Restoration Part One

We bought the bus after finding ourselves with no other options. It was December, it was cold, and we knew we wanted to leave in a few months for the trip. The bus was on Craigslist for $500, an hour and a half away in a seaside town called Hope, Alaska. Rusty, not running, and missing parts the bus was a lawn ornament.



There she was, back at my parents house. First thought, we have to move to a house with a garage so we can work on it without freezing. So we did, another month later it was inside our new single car garage, leaving us no room to work on it. Our hearts were set on the trip, but when the ski season is upon us and the mountains are calling, well we were extremely distracted and the last thing we wanted to do was work on this rust bucket.


At this point its mid February. We are deciding what direction we want to go toward with the interior. Neither of us have much mechanical experience, interior experience etc. But Tessa likes arts and crafts and I thought I would be up for whatever mechanical issues were to appear in the not to distant future. Research on buses in general immediately brought us to some realizations. The bus we bought was advertised as a 1976, after loading it up the title was signed over and once in my hands I realized it was a 1975. I knew there were a few differences but a few big ones stood out once I had it back in Anchorage. No passenger seat swivel, different cabinets, lower geared weaker transmission, smaller engine, weaker pop top hinges.

After researching buses and vanagons it was increasingly obvious the reliability and power benefits of doing a subaru swap would be the way to go. So eager to leave we jumped right in.

The engine pulled from the Subaru.

Pulling all the wiring

Pulling all the wiring

We now had an engine and ECU, a partly dissembled interior and a lot of days in the backcountry under our belt. We sent out the ECU to get wired for the swap and left for Tailgate Alaska. It was now April.

Tailgate brought us near Valdez, where the second Westfalia of the winter was for sale. This one was not so daunting. An Aircooled 1980 Vanagon that ran. We thought, perhaps we are in over our heads and should use this as the expedition mobile.

The vanagon and us up in Thompson pass

The vanagon and us up in Thompson pass

We brought the vanagon back to Anchorage and had it inspected at Estey's, who happened to have rebuilt the motor not long before. Estey informed us that taking the Vanagon would be a much better idea, and the rusty bus would be an absolute money pit and we wouldn't be leaving for another year at least. What a foolish man we thought, we loved the bus so much more. We would soon be on the road to freedom in our bus, so we sold the Vanagon.