VW Camper Family

A camping forum for VW bus and camper owners.


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,


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Gary, I really appreciate this... You've captured my back and forth struggle well.... cool older bay (or even cooler, a splittie, but a nice one of those is definitely out of budget!), vs. a wedge... which at first I didn't view as quite as cool, but the more I look at them, the more that feels like more of a pre-conceived notion... many I've seen have their own "cool" factor.

And as important as the aesthetics are, even more important to me are dependability and utility.  We really want to be able to use this, have decent heat and A/C en route, etc.  I've been going back and forth between the bays and the wedges, and this really helps.

So it sounds as though I should be looking for an '84 or later with the 2.1 liter engine... 

Again, thanks so much!  If you see any good deals out there I should look at, drop me a line!



One more quick question:  Do you (or others reading) have any opinions about an automatic transmission vs. manual?  Seems like I've read some negative things on the automatics, or maybe just the synchros?  


Gary Marrs said:

If you want a heater in the winter and a more spacious interior with a practical and funtional set up, go with a vanagon westy. I have an 70 westy, which is like new and a 78 westy which is in perfect conditon, and a 83.5 vanagon water cooled. The 83.5 is the flag ship and the one I take camping all the time. I love my bays and love driving them and do at time use them for camping, but the vanagon is the best for camping. So, if you are just looking for a cool van to drive around  and camp in every so often, a splitty, or bay is great. If you are looking for a van to go camping in with the kids or just yourselves, a vanagon is the best deal. They do have air cool vanagons. I would stay away from them, they are underpowered. Not that the water cooled have a lot of power. The 83.5 is the start of the water cooled. They have the 1.9 liter for the earlier years then they switch over to a 2.1 liter. They also have AC in many, a better ride, heavier and better on the road with wind from the side than the older models. Your best deal would be a later model vanagon, have you mechanic give any selections a check over. The lowest price isn't always the best way to go. These are all older vans and some have been cared for and some have been abused, as is true with any used car. Cost wise, they are going to be about the same as a spittly or bay. Expect to have some work done on it.  It's just part of ownership. Euro's of course are the latest thing out there, but they have their issues too. The early models were a 5 cylinder, and had transmission issues thru even some of the early years of the V6. The later years were better. These are nice, but $$$. I hope you are able to find the camper that you want and enjoy it as much as I have over the last almost 40 years that I have owned them. I started with a 70 hard top camper, then a 71 pop-up, and currently own a 70 pop-up, a 78 pop-up, and an 83.5 pop-up all Westies. There are different companies like Riveria, sportsman and a few others, the Westfalia's in my opinion are the best made and most practical design, of course, other people might like the others, personal choice. Take your time, go and look, drive and see as many as you can, this will give you a better idea of when you have found the "one".

Gary Marrs

70 Westy

78 Westy

83.5 Westy

07 Beetle

The auto trannies in the vanagon are pretty good/reliable. This really comes down to "what do you like to drive" .  I'm here in La Pine, Or. which is about 30 miles south of Bend. German Transaxle is in Bend, and they are the ones the build all the trannies for Go Westy. I have one of their trannies in my 83.5. It's been great and still is. It has a small leak which I have traced down to an "O" ring around a cap on the side of the tranny and quite easy to repair, so all I have to do is talk them into selling me one instead of having to buy an gasket kit. They are very helpful and a bunch of great guys. Snychro's are for the hard core guys that like to go way out in the back country and very $$$$$$$$$ and the same to maintain, unless you're a 4 wheeler kind of guy, I'd go around them. Unless you find one for very cheap and then can resell it for much more. Seeing as how you are in Ill., I would look for a van from Calif or another drier state, as rust can be an issue, look for it in the seams. If you can't look at the van, contact someone in the local area that are VW Camper Family members or WetWesties members that would be willing to check it out and get back to you on it.  I hope you find you a great little camper. You are going to love it.  It took me a little time to get used to the different look of the vanagon, but now they look good.  Looking forward to seeing a picture of your new Bus, be it a splitty, bay or vangon or even a euro. Keep us all posted about your search.


That's sort of what I thought... that perhaps I was mistakenly lumping all automatics into what I'd read a couple of places about synchros...  I think when I first read it, I didn't get that the synchros were different from the regular automatics... since then I've learned better, but held onto the bit about automatics being problems, too... glad that isn't the case.

While it might be fun to do some off-roading, that definitely won't be my major use, so not worth the trouble and expense.  I live out in the country on a gravel road, but I'm sure a normal VW will handle that with no problem...

I have a little 14 foot wooden row-boat, single sailboat... only weighs a couple hundred pounds, plus a little more for the trailer... but light enough that my wife and I can push it around all over the place... in fact I can push it alone pretty well.  So I don't think a van would have any trouble pulling it... we brought it home 12 hours from Texas behind her Subaru Outback.  But I wonder if I'd like an automatic better for backing it down a boat ramp... Hmmm.

Thanks again for all your help and thoughts... I'm looking at two or three water cooled Westies right now, and may stick the links in a message to see if you or anyone has any thoughts... I'm finally beginning to narrow the choices, which feels good... deleted all the bays and splitties from my watch list on TheSamba and eBay, and am finally focusing on a narrower swath thanks to the good mentoring here.



Hey Keith, Kevin again. My 85 Westy is an automatic and I love it. My wife can't drive a stick and when I bought it I had go through 3 knee surgeries and knew the next step for me was a knee replacement. I have had it rebuilt once but all in all its been fine. I do shift it when in the moutains using the first and second gear for climbing and down shifting on steep hills. I have taken old Gus the bus into some areas of rough terrian with no problems but not serious off roading. If anything comes up around the Sacramento Ca. area I would be happy to grab my friend that works on Gus and check it out for you. Also if you find one in this area and want to come to California, your welcome to stay on my boat (32 foot with everything you need), my bus, or at the house. I'm looking and have others keeping their eyes open as well. Samba is a great place to look and I agree that looking for one in places were rust is not an issue is a good idea. Rust is liike cancer in these vehicles. also check the cavas on pop tops for staining which could mean leaks in the roof and mold in the upper bunk. Were going to find you one bud!! Don't worry!!       

Kevin, that is very kind, and I appreciate it!  We love boats of all sorts, powered, sail... am a poor to moderately ok sailer myself, but like to try!  Used to have a Com-Pac 27, then a Com-Pac 17, and now just the little 14' wooden rowboat/sailboat (gaff rig)... I'm deciding that smaller/more user friendly are better... As we say in the telescope world, "You're best scope is the one you'll use."  This is even reflected in my desire to own a sweet VW camper... Don't need/want the 26' Airstream or the 27' Motorhome at this point.... Want to go smaller, more manageable... without losing the fun!

But your offer to put us up if we come out there is much, much appreciated.  I might also add that if you ever find yourselves in the St. Louis area, we are a short hop away, live out in the country a bit, but we'd love to have you... My wife (in addition to being a marriage counsellor) is an avid gardener, and grows stuff I don't even know how to pronounce!  ;-)  We both love to cook, and St. Louis has some great places.  And our three dogs, 15 chickens, and two turtles would welcome you!  (Memorizing all their names not required! ;-)



Any thoughts on this one?  This is less than I am prepared to spend, but one advantage is that it is only a couple hours away from me, so I could actually go and drive it, which adds to its appeal.  Even if it needed some work down the road, I wouldn't have so much into it that I'd feel bad about putting a few bucks more.


Hi Keith foundhttp://www.westfaliat3.info/html/westfalia_t3_buying_guide.html this link hope it helps you guys with the 1984.Hope it all works out for you guys if you decide to get it.Dom

Thanks for this, Dom... I appreciate it.  I found this guy's site before, but somehow missed this page specific to the camper... and the link on this page to the model history page is really helpful.

My wife have been sitting here drinking coffee and looking at/discussing all the options... (We did our big family Easter thing yesterday, so are spending a quiet day at home today.)

So now dear wife tells me that she really likes the bays better than the wedges... something about the "cute" factor...

I tell ya', when we finally pull the trigger on this, I'm going to kiss the VW emblem on that baby and dance a jig!  Not that I'm not enjoying the hunt... but I'm ready to go!  I just wish there were more options closer to home, i.e. within five hours or so.  The closer I get to doing this the more I realize that it would be nice to be able to touch/see the thing before I send a check... although it would also be fine to have another VW camper enthusiast take a peek at one local for him/her if too far for me... Back to too many options!  ;-)

Here is my other 2 cents worth.I originally bought the Bay for my Daugther when she was going away to college.Found out later that she was not able to drive it being 100 lbs and 5' also a 4 speed and no matter what I did she could not find "R" so I ended up with the Bay but now I am glad I did."I like driving it".Cute may not be practical for some people like my kid.Had I purchased a later model she would more than likely be driving it.To let you know that if you find one you like in my area I will be glad to check it for you before you put out your money.Ok Keith Good Luck and keep searching.

Dom, thanks so much for this... I really appreciate it. There are two right now that interest me because they are within driving distance... one is a wedge and one is a bay... I've emailed the guy with the bay and hope I hear back from him today. I'm interested in knowing a little bit more about the mechanics of this one, and also to see what they do with the interior, but it looks promising.

Bay: http://www.thesamba.com/vw/classifieds/detail.php?id=1401761

On the wedge, interested to see some inside pics... I emailed him, too.

Wedge: http://cgi.ebay.com/ebaymotors/1987-Volkswagen-Vanagon-Wolfsburg-We...

Will be interested to see if anyone has any thoughts... And thanks again!


I know that I have an Ebay and everybody goes with the nostalgia thingy but my choice frrom what I saw in the pics.The late model is my choice.The Bay seems a little high on the price it almost looks like one of the TV restoration shows.I am sure the wedge is going to go up in price but is probably worth it.Happy Hunting   Dom

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