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RoyHobbs
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PostPosted: Mon May 18, 2020 11:25 pm    Post subject: New Westy Buyer Reply with quote

Sorry if this is a redundant post (point me in the right direction if it is...)

I could use some education on finding/buying a Westy for my son that just graduated college. This has been his dream of traveling the west coast and beyond in a Westy. We live in Southern California. He has been talking about this since he got his drivers license. The time has come to make it happen.

I have been looking for the past couple weeks. Iíve driven several so Iím learning. I had 2 Westyís inspected by vintage VW service shops. My son has been educating me too. Here is where Iím at (probably obvious to many on the forum):

- prefer 1986-91 Vanagon with camper top (non syncro) automatic
- manual trans ok too - I think a stick shift would add to his experience - he has learned to drive a manual but not overly proficient (but he will be...)
- learning that engine compression is important - above 130 is good, 150 is better, limited variance between cylinders seems to be important as well
- engine conversions seem to be an issues from what I read on these forums
- looks like certain engines are an issue in California
- rebuilt trans look to be normal - not sure what to ask about the rebuilds
- value/price seems to be all over the board but mid/upper teens for a Westy that need some work, low/mid twenties for nicer fixed up vans
- A/C seems to be an issue. Some have it but not working, others say take it out because the engine is already under powered, finally there seems to be a perspective that the A/C doesnít help that much blowing from the back...
- Suspension, ball joints, and bushings are an issue with the year/mileage
- none Iíve looked at so far have had propane in the tanks to test frig, stove

Iím open to any advice on what to ask sellers and what to look out for. I grew up working on my own cars (I know this will be an ongoing project) but excited to get another generation exposed to what it is like to get your hands greasy!!!

Thx in advance for your help.
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PostPosted: Tue May 19, 2020 12:24 am    Post subject: Re: New Westy Buyer Reply with quote

This thread seems relevant

https://www.thesamba.com/vw/forum/viewtopic.php?t=726372
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PostPosted: Tue May 19, 2020 5:36 am    Post subject: Re: New Westy Buyer Reply with quote

RoryGirl is right about the linked thread. I thought your post was a mistaken re-post from the opening of that thread.

RoyHobbs wrote:

- A/C seems to be an issue. Some have it but not working, others say take it out because the engine is already under powered, finally there seems to be a perspective that the A/C doesnít help that much blowing from the back...


I'll just chime in here to say that the A/C on my '87 was complete but inop when we bought it in '06. Huge scary numbers for a shop to work on it, so I did a cheapo FLAPS R134a $40 conversion and it cools just fine and it blows forward nicely after the plenumectomy, which I modestly claim to have pioneered although someone else named it that.
https://www.thesamba.com/vw/forum/viewtopic.php?t=424773&highlight=plenum

I'll also add that if your son is not a mechanic or so inclined he might be happier/safer/cheaper/better off in an American van fitted out for travel; Ford Econoline, Chevy Express, etc.
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PostPosted: Tue May 19, 2020 6:28 am    Post subject: Re: New Westy Buyer Reply with quote

RoyHobbs wrote:
I grew up working on my own cars (I know this will be an ongoing project) but excited to get another generation exposed to what it is like to get your hands greasy!!!


how much 'buy in' does your son have for learning how to wrench? to me, that is the $64 question because presenting him with a 30+ year old vehicle, he WILL have to learn how to become his own mechanic, unless you will provide significant financial support throughout this endeavor. if the motivation to learn isn't there, the third breakdown will leave him frustrated and distrustful of the van.

so much will depend upon his attitude as to whether he can stomach antique car ownership. if he is willing to learn from you, you both win and it will be a great experience for everyone.
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SyncroHead
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PostPosted: Tue May 19, 2020 8:35 am    Post subject: Re: New Westy Buyer Reply with quote

RoyHobbs wrote:
Sorry if this is a redundant post (point me in the right direction if it is...)

I could use some education on finding/buying a Westy for my son that just graduated college. This has been his dream of traveling the west coast and beyond in a Westy. We live in Southern California. He has been talking about this since he got his drivers license. The time has come to make it happen.

I have been looking for the past couple weeks. Iíve driven several so Iím learning. I had 2 Westyís inspected by vintage VW service shops. My son has been educating me too. Here is where Iím at (probably obvious to many on the forum):

- prefer 1986-91 Vanagon with camper top (non syncro) automatic
- manual trans ok too - I think a stick shift would add to his experience - he has learned to drive a manual but not overly proficient (but he will be...)
- learning that engine compression is important - above 130 is good, 150 is better, limited variance between cylinders seems to be important as well
- engine conversions seem to be an issues from what I read on these forums
- looks like certain engines are an issue in California
- rebuilt trans look to be normal - not sure what to ask about the rebuilds
- value/price seems to be all over the board but mid/upper teens for a Westy that need some work, low/mid twenties for nicer fixed up vans
- A/C seems to be an issue. Some have it but not working, others say take it out because the engine is already under powered, finally there seems to be a perspective that the A/C doesnít help that much blowing from the back...
- Suspension, ball joints, and bushings are an issue with the year/mileage
- none Iíve looked at so far have had propane in the tanks to test frig, stove

Iím open to any advice on what to ask sellers and what to look out for. I grew up working on my own cars (I know this will be an ongoing project) but excited to get another generation exposed to what it is like to get your hands greasy!!!

Thx in advance for your help.


You've come to the right place. You're welcome and your son will be too.

First - To orient yourself on which models and options were available in each year, check out www.Vanagons.org
where each model for each year is described.

Transmission: I've had both auto and manual trans Vanagons including 2WD and Syncro. The automatic transmissions in Vanagons are known to be pretty reliable and although less power makes it to the wheels than in a manual, they're not bad. I wouldn't shy away from these.

Engines: All '86-'91 Vanagons in the USA came with the 2.1L Digifant controlled engine. The "Waterboxer". Although many have swapped in other engines, many have not. To keep things simple for you and getting service, I'd suggest that a stock or increased capacity (2.2-2.5L) Waterboxer might be best in your circumstance. After living with that you can decide for yourself whether a swap is right for you and choose among the many options available.

A/C: I also live in southern CA and have always depended on my AC to make trips comfortable. I love the AC in the hard-top vans because of the ceiling-mounted vents forward of the driver and front passenger. Unfortunately, the Westy suffers from only having A/C blown from the back and is quite a bit less effective at cooling the front of the van. Nonetheless, I'd still recommended it in warmer climates like ours. I recently got my '89 Westy's AC running again with new compressor and other items and converted to the new refrigerant. Very happy I did.

Propane/Fridge/Stove: Propane systems and stoves are very reliable, however the fridge, not so much. I recently removed the built-in fridge in my Westy and gained valuable cupboard space instead. Very happy with this and use a portable Engle fridge instead that runs on 120VAC or 12VDC. Many portable fridge brands and sizes are available - some economical and some quite expensive though. I put our fridge in the '87 Syncro when we take it or the '89 Westy for its trips. I would discount the worth of having a running fridge and wouldn't be concerned if you're not able to test the stove. Probably about 95% chance the propane system and stove are good.

Service: Unless you intend to do all the service work yourself, you'll need a nearby mechanic with Vanagon experience. (Hint: the answer is NOT a VW dealer.) I'd say that for a 30 year old car Vanagons are not bad, but they are pretty old at this point and service and repairs will be needed. Figure out who can service the van before you go through with the decision to buy one.

Offer:
Since I'm in SoCal, I'd offer to meet you and son if you go to look at a van in the area and give you my feedback and some pointers. Send me a "Direct Message" here at TheSamba ahead of time if you want to arrange this.

Best of luck in your quest!

Jim Davis
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sphet wrote:
I have *no* idea what the previous owner carried in his Westy... angry donkeys?
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RoyHobbs
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PostPosted: Tue May 19, 2020 9:11 am    Post subject: Re: New Westy Buyer Reply with quote

RoryGirl wrote:
This thread seems relevant

https://www.thesamba.com/vw/forum/viewtopic.php?t=726372



Thx RoryGirl - very relevant. I read the thread and I can see a lot of similarities.
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PostPosted: Tue May 19, 2020 9:16 am    Post subject: Re: New Westy Buyer Reply with quote

campism wrote:
RoryGirl is right about the linked thread. I thought your post was a mistaken re-post from the opening of that thread.

RoyHobbs wrote:

- A/C seems to be an issue. Some have it but not working, others say take it out because the engine is already under powered, finally there seems to be a perspective that the A/C doesnít help that much blowing from the back...


I'll just chime in here to say that the A/C on my '87 was complete but inop when we bought it in '06. Huge scary numbers for a shop to work on it, so I did a cheapo FLAPS R134a $40 conversion and it cools just fine and it blows forward nicely after the plenumectomy, which I modestly claim to have pioneered although someone else named it that.
https://www.thesamba.com/vw/forum/viewtopic.php?t=424773&highlight=plenum

I'll also add that if your son is not a mechanic or so inclined he might be happier/safer/cheaper/better off in an American van fitted out for travel; Ford Econoline, Chevy Express, etc.



Campism - agree about the potential A/C repair concerns for sure. He is committed to the Vanagon verses the other options. I would say he is somewhat mechanical but he is excited to learn more - which I know he will get by owning a Westy!!! Thx for the feedback.
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RoyHobbs
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PostPosted: Tue May 19, 2020 9:24 am    Post subject: Re: New Westy Buyer Reply with quote

DanHoug wrote:
RoyHobbs wrote:
I grew up working on my own cars (I know this will be an ongoing project) but excited to get another generation exposed to what it is like to get your hands greasy!!!


how much 'buy in' does your son have for learning how to wrench? to me, that is the $64 question because presenting him with a 30+ year old vehicle, he WILL have to learn how to become his own mechanic, unless you will provide significant financial support throughout this endeavor. if the motivation to learn isn't there, the third breakdown will leave him frustrated and distrustful of the van.

so much will depend upon his attitude as to whether he can stomach antique car ownership. if he is willing to learn from you, you both win and it will be a great experience for everyone.



Dan - great perspective. He is ALL IN and I feel he understands the challenges that are on the horizon. He wants to learn and do as much of the work himself if possible. I grew up working on my cars so I think I have a little background that can provide support. I'm excited to use this time together. I totally agree there will be a fatigue factor over time but he seems ready for the challenge. He has talked about this for years. He has done a lot of the research to teach me about Westy's. Thx again for you response.
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RoyHobbs
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PostPosted: Tue May 19, 2020 9:31 am    Post subject: Re: New Westy Buyer Reply with quote

SyncroHead wrote:
You've come to the right place. You're welcome and your son will be too.

First - To orient yourself on which models and options were available in each year, check out www.Vanagons.org
where each model for each year is described.

...

Offer:
Since I'm in SoCal, I'd offer to meet you and son if you go to look at a van in the area and give you my feedback and some pointers. Send me a "Direct Message" here at TheSamba ahead of time if you want to arrange this.

Best of luck in your quest!

Jim Davis



Jim - thanks for the detailed response! I appreciate the insights. What impact does running the A/C have while driving? I keep hearing stories where people take the A/C belt off because it takes away some of the engine power. Curious what you have experienced. I will definitely DM you. Thx for the offer.
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PostPosted: Tue May 19, 2020 10:02 am    Post subject: Re: New Westy Buyer Reply with quote

RoyHobbs wrote:
DanHoug wrote:
RoyHobbs wrote:
I grew up working on my own cars (I know this will be an ongoing project) but excited to get another generation exposed to what it is like to get your hands greasy!!!


how much 'buy in' does your son have for learning how to wrench? to me, that is the $64 question because presenting him with a 30+ year old vehicle, he WILL have to learn how to become his own mechanic, unless you will provide significant financial support throughout this endeavor. if the motivation to learn isn't there, the third breakdown will leave him frustrated and distrustful of the van.

so much will depend upon his attitude as to whether he can stomach antique car ownership. if he is willing to learn from you, you both win and it will be a great experience for everyone.


Dan - great perspective. He is ALL IN and I feel he understands the challenges that are on the horizon. He wants to learn and do as much of the work himself if possible. I grew up working on my cars so I think I have a little background that can provide support. I'm excited to use this time together. I totally agree there will be a fatigue factor over time but he seems ready for the challenge. He has talked about this for years. He has done a lot of the research to teach me about Westy's. Thx again for you response.


Get him the famous "Volkswagen; turning owners into mechanics for 50 years" bumper sticker and let him go Laughing He'll either get into it, and have fun, or be frustrated and get out. These are, at least, vehicles the "average Joe" can learn to maintain, repair, and upgrade with a minimum of special tools. If he does get hooked, he'll love 'em for life like the rest of us crazies here.

Welcome to you both! Popcorn
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PostPosted: Tue May 19, 2020 10:23 am    Post subject: Re: New Westy Buyer Reply with quote


Link

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PostPosted: Tue May 19, 2020 12:02 pm    Post subject: Re: New Westy Buyer Reply with quote

RoyHobbs wrote:
- prefer 1986-91 Vanagon...


I wouldn't be too quick to dismiss 83-85 Vanagons. Thanks to a well-publicized bias on the part of a large West Coast vendor, prices for the early 1.9 Digijets will be lower and may offer a better value.

I'm biased to I suppose, but having driven an 84 Westy for more than 30 years I see no reason to ignore those early wasserboxers as candidates.

A bigger concern is rust and deferred maintenance - both of which IMO trump the year built.
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PostPosted: Tue May 19, 2020 1:37 pm    Post subject: Re: New Westy Buyer Reply with quote

should be lots in SoCal

'86 has the brown interior, and it falls apart quickly - don't ask me how I know that

see my sig. below
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PostPosted: Tue May 19, 2020 2:03 pm    Post subject: Re: New Westy Buyer Reply with quote

tjet wrote:

Link

Oh NOOOOO, the infamous Bears..... Razz Razz Razz Razz Razz
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PostPosted: Tue May 19, 2020 2:11 pm    Post subject: Re: New Westy Buyer Reply with quote

Merian wrote:
should be lots in SoCal

'86 has the brown interior, and it falls apart quickly - don't ask me how I know that

see my sig. below


Really? Here's mine. I just ran out and took these photos - didn't wipe or scrub anything (the counter could use it). Looks fine to me. And I have kids. That's my bus depot cover scrunched in the back.




Image may have been reduced in size. Click image to view fullscreen.

Image may have been reduced in size. Click image to view fullscreen.

Image may have been reduced in size. Click image to view fullscreen.

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PostPosted: Tue May 19, 2020 2:14 pm    Post subject: Re: New Westy Buyer Reply with quote

I've had all the version of the Type 2 Transporter Westfalia, from the T1-T4. Although I liked the T4 Westy just fine, I am much more confidant doing my own work on my T3. Of course, I do lament selling my '66 and '67 Turret Top SO-42's, and my Bays, but the T3 is just way more applicable to my life. Maybe when I was a kid I didn't get as cold as I do now days in my Air Cooled VW's? Just can't take that stuff any more. Adding that air conditioning while driving is near a must-have for me now as well.

But, there are certainly plenty of people enjoying the EuroVan Westies, I run into them all over the country, and those people are damn happy to be in them. Don't rule them out.

As far as removing the A/C belt... Hmm.. nah. Sure it starves the engine of a bit of power, but there is no way I'd drive my troop around the country and have them griping about the heat all the way. Just flip off the switch when you are climbing big hills.

Also, yes, there are plenty of Sprinters in comparable $'s these days, don't rule them out either.

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PostPosted: Tue May 19, 2020 2:17 pm    Post subject: Re: New Westy Buyer Reply with quote

bobbyblack wrote:
I've had all the version of the Type 2 Transporter Westfalia, from the T1-T4. Although I liked the T4 Westy just fine, I am much more confidant doing my own work on my T3. Of course, I do lament selling my '66 and '67 Turret Top SO-42's, and my Bays, but the T3 is just way more applicable to my life. Maybe when I was a kid I didn't get as cold as I do now days in my Air Cooled VW's? Just can't take that stuff any more. Adding that air conditioning while driving is near a must-have for me now as well.

But, there are certainly plenty of people enjoying the EuroVan Westies, I run into them all over the country, and those people are damn happy to be in them. Don't rule them out.

As far as removing the A/C belt... Hmm.. nah. Sure it starves the engine of a bit of power, but there is no way I'd drive my troop around the country and have them griping about the heat all the way. Just flip off the switch when you are climbing big hills.

Also, yes, there are plenty of Sprinters in comparable $'s these days, don't rule them out either.

-bobby



Thx Bobby. Go Hawks!!
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RoyHobbs
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PostPosted: Tue May 19, 2020 2:19 pm    Post subject: Re: New Westy Buyer Reply with quote

Merian wrote:
should be lots in SoCal

'86 has the brown interior, and it falls apart quickly - don't ask me how I know that

see my sig. below



Thx. I read many of your previous posts. Very helpful.
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PostPosted: Tue May 19, 2020 4:02 pm    Post subject: Re: New Westy Buyer Reply with quote

YosemiteBound wrote:
Merian wrote:
...'86 has the brown interior, and it falls apart quickl...


Really? Here's mine. I just ran out and took these photos...


There are some failure prone brown plastic parts on the early Vanagons. The rear view mirror and window cranks have both been known to deteriorate and fall apart. Oddly, many other brown plastic parts hold up well.

I've never had an issue replacing the failed parts though admittedly I used brown window cranks from a Jetta and the replacement mirror is black plastic.
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PostPosted: Tue May 19, 2020 4:16 pm    Post subject: Re: New Westy Buyer Reply with quote

Ahwahnee wrote:
YosemiteBound wrote:
Merian wrote:
...'86 has the brown interior, and it falls apart quickl...


Really? Here's mine. I just ran out and took these photos...


There are some failure prone brown plastic parts on the early Vanagons. The rear view mirror and window cranks have both been known to deteriorate and fall apart. Oddly, many other brown plastic parts hold up well.

I've never had an issue replacing the failed parts though admittedly I used brown window cranks from a Jetta and the replacement mirror is black plastic.


I'm sure that depends on how much your rig sits out in the sun. My mirror is dandy. My cranks got replaced for the Go Westy metal ones though.
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