1972 VW Westfalia Camper

I have a question regarding a 1972 Volkswagen Campervan that I hope someone can help me with. The vehicle of topic has 64,000 miles on it, a new coat of paint, and $900 worth of maintenance just done on it, including new brakes, and a rebuilt carburetor. The interior is in great shape and it is equipped with all the camping gear. It is for sale marked $6,900. In your personal opinons, do you think it is a good deal? Are old VW engines reliable? Are they easy to fix? Do you think it is a good buy for a college kid who likes to camp and wants to drive it everywhere possible?

Thanks for your help

These things have a fanatical following, even though they are unbelievably slow and evil-handling in a crosswind…did I mention slow? I would never want one as my only car. But some put up with all the problems. Just hope you don’t expect heat in the interior!

Back in the 70s I owned a 1971 VW bus. I had it for eight years, and drove it everywhere. It was reliable, but compared to today’s vehicles it was maintenance-intensive. It required frequent oil changes, valve adjustments, replacement of plugs, points and condenser (do you even know what points and condenser are?), and careful adjustment of the ignition timing. My bus even had an oil bath air cleaner. High tech stuff!

The only way I’d consider owning something like that today would be as a hobby car, to be driven occasionally. Attempting to use a '72 Bus as a daily driver is, in my opinion, not a very good idea.

These things are SLOW, and on a modern highway you’d be considered a roadblock. A crosswind will blow a VW bus into oncoming traffic, and a headwind can make it impossible to get over 50 mph.

Acceleration is measured in minutes, not seconds, so merging onto the freeway has to be planned WAY in advance. Top speed is around 70, but you’d need a nice long downhill run to reach it. You’d be very lucky to maintain a steady 60 mph cruising speed. Climbing any sort of hill will slow your progress.

I remember driving up hills in West Virginia, foot to the floor in 3rd gear, and loaded logging trucks were passing me.

Then there’s the safety angle. Your feet are inches behind the front bumper, and there’s virtually zero crash protection. Oh, and there’s no heat or defroster, either. In the winter it’s not unusual to scrape frost off the INSIDE of the windshield.

As a vehicle to camp in they’re great. As a vehicle to drive, not so much.

Are old VW engines reliable, well that depends. Are they easy to fix, well that depends too. I owned a '71 camper back in the mid '70’s. Even relatively new it was very slow. I also had a '74 Bus that my kids used in high school and my daughter took to college. My son had a “Squareback” for while in high school too.

The good thing about those old VW’s is that no matter how badly timed and neglected they would run. Not well, but they’d run. Keeping them going is a job for a “tinkerer” person. They need oil changes every 3,000. Valves need to be adjusted every 3 to 5,000 miles. They use an old points and condensor ignition meaning a tune up every 10,000 miles. Lot’s more regular maintenance than we are used to in today’s era of automobiles.

The good news is they are simple. If you kill the motor you can rebuild it with parts available from JC Whitney. Yet, the motor is hard to work on when installed in the bus. You have to crawl under the car and getting in from the back door takes a contortionist. Any big job means the engine comes out, which is relatively easy on a VW. The motor will leak oil not matter what you do to it.

The body is simple, the seats are simple, the heating system is complicated and likely rusted out anyway so don’t expect any heat. If you try for heat you may draw exhaust fumes into the car as the heater boxes on the motor are always rusted out.

If someone thinks they can get $7,000 for a camper bus is must be in very good shape. If you are mechanically inclined it may be fun to have a camper. If you have to pay for all your repairs I’d pass. Most mechanics that worked on these engines are retired now. You may want to find out if local mechanics are interested on working on an old bus like this one.

I would worry that the work that was done was to get it ready to sell.
Some people tell repair guy fix it cheep as you can I am going to sell it-look out!
Who did the work, guys brother-inlaw in his driveway or good repair guy in a shop.
Not trying to scare you just things to watch out for.
If you think repairs are ok and like it I think you should get a service manual and injoy, your young go for it

This price must be based on the “fanatic following” that these buses have. It is not based on what type of transportation you are getting.

One thing that bothers me is that I thought in 1972 VW buses were using the Type 4 engine with dual carbs. This engine is tremendousy better than the previous engines used. If you go up a few years and you will get into fuel injection. I happened to like the F.I used on the buses (much better than the latter but never used on VW buses CIS) I would not even consider a non type 4 engine equipped VW bus.

Perhaps the change to type 4 engines happened in 1973 but 1972 sticks in my mind. I have overhauled these engines before and found up to 4 sparkplugs just rolling around under the sheet metal. You must use a good magnetic sparkplug socket to change the plugs.

Thanks for the insight

Also, for as slow as these darn things are, the mileage isn’t that great either. They got a little bit better than the V8 powered full-size vans of the period (though about the same as the 6-cylinder versions), but the newer full sizes get better and newer mini-vans blow them away.

Unless nostalgia is the main attraction, you’re better off getting a newer full-size van based camper. Or just getting a cheap minivan and tossing a mattress in the back.(Or if you want to be more ambitious, google “DIY camper van”)