Very early built VW Bus? Barndoor rescue out of the woods

The “bones” of a very old VW Bus laying in its “grave”, is it allowed or “ethically correct” to recover them?

Fifty years, or even longer, an old VW bus sat out in the woods. So at least two thirds of his whole life, he was just laying, rusting, falling apart. One could say we are talking about his grave, looking down in the pit, someone dumped it into. The story on it isn’t very clear till now. But someone must have disposed it there.

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It’s not showing any identification-numbers anymore. There are two possibilities. Either the VINs have been cut out, that no one can sue the former owner for illegal disposal in the woods, or .. rust did this job for him. However it looks like the numbers were cut out, as other near located parts are still there. But more details, the body numbers and so on later! Let’s start, how this poor Bus was found:

Barndoor rescue in the woods with a crane

It all began in autumn of 2020, as a picuture of a wrecked Barndoor bus in Austria popped up on Instagram. At first sight, there wasn’t much left of the bus, only the half of (oviously) a Barndoor bus, down in a pit. The 14-year old boy, who took the picture was very excited about his find he made, while searching for old coins with his metal detector.

We went out in the woods together, to see what’s really left there. Well, it wasn’t a lot. But laying on the roof, we saw at least some specific parts there. It was clear, it has to be something built between 1951 and ’53. We decided to plan a salvage operation.

The Barndoor wreck laying completely twisted on the roof

Some weeks later, the first snow already past away, we had all guys and equipement ready to start. We drove out in the woods. The weather wasn’t really good the whole week before, so we were a bit nervous about that mud road, we had to pass in both directions. Mentally I wasn’t even able to check the weather forecast. Because rain would have been a big problem. But we were lucky, and the weather stayed dry till we were home.

Why this early bus was still there..

We figuered out a way to pass the last meters through the woods, where the mudroad ended, and there we stood. Directly aside the four meters deep pit, with a tractor and a crane(!) We started digging and soon recognized, there are mostly flat stones underneath. Maybe the reason why all these parts of this early bus are still here, and not sunken in the ground. But on the other hand, we finally see how bad the remaining parts are rusted out. It’s difficult to see on the photos and on the Video, but the metal sheets have become very, very thin over the years from the slow rusting. What looks savable on the pictures, is extremely unstable and shaky in reality.

As found – 1952 VW Barndoor in the austrian woods

The heavy duty rescue job was done by the crane. Soon we had the “rear part” pulled out of the pit and stored on the tractor trailer. Rear chassis and transmission went out with the rear body parts. Same procedure at the remaining front part, including lower front mask and front floor parts. Following rusty pieces were carried out by hand: Driver door, passenger door, complete front seat metal structure, some small parts from windows and door locks and a lot of unknown broken metal parts. The barndoor-specific front roof part ist still in good shape! The floor structure was toast.. of course.

The bus did rest in a four meters deep pit

The shocking find: Barndoor lid under the …

The most shocking thing to find.. (we weren’t thinking about to find it anymore), but then it showed up in the mud. The Barndoor engine lid! Somehow it were burried under the front part of the bus, under the front axle. It was found at the end of the digging process. The only conclusion how it ended up there, could be the disposal back then. Maybe the former owner pulled the engine out, before dumping the bus. And before that, he threw the engine lid into the pit – the bus on top of it.

We were so excited to find this namegiving rare piece under the bus, we had to pose fors some real “Barndoor” pictures. That done, we put every rusty part laying around in boxes and left the grave, cleaned up – only mud and leaves left behind.

Lunch after done work – romantic Barndoor lid-ambiente inclusive!

The question is a bit philosophical, but were we allowed to take the bus out of his supposed final resting place? The author of these lines says, yes. Because he had to wait there for 50 years. Someone probably dumped it in there. The bus deserves to get some dear again.

The left “graveyard” of the 1952 VW Barndoor Bus

VIN found? And what are the plans for the bus?

Through the numbers on the gearbox ( supposed to be the original one) we managed to target the building date in June 1952. No other numbers on metalparts have been found so far. The pieces where numbers were, are rusted or gone. But there are still lots of pieces laying on a stack, to be investigated. Maybe the VIN shows up on one of these rusty parts.

Currently the bus (well, parts of it) is getting back in his usual horizontal position – for the first time in half a decade. Laying twisted and reverse in the pit, it’s now really nice to see it up straight again. The plan is to attach the pieces on a wooden frame in the first step. When “standing alone” – the second step will be to put back in an engine and make a driving wooden structure out of it.

Unfortunetely no visible identification numbers on the front doors – 1952 VW Barndoor Bus

Nevertheless it seems like the body metal is too thin in most of the bigger areas. Welding it back to a real bus seems nearly impossible. But we have seen some great rescues in the Barndoor-scene – so, never say never. However its definitely something, that is not visible on the pictures and videos – how thin and wobbly the metal really is and how bad some parts are rusted.

Now this story still needs something to round up the end.. but it isn’t the end of the ’52s story. It’s more like a new beginning! Make shure to come back on air.cool.ed and see the progress of the wooden structure ’52.

1952 VW Barndoor woods find first time in upright position in 50 years

Check further details and more pictures of this find by Austrosplit here ! Click on the following pic!

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