Saturday, December 29, 2012

And now for something very different...

VW buses has been the basis of the iconic Westfalia campervan. They are built on the philosophy of taking things nice and slow, smell the roses along the way sort of things. There are legions of VW bus enthusiasts in Malaysia who collect and lovingly restore these machines and generally subscribe to this image.

At the birth place of the VW buses however, a group of people turn their T1 micro bus into a rip snorting 520hp racing van. At the first glance it looks like a fiberglass body that mimics the general profile of a T1 microbus that is mounted on a DTM type of racing chassis. However, as I dig further I found out that it was a genuine microbus, albeit heavily modified. However it retains the classic under tray chassis and the rear engine, trans axle and trailing arm suspension layout. The engine comes from a Porsche 911 air cooled twin turbo charged engine (the last of air cooled 911 engine), Porsche trans axle/gearbox, Porsche rear trailing arms and brakes. The original VW front torsion bars suspensions has been replaced by Porsche Macpherson struts type. The end result is something very different, however it is still a VW T1 microbus in spirit because the parts sourced from Porsche 911 has their roots in the original VW Beetle, which the T1 itself also based on. Their shape and dimension is mostly compatible with the T1 chassis, even some of their bolt holes are a direct fit to original T1 engine mounting.

The most impressive thing about this T1 bus is that it is road legal and does not look too different from a standard version. Apart from the racing wheels and slightly lowered ride height, it could have passed as a yet another T1 microbus.

It started as a standard VW T1 Microbus

The original under tray was rebuilt and strengthened with additional braces

Full roll cage for protection and added strength to the body and chassis

The forward cab was similarly strengthened with a raised central for gear shifter mounting
The body was given extra width ensure the fat tyres stay inside the body works and slight increase of length to accommodate the longer 6 cylinders Porsche engine and trans axle gearbox. There is no changes to the dimension of the original floor pan.

Porsche 911 air cooled 6 cylinders engine mated to the engine bay. There is little need to alter the original engine bay.

The engine fits snugly into the engine bay.
Porsche suspension arms and brakes.

The original torsion bar is replaced by coil over shock Macpherson struts.

Fully fitted underside

The final result. A sight not unfamiliar to any T1 owners, except that it looks like it has taken steroid and went to the gym!

Lest anyone think that it is just a track day car, it has proper seats for passengers with full racing harness and it is road legal.

First run of the bus, also dubbed as the "FB1 Race Taxi". It carried 3 passengers and lap the circuit rather briskly.

Watch how it chased down and overtaken a Porsche 911GT3 and an Aston Martin on the famous Spa Francochamp racing circuit.

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Malaysian campervan builder (update)

Wing Campervan has recently updated the JinBei based model with a more usable layout. Gone were the original seats that cannot be converted into bed. Now there are proper bench seats that can be converted into sleeping berth for three person with ample space, there is also a fully enclosed bathroom equipped with a portable potty and shower. Other amenities include a washing basin and cabinet for cooking with a portable stove. The camper comes with clean water tank and a grey water tank that stored the used water which can be drained and disposed off properly at the appropriate facility. The water supply is powered by a pressure sensitive 12v water pump. The standard interior height is 165cm, which means anyone taller will have to stoop slightly when standing up, but it is sufficient for one to stand up to change and move about inside the van. The

This is an exciting development for campervan lovers in Malaysia, because Mr Chan of Wing Campervan is building conversion kits for standard JinBei Van, which itself is a clone of Toyota's older HiAces high roof model. As such the conversion kit will fit the old HiAce as well.

Mr Chan of Wing Campervan cam be reached at 0102266456.

The base vehicle is a standard Jin Bei high roof windows van. It is dimensionally identical to the older Toyota Hiace van.
A 12v fan is included at the rear

The bench is also a storage compartment.

The interior lights are LED for low energy cosumption. The grey coloured door is the door for the bathroom/toilet.

The kitchenette is equipped with a washing basin with a faucet.

When the table tops are lowered, the benches are converted into sleeping berth
Benches in day time configuration

The bathroom/toilet is equipped with porta-potty with self-contained flushing water tank and black water tank.

Sunday, November 4, 2012

A modular camper

A US based company named Teal Camper takes an innovative approach to campers. Instead of fully built up units, it provide components that you need to build the campers to the size that suits you.

The unique modular concept enable campers to be built in Lego blocks-like fashion. The basic parts consist of the wall sections ( with windows or without ), corner section, flat roof or pop-up roof, single door or double door. The beauty of this concept allows you to start with one configuration and then you can upgrade and expand to something bigger.

The built up unit can be mounted on a flat tray trailer to be a caravan or mounted onto a pickup truck cargo bed to convert it into a campervan. Or it can be a standalone structure if you so desired. Teal also supplies interior fittings like cabinets, benches, table, washing sink and even a bathroom.
An example of a built up Teal camper
The basic components of Teal camper

The pop-up roof. It is complete with lifting mechanism, windows and netting, it's size can be altered by adding middle sections.

Modular interior fittings

Cabinet and washing sink

Unit mounted on a flatbed trailer
Unit mounted on the cargo bed of a pickup truck

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Camping at Ulu Langat

One of the problem of modern society is that fathers are getting less involved in their son's life. It is not just about the hours, it is about fulfilling the natural role as a model for their son's to look up to. In the old days, the sons get to observe how their fathers work at the farm or at their trade, their fathers will in turn, instruct, teach and pass their living skill to their sons. In today's urban setting, that setting is lost, the men spend their working hours isolated from their sons, and it is their mothers who have more time with the boys and we have a generation of boys brought up by their mothers. Don't get me wrong, boys need their mothers just as much, but I think the fathers need to reclaim their rightful role in the father-son relationship. 

With this in mind, a group of my friends decided that we should have a father-son outing. What's better for male bonding time than camping? It has been a while since I actually camped ( my son said that campervan outing is not counted as real camping!). There were a few suggestion for the location, we want a camp site with river and forest but we do not want commercialized camp sites, at the same time the place should be accessible by family cars. Finally we settled on Pangsun at Ulu Langat.

Although it was not on high land, the place was surprisingly cold at night, it was a good thing that we were brought our sleeping bags. The men were happy that they were away from their wives and enjoyed their beer and BBQ, the boys were happy that they were away from their mothers while they rolled in the mud and having their dads teaching them how to start fire, setup tent and cook. We need more this type of outing!

My boy and I at the campsite, with my L300 4WD van. I am planning to get a roof top tent for it.

The morning light. My phone camera and photo taking skill does not do justice to the actual scene, one has to be there to really appreciate the magic of the morning sun light.

The water at the stream was crystal clear.

My friend's specialty, bamboo BBQ chicken. It was delicious!

The tents were set up by the boys, with instruction from their fathers.

Monday, October 8, 2012

Slide on ambulance canopy

I saw this interesting slide on box that converts a pickup at USJ1 industrial park. From the faded marking it says it used to be a government ambulance. My guess is that it was designed to slide on to a Land Rover pickup tray to convert it into an ambulance quickly. To my eyes, it looks like a perfect candidate for conversion in to a compact campervan. It as full heights rear doors and standing interior head room for average adults. The best thing is that it can quickly convert any pickup truck into a camper with minimal modification.

I wondered how many of these type of ambulance bodies were used in Malaysia, it must be quite rare because I have yet to come across other similar units. The discovery of this slide-on body leads me to search for similar type of slide-on in the Internet and I found a Canadian company called MTC that produce the very type of bodies that I was looking for. According to MTC, the slide-on body is meant to be used as a standby that can quickly convert any pickup truck into an ambulance for work crew who works in remote places where it may be difficult to call for ambulance services.

The cab-over section can easily provide sleeping berth  for 2 with some internal extension.

The body is made of fiberglass and it looks like it is still in good condition despite the dull and pitted exterior

The slide-on ambulance body made by MTC

It is designed to quickly convert any pickup truck into a functional ambulance when it normal ambulance services may not be immediately available.

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Hippie Van

I saw this VW campervan at PJ SS2 Paramount. From far it looks like a regular bay window, but I soon noticed that there is something extra on the roof and the spare type at the front hint that it is something special. It turned out to be a fully fledged VW campervan, not an original Westfalia, but an Australian conversion. The van has certainly seen better days, but all of its camper equipment and parts are still there, and it looks road worthy. Like an aging flower child from the 60's, it may have grizzled with age but it remained stubbornly independent and unbowed.

I wished I have gotten to meet it's owner. There must be many interesting story to be told about this campervan. I sincerely hope that it will be continue to roam on the road and continue to explore the world and bring back tales of travels and adventure.

The first give-away is the bull bar mounted spare tyre

The campervan was parked at the Shell Petrol station at PJ SS2 Paramount

The gas tank compartment and water filler cap are clearly visible. The stickers tells us its past journeys at the state of Victoria, Australia.

Even thought the body is rust streaked, it looks to be in good shape.

The pop top looks like it has not been deployed for a long time.

The site power socket is of the Australian type

Thursday, July 26, 2012

LandRover Ambulance as campervan?

Purpose built ambulance is a natural candidate for campervan conversion. It has the interior space designed to carry people on stretcher. Most have standing room for paramedics to perform their duty. Most come with dual alternators to power the emergency equipments. Military spec ambulance are even more interesting due to their need to have some sort of off-road capabilities. In one of previous post, I have written about another Landrover conversion which is based on a Luton van body, however a factory built body is always better because it is properly designed engineered to match the chassis.

Recently a Landrover based ambulance is spotted at It was previously operated by the Malaysian Red Crescent as an civilian ambulance, from the look of the photo posted on the site,  it looks like the Defender 127 ambulance type. Which means it is is factory built ambulance body. While the photo is sketchy, I managed to find other photos of the same body type. This would be an ideal candidate for an overlander expedition camper with minimal modification! While it may not offer standing room in it's interior, it is sufficiently roomy to accommodate living space for two person.

This is the posted picture of the Defender 127 on sale on

This is a sample picture of the same type.

The rear gate.

The interior has room for four on stretchers, but it will very cramped. There is really no proper standing room, except for people with compact frame.

For those of us who own a Land Rover with standard wagon body type, it is still possible to build a cosy camper without any modification to the original body structure.  Below is another example of how a standard Landy can transformed into a very livable campervan.