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VW campers


I am in the market for a VW camper van.

Love the classic ones from the 70s, less so the newer,

but I see that Westfalia Eurovans from the 90s are actually less

expensive than a rebuilt classic “hippy van”. Is it just the look?

Asking prices seem to be vary widely.

Any opinion?



Is this a hobby car or do you actually intend to drive it? I hope you realize these things are hopelessly slow and dangerous in modern traffic.

I drove a 1971 VW bus for many years, but I wouldn’t want to have to drive one on the highway today. Around town on weekends, maybe, but certainly not on the highway. Your feet are inches behind the front bumper. Not good in a crash.

In addition, the hippy versions from the 1960s and 1970s were terribly unreliable, not that the 1990s versions were much better.

I should also add that the hippy version was a big polluter. Andrea, if you consider yourself a hippy, I think you would be better off with a class B or small class C RV that has modern emissions equipment and modern safety equipment. In this economy, you might be able to find a good deal on a used one.

They all had a host of very expensive to repair problems. Even the newer water cooled version had problems with the head retention studs becomming weakened because of a poor coolant replacement program by the owner (I won’t go in to the technical reasons). But I myself like you really like the excellent quality of the materials and workmanship to construct the camper. If you can find a newer water cooled version that can be given a clean bill of health you would not be taking on any more potential problems of any other vehicle of that vintage.

I have seen Nissan V-6’s swapped into these camper bodies but you really must like this style to justify this expense.

I would not under any circumstances recommend getting a water-cooled VW van. The Vanagons are reliability nightmares-- they will eat all your money and/or time and you will NEVER be able to trust them well enough to actually take them camping anywhere other than the back yard (every Vanagon owner has stories of campground breakdowns and hundred-mile tows). The Eurovans are better reliability-wise, but they’re incredibly expensive to fix and maintain and they get pretty lousy gas mileage. They’re great vehicles with the diesel motor they pretty much all get in Europe, but they’re not avaliable with those here.

The aircooled ones are obviously slow, unsafe and maintenance hogs, but at least you can do most of the maintenance yourself (they will bleed you dry if you have to pay someone to do all the little periodic maintenance items) and if you do keep up with it and everything important is generally new, they can at least be somewhat reliable (and at least when they do break down in the backcountry, you can fix 'em!). So I could only recommend one of these if working on a funky old VW is the main attraction and the possiblilty of maybe taking it camping sometime is only a fringe benefit.

Realistically, though, domestic vans, both mini and full-size are vastly superior vehicles. This was probably true even back in the hippie days-- the main appeal of the VW vans has always been that they are clever little camper vans. They’re not as common, but you can find domestic camper vans out there, and they are more reliable, faster, safer, and cheaper to buy and run. Even if you can’t find one, you can get a normal van for super-cheap and outfit it yourself and still wind up ahead over a VW.

If done well, the Subaru Legacy engine swap into a Vanagon results in an actual halfway decent vehicle. I don’t know if this has been done enough that there are Legacy-ed vans out there on the market that aren’t hugely expensive.

If you can do regular repairs yourself get 60-70s model and enjoy!
Yes they are slow and yes they have bad front end protection but so what!

Wasn’t Porsche engine swaps also pretty common in these?

Swapping in an air-cooled Porsche engine was a common way to fix the slowness of the old air-cooled vans, but I don’t know if there’s a Porsche conversion for water-cooled vans. I do know one of the entry-level Porsches from the 80’s had an engine that was derived from the wasserboxer engine used in the Vanagon.