Sunk Samba: 1957 VW 23 Window Bus

Sunk Samba

This find from reader Vincent L has been out there for a while, but it is such a great story that we just had to feature it! I’m sure many of the VW Bus fans out there already seen this incredible story, but if you haven’t, get ready for an amazing story that proves just about anything can be saved! So this story begins back in 1973. A hotel in Norway was using a 1957 VW 23 Window Bus to shuttle guests around, it was cheap transportation with fantastic panoramic views. One day the transmission went out and the owner had to decide what to do with this old worn out VW. Rather than fix it, it was decided the best course of action was to push it into the nearby Fjord (water inlet). Apparently this was common practice at the time with cars and junk that cost more to fix than they were worth.

1957 VW Samba in 1970
The Bus only a few years before it took the plunge.

Fast forward to 2003, when a Morten Lunt received a tip about a 23 Window that had been dumped in the fjord 30 years earlier from the guys that put it there. They were also able to give Morten a basic idea of where it took its plunge into the water and who the original owner was. Thankfully, the owner just happened to still be alive, so Morten gave them a visit. When he explained that he’d like to save the car they signed it over to him for free, so if he was able to save it, everything would be legal and on the level. Soon divers and even a remote submarine were dispatched to find the rare Bus!

Samba Rising from the Depths

When it was discovered it was surprisingly intact, but it was also full of junk. To keep the car from floating to the surface or getting washed up, 300 or so bottles were filled with water and placed inside. It sank to a depth of 50 feet and landed on it’s nose, which caused some damage to the front. It also suffered rear end damage from several stoves that were dumped in the fjord after it. I guess at the time, this seemed like the perfect place to put all the unwanted junk! Once the Bus was found, a plan had to be put together on how to get it pulled out. It wasn’t until 2009 that everything was ready to go. A team of divers had to enter the bus and remove enough of the junk from inside to allow for a crane to lift it without damaging the body. Once some of the bottles were cleared out, straps were run through the front and rear suspensions and then attached to a crane. Slowly it was lifted from it’s resting place and eventually the roof and all those glorious windows were visible. I can only imagine what kind of sight that must have been!

Samba Full of Junk

Once it was out of the water and back on dry land, the hard work wasn’t over, it was just beginning. If you live near the sea, you know what humidity and water does to steel. While it was surprisingly solid considering where it had been parked, once metal was exposed to air it was even more vulnerable than it was while in the fjord. If you think cleaning a dusty barn find is a meticulous process, imagine cleaning off 30 years of aquatic life! I would assume getting all the nooks and crannies cleaned out was their first concern, as the car would have rusted in no time without being properly cleaned and protected. There was also the fun task of disposing of all the junk that was still left inside. Once the job of cleaning it was done, they began pulling it apart.

Samba Transmission

The transmission wasn’t just damaged, it was disintegrated. The engine casing wasn’t in much better condition either. The brakes and most of the suspension components were corroded and covered in rust, but were still intact. Slowly, Morten disassembled it and before long he even had the suspension put back together enough that it was a roller! Soon the engine bay was cleaned up and a new drivetrain was installed. Morten fixed just those things necessary to get the bus moving again and was even able to take it to one of the largest VW car shows in Scandinavia, where he even took home an award! It was far from being a street worth vehicle, but I’m sure it was incredible to see it moving under it’s own power.

According to his posts on The Samba, Morten has plans of one day doing a full restoration, but at this point he just wants to do the basic things to make it street legal. I can only imagine how much work it’s going to take to bring this Bus back to top shape, but I’ve seen cars in worse condition brought back. If Morten see’s this or someone happens to know more of the story, please share in the comment section below! And if you know of any cool stories that you would like to see featured on Barn Finds, send us an email about it at mail@barnfinds.com. Special thanks to Vincent for the tip!

Source: RetroRides.com

Fast Finds

Comments

  1. MikeG

    Methinks if the corrosive effect of the water can disintegrate a transmission case, the body will be far beyond restoring!!

    • Jay

      Entirely different metal composition.

      Like 2
      • Renheffels

        Magnesium for engine and transmission housing those days at VW beetle and dericatives, looked funny if they burned down, just a bunch of gears and a crankshaft at the atmosphere

    • jakeg

      the transmission is made of magnesium if you look at the gears they look mint

      Like 1
  2. DonM

    23 window??? Can’t you folks count??? This is a 13 window – no windows above the rain gutters

    • Marshmlow

      @DonM – it’s definitely 100% a 23 window bus. Look at the 1st and 3rd pics, the windows above the rain gutters are clear as day.

      Also, as an aside, even if it didn’t have them, then it would be a 15 window. The 13 window buses did not have the two windows in the back corners.

      edit: ignore the first line in my post. just saw your last post.

      Like 2
    • Regis

      There are windows above the rain gutters ( quite dirty… ) and you can see it on 1st pic… it’s a 23 windows !

    • way barr

      you need glasses. there are windows above it.

    • Jay

      Look again, there are definitely windows above the rain gutter. Look at the crane shot

  3. Doug M

    I am amazed the input shaft, ring gear et al isn’t gone, probably due to brackish and very cold temps
    Just found this 56/57/58/59 in a “secret” forest:) semphores too! now to drag it home!
    Don: on the first pic it looks like 8 windows to me on the roof

    Like 2
    • Howard A Member

      Hi Doug, cool find. I think it may be a ’55, as that was the last year for the semaphore turn signals in the US. ( 1960 for Europe, Australia and Canada) Here’s a great guide to determine the exact year. http://www.vw-resource.com/years.html

      • Doug M

        Thanks Howard!
        Haven’t uncovered the SN yet but it’s sure worth dragging home!

      • jim s

        thanks for the information.

  4. DonM

    My bad. I was viewing on my iPhone and couldn’t see the roof windows.

    • Josh Staff

      Haha it’s alright Don! I didn’t think it was a 23 window at first too. The algae or whatever that is covering the roof windows makes it hard to distinguish them from the roof.
      Josh

    • Doug M

      I do the same, poor eyes and silly little screens

  5. skloon

    Time to brush up on my Norwegian and go diving for Porsches funny that the alloy case has gone but the body isn’t as bad, not good but not as terrible

    • jakeg

      magnesium not alloy

  6. Howard A Member

    Put it back in the water!!! I think if we drained half the lakes in this country, oh, the treasures you’d find. I think even Mike from American Pickers would pass on this one. Divers and a remote submarine were dispatched? Wonder what Robert Ballard (and his crew) charged for that?

  7. Ollie E

    Keep it as is and whisper to this T1: “I’ve towed you out of a lake, I’ve let you dry and breath again, I’ve had my fun with you at car shows and my ego has been launched to the highest levels possible, because of you. Along the way I’ve always looked at you, appreciated you more by the day and slowly you made me realize, you deserve a place in a museum to show the public how stupid people used to be and still can be.”
    Yes, I know the prices paid for Samba’s and other T1’s, and also more and more the Beetles and their little halve-sisters named Porsche are reaching outragious price-levels (see last feature on Porsche, BTW what is that stupid thing with you saying PorschA?). For years now the Beetle and the T1 are upgraded from people’s car that people used to ‘spit on’ to high class transportation.

    Although my love is Italian classic cars, I grew up amongst Beetles (with Porsche engines and other experiments) and T1’s and T2’s. To me they’re just not worth the prices paid and therefore asked.

    It’s not the lost Bugatti Aerolithe or any other rare car.

  8. David Frank David Member

    I love the view of the front office. It’s amazing the doors would open, isn’t it? And have you seen the youtube video of it being driven?

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vnoocQyJC-0

  9. David Frank David Member

    Try again for the picture

    Like 1
  10. Scot Carr

    ~ New site — Fjord Finds !!

    • Rob

      Hey Scott.. your Mom isn’t by chance named Darlene, is she?, as she’s my cousin, who’s married to Clint, both residing in Newport Beach, Ca

      • Scot Carr

        ~ No, Mom’s watching over from above. Darlene and Clint looking to adopt ??

        Like 1
  11. Dolphin Member

    Maybe this story has already appeared on BF, but five years ago a car was recovered from a Swiss lake that beats this Samba—a Bugatti. The kicker is that it sold at auction for….wait for it….$360K, and it’s not even going to be restored. It was put on display just as it was recovered.

    http://www.gizmag.com/the-legendary-lake-maggiore-1925-bugatti-type-22-brescia/14045/

    Stuff like that confirms that (some) humans are the wierdest things in the known universe….present company excluded of course.

    Like 2
  12. sir mike

    great story…..i would not restore her…wonder how much he has invested in her recovery?

  13. Dan

    Some people have more money than sense. I reckon. I know these are rare but wooo….fish habitat was better…

  14. jim s

    it might been less costly to just buy all the parts to make a new bus. great story.

  15. DonS

    The disintegration of the trans case doesn’t surprise me. I rebuilt a working Porsche 911 motor after a flood. It ran well after flushing the oil, but the oil pressure wildly fluctuated. The oil pump had disintegrated. I’ve put 10,000 miles on that motor after lots of labor and parts.

    Like 1
  16. Rich

    The trans and other alloy components dissolved as the become a sacrificial anode in the water. That’s what saved the steel. There’s an oval window beetle in a lake that diver’s visit, apparently the driver is also down there…

    • Grr

      Where is that, Rich?

  17. Howard A Member

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