A breed of Volkswagen camper van prone to expensive repairs, yet beloved by those who own them and coveted by road-trip dreamers everywhere. According to legend, the prototype was developed in 1951, when automotive contractor Westfalia-Werke retrofitted the first Volkswagen camper for a British army officer who hoped to turn his transit van into a home. The result: a double-doored “camping box” with built-in furniture and decorative curtains.
The camper was such a success that Westfalia followed it with a full production run, adding a kitchen, optional AWD (on Syncro models), and, in 1965, a pop top. Thousands were sold before Daimler-Chrysler purchased Westfalia-Werke in 2001 and ceased collaboration with VW. A subsequent cottage industry of repair and refurbishing shops has developed, with rebuilt vans selling for upwards of $90,000. Icons of the heritage movement, Westfalias are among the most popular subjects on Instagram.
The Money Pit
Westfalias are notoriously breakdown prone. Still thinking of getting one? A cost-benefit analysis.
$120: Leaky fuel line (frequent cause of engine fires).
$160: Failed rubber coolant line.
$700–$1,200: Worn-out canvas pop-top tent.
$3,000: Blown head gasket.
Priceless: Sense of superiority at the trailhead.