Any VW camper van drivers/campers out there?

Discussion in 'Community Discussion' started by Lau, Jul 25, 2006.

  1. Lau Guest

    After going away to the countryside this weekend, me and my bloke have been toying with the idea of buying a VW camper van. There's big old mountains virtually on our doorstep and it would be a great cheap way to get away for the weekend, especially as then we'd have the choice of staying in a B&B or a youth hostel if the weather was bad, but sleeping in the car would be great if we wanted to/had to!

    We live in the city, and had been considering getting a little car of some description, but actually, that would be kind of stupid, because we wouldn't use it about town, because the bus is quicker and easier. It would be more for going on holiday and getting big stuff like shelves from IKEA or whatever. Hence, a big old van thing would be great. You can't fit 6ft shelves in a Beetle. :D

    So, anyone out there own a VW camper van or similar? The older (70s) ones look gorgeous, but would a slightly newer (80s) one be better/cheaper/more efficient? Are they hideously inefficient fuel-wise (bearing in mind it wouldn't be for everyday use or huge distances, probably 300 miles at most)?

    It's still very much an idea at the moment, but I'd love to hear any advice/stories/general chatter about the our little dream. :D
  2. Blue Velvet Moderator emeritus

    Jul 4, 2004
    Rust is the biggest problem with VWs... used to have a Beetle. Think the older ones (70's) had a 6v electric system which could be a bit unreliable.

    Many dozens of the things are traded hands at the end of each summer in London as traveling antipodeans get rid of and buy them for their EU jaunts although personally, I'd go through a reputable dealer. A good relationship with a VW boffin is essential.

    Edit: Awesome. :D
  3. Mord macrumors G4


    Aug 24, 2003
  4. Peterkro macrumors 68020


    Aug 17, 2004
    Communard de Londres
    I don't own one at present but have in the past and have converted a normal van to a camper.As BV says rust is a problem though the parts that rust are easily available,it would help if you knew someone who's a good welder.Aside from that one in reasonable condition should be pretty reliable,petrol consumption isn't too bad,they aren't the most powerful vehicle in the world but will get you there.Taking someone with you who has mechanical knowledge(preferably with combis) would be a good idea.Ones without lifting roofs are somewhat cheaper,depends if you want to be able to stand up and cook or mainly just want to kip in it.Marvellous way to travel(I've got one in NZ not a VW though).
  5. Lau thread starter Guest

    Mmm, good stuff to know, thank you. I'm fairly handy at DIY and upholstery, but mechanics isn't either of our strong points (though I'd happily learn). Some sort of warranty from a dealer would be excellent.

    <revokes MR membership> :p

    If the price isn't horrific, an older one would be gorgeous. The early 80s ones have a certain charm as well though.:D

    A spitfire as in the WW2 plane?!

    Edit: Peterkro, also, thank you. It's good to know that about the roof. Also good to know that you've enjoyed them, which encourages me that it will be fun. :)
  6. Blue Velvet Moderator emeritus

    Jul 4, 2004
    I used to mess around with my Beetle as it was pretty straightforward. Put together a toolkit... and lots of excellent manuals about.

    Air-cooled, no radiator... even replaced the occasional fan-belt, spark-plug, sorted the timing etc.

    Butch, huh? :D

    Look for a reconditioned engine.
  7. Lau thread starter Guest

    Resourceful. :D

    Good to know it's not too difficult. I'm reasonably handy, so could hopefully learn fairly easily. And as a designer, gotta love the Haynes manuals. :D
  8. Mord macrumors G4


    Aug 24, 2003


    Though I would actually like a ww2 one, I want to get a pilot license as soon as I've got my car one.
  9. iGav macrumors G3

    Mar 9, 2002
    If possible you should try and get a pre 1973 one, that way the car is exempt from Road Tax, personally I'd go with a '60's split screen, but you may find that they're out of your budget for a good one. In which case try and nail a 70-72 bay-window... ignore an 80's T25 van, there's nothing even remotely desirable or idealistic (let alone romantic) about them.

    I seem to remember you mentioning that your fella is a little on the tall side, in which case... you might want to consider a Westfalia, they're the ones with the pop-up roof spaces.

    I think the biggest issue you'll have is that many still only run on 4 Star, and there's a lot of stations that don't sell that anymore... so you'll want to be looking at one that has been converted to run on unleaded, though I do know that you could get away with running unleaded on a 1970's 1300/1600 twin port engines with no conversions, though it was recommended that you fill it up with a tank of 4 star ever now and again so as not to prematurely kill the engine valves.

    They ain't the most efficient of vehicles, a comparative lack of power (and wardrobe like aerodynamics) mean that you do need to be reasonably generous with the throttle to keep up with modern day life, to the point where you'll swear the petrol tank has a big hole in it.... :p I used to see anything from 15-22mpg in both a bus and a Beetle depending on speed, geography and how many people were in them.

    As Blue pointed out, they're air cooled... (the only water in them either washes the windscreen or flushes the loo, heheh) so what that means is that the car theoretically doesn't freeze when it's cold, and doesn't cook when it's hot... in reality you need to be careful if for example you end up stuck in a traffic jam (not moving) in temperatures like today it's best to switch them off... more so in a bus because of the limited engine bay ventilation.

    Also... you have to watch the tensions on the dynamo belt (or fan belt/generator belt as some might call them) it's vastly important that the tension is correct, so that the turbo fan functions properly... if it snaps, or becomes loose your engine will cook... exactly lack if a radiator fails in a conventional car engine, you potentially have seconds rather than miniutes to pull over and stop the engine. Always carry a spare, and the tools necessary to fix one... practice changing it at home, so that if one ever fails, you can sort it and be on your way.

    Regarding the electrics, VW converted to 12 volts in the mid 60's (66 I think, though I could be wrong on that date). Contemporary car accessories are all 12 volts (stereos etc) so ideally you'll want either a converted 6 to 12 volt, or a 12 volt stock bus.

    The biggest drawback of 6 volt electrics you'll find, is when you're driving on an pitch black country lane in November... you've got the wipers on, the heating on, the radio on... and the lights on, except... they aren't really lights... they're candles, and they keep dimming with every sweep of the wipers, and every beat of the music on the radio. ;) :p

    Whilst they're reasonably easy to maintain, and even though VW sold millions, and millions, and millions of them... it can be difficult to find a garage that knows how to repair them, though I do believe that you can take them into any VW dealer and they still have the know how, don't expect your local Halfords to know what they're doing though, especially with the electrics. ;)

    Parts are cheap though... and companies like German and Swedish, and Euro Car Parts still provide new parts for air cooled VW's.

    German and Swedish
    Euro Car Parts

    I recommend that you moochy on down to your local Smiths, and pick up VolksWorld Magazine, as that will give you information on specialist insurers, parts suppliers, dealers etc... and it also has a classified section, which personally I think is the best place to start, as usually the sellers are enthusiasts and you're more likely to get a good one.

  10. mpw Guest

    Jun 18, 2004
    MR'y Lane

    Family holidays 1975-1985, 4weeks every summer living in our Orange VW camper, so many great stories.

    Ours had a pop-up roof that hinged at the back to create a 'bedroom'. Due to some dodgy rubber clips this could also act as an improvised and occasionally surprising air-brake too!
  11. Peterkro macrumors 68020


    Aug 17, 2004
    Communard de Londres
    Good advice iGav,just to ad fuel additives are available for original heads which require leaded fuel(though quite a few will have updated heads on).Guess I'd better ad the warning about fuel lines and electrics if they're not in top condition combis have a bad habit of bursting into flame:( .Out of nostalgia I just had a quick shifty around sites with sales on them and tax exempt models are going for ridiculous money.
  12. Lau thread starter Guest


    Thank you so much, Gav, that's incredibly useful info. It looks as if the modernisation bits and pieces are well worth it then.

    I'm also laughing out loud at "wardrobe like aerodynamics". :D I can just see it struggling up a Scottish hillside in a head wind. :p


    I think family cars should be slightly dodgy, it provides so much more entertainment. :p

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