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The Life and Times of Vineyard Van!
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Vnyd Dog
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PostPosted: Sat Jan 26, 2019 8:23 pm    Post subject: The Life and Times of Vineyard Van! Reply with quote

This thread will serve to tell the story of a Westy currently called Vineyard Van. She's gone by many names in the past but her name suits her here in Napa. I've been here on and off for years getting advice and assistance along the way, but thought it was time to really tell this story and track the Van's updates and mods, especially as we prepare for upcoming camping trips.

In 1987, my father ordered the Van new for European Delivery for $20,751. He selected the following options:
Titian Red: $338
Radio: $536
Central Locking: $194
Rear Wiper Washer: $153
A/c:$891

That was it. He passed on power windows and mirrors. Boo. And no Syncro. Double boo.

The reason for European Delivery was because my parents were taking their kids on a Euro Road Trip in the summer of 1987. My sister was 9, I was 7, and baby bro was 1. Yes, three kids, to Europe, in a Van truly camping most of the way, in 1987. My father was 41 that summer, and I find myself now with two boys a few months shy of my own 40th birthday. I can only now really begin to understand the importance of what my father did for his family that summer, and the lasting impact that trip had on me at just seven years old. If you want to skip the rest of the details, fine by me. Spoiler, my father still owns the Van and I’ve become it’s de facto caretaker.

I can recall bits and pieces of the time spent that summer, but I fondly remember actually picking up the van at a Westfalia shop in a place called Wiedenbrueck. I can’t tell you what it was like as a kid seeing that giant shiny red Van for the first time that was going to be my home for this 4-week adventure. Words like magical, jaw-dropping, surreal certainly fit now, but then, at my age and already being a car kid with a giant Testarossa poster on my bedroom wall, it felt like a spaceship. Off we went across the continent for the next four weeks. Germany, Italy, France, Switzerland, England. This thread isn’t about that trip, but needless to say at the end, she was dropped at the port and showed up in California a few months later.

Upon arriving back in CA, the Van was my mom’s daily driver from then till 1992 when this crazy new car company called Lexus starting making cars. Apparently she thought the new ES300 was more “her” than the BMW 325i my dad was steering her towards. The Van remained in the driveway for the next few years, taking us all on camping trips around the West Coast. While I always assumed I’d get a driver’s license when I was 16, I actually never gave much thought to saving to get myself a car. So…when I was 15 and learning to drive and asked one day what I could drive when I got my license, my parents both sort of laughed and said “well, we both have our cars so that just leaves the van, if you want to drive it.” Jesus Christ I thought, I’m going go be 16 driving a friggin’ camper to high school. It was only then, standing in the driveway the first day with my license, about to head off to school in the van, that I realized I’d be teased indefinitely, and forget about girls. Somehow, someway, the Van became a main part of my high school identity, and I actually gained a reputation as being a “driver” because I could parallel park better than anyone, could actually drive a manual, and would run kids off campus at lunch for fast-food. They’d pile in, I’d run the shuttle, and get a few bucks for gas. As I embraced the Van in my teens, it became Vanlife, well before hashtags and all of the instafamous types, when you still logged on listening to the AOL modem dial-up. During those years, she still had pretty low miles. I didn’t make many mods then, except getting a CD player installed.

Off I went to college, leaving the Van behind where it again remained in the driveway for years until eventually my little brother would also use it was a daily driver. It was then in Chico where the Van nearly lost her life. Making an unprotected left-turn, my brother misjudged and obliterated the drivers front corner when he collided with an oncoming car. Game over? Salvage it? Take the insurance hit? My father was rightly PO’d at my bro but I was actually angry. I’d been away from the Van at this point for quite a while, but the accident really stirred me and I resolved that the Van would be protected and preserved no matter what. She was drivable, she just wasn’t pretty and didn’t have a left side headlight, turn signal and the metal was all crunched. It would be another year or so before my father, now free from the expenses of dependents, offered to just pay out of pocket for the repair. The downside was that since he was paying, he wanted a fix that was “good enough”. Since it wasn’t my pocketbook, I didn’t have a strong argument for going top-dollar restoration. We ended up getting it repaired and full respray at the equivalent of a Miracle Auto Body. I was just relieved she was put back together and running. It was then that the Van came back to me here in Napa in the early 2000s where I had moved after grad school. And again the Van sat in the driveway. We’d cruise on weekends just to stretch her legs or run errands, but at this stage I wasn’t doing much camping. And because the insurance was so low, there was no need to consider selling.

By 2015 I was married and my wife and I had take a few short overnighters in the Van. Probably more because she wanted to make me happy more than her being interested in the van or camping. I played the same CD player I had put in when I was in high school, and I played her the same CDs from the CD case I had stuffed in the door pocket. Beetles Anthology, Green Day, Pearl Jam. Chili Peppers. No Doubt. Reel Big Fish. You know, the classics! Now in 2015, she had 116,000 miles on the stock engine and transmission. Well all know what happened next. Water jacket failure. Started it up one weekend, was backing up and see fluid all over the driveway. I jumped out and looked back and coolant just flooding out. Game over. Her heart has stopped. I was in shock. I remember just putting her in 1st and pulling her back up alongside the garage thinking this was the end.

Que the phoenix rising imagery. The Van literally sat for another year not being started. Became a field mouse motel. But was out of the way, and safe for the time-being. We did our research. Again, my father, now retired, was open-minded to a repair or engine swap. We pulled quotes from around the Bay Area, and we kept coming back to how much “sense” it made to put another VW motor in. Stephan said “right this way” and the Van underwent surgery in 2016 with the SAH team. We couldn’t have been happier. Having all the original purchase materials, Stephan got a kick out of seeing that the 1.8T operation with the bells and whistles, cost more than the new Van in 1987. It’s shocking, and it was to us and my father as well, don’t get me wrong. But he is a hardworking immigrant and knew how much we loved the Van and so the payment was made and the Van ran hard on her new legs.

The engine swap is really where we pick up now. I’ve take my boys camping but they were a little young the past few years so it was a TON of work. But here we are. The boys are the 3rd generation with the Van and my son, before learning to speak, would sing the door open chime which he loved. We would all laugh. When he learned to speak he called the Van “doo doo” because of the song. At 4, he loves camping and playing on the upper bunk. It warms my heart. He is so excited for the trips planned this summer. I can only say that the Van is priceless now. Maybe I should have left it stock, but over the years we’ve done a handful of minor stuff compared to the engine. All the standard GW stuff, SA Grill, keyless entry, extra LED interior light, Truckfridge etc.

Then the mod bug really started biting.

I tried my hand at a suitcase solar setup in 2017:
https://www.thesamba.com/vw/forum/viewtopic.php?t=684982&highlight=

And Kill Switch:
https://www.thesamba.com/vw/forum/viewtopic.php?t=684158&highlight=

That was a fun project. This summer I need to upgrade the controller to a MPPT unit. And now, with the trips coming together, I’ve got a looooong list of projects. Priority is bushings. So I’m doing some of the Powerflex stuff I think I’m able to tackle in my driveway. Steering rack and trans mount, Moog ball joints. I also need to upgrade the shocks, which are Bilstein HDs from 2007. I’m torn between XHD or Fox. Last year we did Schwenk springs all around.

For cargo with two boys, we discovered camping last year that we actually could use some exterior storage and since I had a Thule box for the SUV, it was time to install a rack, finally. I did the Jack Bombay last week, and this week, after really studying the co-location bolt issue, decided that since I was using Thule ARGs with only two holes per bracket, saving on drilling one hole wasn’t worth the tradeoff of moving the mounts too far forward. So this is what I ended up with doing this solo. I only got through one bar between errands and the kids…but it looks like tomorrow I’ll get the other done and be set with the Thule. And if you add a roof box, of course you gotta get the RMW ladder. So scraping funds together to add that to the list.
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From there, I’d love to add the Burley hitch as I also have a bumper buddy which would be perfect back there. More funds needed. Smile
But, what I really want/need on muddy vineyard roads is the Peloquin, but right now the cash outlay is a bit much given everything. It’s at the top of the “other” longer term list. With those sexy forged CLK wheels and BFGs!

In the end, the mods are really just a mechanism for keeping me engaged with the Van and keeping the boys excited about her and camping trips. They aren’t necessary as she does just fine, but we enjoy the process and the time I get to spend telling stories like these to them. My dad still asks about the Van and makes sure I’m taking care of her. He doesn’t say it, but I do believe he loves her too. After all, back in 1987 he was literally trading international letters which took weeks between replies arranging for the delivery of her and organizing the trip. It’s remarkable how easy we have it now in that regard. Emails within nanoseconds, Google Maps, Wi-Fi everywhere. About the only thing we had going for us then was the fact that still “most people spoke English”…

Thanks for letting me wax nostalgic this Saturday evening. More to come!
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'87 Westy 1.8T Conversion, Orignal Owner, European Delivery @ Westfalia factory in Weidenbrueck.
The Story:
https://www.thesamba.com/vw/forum/viewtopic.php?t=713391&highlight=life


Last edited by Vnyd Dog on Sun Jan 27, 2019 8:19 am; edited 1 time in total
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elizer Premium Member
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PostPosted: Sat Jan 26, 2019 8:42 pm    Post subject: Re: The Life and Times of Vineyard Van! Reply with quote

That was a good read and good history for the westy. Thanks for sharing.
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PostPosted: Sat Jan 26, 2019 8:50 pm    Post subject: Re: The Life and Times of Vineyard Van! Reply with quote

That’s great, really enjoyed it! Truly a “Buy It For Life” vehicle, and now your kids are building on the memories!
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Make America Vanagon
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PostPosted: Sat Jan 26, 2019 9:29 pm    Post subject: Re: The Life and Times of Vineyard Van! Reply with quote

I'm a sucker for Dad/Son stories, and that one hit me hard. I am a Federal Officer, and hoped not to resort to selling my van this last month. Luckily, for now, I don't have to. Many thanks for sharing your story.
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PostPosted: Sat Jan 26, 2019 9:43 pm    Post subject: Re: The Life and Times of Vineyard Van! Reply with quote

Hope you don't have to sell, we're good for $100 if it helps. Stinking politicians.

Splendiferously wonderful OP. As good as any here, ever. Cool
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PostPosted: Sat Jan 26, 2019 10:13 pm    Post subject: Re: The Life and Times of Vineyard Van! Reply with quote

E1 wrote:
Hope you don't have to sell, we're good for $100 if it helps. Stinking politicians.

Splendiferously wonderful OP. As good as any here, ever. Cool


I appreciate your gesture Eric, thank you. It was floated between my wife and I only as a contingency. Like the OP, I'm not letting it go. My kids are only 2 and 4, but the bus is a big part of their lives. I feel it's necessary to cherish and enjoy it with my family.
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PostPosted: Sat Jan 26, 2019 10:31 pm    Post subject: Re: The Life and Times of Vineyard Van! Reply with quote

Really fun story! I was born in 86 and raised in an 82 diesel ASI camper and my father was a VW Salesman during that time.

Going to wolfsburg to get a late model west and keeping it till now? That is sort of the dream for me! Keep it forever because you can't buy those memories.
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Vnyd Dog
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PostPosted: Sat Jan 26, 2019 10:36 pm    Post subject: Re: The Life and Times of Vineyard Van! Reply with quote

I appreciate that this story resonates with others. And please don’t sell! All my good van vibes go out to you during this tumultuous period in our nation. And thank you for your public service. My father was with state government for his career and I of course followed in his footsteps working for my county government. And my kids are 2 and 4 also!

I was digging through our Van file in writing my post. Thought some history buffs might enjoy seeing the options sheet from the time. It’s probably been posted before. But it’s really fun to see the options in ‘87 dollars and then convert those costs to today. Really eye opening.


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'87 Westy 1.8T Conversion, Orignal Owner, European Delivery @ Westfalia factory in Weidenbrueck.
The Story:
https://www.thesamba.com/vw/forum/viewtopic.php?t=713391&highlight=life
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PostPosted: Sat Jan 26, 2019 10:40 pm    Post subject: Re: The Life and Times of Vineyard Van! Reply with quote

And looks like I need to change my sig. I had thought it was Wolfsburg but in fact it was at the Westfalia factory noted in the doc above. In a city called Weidenbrueck. Interesting!
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'87 Westy 1.8T Conversion, Orignal Owner, European Delivery @ Westfalia factory in Weidenbrueck.
The Story:
https://www.thesamba.com/vw/forum/viewtopic.php?t=713391&highlight=life
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PostPosted: Sun Jan 27, 2019 7:37 am    Post subject: Re: The Life and Times of Vineyard Van! Reply with quote

Cant believe they were able to get more for the automatics. Have you driven one of those? With any luck one could recoup the exact same price in today market.
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and a 67 bug.
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PostPosted: Sun Jan 27, 2019 8:28 am    Post subject: Re: The Life and Times of Vineyard Van! Reply with quote

Great story. Thanks. Very Happy
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PostPosted: Sun Jan 27, 2019 9:58 am    Post subject: Re: The Life and Times of Vineyard Van! Reply with quote

I’ve bought whole Cars for less than the cost of that radio. I just recently drove my first 1.8t conversion and am very impressed at it as well.
Nice van, great history and a fun story.

Stacy
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PostPosted: Sun Jan 27, 2019 9:58 am    Post subject: Re: The Life and Times of Vineyard Van! Reply with quote

Love your story...thanks for posting... <snif> Wink

You're doing it right! Cool

- Dave
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PostPosted: Sun Jan 27, 2019 10:10 am    Post subject: Re: The Life and Times of Vineyard Van! Reply with quote

Those letters are awesome! Do you have any more? Any pics from the factory delivery day?
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PostPosted: Sun Jan 27, 2019 10:22 am    Post subject: Re: The Life and Times of Vineyard Van! Reply with quote

Outstanding posts. A good story told well.

The $2,000 for the Syncro option seems like one of the best automotive values on the planet while the $540 for the radio is a terrible value (both in hindsight).
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PostPosted: Sun Jan 27, 2019 1:39 pm    Post subject: Re: The Life and Times of Vineyard Van! Reply with quote

thanks for the letter...

it's interesting to compare the price...

- Vanagon Camper GL, 4-speed - $17,938.00

- Vanagon Camper Syncro - $17,497.00

and with rear diff. locker

- Vanagon Camper Syncro with diff. locker - $17,745.00

huh? Shocked
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PostPosted: Sun Jan 27, 2019 1:43 pm    Post subject: Re: The Life and Times of Vineyard Van! Reply with quote

Yes, crazy that the radio option was 1/4 the cost of the Syncro upgrade. According to a website, the value of $20,000 that we spent on our Van in '87 is the equivalent of $45,000 in 2019 dollars. I don't have the pictures with me but here are a few more fun items, original invoice, letter about pickup, and original brochure from the time:

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'87 Westy 1.8T Conversion, Orignal Owner, European Delivery @ Westfalia factory in Weidenbrueck.
The Story:
https://www.thesamba.com/vw/forum/viewtopic.php?t=713391&highlight=life
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Vnyd Dog
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PostPosted: Sun Jan 27, 2019 1:50 pm    Post subject: Re: The Life and Times of Vineyard Van! Reply with quote

0to60in6min wrote:
thanks for the letter...

it's interesting to compare the price...

- Vanagon Camper GL, 4-speed - $17,938.00

- Vanagon Camper Syncro - $17,497.00

and with rear diff. locker

- Vanagon Camper Syncro with diff. locker - $17,745.00

huh? Shocked


Oh I see it now, you gotta compare the Syncro Camper GL, versus non GL. The GL added other equipment making it closer to $20k.
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'87 Westy 1.8T Conversion, Orignal Owner, European Delivery @ Westfalia factory in Weidenbrueck.
The Story:
https://www.thesamba.com/vw/forum/viewtopic.php?t=713391&highlight=life
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PostPosted: Sun Jan 27, 2019 3:04 pm    Post subject: Re: The Life and Times of Vineyard Van! Reply with quote

Great story! Thank you for sharing Very Happy .
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PostPosted: Sun Jan 27, 2019 5:25 pm    Post subject: Re: The Life and Times of Vineyard Van! Reply with quote

The letter on delivery is the best. Soft drinks are free, autobahn nearby, please take the train from cologne! It's almost like being there!

Back in 2009 I went to wolfsburg and did the factory tour and saw the atuostadt. During that time I saw people picking up their cars from the factory. What an amazing experience, I thought! The opportunity to get the car you really want, right from the manufacture, without all the car sales BS you get at the dealer. Such an event! For me, picking of a late model vanagon on tourist delivery sounds like the ULTIMATE version of this. You my friend, make me super jealous!

Did your family get to tour the westfalia factory?
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