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Wanna see how air can enter your exhaust and create backfires?


My poor Bart the 1976 Bus.  Been working on him fairly steadily as time permits for the past two months.   For anyone following his story as I relate it (if anyone), he had a rough and often-abused life.  I had to bring him home on a flatbed.   The PO had not been able to get him running for the past year or so.  We could see work that had been done in that direction, including the removal of the fuel filter.   When we finally got the engine going he could not get into 3rd and 4th gear.   Someone had sat/stood on the roof at the front and dented it in more than significantly.  I'd almost call it caved in.  Lots of stuff missing.  Lots of stuff previously worked on.  He'd been in a bad rear-ender (his rear).   The entire rear valence/apron has been cut away.  The bumper was remounted with new bolt holes further forward so the bumper now is right up against the body.   Much of the interior camping parts were long-gone (sink, water, etc).   Holes and damage all over.   But someone did do a bunch of rust repairs around the front doglegs: with black duct tape.   Even the speakers in the front door were blown and sounded like crackly crap.   

As I got him going and the gears more operational, he had a super-loud backfiring going on with almost every deceleration out the tailpipes (two tail pipes as there is a small non-vw muffler on each side). Air getting into the hot exhaust system and allowing unspent gases to ignite?   You tell me: 

And the best part is both sides have this problem on all three sides of these triangular connectors.  Blown plenty open over the years.  So today I crawled under the bus with the back wheels up on ramps and cut small, heavy metal patches and welded them on over each outside edge of the triangular connections to cover the holes where they had dramatically separated.   Right now some purists and people who do the right thing every time out there are going to be cursing me and writing all the reasons this was not the correct fix.  I know that.  But I'm just trying to get him back on the road and not doing any more invasive surgery to remove the exhaust system which is plenty rusted into place.  Not the day for me to break off an exhaust manifold stud.   So I fixed it for now.  One day someone better than me can remove the entire mess and replace it with the proper exhaust system and parts.   But it was a sweaty, painful, uncomfortable difficult welding job under there and even with a good amount of pre-grinding a couple days ago to clean the surfaces, it was not happy welds dealing with all the rust.  It was very hard as one of each of the three edges was facing upwards and the pipes/muffler in the way so I could barely see where I was welding.   I won't be publishing photos of my welds.  Ugly as sin.  But they are solid and holding.  But damn they are ugly.

So yesterday was a good day for Bart the bus, my 1976 tin top VW Campmobile/Westfalia.   From a bus that came with the sliding door falling off, 3rd and 4th gear not available, engine not starting at all (and PO gave up working on it and could not get it fixed) and much of the interior/ceiling damaged/missing, he's a happy bus now.   The welding up of the huge gasket/connector holes 100% fixed his continual backfiring that was making other drivers treat him with scorn.   New transmission fluid and new connector/bushing parts on his shift rods.  Timing and tuneup done.  New fuel pump, reinstalled fuel filter, fixed literally dozens of things and some touchup paint (easy since he was repainted all black by some PO several PO generations ago) and he starts and runs like a dream and easily keeps up with traffic.  Someone bought him nice new LT tires but I'm guessing he did not run long after that because they are almost 100% new.   

Anyways, thanks to you folks who gave me lots of advice/direction on the gear shifting problems, I've learned a lot about an area I previously had not dived into.   Bart still needs some bodywork which will start this summer.   My goal is not to get him to showroom quality but to continue to make him a nice bus that looks reasonably good.   Here was his day yesterday.  First time he's been out a whole day in at least 2 - 3 years. 

First Bart went to a small car show in Langley (visiting, not displaying):

Then we went downtown old Langley and wandered around and his owners (me and Soo-Jean) had poke' bowls for lunch:

Finally after some more fun driving around Bart went to a favourite time capsule, the Twilight Drive-In Theatre.  I hope it never closes.   


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