1980 Volkswagen Jürgens AutoVilla

Last week I looked at the oddball LT28 Westfalia Sven Hedin camper. While it was affordable relative to some crazy VW Camper pricing, at the end of the day it wasn’t a really great example. Somewhat surprisingly, another Sven Hedin popped high-topped up immediately after I wrote up the post. Our reader Daniel spotted it, and not only was it cheaper than the one I featured, it was in much better condition. But it’s not the only offbeat VW Van to appear at that time.

I also noticed what seems to look like a more traditional American-style mini-camper, and I was curious. What it is is a T3 conversion by Jürgens in South Africa. Called the “Mighty Mini Motorised Home” in period literature, starting in the 1970s the company basically strapped what looked like a tow-behind caravan onto the chassis and cab of a T2. Although I couldn’t find much information outside of the brochure, there are a few fan groups devoted to the T2 model. According to that site, Jürgens began production in 1973 and when the T2 was phased out, production moved to the T3. The new T3 chassis offered more space in the back, so the AutoVilla grew to accommodate a double bed over the cab and a bathroom. All this space meant weight, and the already underpowered 2.0 inline-4 apparently struggled to meet the company’s definition of “motorised”, never mind “mighty”. But these South African campers inspired Wilhelm Karmann (yes, THAT Karmann), who liscenced the design and began building the equally ungainly Volkswagen Karmann Gipsy. Karmann even built a few syncro models of the Gipsy. Needless to say, neither the Karmann Gipsy nor the original Jürgens AutoVilla made it to the U.S., but there’s one for sale now in North Carolina:

CLICK FOR DETAILS: 1980 Volkswagen Jürgens AutoVilla on eBay

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1984 Volkswagen LT28 Westfalia Sven Hedin

Of course, if you’re a fan of German cars (and even some who are not), the Volkswagen Westfalia pop-top campers are legendary in their own right. But esoteric fans no there was not just one version of the iconic ‘Camper Van’. Indeed, Volkswagen offered two iterations of do-anything #vanlife in the 70s,80s and even 80s. The Vanagon is probably the best known, but based upon VW’s larger LT platform were also 8 versions of campers with unique features and a bit more space than the traditional VW van.

Top of the range between 1978 and 1989 was this model – the LT Westfalia Sven Hedin. Hedin was a notable Swedish explorer of central Asia, so the eponymous camper was adventure ready. These high-top vans featured similar accoutrements to the T2 and T3 models, with a cooker, fridge, versatile seating and a fixed sleeping area along with copious storage. Where the LT stood apart was incorporation of a bathroom, replete with hot water shower. You could have these Sven Hedins with either PVC or carpeted flooring as seen here, and with either a 2.0 inline-4 gas motor or the lump seen in this model – the D24 2.4 liter inline-6 diesel rated at 75 horsepower.

CLICK FOR DETAILS: 1984 Volkswagen LT28 Westfalia Sven Hedin on eBay

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1999 Volkswagen Caravelle Westfalia Syncro TDi

Update 11/11/18: The seller has dropped the asking price to $50,000.

Update 9/12/18: The seller has updated their asking price to $54,000.

For decades, I’ve had a pipe dream of taking a Westy van cross-country. When I was a teenager, a family member had a late 80s Vanagon Westfalia, and we went on a camping trip in it. It was great! And while I’m certain time has diminished the drawbacks of our method of transport on that trip, the knowledge of that isn’t enough extinguish my desire.

Unfortunately for me, it seems like I’m not alone. #VanLife has pushed the value of these clever boxes on wheels up substantially. Clean T3 campers regularly hit the market in the same territory as late 70s 911s. Even the replacement T4 Eurovan Weekender – which just has a bed, and none of the real camping gear the earlier Westfalias had – command a substantial premium over a non-pop-top T4. By far, the Volkswagen vans are the most expensive products from their catalog.

So you can imagine that if we get a rare Euro version of the T4 over here, it’ll probably be worth a look:

CLICK FOR DETAILS: 1999 Volkswagen Caravelle Westfalia Syncro TDi on eBay

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1990 Volkswagen Vanagon Multivan

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A lot of the imported Volkswagen T3s are megamachines, like Syncro DoKas, Syncro Westies, and Tristars. This sweet little red van looks pretty basic without the pop-top, but actually brings a lot to the table with specs not available here in North America. It’s not quite a tin-top thanks to the power ragtop sunroof, and it’s not just a people-mover thanks to the full complement of Westfalia interior items like the sink, fridge, stove, and storage cupboards. It looks pretty stock other than a “sport suspension” and 16″ 5-spokes that help it do its best impression of a ’70s American cab-forward van. It looks great, is fully road trippable, and only has 23k miles on it; someone is going to be a happy camper at the end of this no-reserve auction.

Click for details: 1990 Volkswagen Vanagon on eBay

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1985 Volkswagen Vanagon Adventurewagen

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This Vanagon does my favorite kind of bait-and-switch. At first glance, the unwavering white paint/black trim looks at best plain. White wall tires on steel wheels exaggerate its age, giving the overall impression of yet another old beater camper van. This impression matched with the $26,750 asking price furrowed my brow immediately, but elicited a rewarding closer look. Checking out the details on this High Top, you see that the plain white paint is actually a recent and well-done respray. Inside, we find a nearly perfect interior with a new wood-laminate floor to match the cabinets. All camping items work including the propane stove and heater, water pump with filter, refrigerator, and external ports. It has 184k miles but still returns 20+ mpg and appears to have received the maintenance and care to keep it going for another couple hundred thousand. The 6’7″ standing height means even my 6’5″ brother could be comfortable, though the fold out bed might not either of us very well. It’s an under-the-radar Adventurewagen that is perfectly eccentric as is.

Click for details: 1985 Volkswagen Vanagon Adventurewagen on eBay

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1987 Volkswagen Vanagon Syncro Hightop

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Following in yesterday’s rough-but-affordable Vanagon Syncro footsteps, we have an interesting DIY-Syncro Camper with a no-reserve auction. It started as a tinop Vanagon GL Syncro but has experienced many surgeries – cosmetic, mechanical, electrical – to make it a much more versatile and reliable van. The Subaru 2.2 is good for speed, the hightop is nice for headroom (there’s no bed in this one) and the Westy kitchen is a huge camping bonus, but what really catches my eye is all of the little aftermarket touches the seller has installed to make this van much less of a headache down the road. GoWesty relays, circuit boards, stainless lines and coolant pipes… these are details that increase confidence that this is a solid Vanagon bet. There are also plenty of less-consequential but still cool pieces coming with it, like insulated curtains, van shower, bike racks, awning, and good-looking Audi 5000 wheels. It shows some exterior blemishes, but nothing bad; they’re like an old climber’s sunspots on his nose and cheeks. This thing was built for adventure and reconstructed for even bigger ones.

Click for details: 1987 Volkswagen Vanagon Syncro Hightop on eBay

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1987 Volkswagen Vanagon Syncro Tintop

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The seller of this van affectionately calls it “Big Ugly” after 15 years of rough and tumble ownership. There’s plenty of blemishes and rusty seams to make it not just a clever name, but if you’re not too worried about aesthetics this van has a lot going for it. A Westy kitchenette is installed and fully functional and it runs well. He says it needs a few coolant hoses and possibly other things he doesn’t know about, but if you purchase Big Ugly at the Buy It Now of $12,350 he’ll take it in and get them done along with up to $2k of any other repairs. Bidding is currently closer to $5k right now, so maybe some haggling needs to be done on the phone. Anywhere in that range, it’s a lot cheaper than 95% of the Syncro vans you see.

Click for details: 1987 Volkswagen Vanagon Syncro on eBay

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1990 Volkswagen Vanagon Westfalia

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This Burgundy Westy has covered some ground – 156k miles in its life – but it’s been pretty much completely refurbished mechanically with some great cosmetic touches too. Outside, its been repainted in its beautiful original hue and has the perfect (if ubiquitous) GoWesty wheels. The South African grille is another popular mod, but the quad-round setup just looks so darn good. Inside, the front seats have been replaced with blue and grey cloth Recaros from a Jetta GLI that don’t quite match the rest of the just-grey interior but are still quite sharp. All seals and the tent were redone at the time of repaint (a few years ago). The engine and transmission were rebuilt and the suspension and brakes are redone. So yeah, pretty much everything. The market is strong for nearly-perfect, well-tended Westys like this, so the seller is probably feeling pretty confident in their $29.5k price.

Click for details: 1990 Volkswagen Vanagon Westfalia

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1980 Volkswagen LT28 Westfalia

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Last month we featured a rare Sven Hedin edition of a VW LT28 Westfalia. It had a lot of style and promise, but looking deeper past the Playmobil-esque lines showed a van that needed serious love and effort inside and out. Today’s 1980 model look to be cleaner throughout, though the single exterior shot leaves plenty of opportunity for hidden blemishes. The interior while still heavy on the 80s style, is notably better and doesn’t have the saggy-bags on the wall. Under the hood it has a recent turbodiesel heart transplant from a 96 Volvo. Despite originally living in the other Vol-car, these DT24T engines were actually built by Volkswagen from 1982-1992 and are as close to OEM+ as you can get for the LTs. With both the turbo and the intercooler, it pumps out over 120hp, a big improvement over the original 74hp. With highway capability, a dated but ready-to-use interior, and a simple, clean exterior, this is a great plus-sized alternative to the standard T3 Westy.

Click for details: 1980 Volkswagen LT28 on eBay

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1988 Volkswagen LT28 Westfalia

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We’ve posted some interesting variations on the Volkswagen LT vans, the plus-sized Vanagons that never came to the US. From firetrucks to zombie defense vehicles to race team vans, they’re like VW’s Sprinter. Today’s LT28 model, indicating the lightest gross vehicle weight available (they went up to the LT55), is a special edition form Westfalia called the “Sven Hedin,” the Swedish world explorer. The bigger size of the LT allows for more amenities than would ever fit in a T3 like a shower, while the hightop makes standing up much more comfortable. The size and rarity are definitely the main draws here, as it’s showing some wear after its 125k miles and 28 years. The interior looks original but droopy, especially the wall-mounted cloth storage sacks. The exterior shows some cracked and possibly redone paint areas, and the incredible blue stripes have seen better days. All of the thick plastic Westfalia interior bits look great though and the turbodiesel inline-6 should be just getting into its prime, so as long as there aren’t a bunch of rust spots hiding, I think it has a lot of potential as a plus-sized camper.

Click for details: 1988 Volkswagen LT28 Westfalia on eBay

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