posted on May 12th, 2017

Everyone’s favorite adventure on wheels

Do you ever tire of the quotidian monotony of everyday life? Does your soul pine for the wondrous infinity of the open road?

Few of us have the flexibility or nerve to ditch everything and hop in a van in search of indefinite adventure. The comforts and responsibilities of life prevent most people from adopting the nomadic lifestyle of the Bedouins. But with the aid of a trusty campervan like the Volkswagen Westfalia, one can temporarily escape to taste the freedom of #vanlife.

The Volkswagen camper is a symbol of old-fashioned independence and spontaneity. The iconic VW Bus of the seventies was replaced in 1980 by the Vanagon, a vehicle that has become extremely popular in recent years for offering the opportunity of a seemingly unfettered and carefree lifestyle. The Westfalia company in Germany converted both the Bus and the Vanagon into campers, which come with a pop-top loft sleeping area, as opposed to a fixed roof. The Westfalia is by far the most sought-after version of the Vanagon camper.

In a number of ways, the Vanagon is the last of a dead breed. The engine could have a 1.9L or 2.1L (no versions of which ever reached 100 hp in the US), was mounted in the very rear, and drove the rear wheels. The absence of a front engine bay means you sit right over the front wheels up against the windshield. This makes for near perfect 50-50 weight distribution, and with a surprisingly excellent turning radius, piloting the Westy is as joyful as much as it is a lifestyle choice. Well-maintained examples can reach highway speeds, but not much more.

The interior layout stayed much the same throughout the 21-year production run. Two bucket seats in the front. A rear bench seat that reclines to form a bed. A left-side cabinet assembly that houses a sink, stovetop, and refrigerator. It has everything a traveler needs to make their home wherever they park it.

More so than perhaps any other vehicle, Westfalias take on personalities of their own. Odd quirks, a distinct character, and foibles are all part of the adventure. Over the years, any given Westy has likely picked up colorful additions, custom repairs, and probably a name. When renting someone’s adventuremobile, as did one outdoorsman from Outside Magazine, it is best to embrace your wanderlust and go where the journey takes you.

The romanticism of the American road trip has captivated many, and members of the exceedingly friendly Vanagon community waste no opportunity to chat with a fellow van dweller, even if your stay is short. Caution: you will make new friends.

Whether you’re off to the Pacific Northwest forests or the fabled North Shore of Oahu, make the most of your adventure by taking a Westfalia along.

“Goldie” – Mike’s 1986 Vanagon Westfalia (Seattle, WA)
“Jeannine” – Dany’s 1975 Bus Westfalia (Shefford, QC)
Lucas’s 1984 Vanagon Westfalia (Waialua, HI)
Josh’s 1987 Vanagon Westfalia (Hawaiian Gardens, CA)
“The Wolf” – Mike’s 1985 Vanagon Westfalia (Seattle, WA)
“Buttercup” – Justin’s 1977 Bus Westfalia (Breckenridge, CO)
David’s 1982 Vanagon Westfalia (Portland, OR)
Brent’s 1977 Bus Westfalia (Honolulu, HI)

Steven is an avid car guy and content maker at Turo. Between Golden State Warriors games he can be found getting lost somewhere in California.