A 1975 VW Westfalia.
A 1975 VW Westfalia. (Tim Tomkinson)


A 1975 VW Westfalia.
Tim Tomkinson

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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.

From Outside Magazine, August 2015
Filed to:
Lead Photo: Tim Tomkinson

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