Sunday, March 6, 2011

The Car Post

Cool house on Mission Road
Good god it's come to this. But someone out there must have a good answer for me.

As I sit and obsess about the pending bike camping/exploring season, I keep coming back to the Westfalia as the ideal base camping machine. I'm aware of all the other options. I've been trying to push the idea of a Westy out of my mind for 2+ years now. I think I'm about ready to give in.

Today's Sunday bunch
The $10,000 dollar question: is there anyway to get a semi-reliable Westfalia for under $10k? Is it possible? I just need a range of 100 miles that can haul 3 guys and 3 bikes. Would it be stupid insane to find a sub-$4K air cooled Westfalia instead? I so don't want to spend time working on a VW again. Been there. Not into it.

People who know: please advise.


Elissa said...

Buy my non westie.

Not said...

Consider a 2000-2004 Dodge/Chrysler minivan. We recently got a 2004 Chrysler "Town & Country" and I love it for bikes. The rear seats can be configured a variety of ways depending on how many bikes or people you're hauling. Three adults and three bikes should be easy to accommodate.
Of course I'm making some assumptions here, like devaluing sleeping inside the vehicle.
- Ventura

Interstatement said...

The Lazy Rando had a similar thread recently:

Quite a few comments, including my own in there.

Travis N said...

r u KIDDING me? Dodge/Mercedes Sprinter!!!! Customize away interior and make the ultimate gear machine for long or short trips. With a 2 ton dually fully loaded still rely on 35mpg in town or on highway. If you are even thinking of 10k then you better look at a sprinter!

Anonymous said...

Minivan, the people's VW.

Decrepit Windstar with cracked windshield: $350.

Memories: Priceless.

Spend the savings on 12.5 more bicycles.

alex wetmore said...

The westie that you'd want is the synchro 4x4, which is too much money.

Subaru, roof racks, camping out of a tent is pretty great, and a lot less money. My subie is a bit small for 4 people and bikes and camping gear (although we made it happen last year), but yours is not.

rory said...

pop top element, with a toe hitch for a bike rack.

Anonymous said...

What Elissa said, buy hers :-)

I own an '89 Syncro Westy, so if you have specific Vanagon questions, pmail me. I also commented on the Lazy Randonneur.

rory said...

to further what i said, click here

Ward said...

You might think about renting one from this guy.
I have been wanting to talk to him about being involved in the bicycle scene, but haven't done it yet.

Ken Paulman said...

I worked at a repair shop in high school, and I naively scheduled a VW van for an alignment. Best mechanic in the shop flat-out refused to even attempt it. Said, with the fear of God in his eyes, that he'd tried it once, and would quit first before he'd do another one.

I had two mid-80s VWs (a Fox and a Jetta), and both were money pits. I bet, to this day, I could replace the starter on a Fox blindfolded.

As Luke points out on Lazy Rando, VW vans are great for people who enjoy spending a lot of time and money working on VW vans. You *hate* spending time and money on cars.

I think we all have an urgent duty to talk you out of this.

Vik said...

I just looked into it and figured I'd be in for at least $15-20K to get something reliable given that I can't do the wrenching myself and you either have to buy a lower mileage van at higher cost or a high mileage van and spend some $$.

The converted Ford Econolines vans seem like a better deal.

Anonymous said...

I just noticed this at the end of your post: I so don't want to spend time working on a VW again. Been there. Not into it.

Do not buy a Vanagon. As mentioned a Sprinter would better fit your needs, even though it's not 1/100th as cool as a Vanagon :-)

gillsans said...

My only experience with Westphalia vans is I had several friends who loved them until they sold them in disgust.

The '80s Toyota minivans seem to be pretty cool. Friends of my family ran put 300k+ on theirs before they finally sold it. Another friend just bought one and loves it. Not a camper, but still cool. I think they were made in a 4wd, but those are probably as rare as a Syncro.

Andre said...

It's too bad that toyota p/u has a lot of family sentimental value and only 2 seats. It seemed like a perfect trailhead car to me.

A depreciated but recent/reliable vehicle is probably the most economical choice. Anything with an extreme cult following will have inflated prices. Mini vans are not sexy but they seem to meet the needs for volume, fuel economy, and price. The more crushed Cheerios and juice box stains should help drive the price down too, even if you are just about to add your own bike grease and mud stains.

A subaru or other station wagon would be the sexier option in my opinion.

I grew up with summer vacations in VWs, just crossing the cascades was a nailbiter. I remember coming home with 3 out of 4 cyclinders working and adding oil every 20 miles. I'd much rather spend time wrenching on bikes than cars so we own reletivly new vehicles and try not to get too attahced.

Also sleeping 3 guys in one vehicle sounds like a recipe for poor air quality. It's fine for a couple (my wife and I traveled around New Zealand in van for 3 weeks)

John Speare said...


Man there's a lot of good stuff here.

-- It's time to add lazyrando to my blogroll.
-- Rory, I think, may have saved the day. The Pop Up Element may be the answer here. I worry about cargo weight capacity though. Need to square that. But I think I can pencil out the Element solution esp if it gets rid of our Subaru, which wasn't an option with the Westy. Need to ponder that.
-- I am aware of Sprinters, Mini Vans, tents, etc. W/out going into tons of detail, requirement is sleeping for 3 + table. Two main scenarios are "base camping" for bike adventures and quick get-aways with the family.

John Speare said...

Oh yeah -- the 3 guys + 3 bikes scenario looks like this: I'll haul you and yoru bikes and your shit, but you sleep in a tent or down below. Sleeping for 3 is for Liza/Maddie/Me.

rory said...

the only other thing i'm going to suggest is this:

Ken Paulman said...

Or this.

EvilElf said...

Yikes! I am having flashbacks! Had a vanagon camper (all westie components but assembled here). As far as camping went, I found I did not like to cook inside the thing because it steamed it up pretty good. I would have done better with an ice chest than the electric refrigerator too. The beds were OK. The poptop neat.

Going up the Vantage grade was interesting.

The worst part was that, this (I think it was an 85) was, mechanically, one of the worst things I have ever owned. A radiator 12 feet from an engine has some design problems.

At one point, we had this camper and a straight vanagon as our two cars. Those were not happy days.

If I were to go down this road again, this would be my guide:

Molson said...

My solution is: "Have awesome parents with an '87 Westfalia Syncro who let you borrow it (and take care of maintenance)."

Though, that's probably not helpful to anyone else. I've been checking out a bit, some fun ideas, these people have put the time in.

Molson said...

My solution is: "Have awesome parents with an '87 Westfalia Syncro who let you borrow it (and take care of maintenance)."

Though, that's probably not helpful to anyone else. I've been checking out a bit, some fun ideas, these people have put the time in.

Anonymous said...

How bout a nice 72 ford club wagon. It's bare inside so could be anything you wanted. Have Taylor build it out for you. No a/c, but plenty of airflow from the rusted out portions.

Michael said...

I've owned multiple VW campers and the short answer to your question is: no.

The long answer is: the last VW camper I had was an air cooled Westfalia, my ownership of that camper ended after it was struck in the right rear quarter panel and bumper by a large delivery truck while I was driving it. The impact spun my van 360 degrees, I'm still amazed it didn't tip over. I was properly buckled in, but the impact still shoved me into the steering wheel hard enough that I needed 3 months of physical therapy to fix up my shoulders and back. My right shoulder never did get back to 100%. Had anyone been sitting in the back of that camper, even properly buckled in, they would have been whipped all over the place. Don't get a VW camper, they're just not safe in a wreck.

That pop up Element looks pretty slick.

Stine said...

You know the joke:
The two happiest day in a Vanagon owner's life: the day the bought it, and the day they sold it.

A Westphalia breakdown is how I discovered Spokane, and how I nearly didn't make it here to look at houses. Ultimately, we let it go and went with a Subaru. I miss being able to throw ANYTHING in the van, but I don't miss the money-suck and the always wondering if we'll make it to our destination...

I, too, would think of a Ford Transit, or a Sprinter... most of what you need is space and a place to crash, if necessary...

Anonymous said...

Make a camper or popup on your existing pickup?

Why an inside table and stove? Better to bring one of those tent roofs that go over picnic tables (and bring a folding table).

Eating and cooking in a German steel box is so WWII.

How about a 70s style conversion van? Kind of the redneck VW.

Orange shag is the merino wool of camper interiors. Think how manly you'll feel in the swiveling "captain's" chair.

There's probably an abandoned one in a alley near you. Offer to trade the "captain" a case of Old Spice.