DIY Electric Car Forums banner

1978 VW Kombi - South Africa

11654 Views 10 Replies 8 Participants Last post by  [email protected]
1978 VW Kombi

Hi all,

My name is Mike im a 32 years young South African. I have minor mechanical experiance only what i have learnt from the years of watching my dad do every thing by him self. I studied Electronic till matric and entered my first jobs a few weeks before writing finals. Strangly it was for a battery distribution chain.

Ok so i have been trolling around the forums for some time and read the "I want to build an EV! Where do I start?" Awesome idea Robert and thanks for saving me months in the planing of my EV. I have been wanting to get an EV conversion done for the longest time now and most greatful to find this site with so much info my head nearly exploded the first day i started reading.

Finally after weeks of planning and searching for a donar i come across this 1978 VW Kombi Bus, some of my inspirations can be found on EVAlbum
"Electric VW Bus" , “Voltabus” & "Volty" to mention a few.

I have commited to the car and it is now sitting in my back yard. I baught it without an engine and as the car has been standing for more than a year being used as an office for the car dealer and take away shop. It started to roll with a big clank and i guess im going to have to check, clean and re grease all moving parts.

I have not finalised what system or motor etc i will be using leaning towards 144V but still playing with some numbers of costs and weights etc. So the plan now is to clean out all the unnecessary items and check that all mechanical items are in good working order. Then going to start meassuring up and planning the battery placements, and possible weight reductions.

Really excited to get started and cant wait for her to be up and running.


See less See more
1 - 11 of 11 Posts
Re: 1978 VW Kombi

After we got her home my whole family came out to see what was going on, all joking about the car and thinking of names for it like Scrapper, Gemors (meaning mess in Afrikaans) and finally agreeing on Junker. I took all the laughs and ridicule cause I know when she is running everyone is going to want to drive in her, and her name will change from junker to Joule (you know like a Jewel but the energetic type)

As soon as I had my car to myself again I started to assess what all needs to be done, First thing we stripped off the serving shelf on the side of the vehicle which required taking off a panel inside too then removed some screws keeping the engine compartment closed and took off the number plate. Both the engine compartment and number plate had 60mm screws keeping them in place (see photos below)

As I work a full day and only get home around 6pm, there is only a small window of time to work on the donor before dinner and bed and the next 2 evenings were spent pushing the 1400kg Kombi around my back yard, to get her under an old carport from the side of the carport as we have built a pool in front of it were the driveway used to be. When I woke up the morning after the pushing I discovered I had muscles in places I never thought you would find muscles.

I bought myself some tools and a head lamp too as it starts to get dark earlier with winter starting also got me an eletric screwdriver which is very helpful for those extra long screws. Jacked up the rear of the Kombi and tried to remove the wheel nut to get into the brake drums and to check the bearings with no success. That nut is so stuck it didn't even budge when I smacked it with a 4 pound hammer. Figuring I would need to get some help with the wheel nuts I moved onto the underside of the Kombi and tried in vain to loosen the bolts holding the tow bar and rear bumper. These did move but only enough to strip the thread, its was then that I realised I was in for some tough times and started thinking about what others had said about buying a donor that was running rather than a Junker that needs loads of work. But that wasn't going to stop me I grabbed a can of WD-40 and started spraying every nut and bolt I could see, it was then that I got the biggest fright - a huge black widow dropped from the kombi and landed right next to my hand, clearly not impressed that I had upset his life with my penetrating spray. I then grabbed a tin of Bug spray and emptied it into every crevice and opening I could find and the remainder was sprayed into the cabin before closing the doors for the night.

The next evening I must have found about 15 spiders hanging dead from webs, all around the car my daughter had been playing in for the last few days, we were very lucky none of us was bitten. I removed the radiator from the front of the Kombi and the piping that was installed when it was modified, also removed the exhaust system except for two pieces which have been welded to the chassis. Removed the tank and a few interior panels that were already loose and one that was held on with wire. While removing the gas tank I noticed that there is some kind of condenser system going up the side of the Kombi to the rear side air inlet and back down to where the carbs would have been, does anyone know what this is or how it works?

I have almost finished stripping off all the ICE components my next step is to get the wheels, CV's and steering system out. Have concluded that I will be using a 144V systems (made up of 24 x 6 V 225 Ah Torjan Deep Cycle Lead Acid Flooded Batteries) with a 9" DC motor (which I have asked Zest (weg) to provide) If their pricing is not in line with ADV DC Motors I will have to import my own from the US. The whole electrical system is very intimidating for me and will be asking many questions when it comes to putting it all together, It has been 12 years since I last studied electrics and I struggle to remember most of the basics I once knew.

Would really appreciate to hear what the guys with experience have to say and any tips or hints would be most welcome.
See less See more
Re: 1978 VW Kombi

If you think it's hard to push now, wait till you add the batteries! Sounds like you're making good progress already.

Don't worry too much about the electrics, they're quite trivial compared to the mechanical stuff you'll have to deal with.

As for some general tips, in addition to the wiki pages, check out:
Re: 1978 VW Kombi

Here are some pics from the first day of the long bolts (and my puppy) also a pic of the interior and engine compartment.

Haven't done any work this week as getting home after 8 with no energy to do work on my new baby, so just been sitting in her going over some plan and drinking coffee. To be honest been a little bummed out that i dont have the cash rite now to buy all the components. But have a friend who is going to loan me some second hand 12 volt batteries so i can start getting the electrical system setup and testing the motor and gearbox.


See less See more
someone put the side door and the steering wheel on the wrong sides of the car. haha.

going to be an interesting project. lots of room for batteries...not sure about the carrying capacity.
Hi there, Sounds like you are on to a good thing there. I was looking at an older kombi myself recently, seems like a good place to start. Where are you sourcing your Drive, Controller and sundry other electricals from. I am finding the prices in SA to be too high, importing is a bit daunting to, due to the weight of some of the items. If you could perhaps drop me a mail at [email protected], that would be great. BTW, i have my own web site under development (www., i am aiming to try and give the SA EV Market a good kick in the rear, there is just not enough interest in RSA as yet. People like you are the inspiration that we need.


someone put the side door and the steering wheel on the wrong sides of the car.
Nah, Maybe he just developed the film negative backwards?.......

Honestly, it is a great project. I hope you are still working on it.

Keep at it. Most people have a money problem, it just needs time.

Give it time.

For the motor/controller....

Look locally for a damaged or older fork truck to part out. You can find great other parts there too.

It might help with the import problem.

We (in the USA) are spoiled because we have mostly everything at our finger tips, except for lithium batteries.

Go for it!

Another VW bus conversion! Im starting to see a trend here ;)

I am from SA as well. Also going electric.

Are you still at it.
Another VW bus conversion! Im starting to see a trend here ;)
Hi all,, I have a 64 split screen as well thinking about converting - Jeru Garcia have to be thanked for this,, but importing parts is out of the question currently as my budget not allowing it.

Forklift parts was an option, but haven't found the right forklift moto'r that will fit the cat

Keep it up in SA

1 - 11 of 11 Posts
This is an older thread, you may not receive a response, and could be reviving an old thread. Please consider creating a new thread.