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The Bus Is Back: VW Working On A Modern Camper

Posted in auto industry, Classic, Collector Cars, Concept Cars, Recreational Vehicles, Volkswagen by Kurt Ernst | November 22nd, 2010 | 5 Responses |
1989 VW Vanagon Synchro Camper

A 1989 Vanagon Synchro Camper

If you grew up in the 70s and 80s, it was impossible to miss the VW Microbus and the VW Camper on the roads. A predecessor to the modern minivan, VW busses offered owners the ability to haul passengers and cargo in (relative) comfort, and camper owners were fanatically dedicated to vacationing in their vans. Fuel economy was impressive for something that had the aerodynamic profile of a housing complex, but safety was more or less an afterthought. The drive was positioned in the very front of the van, with only a flimsy bumper and thin sheet metal protecting him from things like oncoming cars. Worse, the van’s high center of gravity made them prone to rollover if a driver lost control. I’m probably overstating the obvious here, but they were a handful to drive in any kind of crosswind, and even a momentary lapse in attention could cause you to drift into the next lane, or worse, the guardrail.

The last VW Campers, called “Westfalia Vanagon Campers”, were sold in the U.S. in 1991. The vehicles still enjoy a cult following, with clean examples selling for more money than when they were new. Volkswagen realizes how important the camper was to their identity, and Volkswagen’s design chief, Klaus Bishoff, is in favor of such a project. There were plans to revive the bus back in 2001, but costs associated with the project vetoed it from moving forward. There was plenty of customer demand, which may of may not translate into sales. The buying public is notoriously fickle, embracing concepts and petitioning car makers to build them is one thing, but parting with hard earned cash is something else entirely.

Before VW can build a retro-modern camper, the company must first decide what they’ll offer. Will the van be just another VW minivan, or will a camper be offered? Will it come in commercial variants, aimed at tradesmen, or just optioned out versions aimed at soccer moms? VW’s California design teams are hard at work on concept sketches, but it’s unlikely we’ll even see a concept vehicle on display until 2012 or 2013.

Source: Autoblog

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5 Responses

  1. seat safety switch says:

    The VW T4 Transporter (1992+ “Eurovan”) also had a Westfalia camper version available in North America, though that might only have been in Canada. I believe they came in both 5-cylinder and VR6 options, with 5-speed manual or 4-speed automatic.

    Winnebago did several conversions of the T4 transporter, including a full on motorhome (the Rialta).

    Winnebago conversion: http://www.canadiandriver.com/1999/01/02/1999-volkswagen-eurovan-winnebago-camper-van.htm
    Winnebago Rialta: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=B7Wovc1mUXo
    General information on T4 campers: http://www.vwcampersales.com/volkswagen-t4-camper-van.html

  2. […] (relative) comfort, and camper owners were fanatically dedicated to vacationing in their vans. […]Read more… Categories: Uncategorized Tags: Blackspider David Video Reviews Deluxe, […]

  3. Laston Lastof says:

    hey kurt
    youtube the crashing of a vanagon to see that safety was not an afterthought …
    we had a 1989 california model 5 speed diesel
    we rolled twice on frozen wyoming ground ..with our seat belts on and the van held shape pushed the whole roof down to top of seats …only damage to us was a scraped leg and twisted ankle on my wife
    her head did strike the corner of the sliding door tracjk … but that edge is covered with a cushion of rubber ..so only a cut scalp resulted …
    with proper driving technic and all that stuff the vanagon is a superior safe vehicle i would say …

    • Kurt Ernst says:

      Laston – thanks for the tip. I was referring more to the old T1 and T2 model microbus and camper versions. I racked up a lot of miles on my buddy’s old guacamole-green T2, and I’ll admit that my butt was always a little clenched behind the wheel. It was great fun driving in crosswinds, since it required you to be on your “A” game at all times. He finally totaled it coming down a mountain in an ice storm, and as I recall he walked away with only minor injuries, so maybe they weren’t as bad as I’m remembering.

      I miss ‘em, and I really hope VW does a good job on the redesign.

  4. greg says:

    I think you’re really unfair to the Vanagon where safety is concerned. Inside that frame at the front is a tubular steel frame much like an internal bull bar. Images of it can be seen on a search of the net.
    Look out for videos of rollovers too. Really safe!!
    I drive one, I’m soo compfortable! So safe, never mind I’m right up at the windshield.