Impractically Perfect – 1972 Volkswagen Type2 Bay Window Crossover

Words by James Peene & Photos by Julietta Arden-Taylor – Published in Hayburner 37.

There aren’t many features with a misquoted Mary Poppins title, but thanks to a killer stance and camping interior Rich Darcy’s Crossover is now a perfectly impractical Panel Van.

Modifying an old Commercial vehicle is a bit weird when you give it some real thought. You know, taking a kippered work hack that’s been beaten into submission and thrown away when its usefulness and effective working-life has come to an end; only for someone to come along, years later, and think that all of the things that lead to it being thrown away – the dents, rust and damage caused by years of neglect – are ‘cool’. Then to think, you know what? Not only will I invest hundreds of hours and thousands of pounds putting it back on the road, I’ll make it totally useless for its intended purpose by slamming the nuts off it and banging an interior in it… See what we mean? Odd.

And do we think that in years to come that our grandkids will be doing the same with modern Commercial vehicles? Post Office Peugeots, DPD Sprinters or those mini road-sweeper things? Having the same discussions with their partners about sleeping where the rubbish went as we do now about sleeping in an old ambulance? Probably not, but it makes for an interesting intro to this feature, because we’re pretty sure the chap who left this Double Door Panel Van for dead in a US scrapyard would be just as befuddled as the rest of the non-VW world at the sight of it now.

The thing is, scrapyards aren’t the end of the road for air-cooled VWs, they’re just waiting rooms. Places where they’re quietly stored away until someone comes along to give them a second bite of the cherry. That’s what happened to Rich Darcy’s ’72 Crossover. Rich is a paint and bodywork guy by trade. He applies his craft at La Paintworks in deepest, darkest Bedfordshire so it stands to reason he chooses to drive a gnarly, OG paint Panel Van, right?  This is actually his first foray into the murky world of air-cooled VWs. Having worked his way through a number of Golfs and Polos the opportunity to make the switch to the dark side just came along at the right time. He reveals: “I’ve always loved the older VWs and my mate Spike had a bunch of Buses he’d shipped in from the States. I’m into the surf and skateboard culture and so growing up, I had all the stuff that kids do. You know, Split Screen money boxes and things like that. Whenever I saw a Bus I’d be like: “Look, there’s a VW” so when I saw this one piled up in the back at Spike’s I asked: “What about that one?” He didn’t want to sell it to start with, but I kept nagging him until he eventually gave in and sold it to me.

He said: “I know you’ll do the right thing with it, slam it and make it look cool.” It was just a rolling shell when I bought it. There was no engine with it and I think Spike found it in Nevada, although the last owner/title was from Washington State.”

Wherever it had lived, time and the elements had been kind to the bodywork. The only areas that needed welding where the usual Bus rot spots – The battery tray and the area under the front windscreen. Other than that, it’s 100% Hanover sheet steel and is a one year only model ‘Crossover’ Bay. Which to the uninitiated, means it’s got Early Bay styling up front and Late Bay styling at the back. In the middle, it has the rare twin-sliding door option and underneath it’s all brand new and modified to the max.

Rich says: “Having bought the Bus I spent about a year buying parts, most of which I ended up not using. It was always going to be really low and rolling on Cosmics. I bought the wheels the same week I bought the Van. I’ve tried a few different wheels on it but the Cosmics just work. 

“Being furloughed due to Covid gave me the opportunity to really crack on with it and get it finished, but it was Craig Petty who carried out all of the chassis mods and notches it need. He’d done all of this before on his own Bay and enjoyed doing it. I said just do what you did to yours so mine sits the same, so that’s what he did. He had the brain and vision so I left him to it, but it became a real social thing. We’d hang out and work on the Bus and have a laugh. Everything he did has made a huge difference to it. It just floats down the road now. 

“Craig reworked the original front beam, narrowing and fitting new end plates and making custom shock mounts. It’s also been raised by 7-inches so the bottom tube now occupies the space the old top tube used to live. The top tube now runs through the cab floor and it’s been welded in solid to the vehicle. Obviously, the chassis has needed a fair amount of notching to clear things like steering arms and the steering box also had to be lifted. 

“Craig also fabricated the front tubs, which he bead rolled in the garden!”

“The engine couldn’t stay where it was, so that’s also been raised and the rear was tubbed too. Once Craig had done all the fab work I took the Bus to my friend Ben’s workshop (Robertson Restos), where he stripped everything off, painted the underside in Upol Raptor and then reassembled it. He also fitted new brake lines, got it ready for the MoT and went through the bird’s nest of wiring, removing anything that didn’t need to be there. 

“A lot of time went into just getting it driveable. It’s now got a 1303 gearbox and a 1641cc engine, which we’ve rebuilt, twice. It would have come with a 1700cc pancake engine but that was missing. When I first got it on the road we just rebuilt the top end. After 1000 miles it shat itself so we went through it all the second time around. The rebuild is 1000 miles in and still running sweet. The exhaust is a stock Beetle unit with twin peashooter exhausts. Better cruising would be cool, but 60mph is scary enough when the wind catches you and I can’t be arsed messing around with larger engines and things like twin carbs. I just want to get out and use it as much as possible.”

The net result of all those chassis mods and tubbing was a bit of head scratching for the interior. Well, it would have been if Rich wasn’t able to follow Craig’s lead once again. Rich says: “With the new rear tubs there wasn’t room for a regular rock ’n’ roll bed so I copied what Craig had done with his. My brother is a shit-hot chippy and he knocked-up some units  by copying photos of Craigs interior. I fabricated the front beach seat and my friend Zoe covered the seats with tartan and vinyl. My girlfriend Charlie covered the interior panels with old coffee sacks.”

“It’s a fair weather Camper but there’s also a cheap Chinese diesel heater hidden away and the plan is to get out and enjoy it when I can.” Fingers crossed that is about to happen, Spring has sprung, vaccines are the new norm and slammed Commercials make as much sense as they ever have. 

Impractically Perfect - 1972 Volkswagen Type2 Bay Window Crossover Full Gallery