Junkyard Find: 1981 Volkswagen Vanagon Westfalia Camper Type P22

Murilee Martin
by Murilee Martin

This being Colorado, I see quite a few Volkswagen Vanagons on the street and in local wrecking yards. Mostly I ignore them for this series, because their local popularity means examples that show up at a Denver self-service yard get stripped immediately and aren’t very interesting photographic subjects. So far, we’ve seen just this exquisitely stereotype-reinforcing Steal Your Face Edition ’83, and that’s it prior to today’s find. An ordinary Vanagon with most of the parts gone, I’m not shooting it. A Vanagon Syncro (which I believe to be the most unwise money-pit available on four wheels or a Westfalia Camper, on the other hand, I’m always willing to photograph those rare birds. Here’s a squalid ’81 Westy that I found at a Denver yard last week.

By the way, it turns out that a VR6-swapped Vanagon Westfalia can get around Sears Point pretty quickly.

This one is a P22, which (from what I can tell from skimming fanatical Vanagon websites) was the lightweight “day camper” version.

The pop-up roof tent is long gone, of course.

It appears that this van got de-camperized quite a while before it took the final ride to the junkyard.


Not a whole lot left here, and I must assume that the stuff that made it a Westfalia lives on in other Vanagons (or was burned as biohazardous waste, take your pick).

Murilee Martin
Murilee Martin

Murilee Martin is the pen name of Phil Greden, a writer who has lived in Minnesota, California, Georgia and (now) Colorado. He has toiled at copywriting, technical writing, junkmail writing, fiction writing and now automotive writing. He has owned many terrible vehicles and some good ones. He spends a great deal of time in self-service junkyards. These days, he writes for publications including Autoweek, Autoblog, Hagerty, The Truth About Cars and Capital One.

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  • Rjones Rjones on Oct 15, 2014

    I still have my 89 Westfalia, bought from the original owner in 96. Just turned 25 and still going (slow and) strong. Never stranded me, which is more than I can say for other VWs I've had. http://s40.photobucket.com/user/heyrichjones/media/2012-05-13-0001_zps3ea82564.jpg.html?sort=3&o=0

  • Sector 5 Sector 5 on Oct 16, 2014

    These (non camper) weren't as reliable or low maintenance as GM's Astro/Safari. We had mixed fleet back in the late 80's early 90's. We got no more VW save Golf diesel. Parts too pricey and honestly there just wasn't any saving grace to them. The Sprinters we have today are a much better design from Germany. Though I'm not keen on swing doors. We have to watch Sprinter fobs, they're pricey and can break if left in the swing out back doors. We've had issues with the powerwash and the fobs not being waterproof if left in the doors.

  • Wolfwagen What I never see when they talk about electric trucks is how much do these things weigh and how much does that detract from the cargo-carrying capacity?
  • Wolfwagen I dont know how good the Triton is but if they could get it over here around the $25K - $30K They would probably sell like hotcakes. Make a stripped down version for fleet sales would also help
  • 3SpeedAutomatic You mentioned that Mitsubishi cars had lost their character. Many brands are losing that that element as well. GM is giving up on the ICE Camaro and Dodge on the ICE Challenger. There goes the Bad Boy image. Might as well get your teeth pulled and dentures put in place. Would like to see a few EVOs with cherry bomb exhaust and true 4 cylinder BIG blower turbos; 4 wheel drift capacity is mandatory!!🚗🚗🚗
  • Tassos Here in my overseas summer palace, I filled up my tank twice in May, at 68 and 52 euros (a full 90+ liter tank fillup has taken 130-135 Euros in the past, and I am 23 miles from downtown here, while only 1-2 miles in the US)Still, diesel here is MUCH cheaper than gas. Yesterday, I paid 1,488 a liter while gas was at least 1,899 (regular).Multiply by almost 4 for gallons AND by an additional 1.1 for $.
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