About Our Vanagon (Morty)

In March of 2012, we impulsively decided to purchase a 1984 VW Vanagon. It didn't run, and it was white with flames, but we could imagine the potential. More than that, we could imagine our lives, and the adventures we would have, with this van.



Since Mike is a Subaru mechanic, we swapped out the useless motor for a reliable Subaru EJ22 engine. This will allow us to haul stuff (like a trailer or toys), get up mountains, and keep up with the flow of traffic on freeways. We heart Subarus! Mike tackled the ECU (the van's internal electrical wiring and computer) himself. That took awhile (and a lot of tape).




In the process, we kept finding more and more things that needed upgrading and restoring. Since the van had been sitting in the high desert, the body was in great shape, but anything and everything that was rubber was dried out and cracked. We had to order all new window and door seals.




The springs and suspension needed to be replaced (so we upgraded). We also upgraded the tires to big beefy truck tires, and lifted the van a bit (see very bottom picture). This will allow us to take the roads less traveled (and tour through South America!). 




The months (and the dollars) started piling up. But we persevered and trudged on. We saved up for a new paint job. Bye, bye, flames!



We got the back and side windows tinted and installed (so no one can look in on us while we're sleeping).


December 2013 update - we got a new windshield! The old one was unfortunately cracked. Here's a pic of it installed:


Also replaced the old rusty bumpers with some new sweet matte black ones:





January 2014 - we started replacing all the insides! The water-damaged carpets and floor insulation were torn out, and we upgraded the door panels with sound mat and weather insulation. We should be cozy when we decide to tour through Canada.

sound mat installed by yours truly!


April 2014 - the van started! The motor is completely rebuilt and looks and sounds amazing.





June 2014 - I installed the door seals - intimidating at first, but like anything, really easy once you get the hang of it!



We put in a "Z-bed" which folds down flat. You put a big foam mat on that ridged part, to make a queen sized bed. 



Although I scrubbed and cleaned the upholstery for an hour, we decided to replace it. 30 years means there's been a lot of butts on that seat.

We christened the van with the name we would have given our son, if we were going to have kids: Mortimer Danger Manser. "Morty" for short. And yes, Danger's his middle name. 


We decided to drive back to Bend up the California coast. The gauges (gas, temperature) and other electrical stuff needed third party help. Electricians we are not. Westy Werks, in San Luis Obispo, sees about 40 VW vans a week, so we handed our electrical issues over to the experts. 

June 2014 - Morty is up and running, and useable, although we are still working on the interior. 



Black ABS panels have been installed into Morty! They are rugged and easily cleaned - perfect for our camping adventures. Also they'll be easy to remove if we want to add additional insulation - many of our plans include the Yukon, Canada, and northernmost reaches of the U.S., so we may need to add to what we've already got.

July 2014: Morty's seats have been dropped off at Blue Pine Designs, a local upholstery and furniture store in Bend. The owner has decades of experience with hot rod upholstery, so we know our Vanagon's insides are in good hands!

November 2014: OK, so it took awhile, but we finally got Morty's insides done:




We can't wait to get Morty on the road for real! With that huge back bed, we'll be super comfy. I'm hoping to get a Yeti cooler and some good storage for him, so we can do extended trips.

**UPDATE** We have camped in Morty numerous times and even let our friends enjoy his comfy back bed. It is spectacular! When you're lying in bed you can peek out the back window and enjoy the stars. We received a Yeti cooler as a wedding gift, and it is truly bomb proof and the perfect little pseudo-refrigerator. Just click on "Morty" on the blog labels (on the right side) to view all our recent Vanagon adventures!

Now we're working on restoring Cordelia, our "beachy" van with a sunroof and wood floors. Pics to come soon!


If you'd like to have your own Vanagon or Westfalia restored or converted with a Subaru engine, please feel free to contact Subietech HQ for a quote: (562) 388-4222 or subietech@gmail.com.