The Minerva Project

As the story has been told many a time, Pierre Robert’s original 1970 VW Micro-bus named “Minerva” began her journey in San Francisco in 1981. Not long after, she was impounded and then crushed by The Philadelphia Parking Authority (they had their reasons). In 2001, WMMR threw a party for Pierre at The Philadelphia Spectrum to celebrate his 20th anniversary; their gift to him was a 1972 VW Westfalia Micro-bus that was affectionately named “Minerva 2”.

From Minerva 2’s beginnings, she had engine trouble and was never quite in the best shape. For years now she’s been rotting in the back lot of 93.3 WMMR’s studio in Bala Cynwyd, PA. Preston & Steve have proposed blowing Minerva 2 into pieces, which would have made for a great stunt, but Pierre would have been heartbroken. Without lots of time, effort and money, Minerva 2 was destined for a similar fate as her older counterpart. That was… until CollisionMax bravely stepped up and accepted the challenge of restoring Minerva 2 to her former glory. The restoration has been dubbed “The Minerva Project“.

WMMR Group Shot

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The Minerva Project Episode 17

Franny Drummond from PaintZoo airbrushes a cartoon moon and a 93.3 WMMR logo on the side of Pierre Robert’s 1972 Volkswagen microbus Minerva.

The Minerva Project Episode 16

Franny Drummond of PaintZoo airbrushes Pierre Robert’s newly restored Minerva. Watch as the front and sides of this 1972 Volkswagen microbus are carefully masked off and then the first layers of green paint are applied. Next, WMMR logos are cut out of vinyl and placed on the surface and then Franny spray paints around the edge to create a shadow.

The masking tape is then removed and reapplied in reverse to mask off the green paint and prepare for a layer of heavy purple flake.

The Minerva Project Episode 15


Well, good citizens, Minerva in all of her 1972 glory has finally been finished by the techs at CollisionMax and the artists at PaintZoo. Now it’s time to see Pierre Robert’s face when the cover is lifted on this four month long project.

The setting is The 2013 Philly Home Show in the back left of the PA Convention Center on February 2nd at high noon. Brent Porche was the dj that day for 93.3 WMMR and hosted his broadcast directly from The Philadelphia Home Show.

Among the detailed airbrush work by Fran Drummond of PaintZoo, one can see Jerry Garcia with The Grateful Dead bears, Janis Joplin, the Philadelphia city skyline, LOVE Park, Jimi Hendrix, PEACE & LOVE, Jim Morrison, Gadzooks written on an alien spacecraft and Planet Asparagus.

One will also notice various bumper stickers:

– KSAN San Francisco
– 3 more payments and it’s paid off
– PPG Industries
– Save the wales
– McGovern ’72
– Wood Stock 3 Days of Peace and Music
– 93.3 WMMR Home of Rock N Roll
– 93.3 WMMR 30 Rockin Years
– Sinclair
– Viva la’ Vinyl

The Minerva Project Announcement


Hear where it all began. This was the announcement made by Pierre Robert of 93.3 WMMR and Rich Tornetta of CollisionMax on the Preston and Steve Show on September 24th 2012 during the crossover.

The Minerva Project Episode 14

With 2012 drawing to a close and 2013 only a day away, Minerva has finally been completely airbrushed by Fran Drummond of PaintZoo and will now be sent back to CollisionMax for final clear coating. No level of detail was spared in the many designs Franny carefully sprayed onto Minerva and, though we can’t reveal any details, we CAN tell you it looks sick! In this video we take you through a brief tour of PaintZoo and show you the various paints by PPG Industries that were used in bringing Minerva’s amazing paint job to life.

After two more layers of clear coat are applied to Minerva by CollisionMax, she will be “rubbed”, which means the body will be scuffed with a super fine wet sandpaper and then buffed to a showroom finish. That takes care of the outward appearance… now all of the guts need to be reinstalled (and, in some cases, installed for the first time).

So far that template work has all been done on the 1974 VW bus so it SHOULD all fit… but you never know with these custom jobs. Minerva will need to get her engine, transmission and suspension put in along with air conditioning components and a custom fuel cell.

The moment of truth will come in a couple weeks when we test drive the old gal for the first time with her new mechanics.

The Minerva Project Episode 13


This is a little good deed we did for the Camden Rescue Mission. We collected toys from all of our employees and drove them down to the kids for Christmas in 2012.

The Minerva Project Episode 12

Minerva is masked off for seam sealer application. A two-part 3M seam sealer is brushed into crevices and gaps to seal against air leaks and to waterproof sheet metal overlaps
The spray booth temperature is raised to 75 degrees, which is optimal spray temperature.

Time is allotted for both the metal and atmosphere to reach the same temperature.
Minerva’s exterior is wiped down to remove any remaining surface contaminants. The first sprayed coat is a sealer, which forms a uniform barrier between the body and the basecoat.

Once the sealer is flashed off (dry enough to receive additional layers), water-based white paint is sprayed to provide the basecoat. After several layers of basecoat are applied and flashed off, a hardening clearcoat is applied to protect all subsequent layers of paint, sealer and primer.

This 1972 VW microbus is now flatbedded over to Franny Drummond of Paint Zoo for airbrush work.

The Minerva Project Episode 11


So much time and effort has been placed into the repair of Minerva that we wanted to place equal emphasis on the show aspect of this famous 1972 VW microbus. The hardest part in choosing an airbrush artist is finding the guy that won’t just give you the “boardwalk look” but will offer you a truly immersive piece of art

We located a world class artist named Franny Drummond of Paint Zoo in Bensalem, PA. A couple of notable pieces include Ilya Bryzgalov’s Winter Classic goalie mask and a bike for Nick Perri of Shinedown. Fran is one of only seven airbrush artists in the US that are authorized to paint masks for Bauer Performance Sports (the strongest ice hockey brand in the world)

Minerva is going to be painted white, clear coated, sanded and then delivered to Franny to begin what will most likely be several weeks of artwork.

The Minerva Project Episode 10


Up until this point, the engine and “super structure” were only tested out in the 1974 template bus. We used our experience of trial and error with that sacrificial vehicle to finally cut only the necessary metal out of Minerva to fit the new engine. When the moment of truth came, the superstructure fit like Legos into Minerva… all that planning paid back in spades.

The official top speed of the 1972 VW bus was 75mph; but, from a performance standpoint, Minerva was only capable of about 55mph before she would start to shake and feel unsafe. Therefore, we gave her a brand new suspension that will not only allow Minerva to handle higher speeds but her braking distance will be drastically improved and much safer. The brakes are Wilwood four piston calipers with drilled rotors.

The suspension is from a company in Oregon called Wagenswest who specialize in custom lowering parts for VW buses. Once finished, Minerva will sit a full four inches lower than her stock ride height making her not only look like a sleek custom van but also handle very well due to a lower center of gravity. The GM hubs and the VW hubs were different… if we left them like this, there would be two different wheels in the back and two different wheels in the front.

We wanted WMMR crew to be able to get regular tire rotations down the road so we took the parts over to RPC Driveline in Pennsauken, NJ to have the hubs machined. You’ll see their machinist Ethan walk you through their process.

Thanks to Ron Francis Wiring for helping us with our rats nest of a wiring nightmare.

The Minerva Project Episode 09

It was a short week with Thanksgiving — we were giving our people well deserved time off to spend with their families. In this video, Rich Tornetta takes you for a brief tour through our customer area and then into the shop. He shows you Minerva’s finished front doors as well as the sliding door — all sanded, painted with a coat of primer and ready for paint.

You’ll see the front bumper has been modified to fit closer to the body – we took an inch and a half out of the center to shorten it, welded the three bumper sections into each other to create one piece and grinded down the carriage bolts. All of this will create a clean, sleek and tighter look to the overall appearance and stance.

The area behind the rear quarter panel has been repaired and cleaned out — this allowed us to finally weld the new piece permanently in place. We did a window delete in the rear — we covered over the rear windows with sheet metal to provide a larger canvas for the airbrush work — this area will now be a smooth panel. Lastly, you’ll see our guys prepping Minerva’s roof where the pop top canopy used to sit… we have something special in mind for the remaining 3ft x 4ft hole.