1972 Volkswagen Bus With a Porsche Engine

When Jim Clayton from Lancashire, bought this 1972 Crossover Bay Window nearly twelve years ago, he knew he had a major project on his hands. But could the Bay stand up to what Jim’s plans entailed? The answer is of course yes; but read on to find out just how this Porsche powered creation evolved…

The Bay was bought as a two owner from new van and quite literally a barn find. But with every panel below the knee needing attention, it was going to take quite a special person to see past that rust, and one even more committed to actually carry out such a restoration. Odd then that the guy to save this T2 wasn’t even a Volkswagen Bus fan at the time and had only started looking for a camper to please his wife, Sharon. Jim is more into his classic vehicles and he’s owned quite a few, from classic bikes to a Tickford Capri. The Bay actually shares garage space with an ultra rare Lister Jaguar.

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Once this VW T2 Bus had been delivered to Jim’s garage, he set about the restoration; he’s an engineer by trade and so did the majority of the work himself. He did pass the van on for paint though, and to get the two seats reupholstered but that came later. The restoration was to take five and a half years in all, but when it emerged from the garage, it was certainly a sight to see… turning heads everywhere it goes.

After strengthening the chassis, the stock 1600cc engine was never part of the equation for this van and was replaced by a three-liter Porsche air-cooled lump from a 911 SC that Jim sourced from a breakers in South Wales. The Porker also gave up its five speed 915 gearbox, oil cooler and the Bosch K-Jetronic fuel injection system. The three-liter lump was chosen, as Jim was adamant that he wanted to stay with an air-cooled engine, even though it would have been easier to fit a water-cooled one.

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During the restoration, Jim uprated all the outriggers with heavier gauge galvanized steel plate and replaced the floor, where it was needed, with galvanized steel too. There’s also a whole load of strengthening around the engine bay, as the Porsche weighs a little more than the one that came from the factory! The entire suspension has been junked and replaced with gas adjustable shocks up front and KYB’s at the rear. This has lowered the van by three and a half inches at the front and two and a half in the rear, there’s a heavy duty anti-roll bar to keep things on an even keel too. There’s an Empi 5 spoke at each corner and these are shod in 195/50/15’s and 195/80/15’s to give a firm but relaxed ride. Jim says that at 70mph, he’s sitting nicely at just about 2000rpm. The bus will move a little faster than that… but of course, never on the public highway!

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To cope with all that power, it was important to upgrade the braking system too; so up front there now resides a set of Rossini discs with competition pads nestled in new VW callipers. At the rear, the standard drum system has been retained, as after advice, it was determined that they would be up for the job.

As you can probably tell, Jim is quite keen on being a little different, so after the van came back from garage, Jim set to it to make it stand out even more. Incidentally, Paul Ashurst, who sprayed the van, said he’d never use this colour on a car again, as it was so difficult a job. The paint is actually Metallic Candy Orange and is normally only used on motorcycles and so only covers a small area. Sharon had seen it though, and, as she was involved with the project from the beginning, had always had this colour in mind. Jim was actually leaning towards matte black, but you can see who won that argument!

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Jim has always fabricated in stainless steel, for both work and pleasure; he once made a little Splitty and took it to the model show at Busiest where it deservedly won Best in Show. Jim fabricated the front splitter on the Bay and also the front bumper as he wanted a “happy” bus and thought this would give the face a nice smile. Those cool brass headlight surrounds are in fact the original ones but with the silver zinc coating that VW apply, removed. Jim had been intending to keep the standard rear lights but after he’d installed the oil catch can, it was found there wasn’t any room. His solution was of course to head to the garage and make a custom set… as you do!

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Inside, the gauges from that 911 dominate the dash, but are a necessity to keep an eye on how things are doing. The seats are also 911 slim sports seats, which were re-trimmed in black and white leather. The Porsche runners were installed after taking the VW’s ones out, so they now sit 3 inches lower and are very comfortable. That cool steering wheel is a one-off, also made by Jim, and has been wrapped in the same leather as the seats. Jim also made his own gear lever, as whilst the Porsche one protrudes into the cabin, it was a little short.

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That mega roof rack is also a one-off and deserving of a mention as it’s made from an old telegraph pole that’s been cut into planks. Jim wanted to ensure the wood was weather-proof so decided to treat the wood to a three month soak in some creosote. Nothing unusual there you might think but Jim could only soak two planks at a time and then went on to leave them for 18 months to dry before he assembled the rack.

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Jim’s van is both a testament to his skill as an engineer and also an example of the individuality that exists in the VW scene; but more than an artistic creation, Jim regularly uses the van too and it’s often seen at VW shows, drawing crowds and comments not least of all when that fantastic sounding Porsche engine opens up. To us though, most of all Jim’s van sums up the best part of the VW scene… a true sense of fun!

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