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Brazilian Karmann Model: 1984 Volkswagen Mobil Safari Camper

Talk about ungainly! This 1984 VW camper looks like it has the weight of the world on its over-burdened shoulders. It’s supposedly one of 850, number 361 actually, with a body by Karmann Ghia of Brazil. This example is all decked out with a little bit of everything, so let’s look it over. Located in Port Orange, Florida, this Mobile Safari Camper is available, here on eBay for a current bid of  $25,878 with three bids tendered so far.

The seller suggests, “These icons are still nostalgic head turners today with a lot of fans whenever they head down the road or pull into a campground“.  I can honestly say that I’ve never seen one, and it’s a look one is not likely to forget. That said, the entire set-up looks pleasant, and it’s certainly comprehensive enough, the seller adds, “The camper has bathroom w/ propane heater shower, two double beds, stove, oven, refrigerator, sofa, two tables and a lot of storage cabinets“. Wow! where’s a swimming pool?

Right off the bat, the front end of this camper, with its prominent round headlights located below the grille, looks like a model from prior to 1984. The assumption is that this model, being a Brazilian version, is not like the typical ’84 VW camper spotted on these shores. The exterior, busy as it is, shows quite well. The mileage recording is 55k miles, though not claimed, and assuming that it’s accurate, that figure would help explain the overall visual appearance. It’s not said if the finish is original but there is a reference to Ziebarting having taken place to help maintain integrity. It’s a safe bet this camper has been garaged. Be sure to check out Flicker, there are many high-resolution images there.

As for accouterments, this camper includes, “Fully equipped w/ dishes, glasses, cutlery, pans and a portable barbecue grill. A 10-gallon water tank gives you independence for camping in remote places not suitable for campgrounds”. The occupancy component of this VW is very clean and surprisingly modern in appearance. Photographic images won’t provide an accurate spatial reference but things don’t look too compressed.

The cab portion presents as new and shows little to no sign of wear and the contrasting color combination makes for an inviting, yet Germanic (functional) environment. Notice the floor mats, that’s where a lot of wear, and dirt, takes place, but none is revealed. And if this VW is in its original state, it has been very well maintained.

The engine is listed as a dual carburetor, 1.7-liter flat four-cylinder affair with twin oil coolers. While the power output is unknown, this sucker has to struggle to move this much, high drag coefficient mass around. The domestic ’84 Vanagon Camper is recorded as utilizing an 83 HP, 1.9-liter water-cooled engine, but again this is a Brazilian model so that’s likely what accounts for the difference. Any light our informed readers can shed on this engine matter would be appreciated. The four-speed manual transaxle is stated as, “work(ing) perfectly, fair and soft shifts“.

If you have the desire to heed the call and “Go RVing” in classic style, here’s your chance. This is a very clean and complete example that projects a peaceful and relaxing camping experience. My biggest concern would be “the getting there” with that 1.7 engine; that might be reason enough to get there and stay there, right?


  1. Bluetec320 Bluetec320 Member

    Nice VW camper, but I’m sure this thing is slower than a dial-up modem.

    Like 29
    • Howard A Member

      A what? It’s amazing, some places still require that, dial up, byzantine. I agree, nice camper once you eventually get there, that is. I’d certainly avoid any kind of windy, flat land with that wind catcher up front. As if the flat VW front wasn’t bad enough. Hills too, make sure the 4 way flashers work. Somebody run into the back of you. Don’t laugh, with distracted driving, it happens all the time. I say this a lot, It’s neat, but I hope someone that buys this is familiar with a vehicle like this. The slow ride and scary handling will most assuredly catch the unfamiliar off guard.

      Like 11
      • Malcontented Misanthrope

        I traversed Yellowstone, the Big Horns and the Black Hills in a Chevy Corsica 4 cyl with a 5 speed transaxle. Constant downshifting wore me out, not to mention the Diesel pusher RVs on my ass going down the mountains.Brakes even caught fire briefly…never again, sez I

    • Terrry

      and probably sounds like a dial-up’s “handshake” when it goes up hills.

      Like 3
  2. bobhess bobhess Member

    If the twin carbs aren’t after market then the engine is probably the non injected 1.7 with single throat twin carbs used in the Squareback, Fastback, and Notchbacks. None of these cars were imported legally to the US without the fuel injected engines. First Notchback we owned in the early ’70s was a Canadian import with the dual carbs.

    Like 3
    • Oldog4tz Oldog4tz Member

      Right which makes it a no-go in California.

  3. Rick

    Subaru swap would take care of a lot of issues. There is even a radiator to put up front that looks like the spare tire…

    Like 16
  4. dsafian Member

    Agreed this would be slower than molasses running uphill. Forget about any Colorado Rockies camping. Great for the flat heartland. It’s a pretty sweet rig, and I reckon it’s worth a motor swap. Porsche 3.0 perhaps? Lol.

    Like 3
  5. Steve Clinton

    With that camper added, the top speed for these is 45 mph. (IMO)

    Like 2
  6. SDJames

    I’d hate to be driving this when there’s ANY side wind!

    Like 4
  7. Terrry

    These don’t have a speedometer. They have a clock instead, so you can figure how many hours it will take to get there.

    Like 7
    • Solosolo Solosolo Member

      Actually I think they have a calendar!

      Like 5
  8. Steve Weiman

    Forget the engine swap, You don’t want this thing going any faster than that gutless engine will let it!! Ihope somebody performed the front and rear large diameter sway bar swap!!

    Like 3
  9. Kurt Member

    A local VW specialist makes a 3 L. Engine that would fit but it might have over heating problems.

  10. david r

    it’s gorgeous standing still but it must be a nightmare on a highway. Definitely wouldn’t take much headwind to bring it to a crawl.

    Like 1
  11. Mike

    I knew I’ve seen this before. This was on BaT last week with bidding only going up to $22,500.

    Like 3
  12. Leslie Martin Member

    I literally grew up in VW campers (my parents owned 4 back to back). I don’t know everything about these rigs, but I know enough to say that this seller seems a little confused. First off, this is a Karmann Gypsy aka Safari. Despite the metal trim logo affixed to the glove box, the house of Ghia had nothing to do with this design. The ad shows it as a 1980 model, but the front panel design is straight off a ’74 Type 2 (like the one I took my license test in). It’s true that some of the VW production continuation done in Brazil did have some odd year model anomalies compared to VWs built in Europe. But I am skeptical that this is a 1980 cahssis.

    This rig would certainly benefit from the installation of one of the packaged Subie engine upgrades, or alternatively, a turbo diesel swap. It might even be a candidate for a Synchro upgrade, although I could not imagine making the center of gravity any higher than it already is on this vehicle.

    Whatever the buyer does do to upgrade the powertrain and brakes, they need to remember that when they are done they will wind up with a class C motorhome box on a vehicle with zero frontal crash protection. That’s the very reason my wife made our son sell his 1989 Westphalia Vanagon.

    Like 2
  13. Mark C

    I think a lot of commenters here are saying what I’m thinking: this looks amazing and I love it, but I sure don’t want to drive it.

    Like 5

    It’s all fun and games…until you rip the case studs to shreds on the first incline higher than a speed bump. Do the Subie flat 6 conversion. Then rework the suspension & braking. That…or make it an art installation as-is.

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