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A bit of nostalgia: A horde of VW camper vans come to camp

Yesterday, as I was sitting outside enjoying the crisp fall day and a warm campfire, nostalgic VW buses and camper vans started to roll into the campground.

My heart took a leap and, with longing, I remembered when I was set on having such a camper van. It was in the days of California dreaming, the era of hippies, free love, and flower children. And there in front of me, rolling along, was a 1960 VW bus, then VW Vanagons, and VW Westfalias. I just had to go talk with them.

Minnesota Westies

The group was the Minnesota Westies and they are on one of their camping get-togethers.  Sometimes the group goes camping together and sometimes they just get together for coffee. It is a tight group knitted together by their love of the VW camper vans. 

Minnesota Westies

They were brought together as the Minnesota Westies by one of the members, John Lynden, who owns several of the VWs. He even stores one in the Western states to camp and travel there. He had been in Oregon when he found a whole group of VW owners camping together and thought that would be a great idea in Minnesota.

Currently, the roster has around 25 members, 11 of whom were here camping. The VWs ranged from a 1960 VW bus to a 1991 VW Weekender. 1991 was the last of the run sold in the United States.

I got a tour of the years and different models of the 1960 VW bus to the 1987 Vanagon to the 1991 Westender. Volkswagen supplied the basic bus and Westfalia later did the conversion to a camper on the Westfalia models.

The VW bus model

The VW bus has an interior bed, and storage but no kitchen. The 1971 VW bus there had a pop-up bed.

1960 VW bus

VW Vanagon model

The Vanagon is the closest to our modern-day Class B’s. It is outfitted with a stove, sink, pull-out bed, pop-up bed, table and front seats that turn. It has a 15-gallon water tank but no holding tank! Water runs out to the ground or, in this case, a bucket underneath the van. Nope, no toilet or shower.

1985 VW Vanagon
1985 VW Vanagon

VW Weekender model

The Weekender is just that—meant for a weekend getaway. It has a bed, some storage, a table and privacy curtains. There is no overhead bed in this model.

1991 VW Weekender

I asked if there are many mechanical problems with the VWs, and there was a collective groan. They said parts are hard to find and can be expensive! They do require maintenance. All of the owners had changed out the old air-cooled and later-model water-cooled motors. None of the engines are original and they are usually changed to a Subaru. They went from a chugging-along 40HP to around 150HP.

Jason and Jane had just traveled over Wolf Creek Pass in Colorado with no problems. Their honeymoon photo with their 1987 Vanagon is hung on the wall. They are taking off soon to make the trek from Minnesota to Shenandoah National Park. The body and chassis now have 379,000 miles on them!

(We traveled Wolf Creek Pass this year too, but it didn’t go as well!)

Jane and Jason
1987 VW Vanagon
1987 VW Vanagon

The group generally leaves the campers open so people can look in and admire them. I asked why they have the VW campers. They say because they appeal to people who like to work on cars and who want a super-functional vehicle. They all said that they truly love seeing the smiles and the waves from people as they go by. Being in the Minnesota Westies they get to share their experience, tips, obsession and joy.

1971 VW bus with pop-up bed

As I saw them leave this morning, before I even thought, I was waving and smiling as they went by. True to their word, everyone smiled and waved back.

To get more information, learn about upcoming events and see some great photos check out their Instagram page: @Minnesotawesties. 

Interested in one for yourself? TheSamba.com is a website forum for sourcing parts and vehicles. Love the idea but want something a little newer? Check out VW’s California Camper Van Concept in the video below. 

##RVT1122

Nanci Dixon
Nanci Dixon
Nanci Dixon has been a full-time RVer living “The Dream” for the last six years and an avid RVer for decades more! She works and travels across the country in a 40’ motorhome with her husband. Having been a professional food photographer for many years, she enjoys snapping photos of food, landscapes and an occasional person. They winter in Arizona and love boondocking in the desert. They also enjoy work camping in a regional park. Most of all, she loves to travel.

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Neal Davis
15 days ago

Thank you, Nanci!

Thomas D
16 days ago

I had the same as pictured. The avacodo and ivory one . No camping equipment just a porto potty and gear 1959 32 horsepower freeze to death heater. 2 aluminum cots if we stayed inside if it rained.Good memories.

Pammy
16 days ago

Thank you so much for this article. I LOVE vintage VWs and have a 1970 convertible bug. My “camper van” is a RAM promaster CITY (tiny!) that was made into a camper van by Cascade Campers out of Northern California. The idea was to replicate the scaled down style of camping like the Westfalia in a new vehicle. I LOVE my Cascade Camper! I can park it anywhere as stealth camping is how I roll, plus it’s my daily driver. Check them out…

Mevet
16 days ago

It’s definitely a nostalgia and fan thing. But anyone who has driven a “Microbus” knows that they are grossly under powered snd grade challenged. Unless you are going down a grade. Otherwise, even a slight elevation gain (hill) of any magnitude will require flat footing the accelerator before the start of the grade.

This should have been a focus of Ralf Naders “Unsafe at any speed”. And potentially, unsafe when standing still.

I’d like to be notified when one of these is going up the White Horse pass, in Idaho. Video please.

bull
16 days ago

This is one of the best parts of camping and why “I” like Trailer Trash Get Togethers!

That’s what I call a Trailer or RV rally over a weekend.

Get together with like minded people who have a common passion and see their creativity when it comes to their “rig”!

In most instances I find these weekend rally/camping trips to be more enjoyable than camping alone!

Tom
16 days ago

For a very short time, we owned a VW bus that was an ex-trades type, converted into a crude camper. It had an extremely high final drive ratio and 36 hp. Could only do a out 50 flat out, but could climb anything that the tires would grip.
Very quickly went back to tent camping, then a Danish made popup, and finally a German made travel trailer, similar in size to an Escape, but had a pop up ceiling for additional headroom.
Went all over Germany, Austria, Denmark and Holland while stationed in Europe.

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