Hi! I've been traveling for the last 14 months through the USA, Mexico and Central America on my motorcycle ('88 Kawi KLR650). I'm starting life as a graduate student in a Ph.D. program here at UC Davis (CA). I'm terrified of signing a lease, and want to remain mobile, so am toying with the idea of having a van for a home. Davis is 1-2 hours from many amazingly beautiful places, and a van would let me get out to them every weekend, as well as take some longer trips.
Soo... I've been reading this site, and love the VW vans, particularly the vanogan westies. I've seen some around Davis and they are beautiful! They also seem a bit expensive for good ones! My question is, do they have any real competiton? Are there any campers out there by Toyota and Mitsubishi? I like the reasonable size of the VW, and am turned off by the monstrous American "conversion" vans -- any reasonably sized ones out there for little money?
I'm a pretty decent mechanic, but I'm running low on cash, and would like to spend less than $5000, which seems a little low for a reliable VW. Thoughts???
No, the VW Westy is very unique in that it is the only 1 ton commercial chassis in the size range (15') in the US market. Other mini vans, converted or not, can't carry the weight. Read the GVWR stickers inside the door jambs of the other mini-vans. VW will be in the 5500 lb. range, which when subtracting curb weight, leaves you a ton of payload (1600 with camper equipment -- it weighs about 400 lb.)
Well, I guess this might be my first and last post . After loving (and struggling) with VW campers in one form or another since 1968, I have finally found a reasonable alternative to the VW. It is called a Sportsmobile. Ironically, this is the company that made the first VW camper conversions sold in this country back in 1961. A pop-top camper built into a Ford Econoline F250 Van, it is about 3 feet longer and 10 inches wider, and, when closed, just about the same height as a syncro pop-top, When opened up, (30+ inches over the full length of the van, giving 6'10" of headroom) feels like it has 2-3 times the interior space. It has the usual stove, sink, and refrigerator (4 C.F.) plus a 12,000 BTU furnace, a built-in marine toilet, a 110V hot water heater, a large closet, a slide-out pantry and lots of drawers and cabinets. The most unusual thing is a complete 110v parallel compressor which enables you to run the van's air conditioning system when you are hooked up to 110V. I haven't weighed it yet, but it probably comes in at about 7000 lbs.
The downside? I got 13.5 MPG on my first trip with it. The first mountain pass I had to deal with was Berthoud pass in Colorado, 11,000 feet plus. With the 351 C.I. V8 - no problem. I guess the best part of that is that I didn't feel like I was thrashing the engine to within an inch of its life, which I always did with my WBX. The other downside? They are very hard to find. Mine is an '89 and cost me about the same as a Westfalia of the same vintage.
One benefit - there isn't a parts store in the country that can't spell F-O-R-D, and if you don't like the price, go to the one next door. As near as I can tell at a quick glance, parts prices are in the neighborhood of 1/2 or less than VW. That'll go a long way toward compensating for gas mileage.
The address of the company is
and they have an ongoing listing of ones that are for sale throughout the country. Some of the newer 4x4 versions can be in the $60,000 range, the older ones are in the VW ballpark.
Looks like I'll be putting my 1987 Syncro camper conversion of my own doing on the market soon.
I've gotten a lot of benefit out of this site and this is the only way I could try to give something back - or be accused of being a traitor. We'll see.
Sadly, My Vanagon's list of issues and lack of anyone to do body work on it in Sacramento have forced me to get a new(er) car. I think I've found a replacment: 2003 Honda Element. I bought it via costco. Still, I will miss my Vanagon.
My Westie's fridge never worked well, and while the stove inside was great when it was raining, I really never used it for anything other than heating soup. You wanna fry bacon inside you van? Grease city, even with the good bacon I buy.
If you can't fix your Westie, and want something for camping (for 2) take a look at the Element.
So ya a lot of my friends (who can actually afford them) are going with the Sportmobiles (Sportmobile.com). If you like to really get out there like me, these things make you think a bit differently than a VW owner (did I really just say that?). They also make you think about how you can ever afford an $80,000 van and enjoy LIFE...I think when I'm buried I'll still have a VW title in my belongings!
This link will probably work better:
'85 VanagonGL Westy
'85 VanagonGL Westy
Wow, that is an amazing link. My fiance and I may be making a trip up to Fresno to look at a few used supermobiles.
Any detractors for these vans? Anyone have any other links for information on this direction?
Consider the vehcile they are modified from -- for exampl, see the topic this forum on Chrysler/MBenz based campers. Underneath the camping gear you have to have a reliable vehicle and the worth of its warranties. The greatest camper/motorhome in the world isn't anygood if you can't get it out the driveway or shop!
Winnebago had a mini-motorhome based on the Renault chassis. It was so bad mecahnically, they now build it on the VW Eurovan extended wheelbase chassis. Named the Rialta. So sucessfull they've added a 2nd line.
My own experience with the Dodge 2500 series is miserable. I have the Cummins diesel package. The drive train (except Dodge's tranny) is fine, but everything made by Dodge is crap and we found out the hard way the warranty isn't worth the gunpowder to blow to Hades.
Last edited by Capt. Mike; 12-19-2008 at 09:44 AM.
Three years ago I purchased a conversion. It is a VW Transporter converted with an irregular top. It swings up from the side instead of from the front or rear. I have heard mention that they are relatively rare. I have only ever seen two others and never one for sale. I recall someone mentioning they are called Doormobiles. I am not sure if I have something of particular interest or not.
Last edited by Capt. Mike; 12-19-2008 at 04:20 AM. Reason: Remove reference to selling.
Dormobile was a British conversion company with a side-hinged pop-up. You don't say what year, but I've never seen one later then '70's vintage. You also don't say where you're from (I couldn't get your public profile to come up), but here in N. America these are rare. Of special interest? That always depends on who, where and when.