Category Archives: Vehicles Past & Present

Past & Present

Introducing… Wolfgang Senior!

It’s very strange to find ourselves in this position after feeling that Wolfgang was the be all and end all of campervans. We know that the T3 camper is one of the most versatile and coveted campers to have been produced in Wolfsburg, Germany under the VW marque. It’s internal space has never been matched by any van with its footprint (old or new), because of its rear engine format and 1970 design.

Our T3 was made in 1990 but there was another offering at the time by VW as a factory conversion that offered more space. This was based on the LT chassis and the coachwork was still undertaken by the very well respected partner for all of the factory VW installs of the time, Westfalia. More in depth information can be found at the following link…

http://www.westfalialt.info/html/1989_vw_westfalia_lt_florida_c.html

Both mandy and I would by Lying if we said we hadn’t cast the occasional eye over an LT Florida, more out of curiosity than anything. We have been impressed with what we have seen with the layout and quality, still apparent after 30 years or more. But it seemed like owning one was for the future, and in no way anytime soon.

First view of Wolfgang Senior :0

That said, and by a total fluke, a friend asked us to collect a part from a person not that far away from us because we were local, and she lived some distance away. The part was a component used on the smaller campers like Wolfgang, and on the larger LT. As it turned out the previous owner was just about to advertise the van when Mandy collected the part. This was just one of those “right place right time” kind of moments. After some discussion regarding our ability to finance such an investment, we decided that this opportunity was too good to miss.

3.1 meters high!

I know from experience how much it costs to take a van in a poor state of repair, and turn it into something that is as reliable as a modern vehicle. Wolfgang has had the best attention to make sure he is just about as reliable as he ever could be. The thought of taking on another project that required that degree of time and investment meant it wasn’t something I could consider again. It’s the unknown, and when your hit with a failed holiday because the gearbox has packed up, and a £2,000+ bill for a repair, that always takes longer than it should, you tend to err on the negative side of things!

http://www.daswolfgang.com/start-at-the-start-where-it-ended/start-at-the-start-where-it-ended/
2016 gearbox failure 🙁

So no way would consider buying a van that would effectively put me back into a situation where I was chasing my tail financially, just to have a vehicle that we would one day believe in. On reflection I feel that those negative experiences have given me a reality check.

But if we go back to the chance meeting, this Florida had been owned by the previous owner for 2 years. He is a trained mechanic by trade, has a love for VW vehicles, and has left no stone unturned in making sure this van into one of the best and most reliable examples of a Westfalia Florida on UK soil. It’s a shining example of a vehicle that has had everything thrown at it. check out the list below. Truly awesome! We are very lucky!

Fully rebuilt engine including brand new cylinder head in 2017 (including new injector nozzles and new turbo CHRA)

• Factory Power steering
• Opening front quarter lights
• Full engine undertray
• Westfalia Towbar
• Double glazed windows
• Factory fitted curtains and blinds
• ISRI captains high back front seats
• Electric windows
• Full roof rack with ladder access at the rear
• 4 Berth Camper (2 double beds) (can be 5berth with a bunk in the cab if needed)
• On board LPG tank for cooker and hot water boiler (around £5 to fill from empty)
• Truma Gas hot water boiler, supplies hot water to kitchen tap and shower
• Wet/ shower room with hot shower (absolute blessing when camping!!)
• Eberspacher diesel night heater with timer
• 2 ring burner
• Vitrifrigo compressor fridge
• 100L fresh water tank on board
• 70L waste water tank
• Porta-potti in bathroom (included in the sale)
• Large wardrobe with shelves
• Under seat storage
• 220ah leisure battery and solar set up for off-grid camping (CTEK equipment used)
• 2 lap belts in rear and there is included in the sale a 3-point belt which was fitted to the centre bench for use with a child’s seat (I removed due to only being my partner and I using the van)
• Fiamma F45 wind out awning
• Large roof top box for extra space and storage included with the sale of the van
• Included in sale is pair of LHD headlights as well
• Cab window thermal screens included with sale
• Original VW owners manuals (in German) also Have translated version in english
Below Details the work carried out in my ownership
Mechanical work
• Complete Engine Rebuild carried out by AW Engineering including: Complete Brand-new cylinder head, brand new pistons and rings, brand new Bearings throughout, Re-Bored and Honed, new oil pump, new water pump all new Gaskets (See receipt for proof)
• All 6x Injectors Rebuilt with Brand New Monark Nozzles and Pressures set correctly (155Bar)
• Turbocharger Brand new Mellett Core Fitted and turbo charger rebuilt
• Brand new radiator fitted
• Replacement Header tank fitted
• Brand new WAHLER 87degrees thermostat fitted
• Brand new Mocal oil cooler fitted
• Brand new exhaust silencer and tailpipe fitted with new hardware as well
• Brand new clutch kit fitted at the same time as Engine Rebuild
• Brand new viscous fan unit fitted
• Timing belt, fuel pump belt and water pump all brand new at time of engine re-install
• New Starter battery 2017
• New alternator voltage regulator
All Above work carried out Winter 2017
• Complete new brake pipes throughout out in copper
• Brand New master cylinder
• Brand new rear brake drums and brake shoes
• Brand new rear wheel cylinders
• Front brakes fully stripped and rebuilt with a new TRW fitting kit
• Brand new Monroe LT35 Heavy duty front springs fitted
• Brand new Monroe Van-Magnum shock absorbers fitted all round
• New tie rod bushes and hardware
• Wheeliams 3” lift kit fitted
• Full wheel alignment after suspension lift fitted (including camber and castor)
• All oils in axle and gearbox changed for brand new correct grade oil
• All gear linkage bushes replaced with genuine VW items (precise gear change now)
• VDO gauges installed to monitor oil temperature, oil pressure and boost pressure while driving and a VDO rev counter fitted as well
• Turbo downpipe heat wrapped for engine bay heat management
• 4x New rear leaf spring buffers
Wheels and Tyres
• Full Set of 5x (4+1 spare) Ford custom 15” Steel wheels fitted with correct wheel bolts
• Full set of brand new Hankook Dynapro All Terrain Tyres fitted 235/75R15
Camper Conversion Repairs and Improvements
• Onboard Propane tank removed and stripped and checked and then repainted correct colour with red identifying stripe and pressure tested
• Stainless steel LPG valve cover with key lock as well
• All waste pipe replaced with fresh re-enforced pipe
• Brand new Whale Elite kitchen tap installed
• Both sink and kitchen hob removed and resealed to worktop
• Original Westfalia fridge removed and replaced with a vitrifrigo C50i Compressor fridge for better refrigerating and increased battery life
• Brand new 150Watt solar panel mounted on the roof
• 2x Brand new 110Ah Leisure batteries fitted
• CTEK Smartpass120 fitted alongside a CTEK D250sa to give a complete leisure/ off grid power system

CTEC solar battery charger


• New fuse panel fitted to allow fitment of blade fuses as compared to original ceramic fuses
• Original Eberspacher D2L re-commissioned with all new fuel pipe, new heater ducting pipe externally and internally of the van and new exhaust pipe
• Truma 10L water heater removed and checked for condition and thoroughly cleaned prior to re-installation all working correctly (red hot for showering!)
• New Micro Heki Skylight fitted in the bathroom due to the original westfalia item being previously damaged
• Bathroom sink removed to make more room for showering
• Brand new Reich shower fitted for better showers than the original westfalia item

New Shower


• Brand new Oceanair dry roll toilet roll holder fitted in the bathroom
• Brand new Hansgrohe shower hose
• Brand new TRUMA boiler external vent fitted to roof
• Brand new 12v and USB sockets fitted using high quality CBE parts
• Genuine VW westfalia control panel repaired with 2x new fuse holders fitted
• All interior lights converted from fluorescent tubes to LED lighting
• Shelving made for the wardrobe to utilize the space the best
• 2x brand new fire extinguisher installed
• 1x fire blanket installed
• Front bench seat latches repaired to aid correct operation
• Carpet matting custom fitted one piece in the rear of the camper
• Bathroom/ wetroom completely re-sealed
• Brand new fresh water tank drain valve installed
• Internal blinds fitted to roof side windows with flyscreen’s and blind
• New clips on seating area blind
External body
• All front panels replaced with genuine VW panels in winter 2018/2019 and front end resprayed original white with all new decals (common issue on LT’s around windscreen, all rot cut out and repaired with new metal.
• New right-hand side cab step welded in place, all rot removed
• New windscreen seal fitted after respraying (original VW windscreen re-fitted)
• Wheeliams Spare wheel carrier fabricated, and powder coated to fit the rear door using the hinges and allow proper use of the door and rear window
• Brand new Hella Rear fog light fitted into rear bumper and re-wired to original VW switch located on the dash
• Pressed aluminium plates fitted
• Roof mounted 150Watt solar panel fitted
• Dubflecta wind deflectors fitted
• Pressed aluminium number plates fitted showing correct UK markings
• RHD Genuine VW headlights fitted for UK roads (Also have LHD headlights, included in sale with van)
• Brand new genuine VW front indicators fitted all with new seals
• 2x new 3 jet windscreen washers all with new pipe work behind dash
• Headlights all re-wired to now run through individual relays and fuses for optimum lighting when driving at night
• Fiamma F45i wind out awning fitted (winding handle clips internally inside the camper out the way)
• New pair of wing mirror lenses to replace old units
• New rear mud flaps and brackets
Cab Area
• VDO gauges mounted in dashboard to monitor engine performance while running (RPM, oil temperature, oil pressure and boost pressure)
• Sony CDX-G1200 CD player fitted (can run from starter battery or leisure battery when parked up)
• Blaupunkt windscreen mounted amplified aerial fitted
• Additional 12volt and USB sockets fitted in dashboard all powered from leisure battery
• All dash lighting replaced with new brighter bulbs
• Drinks holders mounted to dash
• Lower dash section fitted from facelift model LT Florida
• Heater matrix removed and back flushed, and heater box rebuilt with new insulation for better heating during those winter months
• Heater rheostat replaced and modified to use an Audi 80 unit rather than the problematic LT rheostat, so now has all working fan speeds

Twizy wheel mod

The wheels make a difference on any vehicle and is usually one of the easiest (if not always the cheapest) modification to make. Go on any online portal such as eBay, Demon Tweeks, Google, etc, etc to find a whole raft of possible wheels that will fit the stud pattern of the particular car manufacturer you own. Well you may not be surprised that the Renault Twizy is different. There is quite probably a very good reason for having only 3 studs holding the wheel on, but i can’t really think of one other than it saves the weight of one nut, thus reducing the kinetic energy required for the low powered EV to move and stop along with the cost of one whole stud!

Anyways, I totally get the physics of narrower wheels mean less contact thus reducing friction / drag and as a result increase the range the battery can propel the car. However the Twizy wheels are ridiculously narrow, and this I feel is the one reason that it gets a bad perception from people that can’t handle concepts that fall beyond the norm. For sure there are people that look, stare and point because they think it looks cool in its standard guise, but for all those that stand on the side of the fence that are not quite sure about the Twizy, the wide wheels will be the deciding factor.

So my decision was made that by hook or by crook I was going to put the Burrows touch on the EV. The F1 twizy was inspiration in part, but I had seen other people in the very limited Twizy circle had done some modifications with the wheels. However, the only real route I could go down due to the unique stud pattern was to take the standard steel wheel and have it banded. It’s a process where one side of the rim is cut from the other, they are moved apart the required distance, and a band of metal is welded back in to increase the width. This all sounds very dodgy, but its legal and surprisingly safe.

So i found a chap on a forum that was willing to sell me his old wheels due to the fact he had replaced them with the Twizy stock alloy (equally as narrow as the steel). I sent him the funds and asked him to send the wheels to the banding fabrication company. I liaised with the fabricators (ALONZE CUSTOM FABRICATION –
http://www.alonzecustom.co.uk/steel-wheel-banding.php ) about the width of the band i wanted inserting, and within two weeks I had a re-worked set of wheels

The decision was that the rears were going to be different widths. 8 inches at the rear, and 7 front and I was really happy with them when they were returned from the fabricators. The next stage was to have them powder coated. As can be seen by the photo above, there was plenty of bare metal that would would start to oxidise and rust if it got damp, so I made every effort to keep them in a dry environment until they were painted. I decided on a mid grey for the colour. The reason being I didn’t want silver as it was pretty common, I didn’t want black or the similar anthracite as I felt the wheel rim needed to be a different colour to the tyre to separate them.

As you can imagine making a bespoke set of wheels leads you into the territory where you need to get a set of tyres that compliments the wheels and the vehicle they are going to go on. The wrong tyre will have a negative effect on the motors power to get vehicle up to speed, and also an incorrect reading on the speedometer. All of this taken into account I could only source one tyre that would fit both pairs of rims with a rolling radius that would keep the Twizy operating as it should. These were the

Rear: Nankang Ultra Sport NS-2 195/60 R13

Front: Nankang Ultra Sport NS-2 175/60 R13

The cheapest website i could find for the above was 123Tyres at £168 for the full set

https://www.123tyres.co.uk/

After a trip to the local tyre garage the rubber was fitted to the rims. I got the impression it was a little more protracted than usual due to the slightly stretched profile of the tyre on the wheel, but the overall package turned out to be really pleasing .

Rear wheel placed along side the original for reference

I was a little concerned that the rim would protrude the rubber with the width I had chosen, but its not. Which is good as far as dinging the rim. I have seen many VW golfs etc with massively over sized wheels and tyres that are stretch ludicrously.

So the next thing was to fit the wheels. I was going to hold off this process due to the fact the mudguards / fenders would need to be removed to accommodate the wheels, which would effectively render the car undrivable during wet weather. However, the temptation got the better of me and I decided to make the change despite this. I’m sure I will regret this in the not too distant future, but at least it will encourage me to get a solution sorted sooner rather than later for a mudguard.

Before I fitted the wheels I couldn’t help but spend a little time cleaning up the running gear and brakes. The front calipers were removed and painted. After a good wire brush down I painted them red. I always find that two coats of hammerite is enough to eat into any corrosion and provide lasting protection for every vehicle i have renovated in the past. This would be no different.

The same was done for the rear, although i decided against painting the calipers as they were in remarkably good condition. I still greased up the handbrake cable and added a small amount of hammerite silver to any rust visible.

As you can see from the image below, its transformed the stature of the vehicle and its stance is much more aggressive. The one thing that lets the Twizy down and turns peoples inquisitivity to err on the side of dislike rather than like, is the puny wheels giving it more of a mobility scooter look than fully fledged road going vehicle.

I will say at this point that I am under no illusion that this modification will have a big impact on performance and range. From a performance point of view I have a solution. I will be fitting a device called a PowerBox (More on this in a future post). This will plug into the ODBC port and will override the Renault restrictions in terms of the power output and speed, effectively doubling the performance. There will be a range reduction but that’s something I am going to have to accept.

This vehicle for me is for primarily for excitement, as has been all of my previous vehicle. It’s a bit odd, but I hope that this will prove there is a new generation of vehicles that can put a smile on peoples faces, much like the Vespa, Lambretta and bubble cars did all those years ago.

Me on my Vespa T5 touring the Pyrenees (September 2000)
Year 2000 prior to setting off for the Pyrenees

Renault Twizy

Since owning my campervan most of my time and money had been spent renovating that. There were a few sacrifices made during that time in the form of the loss of my two scooters to provide extra funding for some of the more major work that needed doing like the engine and gearbox. Although the camper has provided an amazing distraction from these losses, it was only going to be a matter of time before I needed something to fill the impractical vehicle gap. You know, the type that puts a smile on your face.

I think the catalyst for my interest for renewable energy has come from the solar installation on my camper. Its proved amazingly effective at giving us free energy for the fridge, lighting, and all of our electronic devices as we live and travel. The only exception has been heating whilst static, which is taken care of by the diesel night heater. This, as you can imagine has allowed us to camp in remote locations without electric hook up, or choose a camping pitch that costs less money due to the fact we don’t need electricity.

I think the real buzz factor that goes with having energy for nothing can only really be associated with by like minded people. That said I know this post will not resonate with everybody, but the world of renewable energy will ultimately make everybody’s life a whole lot better once established on mass. If anybody is really interested the best place to delve in is the youtube ‘Fully Charged‘ channel offers a wealth of information about all things green. Highly recommended viewing.

All of that said, it will not be of any great surprise to hear that my most recent purchase scratches the “impractical smile on your face method of transport” along with the “green energy” check box. I first saw the car advertised online during my September campervan holiday. The price was good and I was convinced this Renault Twizy was the one for me! 

Basically this vehicle ticks all of the boxes and more. Its a blast to drive, gets the heads turning, and costs as little as 60 pence a charge to do 50 miles. It can also be tuned (watch this space) using a PowerBox, and the lack of modifications just make me want to find a way to make this already rare and unique vehicle a little more special. Again…. watch this space.

Gillera Runner FXR 180cc

20170114_113907 (Small)My love of two stroke bikes and scooters started back in the mid 1980s. My first bike was a second hand Yamaha RS100, which i promptly stripped down and did a frame up restoration. This was the first in a long list of two stroke vehicles that followed a similar path during my ownership from the mid to the late 80s. These included Yamaha DT100, DTLC, DT175MX, RD125, RD250DX Suzuki TS125 etc, etc. In the early 90s I got the bug for scooters. My first was a Vespa PX125 none runner, brought from a neighbor which i sold on to a friend a couple of years later, Following this was a second PX, then a Vespa T5.

scooters (Small)

So the late 90s became the stage for one of the most powerful, if not the most powerful scooters ever mass produced, the 180cc two stroke Gillera Runner FXR. In standard guise they were pretty rapid, but with the heavy baffled exhaust system which choked the engine, and the standard carburetor and air box fitted from factory, it didn’t quite reach its full potential. Owners soon became wise to the tuning capability, and the market was there to offer a verity of third party options for those that wanted to get the best performance from the new kid on the block.

This era was short lived and the ever tighter EU standards for emissions ruled out large two stoke bikes as being too polluting. The only way the manufacturers could meet regulations for all but the smallest of scooters was to move to a 4 stroke engine. This offered less potential BHP, and were substantially heavier. So the old power to weight ratio for the later scooters was reversed. This is why the sweet spot for anybody wanting a scooter or motorbike with the best power to weight was towards the end of the 1990s.

The FXR was the earliest incarnation of the 180cc Runner which came with a rear drum brake. The later scooters were branded ‘SP’ and came with a rear disk brake. As you can see mine is one of the earlier scooters, and unless I am mistaken was the rarer of the two, as production moved on to the SP after a relatively short period of time. I do not see this as a negative as the disk brake was really just a marketing gimmick, and offered no better stopping power.

I never owned or ridden one of these scooter before, but I knew of their reputation for being the scooter to have in its day. However, the reputation was enough for me to make the decision to buy when one came up at the right price in 2011. It may come as no surprise after reading the above, that the scooter i purchased came in kit form….

Incomplete project 2011
Incomplete project 2011

If I am honest I had always had a project ticking away in the background so its condition was not concerning in the slightest. This particular scoot was an import from Gurnsey so it needed registering before i could ride it in the UK. I tackled it in fits and starts. Here you can see the scooter in my garage the first time i started it. Looking at the paperwork this could quite possibly have been the first time the scoot had ran in ten years. I didn’t realize just how smokey it was until i opened the garage door. Oops! It sure smelt nice though 🙂

20140609_133624 (Small)

2014-06-11 20.14.30 (Small)

I was in no great rush to get the scooter road worthy, which was just as well really as i didn’t finally get it on the road until 2014. I must admit, from a performance point of view, once registered, moted and insured it exceeded all expectation. What a blast!

fxr (2)