Have I told you guys I got a sweet new van?! Well, I say new… for about 3 months now I’ve been in possession of my childhood dream vehicle. It’s called Bamse, and oh man is it awesome.
This is Bamse, my bloody wonderful adventuremobile. It’s a 1988 Suzuki Super Carry, a ‘microbus’ more commonly found and popularised in Asia. It’s an absolutely minuscule little 970cc van that I’ve been obsessed with since I was a wee boy. Also yes it;’s the van Richard Hammond flipped over in that van challenge on Top Gear.
The Super Carry shared the same model as overall design as the Bedford Rascal and thus around here the design is more commonly associated with the Bedford brand. The Carry/Rascal was developed as a joint venture between General Motors (GM) and Suzuki. It was sold under GM’s British-based Bedford name primarily in the UK, however some were also sold here in the Suzuki form. Bedford’s are still found on the roads in the form of Caravanettes and motorhomes. The Bedford Bambi for example, a motorcaravan conversion of the Rascal, is still a common (and pretty ridiculous) sight around the UK and on British Roads.
Bamse however is a pretty rare all things considered. The Super Carry Van was a smaller pool of production in the UK compared to the Rascal, and due to the nature of use/age/wear and tear etc of microbusses, many ended up on the scrapheap. I guess it’s pretty impossible to tell really how many are still left, but I certainly have never seen any Super Carries in person or on the roads. If I have, it’s no doubt in the form of a van or (mini)minibus and not what my Super Carry is: A bloody campervan!
That’s right somehow stuffed inside this little van is a Gas Cooker/Grill, Sink & Tap, double bed, table, wardrobe and four seats. Also, it’s a pop top. If you can’t see now why I instantly had to own this van well then I guess you’ll never understand- it’s one of the most unusual, crazy wonderful vehicles I’ve ever seen.
She’s not in the worst condition either. I’ve had her out for a few trips and one overnight stay before the winter set in, and apart from one small, insignificant, tiny… almost-setting-on-fire incident she’s been a dream! Nah it wasn’t that bad, but some grease trapped behind the wheel and wires leading to the light switch was causing some smoking. Other than a few rusty patches however she’s in remarkably good condition. Today we were trying to start to address the biggest job- the engine. with 78000-odd miles, she’s not the most well-travelled motorhome you might expect to see and overall runs pretty decently, but the engine is in need of a very good clean. Eventually, we’re going to look at removing the entire engine so each part can be cleaned and the entire engine bay itself can be looked at. Until then, the engine was letting off a lot of smoke when running and we needed to figure out the problem. It seems that the rocker cover may have been leaking oil onto the engine, creating a burnt oil smell and smoke when it got hot.
Removing the cover and accessing the engine isn’t too difficult- the engine bay is located under the front seats, and both fold back to reveal the essentials. The engine itself is tipped somewhat on its side so the rocker box is at an angle to access. To get at it and have a better general look at the vehicle, we removed the front seats, which was just a case of unscrewing a couple of screws on the hinges of each seat. Once those were gone, the console between the seats and the cover for the distributor just behind it was lifted off, getting us a good look at the engine. About 6 screws between the entire front of the vehicle and the engine, talk about easy access, eh? Guess they don’t make them like the used to.
We removed the rocker cover, taking care to clean off as much surrounding dirt as possible, then gave it a proper clean up. Even better, we took off the solid and cracked gasket cover and replaced it with a new one, hopefully sealing in the leaking oil.
Also got to check out the condition of the rocker arms and distributor and it’s not looking too bad at all. All that was left was to patch it back together and test drive it. Hopefully, it should improve the smoking if there’s no more oil hitting the engine, but without giving the entire engine a good clean I imagine it’ll still be a problem. We also had a look at the clutch, but what we thought was a misadjusted clutch cable is looking more likely to be the clutch bearing being on it’s last legs, so a replacement may be on the books in the future. I’m going on a two week course at Sabal Mor Ostaig this weekend, so I’m hoping she runs well for that journey. Maybe once I’m back the engine removal attempts will begin in earnest.