If there is one thing I really hate about my Subaru engine conversion it is that the sump plug is situated in such a way that you have to prise the sump from the brace bar in order to get it out. It is a monumentally bad piece of design. Last week I decided to do an oil change which would normally take half an hour but which took me two days. I destroyed the plug threads getting it out and then eventually had to take the Sick Bay to a local garage to beg the owner to use his ramps to replace the brace bar bolts.
I moaned about this to Perry at Fellowspeed and he agreed that it was in a daft place but, as if it was some consolation to me, later versions have the plug, sensibly, at the side. OK then that’s the version I want as I will never again attempt an oil change with the present set-up. I also wanted Fellows to fix a slight coolant leak so we agreed that I would bring the van to them on the Monday after the Techenders weekend. (Techenders is also in the Midlands so it made sense to kill two birds.)
So I rocked up at Fellows on Sunday evening, planning to camp overnight outside their gates and so make sure I was the first customer of the day. They are situated in very attractive countryside just a few miles from Alvechurch. The property is shared with a stable yard at the end of a winding country lane. It looked a nice place to spend the night but I had been there only five minutes before I was asked to move as they need to get horses in and out throughout the night. A very pleasant stable girl, ( do they still call them that these days?), suggested that I come in and camp in their grounds and I was happy to comply, except that I would be locked in and had no food in the van. I got ready for a hungry night.
It was getting dark as I ransacked the cupboards looking for a hidden tin of beans or a stray Cuppa Soup. All I found was salt, pepper, teabags and powdered milk. And a couple of bottles of red wine. So I settled down, uncorked the wine, and cracked out my Techenders post. Which probably explains a lot about that post.
The next day I drove the fifty yards to the Fellows site, expecting I would have to wait for them to open up. In fact they were all there beavering away on an array of old VWs. I had slept in, probably tired after the Techenders event – and my liquid supper the night before.
While Ben, (Perry’s son), got on with the oil leak I wandered around the site, which is truly an Aladdin’s Cave for VW fans. There was Bern’s old pick up truck that he had part exchanged for a Subaru conversion on his Bay. Perry uses it as his daily and says it runs brilliantly.
Before I went I asked if anyone on The Late Bay forum needed anything from Fellows and Barry asked me to get an update on the Scooby conversion on his yellow Bay. Perry told me he hoped it would be ready ‘middle of next week’ ie any time now. He told me to emphasise the ‘hope’ bit. It’s a lovely looking van with a great colour scheme. Barry said that Perry’s comment was far more optimistic than anything he’d heard – fingers crossed that we see it it out and about very soon.
Just outside was a fantastic looking bus, Oskar, which has recently been imported from Greece. The sign-writing is genuine as is everything, (apart from the engine, of course.)
Back to my own cooling system, Ben had found the source of the leak, an O ring seal had perished in the thermostat, and he had fixed it. He suggested I keep an eye on any dampness in that area in future and I took a pic just to remind me.
Perry asked if I would like to have a coffee and read the VW mags in the ‘customer lounge’. I was much happier noseying about amongst the amazing vehicles they have dotted about – and then I found a real stunner. It was hidden away round the side of the workshop. An ambulance with original interior and exterior with working blue lights and siren – just like the Sick Bay. And the same year too. My bus was ready to drive away but they couldn’t get rid of me till I’d been over every bit of it. There was a residents’ parking permit in the window. The present owner lives in Kingston upon Thames, like our friends John and Sue who feature in lots of previous posts on here. I will ask John to look out for it; I’d love to meet up with the owner.
Eventually they sent me on my way but within ten minutes I noticed my red generator light come on. I had seen Ben spraying the area with a lubricant and I thought maybe it was just a bit of slippage on the fan belt and sure enough it stopped pretty quickly. I should have gone straight back however as a couple of hours later, 30 miles south of Manchester it came on and stayed on. I pulled into Keele services and called my trusty Carole Nash breakdown crew. On the phone they said they could not replace my alternator for me but would tow me to the garage of my choice. I rang Stefan at MAC VW but he couldn’t do it before I went to Holland in a couple of days so I decided to turn round and go all the way back to Fellows. Perry and Ben had gone to a funeral but I managed to persuade a very grumpy mechanic to pop in a reconditioned alternator. ( To be fair, he was on his lunch break). The air was pretty blue as he struggled with the belt tightener but eventually managed to sort it, telling me it should be OK but if not, don’t come back!
In the end the alternator was fine and not only got me home but saw us safely to Holland and back to see my son. That trip is my next post in a day or so.
Postscript to the footnote.
Apparently this is the best stuff – and it mixes with ALL colours – Prestone