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Ready To Camp: 1981 VW Vanagon Westfalia

While I’ve never been a huge van fan, I can honestly understand the appeal of owning a camper van. While you might not arrive to you destination in a record setting time, when you do get there you don’t have to go through the hassle or expense of renting a hotel room. Heck, you don’t even have to deal with the headache of setting up a tent. Just pull up to a campsite, pop up the top of this VW and your ready to get a good nights sleep! Reader Gary R has decided it’s time to part ways with his yellow bus, which he has listed here on eBay. It has just 68k miles, is in very nice shape and can be found in Phoenix, Arizona.

From Gary – This vehicle has the unusual distinction to be one of around fifty “Peace Frogs” VW vans that roamed the country selling Peace frogs clothing,stickers,etc. They were in stores,malls, concert venues, and festivals. Grateful Dead shows. Started in 1985, Peace Frogs is a conscious movement to honor nature and Planet earth with shirts and stickers, and signs showing a frog giving the peace sign. They are still in business today, they have stores all over the world. if someone wanted to start a business, they have a plan for them! That and stories of illness and intrigue lead to this VW Bus surviving in various barns, and storage places without suffering too much. Now it is ready hit the road to adventures.

Body Condition: Excellent no rust Utah original, few small indents, some chips, and fading.

Mechanical Condition: As stated in the ad, there is currently no issue with the Van, all systems have been addressed with many new parts throughout. Everything is working great. Recently rebuilt front end with all new bushings, shocks,calipers, rack and pinion, anti-sway, everything new. Tires are like new. This van tracks straight and true. No problems

Interior Condition: Because it has not been used that much for camping, there is very little wear, with the cabinets, sink, and icebox in great condition. The seats are more comfortable than the originals, and the fronts swivel, and have armrests The carpets are worn, but not torn, or heavily soiled. The CD stereo has a phone jack, and 4 6×9 speakers.

I really do think it would be fun to go on a road trip in one of these Camper Vans. I wouldn’t want to go long distance in an old VW Bus, but one of these later Vanagons shouldn’t be quite so scary to go cross country in! If you have any questions for Gary, please leave them in the comments. So would you go road tripping in this Westfalia?


  1. Bob

    Nice enough Westy but no stove and just a ice box, not the three way refrigerator. The “upgrade” to later seats required removing the door armrests; less than satisfactory. Shocked if it sells at the high buy it now, even as popular as these have become. I am a believer in the earlier air cooled Westys, but no engine pics is a puzzlement too. GLWTS.

  2. SanityFactor

    Sold mine for 650…not nowhere like this but not bad…18k….someone found the hidden acid….

  3. Scot Douglas

    I dunno what it is – VW busses, especially Westies, sell for way more that they should be worth.

    Supply and demand, I guess.

  4. gene

    At 68k miles why would it need a front end rebuild??

    I had several of these. They could have been great vans if it wasn’t for that crappy engine. Some people swap them for Subaru or Inline 4 cyl VW engine.
    Now that turns them into a great vehicle.

  5. Bluetec320 Bluetec320 Member

    How in the world did these unattractive, slow as snails, air cooled VW vans get caught in the Porsche bubble? I can not believe the crazy prices people pay for these things. I don’t get it.

  6. Rustytech Member

    These weren’t even nice when they were new! I think they’d lose a race with a snail. They were cramped inside. The beetle chassis was not strong enough for the size and weight ( that’s why the FE needs overhauled @ $68k ) of these vans. Personally I wouldn’t pay $1800 for this, let alone $18,000.

  7. Bob

    Vanagons are unibody. They are slow, but incredibly simple and reliable and they sip gasoline. This one is however grossly overpriced and the mileage does not seem consistent with the work claimed to have been done . Hopefully the seller could add some more photographs, some service records, and explain a little better. Wish him well nevertheless.

  8. The One

    I and my wife, or the other way around, have pulled a small camper around for 25 years. 4 different tow vehicles. We just got a replacement camper. I look at these “Westies” and think, really? How comfortable do you not want to be? Could you go over the Rockies into Utah? I was pulling our 19 ft camper with a 4.0 jeep Cherokee. To make it over the pass I had to use 4 wheel low!. Again we wore that camper out. We travel quite a bit. Something like this , well, couldn’t take it.
    But I’m sure there are those who swear by them and to those folks I say Hoorah! Enjoy! Make memories! That is what camping is all about, really.

  9. Oddimotive Cason Oddimotive Cason Member

    As previously noted, this Vanagon shares essentially nothing structural with an earlier bus. If you haven’t camped in one, you’ll probably never understand them.

    One more note – this air-cooled example is not a candidate for an easy swap to Subie or Ford power. Water-cooled examples make for easy swaps.

    Confession: I own a 1985 Westy. It is slow but it is perfectly driveable on modern freeways and, regarding hills…It’ll get there. Prices are not tied to Porsches – these have always been desirable, but some are going a bit nuts now.

  10. Jeff

    Beetle chassis? There are some folks here commenting that really don’t know what they are talking about! I’ve had 9 of these, and they are fantastic vehicles. Slow? Yes they are, they won’t get you to the party on time, but the party IS where the van is. The wasserboxer engine did have some issues, but I have had them still going strong with almost 200K miles, if maintained properly they are durable engines. Stick a Suby motor in one and yes, they are AMAZING! It’s what VW should have done in the first place (not a Suby motor, of course but one of their own with at least 165 hp). Anyway, looks like it sold already!

  11. Bruce Fischer

    My dad bought one new just like that in Wilmington N.C. and it had the propane stove but NO.A.C. ugh! Then they moved to Flordia with it. Like you said it wasn’t the fastest but I had to borrow it a few times and it never let me down. I had to replace a lifter in it once for him and he had to have the C.V. joints replaced but that’s it and my mom and dad took it camping all over the place. He had an older 1 before that I think it was a 1976.Now that thing was scary, really when it came to the brakes. LOL. Bruce.

  12. Bruce Fischer

    P. It was the same color as the one in the picture.Bruce.

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