Outside Online on the VW Westfalia


…and let me be the first to comment that Arnold’s advice on where to look for a westy is kinda bad. Go to The Samba. You’ll get an amazing education in the vanagon forums. I love GoWesty but $100k+ Syncros aren’t for everyone.

I’ve always been a fan of VW, even though every single one of the cars I’ve owned broke at the most inconvenient times and were expensive to fix.

Last fall we took our first roadtrip in a Eurovan that we rented from a great company in the Northwest. We’ve gone on a bunch of impressive vacations all over South America and Europe, but the two weeks we spent together in that van were among the most memorable and enjoyable times we’ve ever had. There is just something about the experience that you can’t get with a larger RV or even just camping in a tent from your car. Now we are considering getting our own van like a used Eurovan or maybe a Sportsmobile.

I love the idea of Westfalias, but they suffer from a few major issues. Of course there’s the mechanical “the engine is just a part that needs to be replaced every few years” type stuff, and the fact that a mid 80s one will still cost you $15k, and the absence of a bathroom can be an issue especially for women, and not having a furnace is just absurd, but my real issue is what I call the Westy Disease. Why do so many people leave them in stock form? Original curtains, even when they have the texture of old sun baked potato sacks??? Really??? Its like people decided that they’re so perfect that they can’t possibly improve them, so they hardly touch them beyond putting one of those hula dancers on the dash.

To me that’s a major violation of the RV Credo, which is that an RV should be an expression of the owner. A blank slate RV, even if you’re just doing it because the resale value of your vehicle is so irrationally high, is just wrong.

My advice to any Westy owner who wants to explore RVing further: get something just a little bit bigger and much more reliable, like a Chinook. I never looked back after selling my Westy for a 1973 Dodge turtle top camper van, then getting a 1973 Chinook, then a 1978 Chinook, and now a 1990 Chinook. And they’re cheap and sturdy enough that I can sink a screw anywhere I want, and modify things like crazy.

Some pics of my '73 Chinook here:


Some friends of my just got the new California - great piece of kit.

I’d love them to reproduce the old shape in modern materials and reliability, until then … I dream of the new Cali.

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