A Barn-Full of Memories: 1968 VW Westfalia

westfalia-barn-find

When discussing barn finds, we often leave out one of the more critical details: what kind of barn was it in? One of my favorite places to visit is a barn behind a bed and breakfast in Woodstock, Vermont, which houses multiple classics on its upper levels. The structure is built into the hillside, making it possible to drive a vintage Chevy Suburban and Mustang convertible onto the top floor. This barn in New Hampshire that housed a vintage Volkswagen camper is a contender for my short list of favorite farm structures, and with a price tag of $5,750, the Westfalia that hid within might warrant a visit in person. Thanks goes to Barn Finds reader Wayne for spotting it on here on craigslist!

as-found

When I see a converted camper vehicle in the junkyard, they’re often in rough shape, bearing battle scars from their many years of use. I suspect campers are rarely used solely for camping – after the original owner sells it on, vans like this Westfalia become prime candidates for a variety of jobs ranging from transporting cover bands to dingy nightclubs or being retrofitted to help contractors tackle that next big plumbing job. Either way, it’s rare to find one preserved in its original state as the family vacation vehicle – and still in the possession of the first owner!

spring-vacation-69

The Westfalia variants were offered through Volkswagen dealers as part of a conversion package, featuring components that made these vehicles a no-brainer for camping vacations: sinks, electrical hook-ups, curtains, refrigerated storage and seating that could be arranged in multiple configurations for sleeping. Taking it one step further were vans outfitted with pop-top roofs like this one that made additional sleeping accommodations available above the cab. While lots of options were available (like toilets and side awnings – one of my favorite ways to outfit a Type 2), the listing doesn’t go into great detail about how the original owner spec’d her vehicle when she bought it at the ripe age of 25.

saying-good-bye

Given that it’s been in a barn since 1996, I’m sure this VW will need some work. The seller notes he’s gotten it running well and doesn’t need much more refurbishment to be completely roadworthy. “Interior work” on a Westfalia, however, could mean new fabric or complete replacement of its unique trim options; fortunately, companies like GoWesty make sourcing reproduction parts a snap.

westy-pulled-out

I’ve never considered buying a vehicle to jump-start a new lifestyle, but this Type 2 is speaking to me as a great way to catch the camping bug. Have any of you owned a van outfitted for camping? Would you consider taking this one on the road? Let us know in the comments below.

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Comments

  1. David C

    I love the VW campers. Attached is a photo of me ( on the right ) my little brother John with our grandfather, his dog and of course my families 1961 VW camper. This was taken in 1965, I was 11.
    We traveled all over the U.S. in that camper with our mom and dad and a saint bernard ( for 5 years, about 4 weeks a year ).
    My dad kept the camper until 1966 and traded it in on a Karmann Ghia.
    A lot of great memories.

    • Jeff Lavery Staff

      David, thanks so much for sharing the photo and story! Sounds like a great tradition. Was it comfortable to sleep in? Where was your favorite place to visit in the camper?

      • David C

        My favorite spot to sleep was in a detachable hammock above the front seat.
        The camper had a mattress area in the back between the cabinets and also a dinette that would convert into a bed. My brother liked to sleep with the dog (she weighed about 150 lbs,).The camper also had a detachable tent on the side but we rarely used it.
        You asked about dependability. In the entire time we owned the camper it never broke down. We had flat tires but no break downs.My father would almost always have the gas pedal on the floor. I later owned a 1970 myself and it had much more power but was every bit as dependable. Over the years I’ve owned 13 VW’s, Bettles, Ghia’s, Buse’s, and a Camper from 1956 to 1973. I’ve had several that I’ve hot rodded and I’ve only blown one engine and that was my fault. I’ve always found them to be very dependable.
        Now driving a bus or camper can take a little getting used to, ( cross winds, they don’t like long hills ) but they are a blast to drive.

        Like 1
  2. Horse Radish

    Way back when these were worn out, (just like this example seems to be), they were given away.
    I bought old Mercedes and other cars.
    It is obvious that I was mistaken.
    If this brings more that even $2000, then I am confused.

    • John b

      Most cars from that era were “givin away” when worn out. Just think…. A worn out BMW Isetta found in a creek bed in Tennessee brought $2000 today. Thats what makes this topic so fun and intersting.

      • domitype

        Are you thinking of this one? It brought $250 (all donated to charity, by the way.) http://barnfinds.com/stuck-in-the-shore-lake-find-bmw-isetta/

      • John b

        Why yes- im the one that sent this car to barn finds. I may be off on the value, but heck…$250 is great for charity

  3. L.M.K. Member

    In 1978 I sold my 1969 Volvo 144S in order to be able to buy a 1969 VW Camper . It didn’t have the pop top but it had a full camper interior. My girl friend and I traveled around quite a bit and enjoyed the comfort that the interior offered. It did need a full engine rebuild shortly after I bought it. I added an extractor exhaust to it and it sounded pretty good. I remember one trip from New York City to Virginia Beach and then a stop in West Virginia to visit a retired NYC bus driver that retired to a farm down there. While being shown the inside of his barn I discovered a 1967 BMW R69S stored under it’s original full leather cover. That turned in to a whole other story and trip back there but let me get back to the VW camper part of this. When we returned to NYC I calculated the mileage and gas expense. I don’t remember the exact total miles but think it was less than 1200 . But I remember the gas expense was less than $20.00. Good memories flood back when I think of that VW camper. Eventually I sold it to a gentleman that planned to drive around the country in his retirement. He never did though because he got ill right after retiring. Wonder where the van is and if it survived the years since then…….

  4. Dolphin Member

    I’ll bet that few people ever thought an old multi-window Samba version of the VW bus would ever bring $100K, but perfect ones do. These Campers are a lot more affordable, and probably useful too, if you don’t need to travel in luxury….or very fast.

    I remember going on a very long canoe trip years ago and getting picked up at the far end by one of the wives with one of these Campers. Two canoes on the rack up top, plus packs, plus four guys, plus the driver—that was quite a load for 40 HP. The side winds made it sway a lot, and hills were taken by shifting down a gear or two, but we made it back to civilization OK, even if it took a while.

    I had a 40 HP Beetle at the time, so I was familiar with the general feel and sound of the Camper, but I realized that the loaded Camper made the Beetle seem very fast and very stable, something I didn’t feel for the Camper.

    I also realized that it took a special kind of person to own one and drive it around the vast spaces of the US, especially the West, where the winds could make it feel like you were driving against an invisible wall. When I drove across Germany the first time I realized that the distances and terrain that these vans were designed for were very different from the distances and terrain that some people used them for in the US. But they were a success, and lots of people had good adventures in them for not much $$, as LMK’s $20 gas bill shows.

    I’ve never been in the market for one, but I could see having one for some small adventures now. I just wish the seller had posted pictures of the interior, underside, and engine bay, especially since he’s only making it available until today.

  5. David C

    Sorry, you asked what my favorite place was to visit. We lived in Miami at the time but my favorite places were in the south. The Smoky Mountains were probably my favorite. We traveled many different states. I’ve been to Ga., North & South Carolina, all over Fla. from Key West to Saint Augustine, Kentucky, Tenn., Missouri, Kansas, Iowa, Indiana, Alabama, Mississippi, Illinois and probably some that I forgot about.
    I now reside in Ga. not far from Atlanta.
    By the way, love “Barn Finds”!

    • Jeff Lavery Staff

      As a northerner whose wife is from a rural part of FL (40 miles NW of Daytona, near Lake George), I’ve grown to appreciate the Sunshine State as a wonderful place to explore with bountiful natural beauty. We hope to do our fair share of camping down there in the years to come.

      • David C

        I’m from New York but all the great camping spots and camp grounds are in the south.
        My wife and restored a 1975 28′ airstream that we camp in now with our 7 year old son.

  6. jim s

    if close do a PI then make an offer as there is not near enough information/photos with listing. if it has swingarms i would pass but if it has halfshafts that would be great. i would part out as much of the camper parts as i could, keepng just the curtains and the poptop. that would get a lot of weight out of the van and return some of the money back. i would then use this van as a daily driver after bolting a spare tire to the front. great find

  7. boxdin

    Lifetime Vanner, now a Chinook class B coach on a Ford one ton van. Love the spirit of vanning but I want creature conforts as I age, can’t believe I used to stay in a short wheel base van for weeks at a time.
    True adventure

  8. idiotking

    I had a ’73 Westfalia camper that I bought as a repo in 1987 and overhauled from stem to stern as a 17-year-old. When given the choice, I preferred the fold-out hammock above the roof cutout (so that you were sleeping above the roof inside the popup tent, where the breeze was). I loved that thing and drove it for a full year in high school until a lady blew a stopsign and rode the bumper of her Sentra into the cabin, about 6″ from the legs of the girl I was driving home. I drove it home from the accident, parked it, and sold it two weeks later. I’ve had many cars since then, but I miss that one most of all.

  9. JoeT

    Bought a 1970 Westfalia back in the early 90’s for $1200 from the second owner. Drove it from Pennsylvania to South Carolina and then to Florida. Sold it a couple of years later for $2500 to get some additional money for a down payment on a house. Wish I still had the Westy though.

    @jim s,
    This should be a IRS camper if it was a US market one originally. The last year for the swing axle bus was 1967 in the US.

  10. Woodie Man

    Oh man……….I remember when “we” wouldn’t want a bus that was older than ’67 when they changed to the one piece windshield and larger body!

    That said I’ve mellowed with age but I still like the earlier body style. This would be a fun very doable project……..but once….

    I took a perfectly original 23 window ’67, repainted it and put an original Westphalia interior into it from a crushed camper. drove it up and down the West Coast and even managed to blow the engine on a long pull and rebuilt it in my driveway. My neighbors were very understanding.

    Sold it for 6K in 1983..and I thought THAT was a lot but it was so cherry……so seeing some “window” busses bringing five and six figures just amazes the hell out of me. There seems to be an inexhaustible supply of folks with more money than sense.

    Funny enough I suspect some of them wouldn’t have been caught dead driving one and using them as intended when they were just old “hippie” busses. Funny how the wheel turns.

  11. Carl W French

    Flagged for removal unfortunately

  12. Doug M. (West Coast) Member

    I have had a few buses…never driven them that much, but my son has recently taken up an interest and purchased this cool 68. Has been to “Burning Man” event 10 years, (the bus, not my son) where it obviously pickted up its cool paint job…probably done out of boredom on a hot day in the desert. Great fun all around. Everyone waves when you go driving by on the beach with a surfboard on top…

  13. Roy blankenship

    This is a great thread, it is so awesome to find out how many others had love affairs with their Westys. I have purchased several out of yards, put motors in them and LOVED them.

  14. Frank

    Great VDub stories,Had a 66 cargo van with the long sliding door,We painted Mickey Mouse full length lying on his side smoking a J, across the back under the window it said,
    Don’t laugh your daughter may be inside. Those days were fun but hard on the body.

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