Words + Pics: James Wallace / Production exec: Biagio Chrzanowski
With sunburnt OG paint, faded graphics, plenty of Mexican grub and a useful network of new found friends, you could almost say Biagio Chrzanowski’s ’63 15-window was handed to him on a plate.
Click photos for larger slides
Pitching up in a rural idyll, sun shining and sheep bleating amongst barns that look fit to house nothing but live stock, we’re expecting to be greeted by a shotgun, some ‘dawgs’ and a bloke in a straw hat. Fortunately the reception is rather more welcoming, and as we tentatively approach there’s a vision in Sealing Wax Red over Ivory, resplendent with faded graphics and period perfect paint most of which is exactly the same stuff this Deluxe microbus left the factory with back in ‘63.
Out strolls a curly haired philanthropist by the name of Biagio, razor blade in hand, “Watcha, there’s no better way to remove a few decades of crud from glass than with one of these, it gets right in there unlike any cleaning solution I’ve ever tried,” he says, as I breathe a sigh of relief.
For many C+B regulars, Biagio will no doubt be a familiar face as he’s a stalwart of the shows and has been around buses and the scene since 1988 when he first clocked a copy of Hot VWs and just had to find out more, “I spotted a yellow split screen on Boyd wheels with wraparound rear windows and had to investigate further. It was the first 15 window I’d ever seen and it was truly a thing of beauty, almost better balanced aesthetically than a Samba in my eyes.”
Over 100 odd of VWs finest have since passed through Biagio’s mechanically understanding hands, but his passion and unquestionable, laid back knowledge is no less intense than all those years ago.
As such he’s amassed a huge collection of uber desirable parts, a fully equipped bodyshop and a number of barns full of finds just waiting to be uncovered by those in the know. Yet World Wild Wagens isn’t like a conventional business… the day we were there it seemed more like a social club as the tea and beers were flowing liberally and more bodies kept arriving well into the night.
In association with his WWW partner and all round bodywork guru Tristan at Auto Spa the duo decided to go full bore into the bus renovation and resale game, something they are currently loving every second of, around three years ago now.
With years of experience under their collective belt its little wonder this ’63s beauty runs more than skin deep.
“It was first advertised on The Samba in June 2009 when I was out in the states. I knew there and then that I had to have it, but when I phoned the guy he said he had someone coming from Huntington beach to have a look the following day. Unfortunately that guy bought it, so I missed out, but then a few months later I was snooping around it came up for sale again.
I wasted no time getting in touch as I couldn’t miss it a second time and the seller also had his eye on a Camaro,” Biagio explained. No stranger to spending time out in SoCal hunting for the ultimate in dry state imports, he asked for, “all the right photos asked all the right questions,” before confirming the sale over the phone without even having seen his new purchase in the flesh. There was very little hesitation once he knew what wanted before Biagio pulled the trigger and wired the money directly.
“I don’t know the exact history of the bus but it appears to have been owned from new by Covina Professional Jockey school about 20 miles east of LA, something the faded signwriting still bears testament to. The salt tends to drift quite a way in from the coast so it was important to get one from that much further inland to guarantee it was solid.”
Prior to checking it out this side of the pond though, Biagio set about commissioning a huge mechanical mission using some of his trusted stateside friends, “It was purchased stock height with stock steel wheels on it and because I’ve made some really good mates stateside through the years I knew exactly the engine, transmission, brakes, suspension and wheel package that I wanted for it.” But as anybody who owns or runs a garage will testify, the hardest thing to do is work on your own vehicle so rather than get it get home and struggle to find the time Biagio had a brainwave. “I paid a visit out to Cali for a week and the guys carried out all of the work while I was there seeing how things were going.”
In the safe hands of Russell and his crew at OldSpeed in Paramount, they set about building a turn key Scat 2332cc stroker featuring a brand new clearanced AS41 crankcase, 94mm forged pistons and 84mm Scat Volksracer forged billet crankshaft. “I didn’t want it built as a screamer with a narrow powerband, but a tractable, reliable motor with plenty of low down grunt and the best possible fuel economy capable of dealing with the additional weight of the bus without getting too hot at motorway speeds,” mused Mr C. Indeed with a pair of Weber 40IDF carbs, relatively mild Scat C35 camshaft and 35 x 40mm valve heads the engine makes a very respectable 125hp at the fly at 5750rpm and does 70mph at 3100rpm.
A custom made 1 5/8-inch A1 sidewinder header and silencer tucks up nice and tight to the engine block, breathing effortlessly and maintaining maximum ground clearance for the lowest practical ride height Biagio can get away with.
This little lot is mated to a beefy and heavily modified Rancho Performance pro street spec with 0.82 4th ratio and 3.88 final drive box making for a proper motorway bruiser with an unexpected turn of pace to keep up with modern day traffic, pretty much whatever the situation. Transferring the grunt to the Tarmac is left to a stage 1 Kennedy clutch with 1700lb pressure plate.
“At 75mph it’s really into it’s stride and is totally comfortable to drive for hours on the motorway. I’ve fitted the additional oil pressure, oil temp and tacho gauges in the cockpit to keep an eye on my investment out back,” laughed Biagio. There’s even a thermostatically controlled oil cooler to ensure longevity for that hot motor hanging over the rear swing axle.
Old Speed didn’t just bolt the parts on and dump it on the boat they also setup the four and half inch narrowed Wagenswest front beam for perfect road manners, fitted 282mm 944 2.5 vented disc brakes all around using Porsche spindles up front and ensured that everything was tracking straight and true with a secure helm assured thanks to 2degrees of rake dialled into the beam to claw back the castor angle that the shorter tie rods and revised suspension geometry dictates. Combined with a raised steering box modification to maximise the potential of the slam on tap, it’s basically a testbed for all of the uprated products that Biagio places his faith in, and a damn fine advert it is too.
He’s yet to try it out down the quarter mile as it’s not really been built with the Buses with Attitude tag in mind and those original 5.5 and 6 x 15 Fuchs are almost too nice to subject to such tomfoolery, not that he’s afraid of giving it a damn good thrashing now and again mind.
The final piece of the jigsaw came when the bus finally hit Felixstowe in December of 2009. Biagio’s Christmas arrived early and unlike some of the basketcases and restoration jobs we hear about in these parts he’d got his mitts on an absolute blinder, but there were still some areas that needed a little but more fettling to pass muster thanks to his keen eye for detail. Steve Holmes at H&H Restoration set about repairing the leading edge of the roof gutter, some light inner sill work and some tiny patches welding into the cab floors to make good before it sailed through an MOT. The world wide wagens sprayshop then touched in the paint and skilfully faked up a smidge of patina on the roof to keep in period dress.
Some may say this bus was handed to him on a plate, but stand back for just a second and soak up how much love, care and attention has been invested thoughout this stunning build. It’s a solid, uber cool manifestation of what’s still out there if you look hard enough and you’re in the right place at the right time. Bang up to date mechanicals, a comfy ride and those wraparound quarter lights ensure the entire Chrzanowski clan enjoy nothing more than taking Anella (look at that reg plate) out for a spin whenever the sun is shining. If you can think of a better way to get the family about or hit the latest show we’d be very keen to hear and see it.
Biagio could sell ice to the Eskimos, but when he’s not doing that he enjoys nothing more than dabbling with retro VW metal of the bus persuasion under his World Wild Wagens banner. Something tells us this one holds a special place in his heart and it won’t be going anywhere soon, “I spent hours hand polishing all of the deluxe chrome trim with the OG long spoon latches on the pop outs, safari window and the Bekowa full length roof rack I love everything about it. Apart from that I can’t sell it because my kids Reuben (9) and Claudia (11) blooming well love it.” Contact WWW on 07731 934708 for more bus goodness.
As41 dual relief case
Machine and clearanced
84mm forged Scat volksracer crank
Mahle barrels and pistons 94mm
Scat 35 x 40 heads, dual valve springs, stainless valves
Scat H beam rods
Scat 26mm oil pump. ( gives over 50 psi )
Chromoly push rods, cut to length.
Thermostatic supplementary 72 pass oil cooler….full set of VDO gauges, oil temp, pressure and tachometer up front to tell me whats going on…
Full vented 944 disc brakes all round with 944 spindle up front.
Steering box raise
Wheels are genuine Porsche 5.5 and deep 6 x 15 Unrestored….nice original condition wheels
165/50 x 15 tyres on front and 195/65 x 15 out back.
The bus also has OG long spoon latches on the pop outs, safari window.. and the roof rack is an original Bekowa full length.
The sign writing is Covina Professional Jockey School . Owned by them at some stage early in the buses life, but I cant find any info or old pics of the bus
Interior arrangement is as the bus was from the factory. 9 seater micro bus …available for weddings and prom hire! photo shoots etc