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Old VW right for teen?

My 18 yr. old drummer son needs wheels for transporting his equipment. I would like to see him in an old VW microbus; I was a drummer and drove a '67.

My wife is against this vehicle due to a total lack of safety and convenience features.

I am in favor of it for its low cost of operation plus the opportunity to teach my son about simple mechanics and maintenance, plus the fact that these old split window busses just keep going up in value.

Who is right?

I can imagine no more troublesome and dangerous vehicle. Feet don’t work well as crash absorbing devices. It is one of the few vehicles that is also dangerously slow for modern traffic, handles poorly, especially in wind, and has zero in the way of safety devices, something that a teen driver will likely need over their first 4 years.

Richard, you were lucky to survive the experience. Listen to your wife. She is right.

I had a 67 Bug in the early 80’s and knew someone who had a microbus. The microbus was scarier than the Bug. Both vehicles were deathtraps, I just didn’t realize it at the time. I can’t imagine a low cost of operation for a +40 year old vehicle. I’m going to have to agree with the wife on this one.

Ed B.

Much as it galls me to say, the wife is right about this car choice.

I’ve owned a couple of VW buses, one was a '71 and the other a '74. In their day thay were underpowered, top heavy, and unsafe especially in a front end collision. Today with higher speeds and heavier vehicles sharing the road these buses are just not appropriate for any interstate highway travel.

There are so many safer options in vans and minivans that an old VW is a bad choice. Buy an old minivan, take out the seats, and then you have a modern version of your old bus.

If you want something new, consider getting a Ford Transit Connect. They have room in the back for cargo, are basic but have all the modern safety features, get good mpg, will last through college and beyond. This might be the new eclectic “bus” you are seeking.

That’s a great idea, UT. For anyone who doesn’t know what a Ford Transit Connect is (like me), check out this link—>

My grandmother bought a Chevy van and made it into her own low cost personal RV. I have been thinking of doing the same thing, and this vehicle looks like it would work pretty well. Does anyone know if this thing can tow a 1,000 pound trailer?

I owned a 1964 Dodge van when I was 19, and I put 150K miles on it. Like the OP’s interest for his son, my van taught me much about maintenance.

With the driver’s seat right up front, there was only a thin layer of sheet metal between me and any potential collision. I never got into an accident. Nor did I never worry about safety - mostly because I nor others gave it much thought.

Given how precious your son’s life is, and given all the “safer” vehicle choices available to him today that didn’t exist years ago, it may be a time to listen to your wife.

I loved my old van. But given a choice, I wouldn’t want our kids exposed to that kind of risk.

I can’t find any info on towing capacities for this vehicle, but I’m guessing it’s rated by the manufacturer as “no towing.” The Transit is designed as a business vehicle for people like plumbers, who need to haul pipes and tools around. It’s not designed as a regular vehicle, and the designers probably would not have built in towing ability.

But I could be wrong. Call Ford and ask them.

This is one more vote in favor of agreeing with the OP’s wife. I have to say that the OP is wrong on almost all counts.

An old VW microbus will most definitely NOT have a low operating cost, as it will need frequent repairs.

Even though none of us knew any better, back in the '60s, the reality is that these vehicles have essentially no passenger protection–as compared to anything sold in the US marketplace over the past 15 years or so. In the microbus, the “crumple zone” is–unfortunately–the driver and front seat passenger. Combine that factor with the total lack of airbags, seatbelts that are so old that they will undoubtedly snap if the vehicle is in a collision, poor handling, a fuel system that is likely to ignite upon impact, and brakes that are…not good…and you have a really unsafe vehicle.

These vehicles are so slow as to actually constitute a rolling safety hazard if anyone was foolhardy enough to try to merge into highway traffic.

The only thing on which I will agree with the OP is that his son would learn simple mechanics, in order to keep the thing running. Is that one small advantage sufficient to outweigh the reality that this is a vehicle that will put him in much more danger than any other vehicle that you are likely to buy for him? That is one issue that only the OP can answer.

Yes, he’d definitely learn mechanics! How about this: get a used van, 1996 or newer, along with a repair manual and an OBD-II scanner and manual. That way, the son would start learning about modern engines and their upkeep. As much as we like to talk about keeping an old VW or (in my case) Mustang running, much of that has little to do with modern car maintenance.

OK - it would seem the wife is right on this one (and most others, I am afraid…) Rather than allow nostalgia to run my brain, I will look for something newer, safer, and most likely, cheaper than the current crop 'o split window VWs that are so highly prized and priced. Thanks for the input. Let me break it to my better half, or I may never hear the end of it…

I would love to have an old bus, but only for fun, not real transportation. If I had a place to store it, I might have one now. However I would not consider it for a reliable source of transportation, or even regular form of transportation. They are hobby cars today.

If the VW bus runs like most of the VW Microbuses of this vintage, it is very safe because it won’t ever move out of the driveway. If it is one of the small minority that does run, it is very unsafe. I’ve even seen them blown over in strong crosswinds. I know that Jeremy, the central character in the Zits comic strip, drives a VW bus. That is fine for a comic strip character, but not for a living and breathing teenager.

And Jeremy’s VW is almost always shown in the driveway, under repair.

I’m glad someone else reads that comic strip. I had a teenage son who made life interesting. I can’t wait for our grand daughter to become a teenager.

Your wife is always right. Haven’t you figured that out yet?

I agree with her. You could buy a used minivan or full size van. Another option might be a Chevy HHR. They are available as a passenger car or a panel van. The panel van has 2 seats and lots of cargo space.

As to the VW Microbus safety: if it runs, it will be one of the least safe cars on the road. But it won’t run that often, so it should be quite safe. It’s a 40 year old car. Forget it.

My father drove only Beetles from the early '60s up to the mid-'80s. I learned to drive in a Beetle as a teenager, and my first car was a '67 Squareback in the late '70s in high school. I’m still here. My father is still here. Zillions of others who drove Bugs are still here. Are there safer cars? Sure. Why don’t we all give in to hysteria and drive Hummers or just ride around in a military-salvage tank? As far as being too slow for modern traffic, might I remind people that during the heyday of the Beetle in the '60s, the speed limits were HIGHER than they are today. 70 mph interstate speed limits were common, and yet, somehow the Beetle managed. Proper merging procedures and traffic flow anticipation are far more important than being able to mash on it and jam your car into traffic. Death traps? No more so than a motorcycle, and millions of people ride them every day.
Is your teenager responsible and level headed, or more like most teenagers that believe they’re invincible? Be objective, and don’t lie to yourself. That’s the most important question, rather than pretending every high-tech safety gizmo will provide an impenetrable shield. Maybe instead of trying to find the car that’s right for a given driver, we should find the driver that’s right for a given car. In other words, I wouldn’t worry one bit about a teenager driving a VW if he’s got the right attitude, but a teenager with the wrong attitude will get hurt in even the safest vehicle.

Sorry, doesn’t work that way. The only folks that can tell us now that they survived risky behavior are then ones that DIDN’T crash. Your survival says nothing about whether it was risky or not. The death rate in cars in the sixties was about 8 TIMES the death rate today. It’s not a small difference.

As long as the discussion continues, I will chime back in - I agree with both diamond-chevy and texases. Things are very different now. Roads are more crowded and quite frankly, drivers are far worse than they were 30 years ago when I was driving a microbus. I also survived years of bicycles w/o a helmet, followed by motorcycles on and off road with and w/o helmets; all the while I was driving my cars like a maniac. I survived due to being a hell of a driver and alot of LUCK. My son is nowhere close to my driving skill, then or now, but I’m not worried about him running off the road - I am worried about some other numbnuts running into him - and for that there is no doubt, the old split window bus is little more than a can in which to wrap its "contents."
I will always have a big soft spot for old air-cooled VWs, but they probably belong in a museum and not on today’s crazy and crowded highways and biways.