VW Camper Family

A camping forum for VW bus and camper owners.

Greetings!

My wife and I are in the market for a VW Camper.  We're weighing the pros and cons of older (more classic look) vs. newer (maybe more practical?).

I'm certain this is probably an old and frequent question, so I thank anyone in advance for being willing to offer any advice on this, point us to some prior posts we can read, other resources, etc.

Also wondering if there is anyone on this forum in the greater St. Louis area?  We live just across the river in Edwardsville, IL.

Kind regards,

Keith

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Disc brakes are nice, too.  Sounds like I need to find some info on what sorts of model changes occurred in which years... beyond the major stuff, which is easier to find.  Thanks, Brent!

Keith

Keith - just to follow up on the safety question - they progressively addressed safety, just like all cars, through the years. My '68 (and Budlong's) doesn't have a firewall between the engine and the gas tank. Later years (maybe even '69) did. Bumper impact zones improved as much as they could over the years. Later seats have the headrest to prevent neck injuries in an accident, etc. Overall, there is not a huge leap from one year to the next, but a 1980 is "safer" than a 1970 if it were to be in the exact same accident. And a 1990 is way safer. As a parent, I have a tough time overcoming that fact when I put my 2-year-old in the back of the '68. But then again my dad had a 1931 Marmon with a rumble seat that we'd ride in growing up. No belts, no impact zones and we were hanging off the back of the car. Like Joe said, it another "sweet spot" type of question.

That said, the Brett above is right. '68 is the best year! Still affordable and still charming! And you'll never get going fast enough to need disc brakes!

Thanks for this... it really is about competing goods in the various options... I'm probably bigger on safety than some... was an ER doc for ten years before I decided to go into private practice, and in some ways that has probably made me overly cautious.  Saw way too much unexpected tragedy.  On the other hand, I was a big risk taker as a kid and managed to make it through pretty much unscathed.  When my wife became pregnant with our now 28 year old daughter, I parked my motorcycle and never rode it again, except a couple times a year around the block to oil the chain... then sold it when she was two.  Don't know if that's wimpy or smart, but the safety thing is part of what I need to weigh... But, love that old VW van charm factor!  Takes me back to my commune days in 1971!

So much to consider... I really appreciate teasing apart the options in this forum.

Best,

Keith


Big Blue's Driver said:

Keith - just to follow up on the safety question - they progressively addressed safety, just like all cars, through the years. My '68 (and Budlong's) doesn't have a firewall between the engine and the gas tank. Later years (maybe even '69) did. Bumper impact zones improved as much as they could over the years. Later seats have the headrest to prevent neck injuries in an accident, etc. Overall, there is not a huge leap from one year to the next, but a 1980 is "safer" than a 1970 if it were to be in the exact same accident. And a 1990 is way safer. As a parent, I have a tough time overcoming that fact when I put my 2-year-old in the back of the '68. But then again my dad had a 1931 Marmon with a rumble seat that we'd ride in growing up. No belts, no impact zones and we were hanging off the back of the car. Like Joe said, it another "sweet spot" type of question.

That said, the Brett above is right. '68 is the best year! Still affordable and still charming! And you'll never get going fast enough to need disc brakes!

Keith,

I bought my first bus in 1978. It was a 1972 and the family had a great time in it but I like you had other toys, a 1939 street rod and a 79 vett. After some time we sold the bus and I want to tell you it was one of my many car mistakes. We missed it the first weekend the weather got nice. 6 years ago I was done with the hot rod thing and wanted to slow things down a bit after driving my vet for 14 years, so I did just what you are doing and just could not find one. On the way home from work one night a 1985 westy passed me on the freeway with a for sale sign in it and I chased him down and bought it on the spot for $6,500. since then I have put one tranny (automatic) and two motors in it but I have no regrets. I sold all my cars and drive old Gus the bus as my daily driver. These things become part of your very sole so be ready for that, but if you have a bad week and just want to get away you can't beat them and the other benifits are that if your wife kicks you out you'll have somewhere to stay and you'll never be homeless!! I would diffently go with a pop top for the extra stand up room and and try and find out where the vehicle has been serviced and go talk with them before buying. And make sure if you have dogs that they check it out with you!!! Good hunting and one other benifit...... you get to hang out with alot of crazy layed back folks. If you can get a copy of "The Bus Movie" on the internet do it, it will help you undersatd the beauty of these vehicles!!! Kevin      

Kevin,

What an inspiring post!  I found "The Bus" online, watched the trailer, and just ordered the DVD... can't wait to see it.

Yeah, I think I'm destined to do this... still working on what year, the "cute/soul" factor vs. the "reliability/safety" factor, and where the best bang for the buck is on that.  One gentleman suggested that a '78 or '79 represents a pretty good balance of those concerns, being the last two years for the bay window variety before the wedge came on the scene.  But I'm also hearing from others who have had older ones that they love, too.

Fact is, we won't put a lot of miles on this... mostly day trips/weekend trips.  And when we go, we won't be in any big hurry.  Hmmm....

Thanks for making me want one even more urgently!  ;-)

Best,

Keith

Glad you ordered the movie, safety is talked about in the movie and is one of the reasons that VW started making the buses with front ends and I think they could not be uglyer, might as well by a Aerostar van, but the comments that are made in the movie on safty are very interesting. The 85 I have now feels very safe but are not considered by some to be a good year. I think your on the right track to be looking late 70's and I beleive they are still priced right. I can say that they are increasing in value faster then any of my hot rods did so look at it as an investment. Keep us all posed on what happens!!   

Find something you both like.Do a roadtest ease of starting,driveability,road feel look for rust all around the bus.Test all acessories make sure they work.Check the tittle making sure is the right numbers on the vin after that negotiate the price and drive it home.Little things will work themselves out is the big ones you have to worry about.One more thing dont listen to anyone specially me.Just get whatever you want.Happy Camping!!!!

That seems like great advice... and good timing, in that I'm looking at this one on eBay:

http://cgi.ebay.com/ebaymotors/ws/eBayISAPI.dll?ViewItem&item=3...

The seller seems to have great reviews for having sold similar VW campers in the past... I know there is a certain amount of risk in buying it sight unseen, but the good reviews help some... 

Any of y'all have any thoughts?  I could also have it inspected for less than $200 by an independent outfit.

Thanks,

Keith

I just talked with the lady that has the one on eBay... she seems pretty knowledgable... 

So I asked her a couple of questions, and here's what she told me... would be interested in hearing any of you all's thoughts:

I asked her if the A/C works when plugged into 110v... she said they don't work that way, and that in her experience VW's of this era have really undependable A/C units overall... said she doesn't advertise them with A/C anymore after selling one where she'd just had the A/C completely serviced, and then two weeks after the sale, it went kaput... and she had put in a whole new unit out of fairness to the buyer... Anyone have comments on the A/C issue?

Second, I told her I'd never owned a VW van before... she said that most vintage VW owners have to spend a fair amount of time tinkering with them, especially if they are daily drivers.  She said that before taking a long trip in any of these vintage models, I'd better know how to change belts, fix a blown hose, clogged fuel filter, etc... said these are not uncommon problems. (Mine will be for occasional weekend use, but still... makes me think I'd better get smart here about roadside maintenance.)

She also said, "Don't expect to get into this and have it handle like a Honda... these shift differently, feel differently, etc."  I don't think she was trying to be discouraging as much as trying to inject realism into my thinking about this.  She encouraged me to go drive one, but I don't know how possible that will be.

On the plus side, she said this was a very nice specimen for its age, drives well, engine and tranny good, etc.  Said she has a mechanic who checks them all out.  It's all original, not restored, except for a new paint job not too long ago, and fortunately they kept the original paint color.

If anyone has time to look at the eBay link above, and tell me what else I should be asking, I'd appreciate it.  I like the fact that she's being brutally realistic, even though it took me back a bit... 

Hi me again.To me it seems a bit pricey.Specially if you guys are not going to see it drive or inspect it before you buy.I used to work for Lincoln Mercury and saw some real nightmares that people bought on Ebay and they were junk.As far as maintenance I have had my 1971 westy for 7 years or so tune it once changed the oil 3 or 4 times replaced the fuel filter and fuel hoses (a must) they burn quickly.The bigest item I had was replacing the clutch and the brake booster and did a 4 wheel brake job they are just like any other vehicle they break and wear.As far as AC when you are parked they are not going to have one unless you pop a hole in the roof and install a 110 v RV unit.My 2 cents for now.Take care.Dom

Thanks, Dom... really appreciate your input.  I've spent most of the morning going over ads on Samba.com, eBay, even some from Craigslist.... and I think you're right... a little expensive, especially since not restored, i.e. original engine, tranny, etc., and nothing rebuilt.

And I really appreciate your comments re. your own maintenance experience... sounds like no catastrophes  just normal stuff one would expect.

So I'm still looking... and really appreciate the mentoring from folks like you with experience.

Keith



Keith Byler said:

Thanks, Dom... really appreciate your input.  I've spent most of the morning going over ads on Samba.com, eBay, even some from Craigslist.... and I think you're right... a little expensive, especially since not restored, i.e. original engine, tranny, etc., and nothing rebuilt.

And I really appreciate your comments re. your own maintenance experience... sounds like no catastrophes  just normal stuff one would expect.

So I'm still looking... and really appreciate the mentoring from folks like you with experience.

Keith                                              Dom you have only tuned your bus once in 7 years?

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