Howdy doo all!
I am currently a student studying and writing from Kathmandu, Nepal with a question about my next adventure.
I will soon be returning to the States and entering my Senior year of college and am planning an epic post-graduation trip with a friend of mine. The plan is to buy a good old-fashioned VW van and drive it from Boston across the country and then back through Canada to end up at Niagara Falls. Well, either that or drive until the van falls to pieces and we have to bum money to get home.
Not to be deterred, I am wondering if anyone has any advice on where in the northeast I could buy such a beautiful vehicle (or one that still has four wheels anyway) and what some suggestions are as to what to expect to repair before leaving and along the way.
Also, any stories of your own adventure would be much appreciated (and amusing as well).
Much obliged for your help!
From a damn naive college student,
Howdy doo all!
A road trip can be a truly enjoyable and broadening experience.
However, attempting a road trip in an ancient VW van is more likely to be one featuring inconvenience, delays, and a risk to your safety.
When these vehicles were new, they were slow and ungainly.
After several decades of use, any VW van that you find will be even slower, as a result of having lost quite a few of its original 40 horsepower. One of these vehicles would struggle to accelerate (at glacial speed) up to 55 mph on an expressway, while traffic roars past you at 65-75 mph. In other words, the vehicle is a hazard on the road to both those riding in it and to those who have to share the road with it.
Then, we have the reliability factor. While many repairs on these vehicles are fairly easy, they will be very frequent.
And, then we have the factor of passenger protection in the event of a crash.
On modern vehicles, in addition to shoulder harnesses and air bags, the inherent design includes “crumple zones” that are designed to dissipate impact forces in order to reduce their effect on passengers. On an old VW van, the crumple zone in front is essentially one vertical layer of sheet metal and your legs. Not good.
My suggestion is to forget the romantic notions connected with these vehicles of yore.
Locate a vehicle made in the last 10-12 years, have it vetted by a good mechanic, and then take your cross-country odyssey in considerably more safety and comfort, as compared to your current vehicle of choice.
You might need all the room that a VW van has to offer. Carry spare parts and tools and a good shop manual.
Decide on if you want a bus with the “bug” engine or if you want the bus with the type IV engine. 1972 was right when the change was made. Myself, I would go for a 1977 WestFalia camper bus. Look this vehicle up and see what features it has that are nice.
With the road salt used in the Boston area your chances of finding a good old VW van are not good. More likely you could find one on the other side of the country, California.
If you find one you need to realize these vans run hot on long trips. Use a very good oil and change the oil every 3000 miles. The pre-72 buses are easier to repair and use more readily available parts. But the engines are smaller, underpowered, and it will be slow climb up any steep hill. The '72 and later buses have more power (but are still underpowered) but the motor is going to be more expensive to repair or replace if needed.
The old buses are very unsafe, so you don’t want to get into an accident. The good news is they are so slow accidents are less likely and you might survive one due to lack of speed.
If you have no mechanical skills, it will an epic trip no doubt.
How much money do you have? A VW van that you’d trust to drive cross country will be expensive, they’re quite the collector’s item. A Westy, even more so.
Do you have experience with fixing old VWs? Because you can bet the place you break down will not have anybody that does.
The experiences you’ll have on this trip really don’t depend at all on the vehicle you use, except for the BAD experiences!
My vote is that this is just too crazy, for all the reasons already mentioned.
Not to be deterred, I am wondering if anyone has any advice on where in the northeast I could buy such a beautiful vehicle (or one that still has four wheels anyway)
A salvage yard, or Honest Earls Real Good Rides.
and what some suggestions are as to what to expect to repair before leaving and along the way.
If you’re lucky, you might make it to the end of the trip without having to replace the windshield. And the steering wheel. Pretty much everything else will probably break.
As others have mentioned, this thing can’t get out of its own way, and what I -h-a-v-e-n-'t- (should have) seen mentioned specifically (if I were not blind) is that in any front-end collision, your legs are the crumple zone. These things should not be on anything but city streets anymore.
“what I haven’t seen mentioned specifically is that in any front-end collision, your legs are the crumple zone.”
Take a good look at the first response in this thread!
In that response, I stated, “On modern vehicles, in addition to shoulder harnesses and air bags, the inherent design includes “crumple zones” that are designed to dissipate impact forces in order to reduce their effect on passengers. On an old VW van, the crumple zone in front is essentially one vertical layer of sheet metal and your legs. Not good.”
The nice thing about being blind is that all my thoughts are originals
Go for it.
I did this in a westfalia 60’s bus back in the mid-90’s from CO to Baja California and back. No significant issues. I think the van was purchased and sold for $3500.
I highly recommend it if you can scrape the cash.
These vans are quite expensive in the Northeast since rust has eaten them. The ones that are still around are typically well kept.
Dude, have you SEEN the cars in Nepal?
Look in the midwest, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Missouri. Also a good place for old Chevys and Harleys.
He’s going to drive the van in Nepal? I thought he was going to drive it in the US and Canada.
No, I haven’t seen the cars in Nepal, impala.
Please regale us with a dissertation on that topic–even though it does not relate to driving an aged VW van across the US.
Also, please be sure to include technical details on those vehicles commonly found in Nepal, as I know that technical automotive knowledge is one of your areas of expertise!
Have a real adventure. Go on a couple motorcycles!
Wow, Snooty Snooterton from Snoottown! The Snootinator! The Man of Snootstinia! Long time no see!
So, Whitey, I’ll address your question instead. S/he did say US and Canada, but after living in Nepal. Speaks to previous experience. Maybe it’s changed since I was there, but it was a land of marginal arak-drinking drivers driving old vehicles held together with wire coat-hangers, drastically overloaded, on poorly-maintained roads. Makes a VW bus in the US look like a walk in the park. Until it breaks down, of course.
If you absolutely must have an old VW check out :
That said the air cooled VW van was a different vehicle for a different time. You won?t be getting an inexpensive, reliable (if not driven too hard) means of transportation, you will be driving a restored antique. I would recommend you look for a good used mini-van. It may not have the panache of an old VW but it will get you around the country and when something breaks you will at least have a chance to continue your trip. Julay
[b][i]“The plan is to buy a good old-fashioned VW van . . .”
From Somebody Who Has Worked At Volkswagen Dealers For Years When “old-fashioned VW vans” were’nt old-fashioned (I’ve logged thousands of miles driving them), the words Good and Old-Fashioned VW Vans don’t belong in the same sentence.[/i][/b]
" . . . what to expect to repair before leaving and along the way."
Expect to repair whatever it is that you wouldn’t expect to have to repair.
Funny how the “good old days” seem so good when we’re looking back.
If I were contemplating such a trip, I would find a Ford E-150 or the equivalent Chevrolet or Dodge full size van or a Ford Aerostar or Chevrolet Astro minivan. These vans are rear wheel drive and are more easily repaired than front wheel drive minivans. I think you could buy one of these vans in reasonable condition for much less than you would pay for a roadworthy VW Microbus. Leave the VW van to Jeremy in the “Zits” comic strip in the newspaper.