75 VW Bus - Build for north to south america


New member
My girlfriend and I bought a 75 bus in Hope, Alaska and tore it apart in hopes of driving from Alaska to Argentina.

EDIT - if you want to check out where we are at now you can follow us on instagram or check out our blog.




It needed more work than we wanted to do. We figured out how to paint, weld and do body work through mostly forum research.


It was a long process, mostly done in our gravel driveway.


Post Paint, new pop up, yakima rack system. We just used a $25 paint gun from Napa

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New member
Trying to figure out how to put a Subaru in there.


1997 2.2 Subaru motor.


Piecing together an interior

Crappy picture, but BEFORE


AFTER (during the build)


I used a new radiator made for a Dodge Ram. It's dual core and fits between the frame rails well. Here it is with its scoop.




New member
We were 4 months into the build and losing steam. We felt in way over our heads with the body work alone. Now I was trying to figure out how to get the Subaru running correctly, had to find a bigger transmission and a bunch of other stuff. We wanted to leave on the trip, but hadn't really had time to research as we had been consistently working on the bus trying to get it going.

It's coming together at this point, at least it looked pretty good. Seeing visual progress really helped us continue.


I modified a jetta starter that worked with my transmission, it was much stronger so it would turn the subaru.


Small stuff kept coming up. Constantly having to tap new threads and deal with general rust issues had me cursing the fact that we bought this $500 a bus. We would have saved thousands and months of time by buying one in California and shipping it up to work on it.


We would order parts, pay insane shipping prices to Alaska, and then deal with the companies having shipped the wrong parts.


We had hoped to leave mid summer, suddenly it was snowing.


We moved it into a garage in hopes of finishing it quickly. We found some Eurovan seats for sale, a giant upgrade that recline all the way and have arm rests. We modified the bulkhead and added a swivel.




New member
We ordered some conversion parts from the UK like the throttle body reverser and a modified throttle cable system.


We drove the bus. It didn't like to stop. So we tore apart the brakes.


Learning to rebuild every system became sort of fun, the deeper we got the more comfortable we felt doing mechanical work. We also were feeling that we could deal with on the road issues better.



We drove it a bit more after the brakes and new shocks. It was doing better but we still needed to do more interior work and find the 091 larger transmission. But it was nice to drive it outside during the warmer than normal winter.



New member
We decided to use a Summit Racing generic heater, mounted it between the front seats. It's only 8" high so we could still walk through once we mounted a wood plate on top of it. We routed it through the stock piping in the dash so we have defrost. We also have one tube running forward toward our feet and one heading back into the "living room"


We ran into engine issues, it turned out to be a mad MAF. The MAF was reading full load even at 0 throttle. So when we turned the engine over fuel would pour out of the exhaust. It was a bit hard to track down but eventually we got a hold of one of these computers that reads all of your OBD2 sensors and we saw what the MAF was doing.


You might be seeing a lot of silver lining around, that is the EZ Cool / Dynamat mix we did for sound / insulation.

We found a donor bus in Alaska and took their dash panel. Our speedometer wasn't working correctly, and fuel gauge was totally inoperable. We modified it to fit this 4 " 4 in 1 gauge so we can monitor the engine without using our OBDII Bluetooth app.


The two red LED's indicate when the radiator fans turn on (they turn on staggered from the factory 200F and 210F).


Finally took it on it's first real road trip. We encountered a ton of wind, rain, and snow. The mudflaps helped a lot. The wind tossed it around like crazy and we knew we had to get a heavy duty sway bar. Also, at 55MPH we were at 3000 RPM. We would blow the engine up running 65 MPH all the time. We needed to find the transmission.

We installed an electric pump for the windshield sprayer, stock it is sort of like a bicycle pump you pump with your hand. It was inoperable (of course).


We also decided to replace all steering components, ball joints etc. Every rubber joint, seal etc has been just destroyed because this thing sat around in salty environments for years.


Finally found the transmission I needed, had it regeared for a taller 4th gear, and had it at my house in january! It was time to start planning the trip.



New member
We decided, lets hit the road. We put a few hundred miles on her a packed up. We had already quit our jobs, we had to store all our stuff in Alaska.


Interior came out pretty much how we wanted.


You can see the Engel fridge in there.


We added a rocket box in Seattle. This made the world of difference, being able to store everything.


We had a roll cage shop in Sacramento build us a custom swing out bumper for our Tire (AT2 General Grabber) and two jerry cans. We decided to just use lighter plastic cans, and we glad we did. 4 Gallons was plenty.


200 Watts of Solar


Finally got a HD sway bar. It made the world of difference.


Now we're making dust clouds in Baja :)



Expedition Leader
Nice work! Only concern I would have is the placement of the radiator and especially the fans - looks like it will catch road debrie and could hit / fill up with mud off road. Seems like it would be possible to put the fans at least on top of the radiator inside of the scoop for more protection. Or go with a front mounted radiator like some of the later bay window busses - I've seen them integrated into a front "off road" type bumper even - was hard at first to know it was there.

Good luck with the trip!


I have always loved the vw vans.Never had one but they have always turned my head.

It never fails to amaze me on what people can do when they decide to do it.Cool build.


I started reading and had that feeling of "well this is never going to end in an actual trip" (I mean, I'd have given up long ago!), and by the end of the thread I was smillng and the world felt new and full of potential goodness. Go you!! Love the bus and your trip, and *major* cheers to your stamina.


Is outside
Very nice job!

The cargo box really does decrease the amount of shifting around things to convert it for sleeping.


New member
Actually, don't have to move anything to sleep, that is what the pop top is for. I realize now that I posted this in the wrong forum but all of your comments are very welcome.

The radiator design is interesting indeed. We wanted to preserve the looks of the front as we spent many hours resurrecting it after the previous owner used it to push the lawn ornament of a vehicle around to move it out of the way (it was in his yard for 10+ years). It was trashed, and was never designed to hold at tire as many people do, many hours were spent making it look semi-original and we didn't want to ruin it with a 2005+ Brazilian radiator. The in the engine bay radiator design hasn't been perfected, and we actually bought the two honda civic radiators and installed the mounts to do it that way originally. It was sort of not perfected (IE People were having major issues with it) and we new putting a giant radiator underneath that would get hopefully enough airflow. Alaska temps don't allow us to test these radiator theories and so we went for the under the body. I have paid very close attention while driving, really the biggest problem is high middle sections while driving Baja 1000 "shortcuts" to surf towns we have visited along the trip. I pay close attention while driving all the time but yeah, it's not quite ideal.

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