January 25, 2017

On VW Vans, T2's and Inspiration

This looks just like the one I got. My daughter I mean, The one she got. 

It’s a fickle thing. Used to be that small conversations in the store inspired me. Wall paintings. Arguments at government offices. Anything.

Now I need substantially more input in order to warm up to something. “You’re getting old”, claims a friend. I don’t think so. Maybe it is a sign of the times? Or maybe I am planning different projects. Projects that will take place in the future? No idea. Anyway,  will try.

So I am in the process of restoring a 1969 VW van. My hubbie will get a heart attack if he sees me write this. “I? I? Excuse me, can you rephrase that? WHO is restoring the van?”

Ours look just like this one. :) 

Fine, okay, so it is not actually me, but to be truthful, it isn’t him either He’s only pointing with his finger. He ‘delegates’, so to speak, which is a characteristic that the Lebanese have perfected to a T.  Granted, he’s got to make phone calls, and he needs to drive up and down to the Beqaa Valley, to pick up things and drop them off, but it is not as if he’s on his back in a cold garage under the chassis of a 1969 van welding parts together. I was looking for the name of a part to insert here, but truth be told, I have no idea what’s at the bottom of a VW van.

Let’s go back to the beginning. 
I have always wanted to be a hippie. I was born slightly too late to join the long-haired fair maidens during the Summer of Love in Haight-Ashbury, but I spirit I was there. And with a hippie comes a Volkswagen Van.

Need spare parts? A VW graveyard in the Beqaa Valley

I had a van for quite some time. I would take my children, then still small, and wander around Europe during the summer. First a green one with flowers, later on a brown one. Both my children speak fondly of those summers, when my son would roll out of the van in the morning, play hard all day, build fires, jump down rocks into water holes, float down rivers in a truck tire, catch tadpoles, climb trees, play in jeux-de-boules tournaments against the local fire fighters of the village, and climb back into the van at night to sleep. Only to repeat the entire process the next morning.

These days I have a more luxurious version, but my daughter has decided that she too, shall be a hippie when she grows up.  And with a hippie comes a Volkswagen Van.
Now in Lebanon, the old hippie van (which would be a T2, T standing for transporter) is a common vehicle, still used to transport schoolchildren in the public school system back and forth. 

Go find what you need yourself. 

The school next door to me has three. And every morning, as I walk to school, the natour (janitor), he also doubles as the school bus driver, drops off his first load of children of the day. Some 12 girls get out of his – rather dilapidated – bus. I am not sure how much he charges, but I reckon it should be something like 2,000 a day. It couldn’t be much more, otherwise they can take the regular service (shared cab system). That would add up to some 40,000 LBP a month per child for transportation.

Anyway, my daughter wants a hippie van for her 18th birthday. I am secretly happy for her ‘modest’ request. A hippie van is better than a Porsche, no? Of course, the whole ‘I want a car for my 18th birthday’ is a complete alien notion in Holland.

Doors? Doors anyone?
But that is still a good number of years from now. And her dad, being the conditioned Arab father that he is, understand the “I like this car” of his daughter as a “I want this car,” or even better “I want this car NOW!” 
And so he acted upon that. Regardless of the fact that she cannot drive a car, and is not allowed to drive on either. While driving in the Beqaa Valley, he stumbled upon a 1969 VW van, which the owner loved to part with. A deal was soon struck.

Not only was the van from 1969, it had obviously not been repaired since 1969, nor had it been indoors since 1969. You could see the ground under the clutch while driving it. The ‘driving’ is a bit of an over statement; it didn’t really drive. It’s got 44,838 km on the counter, but that is because there isn’t more space. It’s probably closer to 244,838 km, from the looks of it.

Anyway, he’s been immersing himself in the Lebanese world of VW vans. And boy, that is a world in itself. 

The most accomplished VW van mechanics are clustered around Zahle. Spare parts are to be bought in two places in the Beqaa Valley. The best plate workers, however, can be found in Aley. There’s a guy somewhere who will change original T2 engines for Volkswagen Polo engines (for that extra boost) somewhere in Shtoura. There is someone in the Palestinian camp Sabra & Chatila who can replicate original seating colors. And the list goes on and on.

But each Volkswagen aficionado in Lebanon will tell you the same; best car ever made. EVER! (I sound like Donald Trump) Come rain or storm, heat or cold, mountain or desert, these cars just do not break down. Maybe that is why they still, after some 46 years, still hauling Lebanese school children around town.

The only thing about this car that still is automatic is this logo
44,839 km. or is it 144,839 km? Or 244,839 ?

We’ll see where this project will end. I understand they’re quite wanted in Europe, even in the state that ours is. I’ll keep you updated.

I thought about rereading this post. I usually do before I publish. But I think for today, this is as good as it gets.


marijke van dam said...

Welcome back young lady!! Nice story!!

Fadi said...

Such a fun project! Do keep us posted on the progress :D

Heddy said...

Or it could be 448, 000. Miss you terribly. Love reading your blog entries. They make me feel like I am sitting with you and Barby on a Friday afternoon talking away over a shared plate of nachos with toppings on the side.
Your kids are lucky!

Anonymous said...

Good to hear from you again! Should be a fun project. Can't wait to see how it turns out.

-paul said...