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Why The Volkswagen Vanagon Westfalia Lives Up To The Hype

The Volkswagen Vanagon Westfalia is sluggish, not significantly enjoyable to drive, handles like an intoxicated dullard and isn’t even all that dependable. But, it’s one of the crucial well-liked vehicular trend statements on this Earth. Why?

Personally, I’ve at all times been intrigued by these items, however by no means had an opportunity to drive one. Positive, I get the entire bring-your-home-along attraction, however I by no means understood why folks lay our a fortune on a VW Westfalia over the extra snug, highly effective and gasoline environment friendly campers accessible on the market. Wouldn’t you have got simply as a lot enjoyable in a second-hand Safari Condominium journey trailer?

I needed to discover out what the hype was all about, so I took a Westfalia out for a spin. Doing so utterly altered my notion of what it means to have a superb time driving.


(Full disclosure: the chance to drive a VW Westfalia got here from the identical Jalopnik reader and fellow automotive journalist who allow us to evaluation his Porsche 944. That is his each day driver when he’s not driving press automobiles.)

What Is It?

I’ll keep away from digging into the historical past of the Volkswagen Bus/Kind 2/Kombi/Transporter/Hippie Van, as a result of it’s an extended and convoluted one, however what it is advisable to know is that these items appeared a while within the early 1950s.

The fundamental components for the VW van is fairly easy. Out within the again sits a boxer-type flat-four. Inside, you don’t get a lot luxurious in addition to a set of captain chairs up entrance, a steering wheel, a tough, flat dashboard, and a pair of windshield wipers.



The concept behind the VW bus was at all times to construct an easy panel van that may very well be transformed into several types of autos.

The mannequin you see here’s a 1990 Vanagon Westfalia. It’s one of many final iterations of the unique Kind 2 bus earlier than it developed into the Eurovan. The Westfalia was a bespoke mannequin that centered on the artwork of tenting.

The two.1-liter, water-cooled engine you see right here is likely one of the largest flat-fours to have ever powered these vans.

Horsepower is rated within the neighborhood of 90, with torque hanging round 117 lb-ft. All that livid may is shipped straight to the rear wheels through a four-speed handbook or a three-speed automated. My tester had the latter, child.

Why Does It Matter?

The VW Transporter (these items have so many names) is the best-selling van in historical past with over 12 million items roaming the globe. It’s starred in a gazillion films and have been owned by the likes of Steve Jobs and Jerry Seinfeld.


You may say the unique Westfalia helped encourage a complete era of children to drive off to wherever, smoke weed, and participate in loopy unprotected intercourse. Or at the least, it paired properly with a summer season of ’69 form of soundtrack. That is the official automotive of “let’s get the fuck out.”

At this time we’re in the midst of a brand new model of the hippie development, additional rising the recognition of those flat-nosed contraptions. Millennial hipsters are forsaking steady, well-paying workplace jobs and dropping their costly city condos in favor of the #vanlife, heading west of their Westfalia on the virtues of their Instagram accounts.


As for the hipsters nonetheless residing in mother’s basement, they’ve some saving to do first, since it’s a must to shell out foolish cash to purchase a decent-looking Westfalia at this time.

Did I Simply Hear Dishes Breaking?

There’s one thing interesting about carrying your private home within your automotive, and the Westfalia is a surprisingly spacious little rolling home by which you’ll discover all the essential requirements to stay alive.



It has a propane-powered range and propane-powered fridge. One of many beds is stowed within the roof. There’s a sink to clean your face within the morning, and loads of accessible storage areas for dishes, utensils or just a few board video games.

What impressed me probably the most in regards to the Westfalia is that even when this can be a 27-year previous automobile with fairly tiny dimensions by at this time’s van requirements, it’s tremendously cavernous inside. You may really stroll round in it, and there’s no waste of area. Every part is intelligently stowed and nicely put-together.


Fred, the hero who owns this dangerous boy, popped up at my place for photographs one sizzling summer season morning. He each day drives this factor when he’s not ripping by the gears of his Porsche 944 on weekends.

His Westfalia is fitted with a set of blacked 16-inch metal wheels on off-road tires, which provides to the automobile’s air of journey. Vanagons normally journey on 14s, however our man Fred was in search of a smoother journey. Plus he preferred the best way the wheels contrasted the Flash Silver Metallic paint job, giving his Volks a correct German-industrial look.

He threw me the keys. I climbed aboard the motive force’s seat, sitting on high of the entrance wheels, no hood in sight. I buckled-up the extra-long, Chevy Specific Van-style seatbelt. In entrance of me laid one of the crucial spartan and simplistic airbag-less dashboards I’ve ever seen fitted to a automotive.

After just a few turns of the previous, drained starter, the camper puttered to life in a typically-worrying previous Volkswagen method – chugger pout pout chuggervvvrooooom!



The beast was awake.

I obtained the Vdub into gear utilizing the lengthy, skinny, communist-style automated shifter. A worrying clunk was heard within the transmission out the again. The van was creeping ahead.

“Will she maintain, Fred?” – I interrogated my passenger.


“I hope so, man. I hope so.”

Off we went in one of the crucial iconic machines identified to mankind, with sounds of plates and forks hitting towards one another over the slightest street imperfections, assured we may make it to Tofino.


Satirically, I didn’t discover a lot to be disillusioned about with the Westfalia. That’s as a result of I used to be anticipating this factor to be a chunk of shit to drive, and it’s!



I knew the Westfalia could be sluggish, however not that sluggish. As we merged onto the freeway, proper foot held to the ground, automobiles behind us impatiently ready for us to maneuver over, tiny engine hustling out the rear, window curtains flocking within the wind, suspension bobbing and weaving entrance, rear, and sideways… Fred warned me that 60 mph would in all probability be the quickest we’d ever go.

He additionally made certain to tell me that the engine’s water temperature may all of the sudden spike, forcing us to ultimately pull over to offer the poor factor a break.

How does any of this make sense in a automotive that was designed to drive as distant as attainable?

Informal Driving

The Westfalia is a really snug automotive to spend a while in. These entrance bucket seats are supportive, soft, and your entire journey is mushy, so that you immediately really feel such as you’re on trip when driving it. Aside from some intense cabin noise popping out of the squeaking previous physique and – ahem – a complete kitchen set sitting behind you, it’s all fairly tolerable in there.

To no one’s shock, cargo capability isn’t an issue. Even with all of the tenting gear, there’s 93 cubic ft of obtainable cargo area, that’s greater than any seven-passenger crossover available on the market at this time. And none of these will prepare dinner you eggs and bacon within the morning.

Fred confirms that as a each day driver, all of the toys work. His does get the occasional German mechanical points, however says because the drivetrain is fairly easy and components are plentiful, issues are solved shortly and at a good buck.

The one massive downer is gasoline economic system. With a mean of 17 mixed mpg, the four-cylinder Westfalia is in the identical ballpark as a 450-horsepower Ford F-150 Raptor.

Exhausting Driving

Shyeah, you possibly can overlook about that. Acceleration is subzero, as in, glacial. This factor will hit 60 mph in about 20 seconds. Dealing with equals over-the high bodyroll, and don’t you dare enter a nook too quick, or your entire factor will tip over in a jiffy.



The big, school-bus type flat steering wheel is imprecise, sluggish to react, and this specific instance emitted a worrying grinding sound as I’d flip the steering wheel left and proper. The brake pedal is smooshy and it takes endlessly to get your entire van to a whole cease.

So if it is advisable to pull off a panic maneuver, you’re screwed.

In case you do dare brake too arduous, your entire passenger space will shortly replenish with the intoxicating stench of burnt brake pads. And should you give it an excessive amount of throttle you’ll both kill the engine or blow the transmission.


The Volkswagen Westfalia nonetheless goes for fairly a handful, and since it retains such a superb market worth, it’s one among greatest automotive investments on the market in the mean time.



Fred paid $13,500 CAN for 250,000 km (155,000 miles), some engine cooling points and a little bit of floor rust. That appears to be the place the costs dangle for examples which might be in okay situation like his.

Extremely-clean, well-maintained classic fashions with low mileage will climb all the best way to the neighborhood of $40,000.

I discussed the Safari Condominium earlier as a result of you will get a clear second-hand one for below 10 grand.


So should you’re simply in search of an inexpensive camper, don’t purchase the VW. There are higher bargains on the market. However should you’re looking for an automotive icon that you simply’ll be capable to flip and make a good buck on, all whereas with the ability to stay in it, then sure, the Westfalia is value a shot.


It’s true, the second you’ll get behind the wheel of a Volkswagen Vanagon Westfalia, you’ll need to drive off to wherever and go away your issues behind.

As a automotive, the Volkswagen van is fairly ineffective. It’s loud, sluggish, smells humorous and can in all probability kill you should you dare drive it by hazardous winter situations.



However everybody loves the Westfalia. It makes folks smile and dream, greater than another camper can, and its resale worth is bulletproof.

Moreover, any automotive, regardless of how dangerous it’s, that immediately makes you cheerful and stress-free behind the wheel; a automotive that makes you understand that each one the tiny, insignificant worries of your anxious life are nothing greater than cosmic mud is value each penny in my guide.

Westfalia homeowners like Fred have understood that the day shit hits the fan of their present lives, they’ll simply hop into their automotive, drive off, and jumpstart a greater world for themselves in one other a part of the planet.


There aren’t many automobiles left that ship this type of freedom.

William Clavey is an automotive journalist from Montréal, Québec, Canada. He runs claveyscorner.com.

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