Most people go into a restoration project with an idea of the work ahead of them, and the Hanchett family was no different. What they weren’t expecting was to find more than 27 pounds of body filler where metal panels should be!
As many Volkswagen Bus fans do, Adrienne Hanchett of Las Vegas found her passion for Volkswagens while in High School – she loved the look of the VW Beetle and dreamed of owning one for her very first car. Having found a 1966 Bug locally in decent shape, it was her grandfather that loaned her the $900 needed to purchase it. She got a job to pay him back and for the necessary repairs and the car became a father and daughter project for Adrienne and her dad, Dave McCaster, who used his skills to handle all the electrical and engine work, body and paint. That car would be Adrienne’s daily driver until it was hit by an intoxicated driver; the Bug was totaled.
It was also during these formative school years that she met the man who would become her husband. She and Emmitt met through the Volkswagen scene, and since then they have both had an affinity for the Volkswagen style.
Years went by with the couple living their lives, growing their family to include three children; yet they knew another vintage vehicle would be on the horizon eventually.
This 1966 Deluxe Kombi was found in Merlin, Oregon, through an online classified listing and looked to be in pretty good shape. But unbeknownst to the couple, the body of the bus was comprised mostly of Bondo body filler. Together they removed over 27 pounds of filler from the driver’s side alone! It seems the previous owner decided to patch the rust holes not with metal panels, but with spray foam and body filler. As a result, Adrienne and Emmitt, along with their network of friends would spend the next four years rebuilding every piece of this Deluxe.
The body work was tackled by Washington County Collision in Hurricane, Utah. Michael Carnell worked his magic throughout the process, including handling the one of a kind paint job. The two-tone cream colour scheme was chosen by Emmitt. Adrienne was leaning more toward a turquoise and butterscotch combo, but they left the decision in the hands of fate; the toss of a coin came up in Emmitt’s favour.
To mirror the cream exterior, a natural tweed fabric was chosen to cover the seats and interior panels and headliner. It was installed by Noel Cruz of Bryan’s Upholstery, also located in Hurricane. The flooring became a bit of a challenge as Adrienne wanted to use coco mat instead of traditional carpeting but could not find a company willing to make a custom set to fit the bus. Taking matters into her own hands, determined to get the look she wanted, Adrienne cut and bound mats made of jute to fit the space.
Michael Anderson of DUBFAB in St. George, Utah went above and beyond in building a custom 4/ inch narrowed front beam and rear end suspension. The front beam has adjusters fitted with 3.5 inch drop spindles to lower the ride. He also cut the rear beam and installed quarter- inch steel reinforcements to make a low profile transmission cradle. The cradle provides clearance, and a stronger, smoother ride. His work continued with custom tie-down harnesses, built into the frame, which make trailing a breeze. He also installed an Airkewld disc brake kit on the front end for added safety.
The rims on this beauty are custom fabricated smoothies built by Joe, which Adrienne found on thesamba.com. The front pair are 15 x 5.5”, and the rear are a wide 15 x 7”, both sporting Continental brand tyres (175/55R 15 front and 205/60R 15 rear). Mike of Washington County Collision painted the wheels to match the bus perfectly.
Adrienne’s intention was to debut the finished Deluxe at Las Vegas’ premier VW event, The Elite & Just Clean VW Show, in the fall of 2013. Unfortunately it was only weeks away, and the bus wasn’t quite completed yet.
They brought the bus home to Las Vegas and began assembling it with the help of friends Joe and Odie. Deluxe belt-line trim was installed, and the cream colour trim insert by Creative Engineering made finishing off the exterior an easy task. With the interior and exterior complete, it was time to install the drivetrain. Odie built the 2110 cc engine seen in the photos; this is what Adrienne calls the ‘driving engine’. She also has a ‘show engine’, which is a big 2276 cc power plant built by Telly Carsten of Jet Performance in Las Vegas. Either choice pairs well with the street performance transmission built by Danny of Artigas Transmissions.
“The restoration was rushed and stressful; every weekend for months we travelled from Las Vegas to Utah to work on it. We likely won’t do that again, that’s for sure!” Adrienne said.
Now that the Deluxe Kombi is complete, the family plans on enjoying using the bus and taking it to more events in the area. Though it’s a possibility you will find this beauty in the classifieds section of your favourite VW website one day, as it may be on the block to fund their next project: a complete restoration of a 1952 Beetle. The family also has a 1960 Panel Van waiting in the wings as well.
If they do decide to part ways with this Deluxe, the new owners will want for nothing; this bus is among the most complete and stunning examples you will find anywhere. And, when they do get around to restoring their next vehicle, Adrienne has her fingers crossed that next time she will win the toss of the coin.