BY MICHAEL KITCHENS
Name: Don Santiago
Occupation: City and County employee
Hobbies: Cars, spending time with family
Year/Make/Model: 1967 VW Bus
Color: Champagne and Custom Orange with Deep Diamond Pearls
Build Time: 4 Years
Exterior: Custom mix by Chad Domingo of NAPA – Champagne and custom-mixed Deep Orange with Diamond Pearls; and Custom roof rack
Interior: Aftermarket gauges, Kenwood deck with four Kenwood 51/2s; Pergo laminate; custom vinyl upholstery; and sound deadener
Engine: 1.7 SDI 1716cc with Kadron carburetors; and hideaway exhaust
Wheels and Tires: Empi 5 Spoke with Firestone 135R/72/15 (front) and 195/60/15 (rear)
Special Thanks: To my wife, Mira, daughter Nevaeh and my son, Boogie, for their patience and understanding when I was working on the Bus for countless hours.
The Volkswagen Type 2 is one of the most recognizable vehicles in the world. Since its introduction in 1950, it has graced the pavement of roadways in practically every corner of the globe. It’s no different here in the Islands, where it happens to be the biggest project Don Santiago has ever worked on.
Don is no stranger to a bit of automobile enthusiasm. He’s owned more than 30 vehicles ranging from imports to domestics at one time or another. He always liked the VW Bus, but was initially hesitant to take the plunge because of some worry over its reliability and lack of goodies, such as A/C. As time went on, however, he became less about the frills and more about owning something his family could enjoy while retaining that iconic VW status.
This 1967 VW Bus was in poor shape when he picked it up in 2010. The interior was rough with springs sticking out of the cushions and the bodywork was shot because of rust and deterioration. This wasn’t a problem for Don since he’s a former body shop owner, so he plunged into the work with gusto and the rebuild began in earnest.
While still acting as a daily driver, Don made the interior his initial focus. With the help of his friend, Dennis Higa, the bus was reupholstered in creamy vinyl with svelte touches such as the VW-emblazoned center console. The interior was also layered in sound-deadening materials while Don installed actual Pergo flooring as a nice touch. The forward control area features a color-matched dash fitted with several aftermarket gauges as well as a Kenwood receiver mated to four 5 1/2-inch speakers in the rear cabin. Of special note is the .45 revolver magazine fitted as an emergency brake knob.
With the interior complete, Don tackled the body next. The project was spread out over the next year and a half when rust was cut and replaced, and the exterior was prepped for paint. Armed with a custom paint mix by Chad Domingo of NAPA, Don applied gorgeous swaths of Champagne and Orange paint filled with Diamond Pearls. The resulting vibrant mix is a visual delight that guarantees the ride catches looks wherever it goes. Additionally, a one-of-a-kind custom roof rack installed by Staffon Peralta Sr. of TOPDAT Inc., provides Don with extra storage space for those beach days.
“Technically, all you need is a nice, daily driver motor and you’re good,” says Don.
With that in mind, the original race engine that came in the Bus was swapped out with a reliable 1.7 SDI at 1716cc fitted with Kadron carburetors. It features a hideaway exhaust and propels the Bus with little worry. The vehicle rides on 15-inch Empi 5 Spoke wheels fitted with Firestone tires (135R/72/15 in front, 195/60/15 in the rear).
Throughout the build, Don promised himself that he wouldn’t end up with the “never-ending story” syndrome that so many fall trap to. He set his goals, met them and now enjoys spending time in this daily driven VW Bus with his wife and children.
Indeed, getting on this Bus is simply awesome.