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.

1987 Red Vanagon and 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.

Grey Vanagon named Wendy : )

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 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 e-mail!

All photography and text by Bill Dummitt (all rights reserved)
Website designed by JULI
See credits for this site.

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