M16 (old Studebaker farm truck)– big trip to the mainland

In the last 10 days I got the “new” intake and exhaust manifolds installed, the gas tank cleaned out and an inspection of the dragging right front brake completed.


New manifolds from Ted as old exhaust manifold had a large crack.


Generally this truck is super easy to work on but those big old wheels/tires are not light!


Time for either front wheel cylinder kits or possibly new wheel cylinders. I didn’t have time to deal with that before this trip but it is on the list for ‘soon’. 


Previous owner had had the tank cleaned and painted by a radiator shop which was great except that whoever put the tank back together used so much silicone sealant on the sending unit mount that all kinds of little pieces of dried silicone were loose in the tank and kept intermittently clogging the tank outlet.

All that work ended up happening in short order as I was preparing to use the M-16 to go pick up 38 bales of straw that will end up in the walls of a new structure we are building (slip-straw walls – a mix of straw and clay, see https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iSApSrd8VwY if you are interested in how slip straw walls work).


I wanted to take the M-16 as it could easily hold all the straw in one load whereas if I took my F250 I would have needed to make 2 trips, possibly more, and the ferry costs over $100 per round trip.


Empty on the trip to the mainland for straw


38 bales of straw fit no problem


Straw all tarped-up for the ferry ride. BC Ferries considers straw or hay to be dangerous goods due to the potential for fire so the load had to be well tarped and I had to fill out the dangerous goods paperwork.


Safely home, rearranging the load so it will fit into the carport/tent.

The old Studebaker ran as smoothly as I could have hoped for although travelling at maybe 50 km/h (30 MPH) it takes a while to get anywhere. Only one person honked at me for driving slowly and ironically that was very close to a sign  requesting people to respect slow moving farm vehicles.


Also, it seems some fumes from the engine or gas tank are making their way into the cab so I ended up getting a headache by the time I was finished the about 60 miles of driving today. I did get pretty good at shifting without grinding the gears though (it doesn’t have synchromesh in any gears – transmission is aptly name a ‘crashbox’). Those fumes will have to be dealt with prior to any future long trips.

Oh, and regarding the sticking brakes: the pedal wasn’t returning when I took my foot off and after investigating many things it turned out to be sticky linkage. My M16 originally had power assisted brakes so the linkage is much more complicated than on my parts truck which had no power assist. Anyhow, after lubricating the linkage it was better but still not good so I added an extra return spring and it works nicely now.

Here is a photo of the structure which will have slip-straw wall insulation. (from a few months ago, it has a roof on it now). The clay for the slip straw was sourced locally: we just dug it out of the ground.



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Bikes on Westy and Wasser Stopper

We got over to Pachena Bay on the west coast of Vancouver Island for a few days last week. It is a gorgeous place and the campsite is great: clean, friendly staff, etc.


I finally got the “how to store 4 bikes efficiently” question sorted out: I found a 3rd bike attachment for the Paul Chen rack and put the 3 full size bikes there and our 6 year old’s bike can go on the roof pretty easily. I made a bracket to hold the small bike in the luggage rack so it can go up or come down quickly plus I can pop the top with it up there (last year with a big bike up there I couldn’t pop the top without bringing down the bike – quite inconvenient).


I added a wood support to the Paul Chen bike rack as I was a bit worried it might break off with 3 bikes on there when I hit big pot holes at speed on logging roads.

It drizzled a bit while we were at Pachena Bay so I had occasion to use the “Wasser Stopper” westy tent cover for the first time. It seemed to be quite effective.


Update to previous posts:

  • I need to space the skid plate down so it doesn’t interfere with the HCHC oil pan when the engine is torquing but haven’t had a chance to deal with that yet.
  • I had a shop install the new PS pump (which was a bit of a painful experience on it’s own) and unfortunately the new pump is as noisy as the old one.

One last thing: the Dometic fridge usually works well for us but this trip it experienced a problem I had never seen before. I tested the fridge on propane 2 times just before the trip and all was fine. Then when we arrived at our destination it would not light on propane. The orange light that usually flashes until the fridge lights and then goes steady once the propane is burning would just go on continuously immediately without the igniter ever clicking a single time (and of course the propane not burning). I tried numerous times over the first two days and then on the third day it finally lit up normally – starting to think a truckfridge or something like that might be the way to go… always something. 🙂

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Engine Skid Plate installed – Bostig syncro vanagon

I finished installing the skid plate and the crank pulley is now protected so I am happy about that, but I do need to look into things as the addition of the skid plate seems to have caused a vibration/noise issue at certain RPMs and engine loads.


Next I want to install the 2″ receiver hitch which will need some modifications as it was made for a stock engined vanagon. In the image below you can see the bar that used to attach to the stock VW engine cradle will need to be modified to bolt to the Bostig skid plate – well maybe you can see that…


Posted in Syncro Stuff, Uncategorized, Westy Stuff | 2 Comments

Summer’s coming – westy trips on the mind

Summer will be here before you know it so I want to make sure the westy is ready to go so I got started today.

Last 2 summers I had to stow oldest daughter’s bike on the roof which was less than convenient.



I plan to put an additional rack on the back for the coming summer and I have a 2” receiver hitch and rack so the plan is to use that. I’ll have to modify the receiver hitch though as it was made to bolt to a stock syncro skid plate. So before that can happen I need to install the Bostig skid plate.

The first step to installing the Bostig skid plate was to get the old power steering reservoir mounting bracket out of the way (the Bostig kit mounts the PS fluid reservoir elsewhere, as you can see below).



You can see the old bracket that needed to be removed just behind the PS pump.



The PS resevoir bracket – removed.

I wasn’t’ really sure how I was going to get it out of there as it is welded in place and there is not a lot of room in that vicinity, but luckily there was just enough room to get in there with a cut off wheel on my die-grinder.


It ended up coming out reasonably easily and I got the area cleaned up, primed and painted.

Next step is installing the Bostig skid plate. It is 3/8” think and really heavier duty than I need but I wanted something to protect the crank pulley area of the engine in case I back into a stump or something.


That crank pulley looks rather exposed, the skid plate will solve that. (old photo before I installed the new muffler, etc.)


PS – gotta love the Bostig skid plate video.      

Posted in Syncro Stuff, Westy Stuff | 2 Comments

M-16 Studebaker working…

Fired up the studebaker for a trip to the gravel pit a couple of days ago. Needed to get a yard of gravel for patching potholes in the driveway. Should have got 2 yards actually but it makes for a good excuse to take the M-16 out for another short trip sometime soon.

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August Camping Trip

We got out for a little trip up Vancouver Island in early August this past summer.  Vancouver Island has so many beautiful places to explore. This trip we saw the picturesque Buttle Lake, gorgeous Myra Falls and Horne Lake Caves all for the first time. Westy ran flawlessly as usual.


Camping at the Mount Washington parking lot (free and not at all crowded) on the way ‘up-island’.


Ralph River campsite on Buttle Lake


Myra Falls near the south end of Buttle Lake is pretty spectacular.

Beautiful BC has so many lovely places, one could easily spend every summer exploring only this province but now that the kids are getting older we are planning on venturing further afield in coming summers.

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Finally, a westy trip (Pachena Bay)!

Happily, we got out for a short trip in the westy this past week.  We traveled to Pachena Bay (near Bamfield) on the west coast of Vancouver Island. The first 2 days there were for a class school trip for our eldest daughter. Our family stayed on for an extra day to cycle around the area and visit Bamfield and then traveled to our old favourite camp spot at Rathtrevor Provincial park.


Pachena Bay near Bamfield, BC

The beach at Pachena Bay is gorgeous. The kids had fun in the waves and the beach was almost deserted except for people we traveled with. The campsite there is excellent too: nice staff, clean facilities, great sites, some right on the edge of the beach.


Pachena Bay campsite



Near north end of the west Coast Trail

Next time we get to the Bamfield area I want to try going up the logging roads circled in red in the image below as I suspect the view would be incredible. We were a bit short of time for that this trip.


Westy was well loaded down… I need to find a more convenient method of stowing eldest daughter’s bike. I may add another rack at the back once I have the high capacity oil pan and engine skid plate in place. (soon hopefully)


Westy with 4 bikes and lots of stuff…

The beach at Rathtrevor Provincial Park (on the East coast of Vancouver Island) didn’t disappoint either although it was interesting to notice the differences: sand at Pachena was noticeably finer and the waves much bigger, more people of course at Rathtrevor, and the view of the coastal mountains.


Beach at Rathtrevor Provincial Park with coastal mountains in the background.

All in all the westy ran nicely although I decided that given as at present I only have a dirt/gravel driveway to work in I am going to pay someone to install the new HC/HC oil pan (Bostig’s high-capacity, high-clearance pan for the Zetec engine). After that I can install the Bostig engine skid plate and then possibly a 2″ receiver hitch that I saved from a previous syncro. It mounted to the factory syncro skid plate thing so I’ll have to modify it somewhat.

We are planning a few more ‘westy trips’ this summer although where to remains to be seen…

Oh, one somewhat sad note: Rathtrevor Provincial Park no longer has an “over-flow” camping area. Until this year, one could arrive any day in the busy summer season and still get a place to stay but now they have turned the ‘overflow’ lot into more regular campsites (in pursuit of more revenue I suppose). All sites are reserve-able so the net effect of that is that if one wants to stay there in the busy summer season you best make your reservations in January. So much for spontaneous trips including a stay at Rathtrevor.  Sad as it has been our favourite place to camp for close to a decade (and we certainly don’t plan our camping trips 6 months in advance).

Posted in Westy Stuff | 10 Comments

No salty roads for the Syncro


After all the work that has gone into the drive-train and body of the syncro, at this point I can’t bring myself to drive it on salty roads. I know in some ways it is sad to take the van off the road during winter as it is such a capable vehicle on snowy roads but my thinking is I want it to be around for many years of (mostly summer) trips so… I have canceled the insurance for now and I will sacrifice other vehicles to the salty roads instead.

Posted in Syncro Stuff | 4 Comments

Syncro Westfalia with OME Shocks and syncro.org Springs on Washboard Roads

Last week we went for a short camping trip on Vancouver Island. We ended up at Nitinat Lake which involved driving about 100 kilometres on gravel roads which included some washboard and rough/pot-holed sections.



Forestry campsite at Nitinat Lake – right next to the beach.

This was the first time I drove any distance on a gravel road since rebuilding the westy drivetrain and suspension and I must say I am very happy with how the van drives over both washboard and rough roads (at least when loaded up with 4 people and our bikes and camping gear). I am pretty sure with no load the ride wouldn’t have been quite as smooth.
Nitinat Lake is known for its wind and kite surfers but when we were there the winds were calm so consequently, the beach was super peaceful.


Nitinat Lake: our campsite was right by that very large stump on the beach.

Forestry Campsite near Caycuse on Cowichan Lake

Forestry Campsite near Caycuse on Cowichan Lake

I haven’t gotten around to installing the front mud flaps yet so it will be interesting to see how much difference they make to the amount of dirt/mud that gets splattered all over the sides of the van on roads like this. Only other ‘issue’ was the power steering pump is getting noisier so I’ll have to make time to install the new one I bought a few months ago.


One note: albell (of shufti.wordpress.com fame) told me about an app called Canada Maps which lets one download topographical maps for use even when you have no cell service and that really is a great thing to have when exploring back roads. Thanks AB!


Posted in Syncro Stuff, Westy Stuff | 13 Comments

Bostig Zetec in westfalia = Great!

Just got back from a short camping trip to our favourite camping beach (Rathtrevor Provincial Park on Vancouver Island) and even though I hadn’t fired up the westy for months before the trip, all I needed to do was install the new battery, check fluid levels, wash it, load it and go.


The Zetec fired up instantly and ran flawlessly for the trip. That would have been unlikely with the tired old waterboxer. ( I realize a well maintained water boxer could do the same, it is just that ours often didn’t.)

A view of the westy I rarely get, courtesy of BC Ferries:


While in Parksville we just happen to see a really big car show with a huge variety of vehicles, including this ‘oddity’ which we saw again driving down the road in Errington a few days later.


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