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.