It’s all about the adventure
It’s summer here in Wisconsin and that means the campsites are jammed. Camping is a big deal here. I know because I used to work for a local retailer that specialized in camping gear. This week’s spot has all the gear needed on four wheels, the Volkswagen Westfalia Camper. Affectionately known as the Westy by its owners it has a cult following.
Maybe part of the reason for that cult following is because it first sold in the 50’s when split-windshield Kombis were sent to Westfalia-Werke in Rheda-Wiedenbrück for conversion into the camper. Later Vanagons and Transporters were used in the conversion and sent to Dormobile, EZ Camper, ASI/Riviera, Holdsworth, Danbury Motorcaravans until production ended in 2003.
Westys were sold through VW dealers worldwide. They even had a cool Tourist Delivery Program. Customers could pick up their new van in Germany, drive it in Europe, then VW would ship it to the customer’s home. Many campers were purchased by American servicemen and sent home in the 1950s and 1960s.
With a four-cylinder engine putting out maybe 90 horses and rear-wheel drive Westys don’t go fast but if you’re going camping, what’s the hurry anyway? They’re are iconic, but they aren’t the best vans ever made and certainly aren’t luxurious compared to what’s out there right now. Not being aerodynamic, they are loud, hard to drive, and have a rough ride. Passengers in the rear will feel a sway and on windy days, so will those in the front. Visibility is great and the radiant heat from the sunlight streaming into the van quickly heats it up. You don’t want to be riding in one on a hot day, because owners say that you’ll feel like you’re in a hot tin can rolling down the road. Air conditioning was available but few Westys come with it. Automatic transmission models are out there, but they are hard to find.
Owners who have a Westy say its like entering a relationship, a very passionate one, like your first boyfriend or girlfriend in high school who was both super exciting and hard to read. You don’t have to be a hippie to love these old hippy vans, and that means if you own one, you get to meet all kinds of neat people who, despite differences, will assume you’re a decent person by virtue of ownership. I’m in. Sounds like fun.
What are they worth now? Not a lot. I found several for sale, mostly in the mid-20s all the way up to $55,000. I can’t think of a better way to enjoy the camping season here in Wisconsin.
Thanks for stopping by and checking out this week’s spot. Check out my other spots and Mark’s new vehicle reviews. Come back next week for another one of my spots along with some of its history and have a great weekend.