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...About the 'good ol days' - Vans in the 80s-90s
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shagginwagon83
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PostPosted: Tue Oct 16, 2018 8:32 am    Post subject: ...About the 'good ol days' - Vans in the 80s-90s Reply with quote

My van was 10 years old when I was born. Most of vans I see are modded and unique. I wanna know more about when the vans were almost fresh on the road. More from people who have owned/observed the full life of vanagons.

During the 80s-90s,
What were some of the mods people were doing to their stock Westys?
Could you get replacement camper/van parts a lot easier from the VW dealer?
What kind of service did VW give these campers?

Any cool info/insight would be appreciative. It just blows my mind thinking about taking a VW Westy for a 30k mile service at the VW dealer.
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PostPosted: Tue Oct 16, 2018 8:38 am    Post subject: Re: ...About the 'good ol days' - Vans in the 80s-90s Reply with quote

My favorite find after bringing my van home was the dealer maintenance book showing dealer maintenance stamps from date of purchase to mile 120000. Pretty cool and gave me a lot more confidence in my purchase- First person owned until mile 160000, second owner had until 195000 when I bought.
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jlrftype7
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PostPosted: Tue Oct 16, 2018 8:52 am    Post subject: Re: ...About the 'good ol days' - Vans in the 80s-90s Reply with quote

Back in the day.... The headgasket/rubber gasket was already a known issue in the 80s...
I was charging the A/C system on Westy's ,,,,cause they slowly leaked Freon already... Razz
We were clucking our tongues on the White Square Pre-Filter that was installed before the Fuel Pump since everyone was running into them clogging and getting fuel pump issues from fuel starvation .
The growing consensus was to ditch the square filters and have a large round Bosch Filter after the pump as the only filter.
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'68 Westy- my first VW and vehicle/Bus- long gone.- sold it to a traveling Swiss couple....
'67 Type 3 Fastback, my 2nd car- also long gone
'69 Semi-Auto Stick Shift Beetle, my wife's first car= yep. still long gone....
2017 MINI Coopers, our current DDs
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PostPosted: Tue Oct 16, 2018 9:00 am    Post subject: Re: ...About the 'good ol days' - Vans in the 80s-90s Reply with quote

I remember when I was fifteen going to the local mall for Fall clothes shopping with my mom and seeing a Vanagon for the first time. The local VW/Porsche/Audi dealer had all of their 1980 MY vehicles on display. I knelt down and looked under the front of a two tone cream/yellow tintop to see if the engine was in front. I was surprised as the design seemed like such a modern departure that front engine just made sense.
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PostPosted: Tue Oct 16, 2018 9:05 am    Post subject: Re: ...About the 'good ol days' - Vans in the 80s-90s Reply with quote

People didn't do a lot of modifications to their factory Westys in most of those days. Mid/late 90s was when things really started happening. The WWW made more things possible, you could see what others were doing to their vans and online shopping became practical. It used to be that places like GoWesty printed paper catalogues and then you called them on the phone to order.

The VW dealers had mechanics who were trained on the vans and most parts came from them. Camper parts were outrageously priced, like most mechanical parts.
Certain Calif VW Dealers became Meccas for Vanagon owners as they had good mechanics who loved the vehicles.

Mark
VW van owner for 40+ years
owned most year vans from 66-91
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syncro surf
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PostPosted: Tue Oct 16, 2018 9:37 am    Post subject: Re: ...About the 'good ol days' - Vans in the 80s-90s Reply with quote

In the 80's people were still bringing their air cooled VW's into the dealer for service. I clearly remember seeing my first Syncro Westy, which had just been delivered to the dealer showroom. I remember walking around it thinking it was about the coolest thing ever. That dealership is now an empty parking lot Sad

When I bought my first Syncro in about 1999, There were plenty of them available locally to me - most at the end of their lives having been daily drivers in Maine. I settled on a well maintained rust free 87 California tin top. I paid
$3800 - definitely the good old days.
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JudoJeff
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PostPosted: Tue Oct 16, 2018 9:54 am    Post subject: Re: ...About the 'good ol days' - Vans in the 80s-90s Reply with quote

I go back to the 60-70s and underpowered air cooled campers. Was always doing valve jobs it seemed. Loved the first Westfalia water cooled van, but price tag was around 40k, when a new beetle was 5k.

Miss the 72 camper I had. Donít miss the 62? 32hp aircooled van: bench front seat, no gas gauge, front windows opened out for air, sunroof opened to blow all the dust out. Slow as a tractor, had to back up a steep hill once, couldnít make it in first!
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jlrftype7
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PostPosted: Tue Oct 16, 2018 10:28 am    Post subject: Re: ...About the 'good ol days' - Vans in the 80s-90s Reply with quote

JudoJeff wrote:
I go back to the 60-70s and underpowered air cooled campers. Was always doing valve jobs it seemed. Loved the first Westfalia water cooled van, but price tag was around 40k, when a new beetle was 5k.

Miss the 72 camper I had. Donít miss the 62? 32hp aircooled van: bench front seat, no gas gauge, front windows opened out for air, sunroof opened to blow all the dust out. Slow as a tractor, had to back up a steep hill once, couldnít make it in first!

That brings back family discussions older than me almost. Our Family had just bought a Splitty Bus of some kind a year or two before I arrived on the scene. I never asked my Father while he was alive exactly what model he had. I can't remember if it was the 36 hp or 40HP. He talked of the head studs constantly coming loose on it.
They killed it again trying to climb through the Appalachian Mountains with me as a newborn baby riding along, and overloaded with way too much stuff[ my Dad had been a geologist and kept too many rock samples with him for the move to Texas from VA... Razz Razz Razz
Traded it in on a American Station Wagon......
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'68 Westy- my first VW and vehicle/Bus- long gone.- sold it to a traveling Swiss couple....
'67 Type 3 Fastback, my 2nd car- also long gone
'69 Semi-Auto Stick Shift Beetle, my wife's first car= yep. still long gone....
2017 MINI Coopers, our current DDs
Ď84 Tin Top - Hilga....Auto
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PostPosted: Tue Oct 16, 2018 10:41 am    Post subject: Re: ...About the 'good ol days' - Vans in the 80s-90s Reply with quote

OK well no real stories about modding or such as I was a young 17yr old when I got a taste of a Westfalia.

My buddy's parents had money and were VW fans which means they had a Westfalia.
Circa 1986
Graduation year.
This thing was going to be a babe magnet!! (it wasn't)
His parents actually let us take it out one (and only ONE) Friday night.
We jumped in and headed to the hangout, which in Small Town Kamloops BC was a parkade ............
It did not end well.
Embarassed
Sadly that was the one and only time I got the privilege of cruising in one until I bought my own, much much later in life.
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PostPosted: Tue Oct 16, 2018 11:25 am    Post subject: Re: ...About the 'good ol days' - Vans in the 80s-90s Reply with quote

In the '80's we got our ideas for VW mods from Hot VWs, VW Trends, VW & Porsche, and VW car shows. I bought my first van in '84 when I was nineteen; a '67 split for $800. It was already carved up, with a weird quarter size "sunroof" in the middle with a vinyl snap on cover, cut out rear wheel wells and side scoops. I continued with the butchery theme by cutting out the front partition, adding cabinets from a late bay Westfalia, Recaros from a Scirocco and eventually a balljoint frontend. For a time I even had side mirrors from a Vanagon. That poor long suffering van never let me down during seven years of hard ownership.
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PostPosted: Tue Oct 16, 2018 12:20 pm    Post subject: Re: ...About the 'good ol days' - Vans in the 80s-90s Reply with quote

I bought my first Westy, a 1973 model, in 1983 for $1,000. It was literally a basket case, with the engine sitting in the Westfalia "kitchen" in a number of boxes. I repaired all the rust. Back then, the VW dealer could source rust repair panels. Then I rebuilt the wheezing 1700 cc dual carburetor engine and got a couple years out of it before it dropped a valve seat. Then I noticed in Hot VW's magazine that Kennedy Engineering Products (KEP) was selling adaptors for swaps of all kinds of engines to mate with the VW transaxles.

First, I bought a 1.6 NA VW Rabbit diesel engine (60 HP and $800) to replace the 1700, but then, before installing it, I pivoted and settled on a low-mileage Ford 2.3 litre engine from a Ford Pinto (92 horsepower and $75 purchase price) and sold the diesel engine.

I made my own sheet aluminum radiator cowling in almost the same shape that the Vanagon series ended up using, cutting out an air intake in the front of this Bay Westy much like the Mexican/Brazilian water cooled bay buses have used for a long time. I scoured the junkyards for cars that had a cross-flow radiator matching the limited space in the front of the Bay bus and found that the 1st generation Nissan Sentra had just the right unit with a built-in thermostatic electric fan ($75 with a re-core).

Finally, we had heat in the winter (!!) with a VW Rabbit heater unit that I installed under the Westy rear seat.

It went like stink, compared to the old, anemic 60 horsepower Type 4 1700. In 1987 my wife and I and our two toddler sons drove that Westy/Ford across Canada from Toronto to Vancouver towing a heavy U-Haul trailer with all our belongings to go to grad school. We were able to maintain 60 mph most of the time and only had to downshift to 2nd gear once on a 10% grade in Northern Ontario.

Ultimately, we sold that Westy to buy our first 4WD vehicle (Tercel 4WD wagon) and have never had a 2WD vehicle since. By 2008, the Westy bug bit again, which is when I bought my current 1986 Syncro. In 2008, the most popular engine conversions were the Subaru 2.2 and 2.5 swaps and other swaps were out there, but in lower numbers than now. The available parts, swaps and accessories now on the market are quite impressive in range and especially in quality.
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PostPosted: Tue Oct 16, 2018 12:26 pm    Post subject: Re: ...About the 'good ol days' - Vans in the 80s-90s Reply with quote

My aunt and uncle went from a split to a bay to a big brown American wagon to a Vanagon then another Vanagon.

I can remember my aunt stopping by in a brand new later Vanagon that she was test driving. That one was an automatic which my uncle didn't like because he liked the fuel economy of the manuals.

Whenever we were with my cousins we'd use the Vanagon because it fit all 5 of us kids. Instead of calling "shotgun" we'd call and fight over "two seats!" as the middle row was the place to be.
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PostPosted: Tue Oct 16, 2018 12:43 pm    Post subject: Re: ...About the 'good ol days' - Vans in the 80s-90s Reply with quote

I worked in a small VW repair shop starting in 91' when I was 18, just when most Vanagons were starting to have worn out systems. We did everything, I remember HATING vanagons; because I was a split-bus snob (I've owned 75-80 split busses). The 90's was the golden age of split window bus shopping. People were literally giving them away...so other than working on Vanagons I wasn't paying much attention to them. But I remember working on them.
They wouldn't fit into the shop usually so we'd park 2-6 Vanagons down the side of the shop in the GRAVEL depending on how many we had booked and I'd move from one to the next doing clutches, water pumps, tune ups; dragging a huge piece of plywood around so I could use a creeper. But there wasn't a whole bunch of modding going on since they were still considered a fairly new car so they were more or less ADULT owned and used as daily drivers. There was very little aftermarket.

It's a different era now. Gas was $0.95 cents man.
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PostPosted: Tue Oct 16, 2018 3:08 pm    Post subject: Re: ...About the 'good ol days' - Vans in the 80s-90s Reply with quote

Bub wrote:
The 90's was the golden age of split window bus shopping. People were literally giving them away...


I was on the wrong end of that era. In the early 90's I decided I didn't need my '60 mango green microbus standard. It looked stock but had a 90.5 x 76 and dual webers. Yep... gave it away (I'll go be sick now...).
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PostPosted: Tue Oct 16, 2018 3:10 pm    Post subject: Re: ...About the 'good ol days' - Vans in the 80s-90s Reply with quote

syncro surf wrote:
Bub wrote:
The 90's was the golden age of split window bus shopping. People were literally giving them away...


I was on the wrong end of that era. In the early 90's I decided I didn't need my '60 mango green microbus standard. It looked stock but had a 90.5 x 76 and dual webers. Yep... gave it away (I'll go be sick now...).



Oh man...I feel ya. I was in the right place at the right time. But my problem was there were too many to keep. I always made money...but by today's market I've owned $5million in VW Busses. / threadjack


It is sick.
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PostPosted: Tue Oct 16, 2018 3:50 pm    Post subject: Re: ...About the 'good ol days' - Vans in the 80s-90s Reply with quote

I remember the first vanagon Westy I saw at University VW in Seattle during Christmas of 1979. We were on home leave from the Peace Corps in Lesotho southern Africa where we were in the midst of resurrecting a 1970 bay from its former life as an African shared taxi, the kind that daily held 19 people and a couple of chickens.

The new Westy looked awesome and really clean! Fast forward two years later when we were driving the bay up Africa and ran into a German over-lander in a Unimog, a much rarer sight in those days. He told us that VW was coming out with a 4wd Westy. Man I knew I had to get one of those! It took a few years until we were back and settled in the states, but it finally happened.

Next month we're heading to Mexico in the syncro, but all in all I still sort of miss that bay & the adventures we had in it.
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PostPosted: Tue Oct 16, 2018 6:09 pm    Post subject: Re: ...About the 'good ol days' - Vans in the 80s-90s Reply with quote

Microbusdeluxe wrote:
I remember the first vanagon Westy I saw at University VW in Seattle during Christmas of 1979. We were on home leave from the Peace Corps in Lesotho southern Africa where we were in the midst of resurrecting a 1970 bay from its former life as an African shared taxi, the kind that daily held 19 people and a couple of chickens.

The new Westy looked awesome and really clean! Fast forward two years later when we were driving the bay up Africa and ran into a German over-lander in a Unimog, a much rarer sight in those days. He told us that VW was coming out with a 4wd Westy. Man I knew I had to get one of those! It took a few years until we were back and settled in the states, but it finally happened.

Next month we're heading to Mexico in the syncro, but all in all I still sort of miss that bay & the adventures we had in it.


Senegal for me in the 70s. Peace Corps is just like #vanlife , only different.
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PostPosted: Tue Oct 16, 2018 6:53 pm    Post subject: Re: ...About the 'good ol days' - Vans in the 80s-90s Reply with quote

Cool thread.

I was 3 when my van was born and my parents brought it home. One of my earlier memories is riding home in it from the VW dealer after some warranty work was done on it. There was a whistling coming from somewhere at speed and driving my parents crazy. The dealer had it in and took down the AC ducting trying to find it but was unsuccessful. They spent a good amount of time on it from what I recall. On the ride home my mom pushed the side slider window fully closed and the whistling stopped.

The Vanagon wave was also a thing back then, I always remember waving at fellow Vanagons when I saw them ever since I can remember. In my area I don't think there were many more back then than there are now. At least it seems that way.
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PostPosted: Tue Oct 16, 2018 7:28 pm    Post subject: Re: ...About the 'good ol days' - Vans in the 80s-90s Reply with quote

Great topic! I was born in 86 and my dad sold VW's during the 80's and into the 90's. Our family van was an 82 diesel ASI conversion and my mom drove an 85 Jetta GLI. I loved them both, but the van was it. We did a bunch of camping trips in it, and I got carted around in my car seat on the way to school. It was just a regular car back then, and that is one of the things I love about them. They really can be just a regular old van.

I also have a distinct memory of my dad letting me run around the dealer and get into all the cars in what must have been 90 or 91. I remember crawling into a blue 90/91 westy and it was SO COOL. It was undoubtedly the best car I had ever seen, and having grown up in the ASI, this was the pinnacle. So modern! hahahaha. I now have a 91 burgundy westy, and it's sort of the fulfillment of that childhood memory.

I also remember for a number of years just seeing vanagons everywhere. It was a regular thing for many people. A friends dad had an 85 wolfsburg with two tone brown, I saw all the time and loved, and other family had a brown 85 tin top.

One thing I do remember is that they were a problem when new. People always had little issues with them and the dealer constantly dealt with them. A lot of people were pretty excited to move on to Chrysler vans after dealing with the vanagon every day. As mentioned above, the head gasket issue was a regular thing in the 80's that the dealer often did a warranty repair on. Crazy. That issue actually left such an impression on me, that to this day i'm not sure I fully trust a WBX, even though I logically know better.
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PostPosted: Tue Oct 16, 2018 9:44 pm    Post subject: Re: ...About the 'good ol days' - Vans in the 80s-90s Reply with quote

Bought my '90GL in 1995 from Carter VW in Seattle. Loved the size of it. Much better than my '79 Rabbit that was rusting into oblivion. It had 79k miles on it and was owned by a photographer. It was mint perfect except for a ton of scratch marks all over the edge of the engine lid in back. He must have dragged a ton of equipment out the back and tore up the paint. The salesman told me this van did not have the z-bed. After I had the van for 3 years, I was vacuuming inside and wondered why the back seat seemed "over built". Presto! The seat folded out into a bed. I debated whether or not to tell my GF of this discovery. We had a miserable camping trip in it with her sleeping on a plank between the back seat and the front seat and me sleeping on the floor at an angle.

The dealer wanted $13,500 for it and it was my biggest purchase ever. Had to completely re-think my driving habits to compensate for the extra length. I loved to drive my friends in it especially people who never been in one before. They would always hit the phantom brake pedal when I would pull up to a car since the front of the van doesn't extend out very far.

Had it for almost 20 years. I even took the motor out of it and put it in my Syncro. The owner of the shop that I go to owns it now and uses it as shop truck.
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