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The VW Food Bus Story: Painting

May 27, 2011 in MotorHuggerTV, Volkswagen Bus

This spring’s temperatures have not been very helpful for trying to paint the bus. I needed it to remain at least 60 degrees in my garage for 16 hrs for the clear coat to cure. This last Wednesday and Thursday was decent enough to try to push it through with the help of some heaters. I hooked up the gopro and got most of it filmed. The battery ran out a few times but I got most of it. We got 3 coats of each paint and clear on. Next: painting the roof and assembly.

Painting the Bus from Hai Truong on Vimeo.


The VW Food Bus Story: Bondo, Sanding & Priming

April 16, 2011 in Volkswagen Bus

After welding on the new panels, we were on to getting the bus body straight.  We pounded, stretched, and shrunk the metal  as straight as we could, but ultimately we still had a lot of bondo to do. Atom and I spent the end of summer putting on bondo and sanding it off. Not a fun thing to do on hot days. The days were well rewarded with “Beer O’clock” in the afternoon and a “Sun Downer” of whisky to close the day off.

We were hoping to get it done for last fall but things got a little more complicated. My son, Khanh, came 6 weeks early and time spent on the bus dropped to zero for about month. Once Jess and I were on some what of a rhythm, things were back on for the bus one day a week. I realized there was no way it was going to get done in 2010. Our plan was to get the bus at least painted by winter.

We finish the bondo and sanding and setup my garage as a painting booth. The plan was etcher, epoxy primer, high build primer, block sanding, sealer, paint and clear. I spent may days running back and forth to Welle Auto Supply in Columbia Heights. The guys there really know what their doing and are a great help.  Primer went on easy but the block sanding was not fun at all. Finding all the highs and lows took a lot of time and many beers. We finally finished block sanding in December but it got too cold in the garage to paint. We would have to wait until we can hold a temp of 65-70 degrees to paint the bus. So things will have to wait until spring hits. The current status of the bus that its primed and ready for paint. We hoping to have it painted by the end of the April, temperature permitting. Then the kitchen install and inspection.


The VW Food Bus Story: Part II

March 22, 2011 in Volkswagen Bus

Those that know me,  I’m a do it yourself-er.  Most of the time with good results…  sometimes bad, with a small side of crash and burn. I gutted and built Ngon with my wife from the ground up; three weeks after our wedding. I built all the tables on Christmas eve and day and built the bar in my garage.

I also have many interests.  I grew up in the restaurant industry with my parents business but had many different side jobs. My college degree was actually in economics and minor in sculptural art. So my interests and skills spread the gamut.  I saw building the VW food bus as a fun time and a chance to do some craft work again.  The basic plan for the bus is to keep me creative in making food and have fun at the same time. I don’t plan on making the same things all the time but create items based on what I feel like doing. I’ve always wanted an ice cream truck; this will give me a chance to do this with our house made ice cream. I want to make more traditional Vietnamese dishes my way, like thit kho, but as a sandwich.  Of course, I’ll be serving some of our usual staples on rotation.  I hope to take it to downtown St. Paul, Turf Club at night, “back to the 50s” cruising nights on  University Ave., businesses on request, and wherever the city will allow me. I’ll take request so feel free to send them to me.

My first two goals were to strip the paint off the bus to assess how much restoration needed to be done and cut off the roof. Cutting off the roof was going to be the fun part, taking off paint is about as fun as watching it dry.


After the paint and roof were off, I realized that the project was going to take a little longer if I was going to do it right. There were a lot of rust holes and patching that needed to be done.  There were many cases of structural bondo from the previous owner. There were many rust through holes in the body and floor. Plenty of hole patching and new body panel welding was done over the next few months. Here’s a gallery of some of the before and  after body work.

NEXT: Part III / Painting the bus

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The story behind the VW bus/food cart

March 2, 2011 in Volkswagen Bus

I’ve always loved street food; especially after a few drinks. Maybe that’s why I like grilling so much. You’re taking about a guy that paid a taxi driver to drive around NYC for 1hr to look for a shish kabob stand that was still open after bar closing. Annoying drunk? More than likely, but I was really craving a shish kabob. Bacon wrapped hot dogs are not usually scary but at 2am in a dark parking lot in Tijuana…just a little. I for some reason love eating things out of carts or whatever vehicles of preparation.

So with this in mind, I had to figure out a way to get me one. The first thing was to figure out how to get the wife to approve it. First, she is totally against me opening another restaurant. Honestly, I was too. I was happy with one restaurant that I could be hands on with but I really wanted a food cart. So I decided to play that “no second restaurant” to my advantage. I kept on mentioning investors that wanted me to open another restaurant here and there to get a “no” reaction. Then when she was totally against it all, I said, “how about a food cart instead?” She said “ok, you can have a food cart” thinking that it was in the far future. She was also probably not thinking I was no going to restore a 60s era VW bus and converting it into a food cart.

It took me two weeks to develop a plan and pick the vehicle (see previous post). I told her my plan to buy a VW BUS I found in North Dakota and to make it into a food cart. Her words were, “I didn’t think you were going to do it right away” and that’s when she realized she fell into my trap. It wasn’t really a trap but a……ok it was trap. Childish thing for me to do? Yes. Did I mention, I really wanted a food cart and to make street food.

I picked up the 65 VW bus from ND in the late fall of 2009, hoping I could finish it for the 2010 season. That turned out to be a very difficult goal. The 65 bus needed body and engine work. There were a lot of rust holes that needed to be patched. I started rebuilding the engine that winter. I was half way done with the engine rebuild when I found the running bus. It was in better condition and had a rebuilt engine in it. I knew for sure it was drivable and all I needed to do was body work.  After I got the VW bus home and the interior ripped out; we started working on the removal of the bus roof. By the way, I’m doing all of this in my garage. To be continued…




VW Bus Food Cart

February 19, 2011 in Volkswagen Bus

Why did I pick a small VW bus to turn into a food cart? The number one reason is because it’s just so dam cool. How can you not like the look of a split window bus? What are you a commie? Wait, even commies probably like VW buses. If you think about it; the VW bus is something democats, republicans and commies can all agree on is cool. VW buses = world peace. The hippies had the answer all along. I’ve also always wanted a bus and this was my chance to own one, plus have the business pay for it. Plus it fits into one parking space and get decent gas milage. Is there really a better choice?

First thing on the list was to strip it down to nothing but bare metal. It had a nice wood roof and panels but it all had to go because inside needs to be stainless for the kitchen that is going in there. After I pulled everything off, I found out that squires were using the bus as their winter acorn storage area. It was nothing the shop-vac and an air hose couldn’t take care of. After everything was off, it was time to assess the status of the bus and see how much work was ahead. The plan was to cut the roof off the bus and have it hinge like a clam shell to reveal a kitchen. The inside roof was to become a black board when up and the kitchen would be an indoor/outdoor kitchen. I liked the open air shish kabob carts in NY city but I didn’t want to trailer something. Its basically going to be like a kiosk kitchen. I’ll have to try and fit a 24″ char broil grill, 2 burners, a holding table, hand sink, and room for a couple of coolers. I also need to figure out how to install a record player into the bus. Big plans, little space….