A couple of days ago I was getting ready to go down to the first event in the VW calendar which is Dubfreeze, in Stafford. This is a one day event, on the Sunday, but for an extra fiver you can go down on the Saturday and camp overnight. A load of guys from the Late Bay forum were going so I knew it would be a pretty lively affair. There was even talk of bringing along a fire pit – the best part of VW life is sitting round a fire having a beer, or two, with like minded folk.
On Saturdays I play tennis in the morning and in the afternoon it is volleyball at the local leisure centre. I was keen to squeeze in both of these and then get straight off to Stafford. Just before leaving I decided to check my tyre pressures but, and this sounds really stupid, I couldn’t get the little tyre dust caps off. These are smart metal ones which I bought because they match the red of the van. Even with pliers I could not shift the little blighters, and eventually I went down to Kingway Autos who supplied my tyres and who know my van well. It was a bigger job than I’d expected – they had to remove the wheels and getting the caps off took at least half an hour, and sixteen quid. The guy in charge is a good lad and he told me that it happens a lot. His comment was that if you buy something just because it looks good it will cause you trouble in the end. Point noted.
The first show I ever went to was Dubfreeze, with my daughter Adele, seven years ago. At that time the Sick Bay still had its stretchers in the back and Adele slept on one of them and I slept in a tent. We knew nothing about old VWs back then and as I drove back from last Sunday’s Dubfreeze I reflected that, although I know a lot more now, I still have a helluva lot to learn.
The weekend before Dubfreeze, Iain of Aircooled Auto Electrics fame, had upgraded my van electrics and installed a new fuse box. He pointed out that one of my front indicator covers had a small crack in it which was letting in water so leaving a tidemark inside on the reflector. This impaired the efficiency of the light and also could lead to a complete failure. Rather than order a new replacement online, I decided to do what proper veedubbers do and sift through the auto jumble section at the forthcoming Dubfreeze event and buy a used original part.
Over the years I have bought many items at shows but invariably these have been impulse buys whilst browsing. This time it was to be a specific item that I was going to actually search for, so I was feeling a little bit hardcore as I strode into the auto jumble hall. Initially I had thought I would take off my broken indicator cover to take with me to ensure I got the correct replacement. In the end I decided that was a bit amateurish and I should be able to buy one from memory. That was a mistake. By the time I found a trader selling covers I couldn’t remember what side it was, off side or near side. No problem, I walked back out to the camping field and had a look – it was off side. On the left as you look at it. But I noticed that it was made of clear plastic whereas all the ones I’d seen in the hall had an orange inner shell. Back in the hall I asked the trader if he had any clear ones. He explained that VW never made clear ones, they all have the orange shell and if you want a clear one you have to carefully extract the orange element, hopefully without damaging the plastic outer. And then put in orange bulbs rather than clear ones. So my previous owner had gone to the trouble of doing this. Why on earth would anyone bother to do all that?
Apparently it is to improve the ‘look’ of your van. OK I know that I am not terribly observant but I would never, in a million years, notice whether a van was sporting the original orange indicator covers or the ‘enhanced’ clear versions. (Sad to say that since that day it is the first thing I look for!)
Having had all that explained to me it was back to my quest. All the covers I found were complete with the orange bit inside. As even I would notice if one side were orange and the other clear I had to decide, do I buy two new orange ones or buy one orange one and take the risk of breaking it whilst extracting the orange filament? As I was weighing this up I noticed that the trader had put ‘RH side’ or ‘LH side’ on each of the covers he had for sale. When I thought back to the covers on my van I came to the conclusion that in each case he must have got it wrong. On mine they were the other way about. This was when he gave me my second lesson and he explained that right and left is taken from the perspective of you inside the van, not of you standing in front facing the van. So in the past, whenever I have talked about items in terms of left or right I have actually been talking about the other side. A valuable piece of information of which I have taken due note.
Also for sale were a couple of indicator seals and I thought it would be a good idea to get these as my originals were probably a bit perished. These were described on the sticker as ‘new’. I asked my knowledgeable friend if these would fit as anything you buy that is not NOS (new old stock, ie genuine original part), is likely to be the wrong size or poor quality. This was something I had learned at a very early stage in my veedub life – new, or ‘after market’ items are often made in China and are invariably rubbish. Being an honest chap, he said he could make no guarantees about how effective the seals would be but that, ‘as I was obviously new to the game’, he would give them to me for a fiver. So I bought them but told him I would have a think about the orange covers which were £25 apiece.
Walking past the VW Heritage stand, where you can order items online, I asked the attendant if they had clear covers. He checked and they did – £18 each. Naturally these covers are after market and would take a few days to arrive. Also they might not fit perfectly but I went ahead anyway. So I didn’t get my hardcore NOS stuff but I got sorted with something that I hope will fit and in the process I learned a little bit more about VWs.
And how about the late night drink round the fire with the TLB bunch? Unfortunately I missed all that because midway through the evening I left the guys in the makeshift bar and went back to the Sick Bay to eat my tea. The others were coming back later to light a fire and I would bring a chair and join them after. I opened a bottle of wine and started listening to a play on the radio. The sport which I had crammed in earlier in the day must have taken its toll as I fell asleep, crawled into my sleeping bag and even the knocks on the door did not rouse me. In the morning I looked at the fallout from the fireside drinking session and kicked myself. I gather they all had a great time. So I have made another mental note to myself – you’re getting on a bit now. If you want to make the most of VW life then slow down, pace yourself and don’t get too comfortable in your van at tea time. Noted.
Just as a postscript, I asked a VW friend if he had ever noticed that some indicators were clear and some were orange? I should have known better as he answered in true veedub fashion – of course he had, and his preference is for the orange as that is original. Proper VW folk notice everything and have an opinion on everything!