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1977 VW Kombi

Happy, not


Words beN DiLLoN Photos NAThAN Duff

The flame of Kombi worship the hippie generation ignited in the 1960s still burns brightly in the northern NSW town of Nimbin. Lorraine and Andy Keen are our gurus


Australian Classic Car

ou might think a Nimbin address and multiple Kombis would be part of a lifestyle also featuring tiedyed clothing, free love and militant vegetarianism. Thankfully, Lorraine and Andy Keen arent aspiring flower children and their philosophy Happy, not hippie perfectly sums up their take on life and their zeal for the Volkswagen Kombi. To them, the brick-shaped German icon is motoring nirvana. In particular, Lorraine and Andy love the VW Kombi commercial vans so this 1977 VW Kombi utility takes pride of place in their collection. Far from being just another hippie Kombi prowling the main street of Nimbin (yes, there is only one street), Monty is a study in just how great a restored Kombi ute can look irrespective of budget when the owners passion is genuine. Enthusiasm is nothing without patience but with several variations on the Kombi theme already in their shed (including a sweet-looking 1967 splitty panel van and a very original 1976 bay camper), Lorraine and Andy know all about the rollercoaster that is classic car ownership.

GIVE PEACE A CHANCE Lorraine (left) says theres no need for Monty to wear a VW badge for people to know its a Kombi, but peace signs abound (right and below).

thE full Monty story

Back in 1977, Monty was a builders ute working hard every day, but well looked after by his dedicated German owner. This life continued for many years until the builder decided he needed to let his Kombi truck go, which is when Lorraine came into the picture. She found the ute in its original white paint and jelly bean mags through an internet auction site and fell in love straight away. The tray gates were not original, but overall the ute was in good condition quite straight and rust-free. Money changed hands and Monty got his new moniker. He became part of Lorraine and Andys collection. When the deal was done, Lorraine used the ute as her daily driver. However, the restoration bug is virulent, and Monty soon found himself in the nuddy (going the full Monty?), in preparation for a complete transformation.

notion that quality restorations can only happen with the help of big smoke operators, and set about enlisting as many local specialists and businesses as possible to transform Monty into what is possibly the most original bay window ute in Australia. Never having done a complete restoration before, Lorraine and Andy decided to strip and rebuild as much as they could and leave the other stuff to the specialists. Both were handy with a set of spanners this helped keep costs down and gave them the pleasure of working intimately together on the project. Every part was labelled and photo logged to make sure it would find its way back onto Monty afterwards. Lorraine says they filled over 200

snap-lock bags with parts. Buying that many large, sealable bags doesnt arouse much suspicion in Nimbin.

a global lovE affaIr

Worldwide, people loved the VW Transporter/Kombi (as it was officially known) so much that most countries gave the van a colloquial designation. Bully, Breadloaf, Combi, Samba and hippie buses were all alternate appellations for the Kombi through its life in various nations. Only in Australia, New Zealand and Brazil was the whole range, including utes and panel vans, known by the Kombi tag. So popular was the bay-window model (1968-1979) that many countries, including Brazil, Mexico and Argentina, continued to produce

fIghtIng thE Man

Lorraine wanted to challenge the


1977 VW Kombi
Lorraine found the ute on an internet site and fell in love
it long after VW had rolled out successive new platforms for the global market. Production at the Sao Bernardo do Campo plant (encompassing splitty and bay models) in Brazil has continued from 1950 to the present day. Lorraines love for all things Kombi stems from the 1970s, when she travelled with her young family in a VW Kombi Sopru camper. Despite selling that first one, her passion for the Kombi continued so much so that Lorraine kept a photo of her baby daughter in the sink of the camper for many years. Her daughter later found out the only reason Lorraine kept the photo was so she could find an identical VW camper in later years! Its easy to get after-market parts for Kombis, but Lorraine wanted everything to be as original as possible. So ensued a process that would lead many couples to divorce, but Lorraine and Andy slogged through wrecking yards and the internet and finally came up with everything needed to take Monty from minger to minter. VW parts specialist, Roy at The Bus Stop, proved to be invaluable. Most parts were relatively easy to find but the tray gates turned out to be a real pain. It took Lorraine nine months to find the original gates, and after painting and welding costs were added up, the gates cost more than the vehicles initial purchase price! Lorraine is as excited about having the vinyl centre mat (rare as a chickens chompers apparently) welded and hand stencilled to match the original pattern as she is about Monty as a whole.

thE journEy contInuEs

Lorraine and Andy are now on the lookout for a lowlight bay-window panel van to round out the collection.

1977 VW KombI Engine: 1970cc air cooled four-cylinder Transmission: Four-speed manual synchromesh Power: 50kW (67bhp) @4200rpm Torque: 137Nm (101 lb/ft)@3000rpm Length: 4505mm (177.4 in)


Australian Classic Car

CREAm mACHINE Montys cream and latte paint tone comes alive in the muted sunlight of early morning and late afternoon.

The visor over the windscreen is a story in itself. It was the last ever produced and got lost for three years in a Brisbane spare parts inventory before being dug up and liberated for Project Monty. When I suggest the thrill of the parts chase is as intoxicating as any other part of the restoration process, Andy silently shakes his head in the background while Lorraine quietly agrees with me. I think she is just being polite. If it is true that we make our own luck, Lorraine and Andy must have worked pretty hard to have as much good fortune as they did sourcing all the original parts for Monty. After tracking down the parts, and with Monty in the raw awaiting a respray, attention turned to colour choice. This was one part of the equation Lorraine and Andy took great pains over. Ultimately they pulled it off very well, with a subtle but gorgeous two-tone cream and latte combination that looks quite mild in strong daylight but comes alive in the lower light atmospheres of morning and afternoon. The immaculate interior is a wonder to behold given that a lot of the parts

THINK GLobALLY, ACT LoCALLY Lorraine used operators in and around the Nimbin area as much as possible to restore Monty to Kombi glory.

are original and must look better now than when new. The negative camber on the rear wheels shows how the car has been lowered. At the moment Monty is lowered two inches, but can be dropped a tarmac-scraping four inches, which would make for an even meaner-looking Kombi. The wheels are US-made BRM Flat 4s and along with the whitewall tyres give the ute a healthy dose of SoCal attitude. With such attention to detail this restoration becomes much more than the sum of its parts. Lorraine says the entire project came in at well under $20,000. The overall effect is one of smooth originality blended with highlights of individuality. Its a vehicle that draws you in with its quality of finish and attention to detail.

this world. Plans are already afoot for a transplant. When the old clanker decides to retire, a new engine, which Andy has prepared, will be slotted in. It features a slightly warm cam, hardened valve seats courtesy of a local specialist who works solely on VW heads, and electronic ignition, but is otherwise standard.

Why conforM?

thE hErE and noW

Lorraine grimaces as she opens the engine bay, saying it is the only area not finished. Images of an engine slathered in gritty black oil fill my head an all too common scene in air-cooled VWs. The bay is original and actually one of the cleanest Ive ever seen. Lorraine neednt have worried. Liberal amounts of fish oil have kept the body rust free over the years. In fact, many who worked on the restoration were shocked at the cleanliness of Montys undercarriage. Lorraine says that when the Kombi was rubbed back to metal, the only rust found was a spot smaller than a 20c piece on a rear guard. Montys current air-cooled heart is a little more tarnished, however, and Lorraine believes it is not long for

Far from being a pampered shed trophy, Lorraine still uses Monty as her daily driver, with garbage runs and trips to town common events. At first Lorraine wasnt comfortable parking the ute outside her workplace in Nimbin, worrying that it might be scratched or somehow damaged. But the worst it ever gets is a lustful ogling or two. Monty is testament to what can be done locally and on a modest budget, and proves you dont need to go to a big city for quality restoration work. Interestingly, many specialists who worked on Monty are unique in their field and are regularly sent work from all over Australia. Finally, I ask where the VW badge on the front has gone. Lorraine hears this question often. She asserts that everyone knows what it is so no need to advertise. Also, its a thumbing of the nose to those who decry any change to the original design. It could be said these same enthusiasts overlook what the Kombi concept originally inspired: freedom to explore and experiment with new ideas. Monty is a manifestation of this attitude, a little bit of the new mixed with timeless VW originality. A simple recipe for air-cooled freedom.