Thursday, April 16, 2015
Retro Bug-Out Vehicle #2: The MicroVair
[From time to time, I will highlight vehicles that are rugged, reliable bug-out vehicles that are also pre-electronic so as to be less susceptible to an electromagnetic pulse attack.]
Why not bug out in a VW Bug derivative?
Wisely VW wisely realized in the 1950s that the Type 1 (Beetle) needed a companion, so they created the world’s first minivan, the Type 2 (Microbus/Samba).
The VW Microbus is almost perfect for bugging out in a crisis.
Though it is not as impressive as an $80,000 Ram dually with the turbodiesel, it can hold a family and its things and get you there.
Parts are plentiful and if properly maintained, they are reliable vehicles.
Old VWs—unlike modern ones—are rugged and reliable.
The problem is that unladen they are not adequately powered.
Loaded down, they are sadly inadequate. The little four banger was barely adequate back then and is borderline dangerous today.
All is not lost, however. It is a great clean slate.
The brakes in an old Microbus are rather frightening, but bolt-on disc brake conversions exist.
Old Microbuses had six-volt electrical system generator, but they are easily converted to 12 volts with an alternator.
As long as the body of the Microbus is sound, waste no money making it pretty. Interior redo kits for VWs are quite affordable.
But the engine is inadequate.
One solution would be to install a larger, modified four-cylinder, VW-derived engine. The only problem with that is that you will incur greater expense and a more temperamental engine.
Another solution would be to try to bolt in a Porsche 911 flat six and transmission. It is costly, but it can be done.
A better solution is to bolt a Chevy Corvair engine into your Microbus, which is easy to do.
Grab a reconditioned Corvair engine, a Clark Manufacturing bell housing, and a competent mechanic.
Corvair engines are reliable, but more importantly they deliver excellent torque versus the puny VW engine.
You could try to find a Corvair Greenbrier that already has the Corvair engine in it, but Greenbrier’s are collectible and you’ll be looking at restorations. That’s good because they are all “new” and sorted out. The alternative is a project Greenbrier that would wind up being more expensive that a VW Microbus with a Corvair engine.
Granted—even with the Corvair conversion—the Microbus will be slow and inadequately powered, but much less so than the VW version.
To take it one step further, consider a VW Westfalia camper van with a Corvair conversion and the plot becomes more intriguing.