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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Thanks, Dom... I actually like the look of this wedge more than some, for some reason... Neither guy has written back re. my questions... I may ask for a phone call.  Weird that the one on eBay (wedge) has all these great pics, but essentially none of the inside setup...

I'll keep you posted!

Best, 
Keith

Dom (or anyone), based on your experience do you have any thoughts on what a reasonable final price range would be on the wedge?

Keith

From the looks of it.This is a weekender I believe all thet are is lower double bunk and upper bunk.A jump seat behind the drivers and a fold down table.I believe there should be storage space on left rear.I would email the seller with all questions and see what you get for an answer.More than likely the A/C is not working they almost never do on those units.I had a new 1975 beetle I did buy it with ac and it never worked right from day one.I am not sure about the prce but it looks like this one will shoot above $6000.00 There was one last month onhere same year sold for $8700http://cgi.ebay.com/ebaymotors/Volkswagen-Bus-Vanagon-Wolfsburg-Edi...

I talked with the guy a little while ago... He's sold a few cars on eBay, and has good reviews, with a couple of exceptions several years ago.  He and a friend do it a little bit on the side... he's the mechanic, his friend is the body/paint guy.

He's going to send me interior pics a little later... said eBay only lets him load a few at a time, so just easier to send via email.

He said he actually bought this 4-5 months ago to use it himself.  He was replacing a large 5th wheel they used to camp for years, but now that the kids are grown, decided to downsize... but his wife decided the VW was too small for her and she wants something a little bit better.  So it's for sale.

Has fresh paint, tires "80%," said the transmission and engine had been "gone through" a couple of years ago (he has the receipts).  Says no oil leaks at all, air works, inside is clean... I'm anxious to see the interior pics he's going to send, but really wonder if this might not be "the one."

I suspect that with the fresh paint job, and without some of the small issues listed on the other eBay '87 that sold previously, this one might well go over $10K...

This one popped up on TheSamba this morning:

http://www.thesamba.com/vw/classifieds/detail.php?id=1456484

Does anyone know what a "rocker arm stud" is, and if that's a big deal?  Any other thoughts?

Thanks!

Keith

That is the stud that sticks up (two) and the rocker arm assembly slides over and a nut (2) tightens the rocker arm assembly to the head. You would have to pull the head and drill and tap the hole where the stud is and put a heli-coil or instert in to replace the treads that are stripped which hold the stud in the head. If you can do it yourself, it wouldn't cost all that much, if not, it will cost quite a bit. With an air cooled, you'd have to remove the engine and either do that or replace it with a new head. The rocker arms are what pushes the valves open via the push rod that seats in the cam follower which sets on the and rides the cam shaft.
Gary Marrs
70 Westy
78 Westy
83.5 Westy
07 Beetle

Thanks, Gary.  I appreciate the information.  I was chuckling as I read it because it sounded like me trying to explain how to do some complicated medical procedure to a patient!  ;-)

I wrote to the gentleman and asked for some pics and any other details... pics will be coming, but this is what he wrote about the engine, which, if I'm reading it right, is exactly what you have said:

Hi Keith,

I'll get some interior pictures this afternoon. The engine issue needs to be addressed first before it will run. Here is some additional information I sent to another interested party.:

> I purchased this bus in 2007 off of eBay and have spent a lot of time enjoying her. I've also spent a considerable amount of money restoring the engine to stock condition because most of the original equipment was removed. It's just passed smog with flying colors.
>
> I did a complete rebuild on the engine in December due to a failed cam in the previous engine. The engine that came with the bus was a rebuilt 1.8L in a 1973 configuration. I purchased a year-correct GE engine case, new cam and lifters, new pistons, cylinders, rods etc but kept and re-conditioned the 1.8 heads through European Motorworks in Hawthorne, one of the better Type 4 engine machine shops in the country. I also replaced the CV joints, alternator, voltage regulator and all new fuel lines. I have receipts for all the work I've done which add up to about $4k.
>
> I was in the process of re-torquing the heads which required removing the rocker arms. I was re-installing the rocker arms for the #1 cylinder when one of the rocker arm studs began to turn and wouldn't hold torque. This repair will require the engine and head to be removed and a heli-coil inserted to hold the stud or the machine shop will weld the hole and re-drill it. The repair would not be expensive except for the labor. Both heads should be re-torqued while the engine is out. Unfortunately I live in an apartment with an outdoor parking space and can not do the work myself here.

I'm sort of in a quandary.  I like this one:

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

Interior pics here:

https://skydrive.live.com/?cid=13F6D30C6EE6536A&id=13F6D30C6EE6...

My wife likes the bays a lot better, but says, "Get whichever you think is best."  I think the wedges look fine, too, and may benefit from being newer and perhaps more serviceable.  I want her to like what we get... yet I want to make a practical choice.  I guess I'm sort of back to the drawing board re. air-cooled bays vs. water cooled wedges...

Keith

The vanagon you're looking at here is a weekender. Which means it only has a table, beds, and some closets. Unlike a full camper, which would also has more storage, second table, stove, fridge, sink, and water tank. There is nothing wrong with a weekender if that is what you prefer. It seems like it's going to be between a bay or vanagon. The air cooled does not give you much of a heater and it does get a tad cool there in the winter. They are not as reliable as a watercooled either, not as heavy which tranlates to being strudier on the road in the wind, bays are all over the place in the wind. They also will cost as much or more than a vanagon. As you know I have two bay westies, and a vanagon westy, I love to drive around in the bays, they turn heads, especially the 70, but when it comes to going camping, and or long trips, it's the vanagon westy that gets the call, it's the flag ship of the fleet. If you are just planning on weekend, or short camping trips close to your home, the bays are fine. But, for longer trips, like weeks or months, I'm sure you would like the vanagon better, it's just more liveable and reliable. Keep in mind this is just my opinion and others will have different opinions. Bottom line here is, you probably want to make your wife as happy as possible. If you get a bay and you are not as happy with it as you and your wife thought you would be, you can always sell it and try something different.

As far as the guy with the van with head problems. A word to the wise for him. Never ever use rebulit heads !!!! Always get new heads, they aren't that much more, and as you can see what will happen when you don't. The heads in general are where you are going to have most of your problems with an aircooled engine. Don't use rebuilts on a watercooled VW waterboxer engine either, do it right the first time and you won't have to do it over.

Gary Marrs

70 Westy

78 Westy

83.5 Westy

07 Beetle

Thanks, Gary... I showed this post to my wife, and I think it has made her think... she's starting to warm up to the idea that maybe a water cooled wedge might work out better.

I have a couple of follow-up questions:

My wife is leaning towards wanting the full camper version.  Are there any issues one needs to be concerned about re. the stove/propane system, the electrical system, the water/sink system?  Are these systems pretty robust, usually working well, etc., or do they often need restoring?  I haven't seen many listings where anyone comments on these items, other than perhaps to show that the water spout in the sink works.

Part two of same question:  I'm looking at this one on eBay in Iowa which ends in 8 hours and is currently at $74oo, which seems like a really good deal, although it will likely be bid up in the last minutes.  It is pretty bare with the exception of the table and seats/bed/pop top.  I'm thinking it can't be that tough to put in a nice Camp Chef stove.  I saw this one in a VW camper where they put it on a base next to the door on runners so that it could be slid outside the van or used inside the van: http://www.campchef.com/stoves/portable-ovens/outdoor-camp-oven.html  The base/sliders were actually on top of a wooden box, so that when you slid the stove out, there was storage underneath for pots and pans, etc.

And I'm thinking that it shouldn't be that hard to stick an electrical outlet onto the driver's side that could power a small refrigerator and a couple of 110 plugs.

And how hard could it be to rig up a small sink in a cabinet with a 12v pump and a 5 gal. water bottle?

I'm not real handy... but my brother-in-law is, and we trade favors back and forth a lot.  I'm thinking that $1000 would buy everything I need to make this more of a full camper version, except that it wouldn't have all the nifty storage areas that Westfalia and other designed into the campers... which I do like... 

Part of it is that I've talked to this guy several times, and read his eBay reviews, and this one seems like a pretty solid option... and it's eight hours away, so driving up to get it some weekend wouldn't be terribly tough.  

It's not a biggie if this one goes... I'm sure there will be others.  On the other hand, I'm getting anxious to move to the next phase:  buying one, doing a little work to make it ours, and enjoying it.

Any thoughts?

Best,

Keith

The full camper is probably the best way to go, if you want all the camping gear. These camper's equipment are pretty good. They take a licking and keep on ticking. There is nothing you can't fix, and getting parts is not a problem. You will have to take the fridge out every so many years and clean the combustion chamber for the propane, not that hard, get a Bentley manual, they are worth it. They give you complete instructions for everything including the camping equipment. The full campers are set up pretty good as far as space saving and ease of use, and you will want to be able to swing the passenger seat around to face to the back and if you have something there, well......., plus you are going to probably want to get a port a potty for the wife and where you are talking about putting in a stove is the perfect place for the port a potty. The fridge will keep it about 40 degrees lower than ambient temp. So when it gets over 80, take an ice box too. Some people have changed out the domestic fridge for the new 12 volt fridges that work really great, but you have to put in a 3 rd battery and some kind of charging system, generator/solar, as they will usually only go for about 3 days before you need a charge. Plus they are not cheap. All the full campers have a spot for an aux. battery under the drivers seat, you want that. If you get one that doesn't have one installed, get one. They are set up to run all you interior lights, 12 volt outlet and the 12 volts on the fridge and seperates it's self from the main start battery, that way you don't have worry about starting the van after a weekend or so of camping. When you start the van, it connects and charges the aux battery. With all that said, if you and the wife want the weekender and would rather do it yourself, there is nothing wrong with that either, it really comes down to want YOU want. You're the ones that are going to be using it, not me. I've been driving these things for 39 years, started with a 70 hardtop camper, then a 71 pop up and now have a 70 pop up, 78 pop up and a 83 pop up. The vanagon is the best set up, it gives you more space and great storage. Mine doesn't have AC, so I get an extra storage cabinet, which I prefer, but I have to roll down the AC when it gets hot. So if you would rather fix up the weekender the way you want with your bother in law, I'm sure you would have a great time doing it and then you get things the way you want. Just make sure your wife is involved in the whole process. She is the one that will probably be using the equipment more than you. I've learned over the years that making sure that your wife happy is of utmost importance !!!! When she is happy, you are too. When she likes going camping, you get to go more often and have a better time. The full campers seem to make the wife happier, because they are put together with a lot of years of pactical use and well organized and women like things that way. I'm more than happy to help you anyway I can, as you will find VW Camper owners are a close nit group, it's like family. We wave at each other on the highways, camp together, and help each other out. If you want to get an idea of what it's like, check my pictures on Flickr. http://www.flickr.com/photos/planetmarrs/ . There are tons of pictures of campouts like Buses by the Bridge, Maupin, and other WetWesties campouts and trips and places that are cool to go to. It's best to do all you homework now, and get the best Westy you can, look at several, it's not summer yet. Take a few drives to see them, you will know when you've found the right one, there will be a bond that forms almost instantly. Sounds a little weird, but just wait and see. Went with a lady from Portland who was looking at a weekender here in my area a couple of months ago, and you could see it happen, she bought it. Been camping with her since then and she loves it and plans on added more equipment in it. It's worth putting out a few extra $$$ at the start to get one that is in good shape so that you can start using it rather than working on it, because you will end up putting the extra $$$ in it away.

Gary Marrs

Gary, I can't thank you enough for this... all makes very good sense, including the part about keeping the wife happy!  (Danica is a marriage counselor, and she teaches other therapists as well, and she says she wants you to come talk at her class!  LOL!)

So we decided to take a pass on the weekender on eBay tonight... as "sensible" as it might have seemed on some levels, it wasn't "calling us," so we'll keep looking... and keeping the aesthetic in mind, too.   The good news is that I think my wife is becoming more comfortable with the "cute" factor of the wedge as well as the bay, so it looks like we'll have a good middle ground from which to work.

Again, thank you so very much.  Your experience and wise counsel has been a great deal of help to us and we appreciate it.

Best,

Keith and Danica

Quick follow-up: You mention that not having an A/C, you have more cabinet space. So some of these do have air for when you're camping? I assume you'd need to be plugged into 110v at a campsite (unless one has a generator). If I have this right, what year did A/C become available, both while camping and just normal A/C while driving? Also, do you know what year power steering became available?

If one were to go with an air cooled variety, is there a way to augment the notoriously poor heat while driving in the winter? An inverter, perhaps?

Thanks again... I really appreciate it.

Best,
Keith

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