By on October 15, 2014

12 - 1981 Volkswagen Transporter Westfalia Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinThis 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.
17-Racing_Vans_In_24_Hours_of_LeMonsBy the way, it turns out that a VR6-swapped Vanagon Westfalia can get around Sears Point pretty quickly.
05 - 1981 Volkswagen Transporter Westfalia Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinThis one is a P22, which (from what I can tell from skimming fanatical Vanagon websites) was the lightweight “day camper” version.
07 - 1981 Volkswagen Transporter Westfalia Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinThe pop-up roof tent is long gone, of course.
14 - 1981 Volkswagen Transporter Westfalia Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinIt appears that this van got de-camperized quite a while before it took the final ride to the junkyard.
03 - 1981 Volkswagen Transporter Westfalia Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinPatina!
06 - 1981 Volkswagen Transporter Westfalia Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinNot 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).

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25 Comments on “Junkyard Find: 1981 Volkswagen Vanagon Westfalia Camper Type P22...”

  • avatar

    Was it called the Vanagon only for this body style, or did that name extend back to the ones with the huge VW logo on the front? Or were those just “VW Van” or “Bus?”

    • 0 avatar

      Only this body style are called Vanagon. Prior to that, it’ just Bus, Transporter, or Type 2.

      • 0 avatar
        MRF 95 T-Bird

        They were also referred to as the Kombi

      • 0 avatar

        off Subject, but there’s something wrong with the thread on Isuzu Rodeo/Honda Passport. Even logged in, the ‘reply’ button is replaced by the ‘log in’ button, so I find it impossible to comment on that thread. This is not the case with the other threads, it’s just affecting the Rodeo/Passport thread.

    • 0 avatar

      The Vanagon name was only attached to this body style. In other markets, this was called Transporter but VWoA had to be different I guess (similar to Rabbit vs. Golf).

      The official VW model name for the earlier generations of the van was Type 2. The Bus name was colloquial.

  • avatar
    Felis Concolor

    And an air cooled version, no less!

    I’m not certain the word “acceleration” could be applied to what happened when the throttle pedal was fully depressed in this particular generation of breadbox van.

    • 0 avatar

      For sure 67 hp isn’t going to do much. They are fun projects though. We rebuilt the engine in a friend’s with solid lifters, bigger cam, and aftermarket heads. Afterwards it had about 90hp and 130lb/ft. Big performance bump — it took it from glacial to about as fast as a 3 cylinder Fiesta.

      Probably one of the easiest vehicles to maintain — 2 semi-skilled people can drop the engine in 30-45mins and all adjustments/maintenance is stuff you would do on a 60’s car.

      • 0 avatar
        Felis Concolor

        They were a common sight during my years in the islands, although the initial period of the windsurfing boom in the 80s saw their numbers thinned dramatically through neglect and abuse. You didn’t really notice the lack of power or speed, as it never took longer than an hour to get between any 2 locations on the island unless you were making the day trip to Hana.

    • 0 avatar

      There are worse versions. My first college had a diesel automatic Vanagon in the motor pool. I used to drive it a fair bit for the cycling club, as we only had 7-8 members, and gas for the big vans was expensive at 9mpg for poor college students. 55mph flat out on the level with no headwind with 7 guys and 7 bikes on the roof. Uphill it would have been faster to get out and ride the bikes…

      Still, nice van to drive, great steering, great brakes. Just woefully slow.

      • 0 avatar

        The diesel used for the Vanagon was the same 1.6L inline four used in the Rabbit (which was already slow). Chew on that for a minute.

        • 0 avatar

          52 of the finest German horsepower, with about 1/2 of them absorbed in that crap automatic. I am generally a big fan of slowish cars, but the Vanagon diesel was genuinely dangerously slow when fully loaded. When loaded log trucks pass you going uphill in the western Maine mountains, you know you don’t have enough grunt.

  • avatar

    Charles was inert.

    The tedium was nearly unbearable. Charles checked his wristwatch again, anxious to go home and do…well, anything but stand here behind this cash register. He watched the light traffic of mall patrons shuffle by. A mother dragged her screaming child past by his puffy coat. Usually winter was a banner quarter for sales at the ol Men’s Wearhouse. This year, it was just bleak. Charles wished he had a smartphone. At least he could browse GoWesty and Thesamba to pass the time. At least he could indulge in a habit loop on the internet, and lose himself in thought. Instead, he stood there at his retail terminal, dwelling on how he was once responsible for millions of dollars in equipment and a gaggle of personnel. Then, it hit him. He needed to get high. He needed shatter hash.

    The lone manager of menswear caged his store in, and exited out the back through the mall’s service corridors. The hallways echoed with the chatter of security’s handheld radios. It reminded him of the MP’s that visited him frequently prior to his dishonorable discharge. Despite this, he kept a friendly relationship with mall security. “Fuuuu&k.”, he mumbled upon seeing the proportionately weary staff from Foot Locker. “No $hi-, that sucked.”, one griped. “I think I sold three shoes all day.”, said the other. Charles teased the guard holding the door for him. “I’m gonna get BAKED tonight!” “Comeon man, why you gotta be like that? That sounds sooo good.”, the guard replied. “Get in that $htty old van, and get outta here ya hippy.” Charles got into his $htty old van, and primed the noisy fuel pump for a moment. “Why do you drive that thing?”, the cell phone accessory kiosk manager asked. Charles simply shrugged, not really having an answer for that ready in his brain. The air-cooled VW cranked for awhile before all four cylinders were rustled from their slumber, clattering into a ticking chug. While the engine warmed, Charles warmed his hands in his breath.

    The Vanagon four-wheel-skidded to a halt in the slush, gently gliding up to the stop line at the mall exit. Charles gave it a little too much gas to pull away. The engine clattered up, and the rear end took a step sideways to the curb on bald tires. Streetlights strobed past, filling the whole cabin with light through the expanse of glass. The engine clattered away in the back seat, and the noise of water sprayed off the tires was deafening. This was the answer to the cell phone case peddler’s question. THIS, was why he drove this ratty van, whatever THIS was. It was about charm. Charles smiled from his operator’s position as hood ornament.

    The motor lost power and cut out briefly, as if saying “Ahem”, then resumed running. Before Charles could think “That was weird.”, he had to push the clutch in when it died completely. The VW coasted off to the side. Charles was prepared to get out in the slush and hunt for what was probably a dangling coil wire again. Force of habit, he looked back inside the van while undoing the seatbelt. “What the-is that…smoke?” Indeed. A grey phantasm wafted out of the ill-fitting engine cover. Then he noticed the flickering orange reflection off the back of the nearby street sign. “Oh Ffffffff!” After slipping in the slush, a horrific sight greeted him.

    Charles was exhausted. His hands were bright red and frozen. His loafers, soaked and destroyed. First, came the panic. Then the man mustered some resolve and began hurling slush and snow at the blaze. Then came the realization that the ignition was left on after spotting the blowtorch coming out of the bottom of a fuel injector, coming out of the hose that was just too much trouble to replace a year ago. The Westy ticked and steamed while Charles bent over, sucking in the cool night air.

    Charles held the Kraco in his hand. “Nah.”, he thought, letting it drop to the floor and hang by it’s wires. “Well, I guess that’s it.”, he said, examining the stripped cabin. He grasped some interior and tossed it in a pile next to the “new” mouse-tainted Westfalia. He would get to replacing ALL the fuel lines on this one…some day. First, he had to get rid of the smell.

    The scrap man came for the burnt hulk with his tow dolly.
    “Farewell Rusty.”, said Charles, brushing some crackled paint chips off with his hand.

  • avatar

    Snubbed by WordPress hell again…

  • avatar
    Mr Imperial

    0-60 in 15…….minutes

  • avatar

    The misery of the T2 transporter is beyond belief for most people.

  • avatar

    I used to ride in one as a passenger when I was a teenager. It was OK, not good compare to today’s standard but at the time it was not too bad. 20mpg from what I heard, and because of air cool, it would overheat if you get stuck in stop and go traffic.

  • avatar

    My wife and i had a type 2 Westfalia with the folding top. Brought it used and went all over the country with it and our 2 kids when they were young.Good times in those days. One slept over the front seats, one slept under the folding roof and my wife and self slept in the back. We had a refrigerator, stove, 12V lighting, a small TV, and best of all a heater. It was slow on the hills but on level ground we could go 60 MPH all day. Never left us stranded and always started. Had it for about 5 years and traded it in on a Chev camper with a 350cu and automatic transmission with a raised roof. Only trouble after driving that van for 4 hours and then stopping for gas we had wait for the starter motor to cool off so we could start the car. Also changing #8 spark plug was something i only wanted to do once. If i could find the engineer who fitted that engine so that the plug could not be removed i would have kicked him to hell. Come to think of it that was the last GM car i ever brought. I some times see type 2 Westfalia’s selling at auction with the 18 window roofs for impossable prices. I did have a lot of fun with that old VW. The kids loved it.

  • avatar

    I’ve crossed America many times in old VW Typ II’s ~ up hill slow , down hill fast , mileage first and safety last .

    There was once a Vanagon TV commercial that began with a row of older VW Vans chugging up a hill then the new Vanagon whizzes past them all and keeps on going .

    The fist van in the line of old vans was Dove Blue and I provided it , long time ago that was .


  • avatar

    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.

  • avatar

    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.

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