Junkyard Gem: 1986 Volkswagen Vanagon Westfalia Camper

The real-world value of a beater Westy is not very high.

  • Image Credit: Murilee Martin
The Volkswagen Vanagon Westfalia Camper enjoys a fanatically devoted following in the United States, and examples in good condition and the Syncro all-wheel-drive option can fetch prices well into the high five figures. However, a rough rear-wheel-drive one, with worn-out mechanicals and an interior better-suited for possums than humans, is in danger of being consigned to a place like this Colorado wrecking yard.

When you talk to Westy zealots, they'll have you believe that every example of this vehicle— the most superior piece of vehicular design in human history, to hear them tell it— is worth ten grand or more, no matter how decrepit. Rational thinking has little connection with the Vanagon Westfalia lifestyle, though.

This one is a plush Wolfsburg Edition, even!

Vanagons went to the Wasserboxer water-cooled engine for the 1983 model year, and 1986 was the first year for the big 2.1-liter engine and its 95 horsepower. As you might imagine, patience is needed when climbing any sort of grade in one of these vehicles.

The condenser in the nose of this Vanagon shows that it's a rare air-conditioning-equipped model. The added comfort must have been nice, but the poor engine must have been cruelly stressed when slogging up the 6 percent grade to the 12,095-foot Independence Pass in Colorado.

Some Vanagon owners have swapped in Subaru four-cylinder boxer engines into their vans, which adds a lot more power and upgrades engine reliability from dismal to acceptable. This process is a lot more expensive than camping in a 4Runner with tent and campstove, but retains the ineffable Vanagon-ness.

As you might imagine, the wildlife living for years in this van made all the furniture pretty icky, but plenty of usable parts remain.

The Westfalia gear looked to have been of very high quality, according to this promotional video.

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