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updated: 7/17/2012 11:42 AM

VW bus turned into a family van

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  • It took Jack Connelly about 10 years to fully restore this 1978 Volkswagen Bus.

      It took Jack Connelly about 10 years to fully restore this 1978 Volkswagen Bus.
    Courtesy of Prestige MotorCar Photography

  • Jack Connolly of Elk Grove Village and his children, Anna and Jack Jr., enjoy the trips they take in their VW Bus.

      Jack Connolly of Elk Grove Village and his children, Anna and Jack Jr., enjoy the trips they take in their VW Bus.

  • Jack Connelly Jr. and his sister Anna help out their dad during the restoration process.

      Jack Connelly Jr. and his sister Anna help out their dad during the restoration process.
    Courtesy of Connelly family, 2007

  • Pergo tile flooring replaced the old carpeting.

      Pergo tile flooring replaced the old carpeting.

  • The original cabinetry in the 1978 Volkswagen has been cleaned and preserved.

      The original cabinetry in the 1978 Volkswagen has been cleaned and preserved.

  • While the two-tone look is not factory original, Connelly prefers the customized styling.

      While the two-tone look is not factory original, Connelly prefers the customized styling.

 
By Matthew Avery
Special to the Daily Herald

The first question most people are dying to ask when they spy Jack Connelly pull up in his 1978 VW Bus is, "Do you go camping in it?"

Who can blame them? For decades, these uber-functional hauling machines were the vehicles of choice for motorists who desired to get up close to the picturesque outdoors.

With their squared styling, compact rear-engine design and over-the-wheels driving position, these microbusses have interior space in overabundance. Add to this the Volkswagen camper model's pop-up roof, and occupants are able to fully stand up.

Connelly found his motoring mover in 2001, not far from his Elk Grove Village home. "The car was from California and was untouched and all together; no one had ever been working on it," he said.

That's not to say it was going to be an easy task to get it on the road. The bus wasn't running and the dilapidated body was in dire need of attention. A restoration commenced in 2002 and slowly evolved into a 10-year project.

"I worked here and there on it, taking my time to get it right," Connelly said.

The factory bestowed 2.0-liter engine was given a second long block and lost its cantankerous fuel-injection system for a more reliable dual carb setup. Gears are selected by way of a four-speed manual transmission. Disc brakes, hidden behind aftermarket wheels, bring the rolling box to a halt.

To give it a more custom stance, Connelly made some suspension tweaks and modifications, dropping the vintage VW down a full three inches. To remedy the abused and bruised body, Connelly replaced both front wheel wells -- victims of years of rust.

Once the bodywork was completed, a two-tone Dakota Beige Tan and White paint job was applied.

"Originally it would have been brown all the way up, but I wanted a more custom look."

Open the side sliding door and you'll find the original cabinetry inside, although each unit was taken out and thoroughly cleaned. Instead of replacing the original carpet, Connelly opted to install Pergo flooring, making his chariot's cabin a bit homier and more durable. Adding function is a folding rear seat that can double as an eating area when a slide out table is put in place. Above the engine compartment at the rear is another cushioned area that can be used for additional seating or sleeping.

While most would be content to leave this VW Bus parked as a static display, Connelly is quite comfortable motoring around the local panoramas. "The driving experience is unusual as you sit in front of the wheels; makes you feel like you're piloting a CTA bus. It's not very powerful but sure is loads of fun!"

Connelly isn't the only one in his house who enjoys the eye-catching people mover.

"My kids, Jack Jr. and Anna, really get a kick out of riding in it. They've been waiting years to have it done and now that it finally is on the road, they couldn't be happier."

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