt mine a couple of years ago with new barrels and pistons, all new bearings, crankshaft and camshaft ground and rebuilt heads. The heads were converted at the same time for use with unleaded gasoline. All of this costs money.

Steering and suspension are safety related and must be correct.

On the suspension, I have replaced all four main ball joints and the shockies. With the steering I replaced all the rod ends and the main center pin. The steering damper is next on the replacement list, and that should see the correct steering for my Kombi. It’s always possible that yours needs a new steering box too.

Your Kombi’s brakes must also be in working order. Brake linings are something that needs to be replaced regularly, but I also replaced the rear brake drums as they were worn beyond their limits, and the front discs will need replacement next time the front brake pads are done.

I have replaced all the flexible brake hoses as they are now over thirty years old and getting brittle and I have replaced some of the metal brake hoses as they were corroded. The rear brake cylinders were replaced a few years ago and the front brake calipers were rebuilt with new seals.

There are four CV joints in the rear drive train, and the ones on my window were very sad. They were replaced along with the rear wheel bearings.

A very important area to consider is the fuel lines for the engine. Kombis burn, and it is caused by petrol spraying all over the engine. Check the fuel lines carefully and if they look old and cracked, replace them with a quality fuel line. Make sure they are not rubbing against the can and that the pipes going into the charcoal and fuel pump are not loose. This is important!

In addition to things you know may need fixing, there’s always the unexpected. A spray nozzle came off my window carby and went through the engine. It’s just a thin little brass tube, but it sounded like there were marbles rattling in the engine. Luckily there was no damage, but it did mean removing the engine and removing the cylinder heads to check everything and remove the debris from the spray nozzle. And this week I had to change the alternator.

In addition to mechanical wear and tear, there are cosmetics to think about. Your cheap Kombi may need a paint job, new carpets, new upholstery and even the front seats may need attention.

In terms of comfort, new door and window seals may be needed to stop rattles and drafts. The heater may need some attention. In my Kombi the heater wires had seized. This didn’t bother me until I moved from a hot part of the country to a much colder area where temperatures drop below freezing in the winter.

On the plus side, parts are readily available. For my Kombi, a 1976 2 liter model, I was able to buy all the parts I needed apart from the carby spray nozzles, and even then I was able to get by with parts from a different model than VW.

My opinion is that despite all the repairs and restorations, Volkswagen Kombis can still be a practical daily driver. You have to accept the fact that your purchase price is only part of the story and that you will need to spend time and money to return your classic Kombi to a safe and comfortable condition.

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