Bay Window Kombi

kombi-shoot-004.jpg kombi-shoot-004.jpg
kombi-shoot-021.jpg kombi-shoot-021.jpg
kombi-shoot-024.jpg kombi-shoot-024.jpg
kombi-shoot-032.jpg kombi-shoot-032.jpg

Murray and Lillian Chamberlain spent three years restoring a 1977 Volkswagen Transporter (commonly called a Bay Window Kombi)

Bay Window Kombi
Bay Window Kombi

As Volkswagen enthusiasts and members of the Central VW Club, Murray and Lillian Chamberlain have owned and restored numerous VW Beetles (two of which they still own: a ‘61 and ‘69) and have a late model Golf GTI, so when they began looking for a camper there was only one choice: a VW Kombi.

Murray says that most of the vans coming up for sale were expensive, pretty rough and not to their taste, so when a rolling shell tin top 1977 Bay Window Transporter came to their notice only a few kilometres from home, a price was negotiated and the purchase made.

The couple carried out all of the restoration work and interior cabinetry themselves, with the exception of the final painting, which was done by Wanganui auto painter and friend, Dave Taylor, who specialises in classic vehicles; and the upholstery, which was done by Wanganui trimmers Shaun Terry Upholstery.

"Dave has done such an awesome job," Murray says, "and Shaun and Josh from Shaun Terry Upholstery took a real interest in the project to achieve the results we were wanting."

And the obvious love involved in the project has paid off – the three-year restoration was finished just in time for the 2009 VW Nationals in Hawke’s Bay, where the couple won the best Type 2 Camper class.

The ultimate pay off, of course, is that since completion Murray and Lillian have travelled around East Cape, the Waikato and the Wairarapa, and take every opportunity to enjoy weekend getaways in the Kombi.

"We have made some great friends along the way and all going well, look forward to many more years of happy camping," he says.

The restoration

Murray says the running gear was the first to be restored, with new shocks, wheel bearings, brake system, sway bar, etc. Fortunately the chassis was in good order, including the outriggers and floor; the same could not be said for all of the doors, the rear lower corners and front panel, and all the usual rust places. So the work on the body began with stripping to bare metal, replacing rusty or damaged metal and priming.

It was at this stage a Devon pop-top was acquired and the nerve-wracking job of cutting and fabricating the roof structure began in order to accommodate the fibreglass roof.

Then it was off to the painter. Murray says they chose the original pastel white for the top and Bahama blue for the base.

"We like this combo because we think the colours look equally good retro as they do in modern company. Also they are both VW colours, although Bahama blue was not used on Kombis."

The wiring and lamps were then replaced and tested, the windows and seals replaced and the rest of the body components fitted.

After insulating the body, a complete upholstery makeover was undertaken. The original front seats have been retained as they are very comfy and feel right. A rock and roll three-quarter bed mechanism was used for the rear seat/bed and a new cab roof lining was fitted. Murray then began the task of building the cabinets to the couple’s own design using ideas from Devon, Westfalia and Danbury. All new fittings are installed and run off either LPG, 240V AC or 12V DC with auto charging. Under-floor water and waste tanks were fitted, along with a modern sound system.

"An ex-South African VW two-litre type 4 engine and matching gearbox was located, which were rebuilt and detailed and now push the bus along very nicely," Murray says.


Keep up to date with news by signing up to's free newsletter or by liking us on Facebook