‘63 VW Bus

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“Have you ever seen a bus with a flap in the roof?”

Just a few short months after buying the 61’ 356 Super 90 barn find, I stumbled across something even more rare that was tucked away in a barn not far away in West Tennessee. I came across this barn find in the same way I came across the 356. I met a guy online by selling him some 356 parts. I had purchased a small hoard of 356 parts from a guy in South Dakota, and in January of 2019 I decided to sell a few of them on the 356 Facebook pages.

I sold a few things overseas and a few things to guys in California, but then I got contacted by a guy needing some engine tin pierces and he said he lived in Jackson Tennessee. I told him that I was headed to Memphis for a car auction the following week and that I could bring the parts to him to save him some shipping costs. He agreed and I loaded up the parts a few days later and headed out to Memphis.

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On the way back from the car auction, Josh Pitts and I stopped to deliver the parts in Jackson, TN. The guys name was David and he showed us his collection of cars, parts, and projects. Most of his cars were American, except for his 356 and a couple newer Volkswagens. I asked him if anyone in the area was into air-cooled Volkswagens and he told me about his friend Terry who lived just up the road. He had a little time to spare so we followed him over to Terry’s house.

We pulled up to Terry’s and it was easy to see he was my kind of guy. Loads of Volkswagens and a few Porsche 914s were sitting outside his barn. Backing up a little— David has told me that Terry had a 1955 VW split window panel van. If you don’t know anything about the split window buses, 1955 is a very early year being the first of the non-barn door buses. I was eager to check it out.

Terry took us into the barn where the 55’ panel van was and told us all about it. It was a neat bus to say the least. He also had a lineup of ‘things’ on one side of the barn, and on the other side, I spotted another bus with a rocking chair and boxes stacked around it. I asked him about it and he proceeded to ask me…

“Have you ever seen a bus with a flap in the roof?”

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I knew instantly that it was a sub-hatch early Westfalia bus. Sub-hatch is short for submarine hatch and it was part of the early Westfalia conversions before they went to pop-top tent style roofs. A friend of mine had always told me that the sub-hatch Westys were rare and pretty desirable. I also remember him telling me about a certain Westfalia package that included a “flip seat” front bench. He always told me you could spot the flip seat easily by the large hinges on either side on the front seat. After I saw that this bus did in fact have a sub-hatch in the roof, I opened the door and saw the flip seat hinge....boy, was I excited.

The rest of the camper interior was still in there with only a few of the smaller rare items missing. I asked Terry if he’d consider selling it. He told me that he hadn’t really thought about it. He acquired the bus sometime in the mid 90’s and hadn’t touched it much since. He let me give him my contact info and I told him to call me if he’d like to sell it. After Terry finished showing us around, we exchanged info, and Josh and I headed back home to Nashville.

The next day I got a call from Terry and he said, “Well, do you have an offer for me?” After a short back and forth we made a deal. Five days later I loaded the kids in the truck and we picked up the bus just a day after my birthday —January 13th, 2019. When we arrived, Terry’s wife had made cookies for the kids and let them play upstairs in their house. They treated us like family and he even helped me drag the bus out of the barn with four locked up wheels. It was a day I’ll never forget!

Once I got the bus home I started cleaning it up. I stripped two layers of paint off to get it back down to the original Turkish Green and Blue White. I posted some pictures on a few Facebook groups page and found out the bus has an extremely rare Westfalia package called SO-35. “SO” is an abbreviation for a German word Sondermodell which means “Special Model.” I was contacted by a guy in Belgium he told me he added my newly acquired bus to the SO-35 registry and it was only the 13th bus know to exist with this package! Another very exciting discovery to say the least. The bus is getting closer and closer every day. I recently had all the rust repairs done by my friend Don in Alabama.

It’s now August and I hope to have the bus back on the road by the end of the year.

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