Volkswagen’s first camper van was widely sold in the United States.
It looks like the popular European VW Transporter may be on its way back to the US. With the original Volkswagen Transporter only being released stateside for a brief period around 20 years ago, rumors have been circulating about the return of the Eurovan after the opening of a VW headquarters in Tennessee. We shall have a look at the legacy behind the Transporter line of vehicles.
Volkswagen VW campers (or Volkswagen Type 2) are a popular van model manufactured by Volkswagen. Volkswagen produces several types of camper vans and panel vans which often undergo aftermarket camper van conversions. Transporter vans are a popular choice for commercial and personal use due to their size and the many types of features available when purchasing a new van. These features range from functional – such as a van with removable seats and space for delivering cargo – to the fun and personal, such as a camper van with beds, an oven and a kitchen.
There have been several models of VW Transporter vans over the years. Some consumers prefer the older models featuring a rounded retro appearance and bulkier style, but the newer vans are still very popular, and often have a cult-like following in European countries.
This was the very first generation of VW Type 2 car, which includes the Volkswagen camper van, produced from March 1950 through 1967. The original VW T1 van was often called the ‘Barn Door’ due to its large rear engine cover, although the 1960s T1 models featured a larger engine cover and a slightly sleeker design. Camper vans in this generation often featured fold up travel beds, fold up kitchen sets and (due to the time period) funky retro carpeting and décor. This model was known as the Split-screen due to its v-shaped front panel. Today, original T1 camper vans are highly desired by collectors and fully restored T1 camper vans fetch high price tags on the collector’s market.
The second generation of VW Transporters began in 1967 and was produced in Germany until 1979. The second generation van was larger and heavier than the first generation, and featured a uniquely large engine with hydraulic valve lifters starting in 1978, which got rid of the need to periodically adjust the valve clearances, a requirement of the earlier models. Camper vans in this generation were able to feature customisations which were more complicated than its predecessors, including full beds with mattresses, kitchen sets, dining room sets and more luxurious amenities. This model was known as the Bay Window and only used a one-piece windshield instead of the split-screen of the original T1 camper van. This model featured pop-top roofs, which allowed for passengers to stand up in the van and for the addition of bunk beds and additional sleeping space in the camper van.
The T3 (or Vanagon in the US) model began production in 1980 and was one of the last Volkswagen vehicles to use an air-cooled engine, which was replaced with a water-cooled boxer engine in 1984. The T3 was larger and heavier than the T2 model and had square corners rather than rounded edges on the frame. The camper vans of this generation, like the T2 model, were able to accommodate more features suited to traveling in campers or using vans for camping and trip outings. The T3 finally featured the option for high-top roofs, which allowed for standing room without having to pop up the car top! This VW camper van was the first to set the standard for what we consider “traditional” camper van layout today. The kitchen cupboards and storage ran along the driver’s side, a rear bench converted into a double bed, and there were swivel chair seats with swivel tables for a lounge/dining room area. Proper plumbing and climate control were also introduced in this model.
The T4 model was produced from 1990 to 2003. The T4 models featured a more stylish appearance and water-cooled engines. The camper vans in this era, beginning in the late 1990s, offered more electronic amenities and features such as televisions, DVD players, microwaves and more.
The newest model of VW van belongs to the Volkswagen Transporter T5 range. This newest range, which began production in 2003, features a wide range of customisation, optional accessories and additional features which allow camper van enthusiasts to fully customise their camping experience. Camper vans in the T5 range may be purchased using factory variants of the Transporter T5, however many consumers opt for third party conversions for a more traditional camper van appearance. The T5 Transporter is highly regarded amongst enthusiasts and has seen the birth of many customisations, and there are many custom VW T5s for sale.
Converting a VW van into a VW camper van
Before the VW T5 range, Volkswagen consumers would turn to Westphalia, a company that had an official relationship with Volkswagen, for their Volkswagen camper conversion needs. However, in 2003 this relationship was ended and Volkswagen produced their own line of camper conversion, the “California.” This camper conversion from Volkswagen has a minimalistic outward design, features a pop top roof which is operated via automatic controls, and features state-of-the-art interiors. You can buy the California camper conversion from Volkswagen or Volkswagen dealers.
However, VW camper conversion can be done by third parties. There are many companies that specialise in converting VW cans into camper vans due to the VW van’s popularity among camper van enthusiasts. These companies provide consumers with a range of options for their camper conversions. Many companies specialise in fully equipped camper conversions which can provide consumers with sleeping areas, work desks, electrical plugs, kitchen sets, plumbing and more.
The pricing of a VW camper van conversion can vary depending on what type of conversion you are looking for. Many companies would require you supply your own T5 van, however there are a few which can supply the van, customise the interior and styling to create your own bespoke T5 camper. Just be careful if you are thinking of importing a Transporter van into the US then you will be facing a 25 percent tariff, commonly known as the chicken tax.
About the Author: Jack Dunsworth – As the creator of MyTransporterVan.co.uk Jack likes to spend his time around cars, vans and all things Volkswagen. As a freelance writer you can follow Jacks articles and writing through his twitter account.
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