Bill's Volkswagen Page
I've always been a car buff, like many guys, although I may be
the only one whose favorites are Volkswagen camper buses and old
Corvettes. They seem to attract different personality types, but I'm
one of those strange types that likes them both.
I've always thought of the VW camper as the perfect way to travel.
When I was a kid, I read Steinbeck's "Travels With Charley In Search
Of America", about traveling aimlessly from place to place in a pickup
camper. As soon as I read it, I knew that when I grew up I'd spend as
much time doing that as I could. This proved to be true. Years
later, when I discovered VW campers, I knew these were the perfect
vehicles for vagabonding of this sort.
Unlike most VW camper enthusiasts, I never owned one of the
air-cooled buses that were so popular in the 60's and 70's. I'm not
sure why- I always liked them. My first VW camper was a shiny new
1990. Unfortunately, it didn't fit in with my family needs at the
time and I reluctantly sold it. Years later, after a divorce, I
bought another shiny new camper in 1995 and spent a wonderful year
traveling the country in it.
At that point, I made another tough and often-regretted decision to
sell this camper in order to buy a house. I knew, though, that VW
campers were going to be a part of my life henceforth. I decided to
immediately go out and buy the best camper I thought I could afford at
the time, which turned out to be this red 1987. After a some
expensive and difficult repairs in the beginning, this was a great
camper and served me well for a couple of years. It's shown here at
Marble Canyon Provincial Park in British Columbia, with my longtime companion (now my wife) Bev.
Any sensible person would have been satisfied with this camper, but I
decided to try to build an even better one. In the fall of 1997, a friendly vanagon
listmember (see below for info on the vanagon mailing list), Wendy Silva, posted a notice that this gray 1987 was for
sale in Cape Cod. I called the owner and discovered that it was a
rust-free California van, needing some minor body work and probably
with a leaking cylinder head, but at a bargain price. Wendy vouched
that the paint, interior, and camping equipment were mint. It seemed
the perfect candidate for a complete rebuild to suit my needs. Anyone
who knows me is aware that a trip halfway across the country to pick
up a car is a typical weekend. This one was made particularly
pleasant by the hospitality of Wendy, her husband John, and the van's
owner, Ken Rempel. A short time later, the gray camper was in my
garage. I did an extensive mechanical rebuild, including new heads,
rings, clutch, etc. In March 1998 I pronounced it ready for service,
sold (with a few tears) the red camper and started traveling in the
newly rebuilt gray camper, christened "Wendy" after its discoverer. Nearly ten years later, I still have this camper and drive it regularly. It is old enough now that I have a newer camper on a Sprinter chassis for serious cross-country travel, but I still love the VW Westfalia.
Having owned both Eurovan (converted by Winnebago) and Vanagon
(converted by Westfalia) campers, I'm often asked which is better. My
answer is, for the most part, it's a toss-up. Westy conversions have
better upholstery and roomier upper bunks. EV Winnies have better
lights, sinks, AC, and refrigerators. EV's have more power than
Vanagons and are much more stable in wind. They also have the
advantage of being newer, but were sold in smaller numbers so parts
are pricey and scarce. You pays your money and takes your choice. Anyone interested in VW water-cooled vans or campers should consult vanagon.com as your first internet resource. Amid a wealth of other information, it describes how to join the vanagon mailing list. This mailing list has been a resource without which I'd never have been able to restore these campers, find parts, and keep them running.
I've also owned camper built on a Ford chassis which is a blatant ripoff of a VW layout, but proved to be a very good traveling vehicle, especially for very long trips. Even with all my rebuilding efforts, my 175000-mile, 16-year-old VW lacks the reliability I need for trips of thousands of miles. This camper is made by a Canadian company called GTRV.
Any comments are appreciated. Send me an
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