Monday, August 2, 2010

The Dream is Dead

The dream is dead. The dream of owning a VW camper. Doesn't everyone have that dream? I looked at two VW buses today and don't think I wanna go there. Too crude. No power, no brakes, no handling. Total Fred Flintstone technology. Yabba Dabba Do Not.

The fine examples of old school VW technology I pondered today......

1970 vintage bus, pretty clean, repainted, nice interior. Motor dripping a little oil, rusty exhaust system, previous rust repair to floor - but not bad at all. I was semi-considering it, until the test drive. Unbelievably slow, huge free play in the steering, really weak brakes. The owners were nice enough to let us take it out for a test drive alone, so I piled the family in for a cruise around some quiet streets. We were cracking up the whole time - no way. Cool old bus, but welcome to the 1970 time machine. If you dialed in the steering, added a disk brake kit, then a 1835cc tricked out motor, would be a lot more fun. I don't have the time, money or motivation for that. We thanked the nice folks for their time and told 'em no thanks. Plus, they're asking $10,000 for this vintage bus. That's up there.

Earlier in the day, we checked out this 1984 Vanagon camper. Mechanical wise, great shape - rebuilt motor, transmission, clutch, brakes, front end, paint job, etc - with a stack of documentation as proof. Interior was okay, but not great. No oil leaks, nice quiet motor, it drove well. This model is water cooled and bit higher on the technology ladder compared to the air-cooled total old school VW buses. Even so, nice woman offering it for sale mentioned it won't do 70 mph on the highway. 60 is the comfy cruising speed. Ouch. She's also asking $12,500. Double ouch.

I've seen similar Vanagons modified with later model Subaru motors - much more HP. That sounds like a cool project, and a nightmare at the same time. I can only imagine what the wiring setup would look like. I ain't going there.

So, I think my long standing VW camper dream is officially dead. The amount of dough being asked for clean specimens is also on the loopy side. I'm still glad I checked 'em out, now I can move on and figure something else out car wise. Meanwhile, we're still living just fine with one family car.

To celebrate the dead dream, Ian and I took a little early evening mountain bike cruise at our local woods. Much cheaper and less complicated then old VW buses.

Yes, we have trails like this a mile from the house. Feel free to be a little envious.

We stopped for a few quick trail repair sessions - as witnessed by the stacked up branches. Ian and I blocked this to stop people from cutting the corner and widening the trail. The whole idea is Tight 'N' Twisty singletrack, is it not? The tighter and more twisty, the better I say. Why cut corners and make it easier? We fixed about 4 corners like this, a waste of riding time, but needed. With any luck, they last a few months. Most riders lazy enough to cut corners are also too lazy to move the branches. I hope.

That concludes my old VW bus report and trail use rant for today. Over and out.


  1. Yes, if I ever win the lottery, I'll have time and money, and then fun to ride VW, and VW Bug.
    Yes I am envious of those trails. Like you've mentioned wouldn't it be nice to be able to swap riding terrian with a blink of the eyes.
    Ride on

  2. Hey, that's the trail that runs alongside the play field at Big Finn Hill, right? SurlyLad and I were just there on Sunday evening. I promise we didn't cut any of those corners.

  3. @Dave. Yeah, swapping Iowa for Washington would be an interesting trade. Maybe leave a clean VW for at each location for the visitor to use while there.

    @Upton. Yes indeed, that is the trail. Let me know when you're ready for ride back there. We'll buzz along at decent clip.

  4. We were looking at getting an old Land Rover Defender, kind of like you were at the VW Busses. Romantic and cool, great for getting to the trail heads. It turns out that the old ones are uncomfortable, smelly, clunky, slow, and a nightmare to maintain while the NEW ones (LR3) are more comfortable, handle current traffic demands, and do do all the cool stuff just as well if not better than the originals. Not worth the hassle.

    On another note, I'm definitely envious of the trails. So close!

    Well done.

  5. The old Land Rovers are pretty cool. The newer ones, nice as well - but lots more money.

    The problem with the VW campers is that there is no modern replacement - part of the reason for the high resale value. The only thing close would be a van based RV and those are a bit of overkill. The VW campers can still be used as daily cars, doubt I'd do that with an RV.

    If KIA or another company came out with a modern VW type camper rig for $20,000 or so - they'd probably sell a bunch of 'em.