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Why do we love the VW Campervan?

Posted by on in Motorhomes
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Sssssshhhhhhhh dont tell anyone but I used to drive a VW Campervan and well, I didn't like it! I found it noisy, unreliable, dog slow and not really comfortable.

Now I know this is some kind of heresy. My son adores them. He even went to his wedding in one. He and I have many a time sat and argued about them, but I still can't like them.

Now we have that out of the way, we thought we should contribute something to the story of the long-lived "Hippy Bus" which finally came to an end last year for safety reasons.

The VW Campervan had three things going for it when it emerged after the war. It was pretty much the first of its kind when the Westfalia emerged in 1951, built on a van chassis. It's expansion in the 1950's and 1960's coincided with the expansion of motoring and holidays in general and the young took to it like ducks to water.

The notion that the Campervan was "cool" began with the surfers who handed it on to the pop-concert goers of the counterculture. This was despite the fact that they were always a pretty hefty price. It's success, which had been intended to be as a family holiday vehicle, was in reality transferred to young people who used it to get away from the eye of their parents. It's not often mentioned but one of the great reasons for the attraction of motorhomes in general is that you dont have to think, you just get in them, fire them up and off you go. Even now, we know plenty of our friends who never go particularly far, often to exactly the same camp sites each time, but who will look at the sky and the weather forecast on a Friday and be gone a few minutes later. Let's face it, they are great for the lazy camper and they certainly were for the "hippy generation" wanting to escape the eye of their parents for a weekend.

back of campervanIts air-cooled engine made it reliable and even if it broke down, it shared the availability of cheap spare parts with its cousin the "Beetle", so that second-hand campervans were guaranteed a long life. It was the combination of "cool", and a sort of long-lasting appeal that made them so successful. It's why, even today, you will see old men glaze over as they think of some romantic weekend down in Newquay in the ealry 1970's - one which they might or might not want their wife to share depending on whether she was the one who was there with them at the time. Like early hunters, they have often become the shared storytelling of a generation. Many of these stories have been embellished and expanded to become far more than they were at the time (it's amazing how it never seems to rain much in the retelling!).

They are quite different really from the other trend in motorhomes, the American RV. Altogether bigger, these have far more in common with a bus than the VW. Much earlier than Europe, American families were used to wide roads and seem to have insisted on as many amenities as possible. Besides fuel was cheaper and they had a longer way to go. In much the same way that US cars of the 1950's onwards were huge things, never intended to take a corner, the RV seems to have got bigger and more luxurious as time went on. If you had the tight lanes of a Cornish beach holiday to negotiate, on the other hand, the larger RV just was not going to hack it.

The great thing about a brand, of course, is that, as time goes on, things start to get valuable again. This is certainly true of the VW Camper. Even now they seem to scream "let's go exploring" in a way that few other vehicles do. When you look at the crazy prices people will pay for a restored van from the 1960's or 1970's, it might leave me scratching my head, but it seems plenty of others think differently.

If you have great memories of your VW, why not share them with us or comment on the article we have written.

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