Junkyard Find: 1981 Volkswagen Vanagon Westfalia Camper Type P22

Murilee Martin
by Murilee Martin
junkyard find 1981 volkswagen vanagon westfalia camper type p22

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).

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2 of 25 comments
  • 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.

  • MaintenanceCosts Despite my hostile comments above I really can't wait to see a video of one of these at the strip. A production car running mid-eights is just bats. I just hope that at least one owner lets it happen, rather than offloading the car from the trailer straight into a helium-filled bag that goes into a dark secured warehouse until Barrett-Jackson 2056.
  • Schurkey Decades later, I'm still peeved that Honda failed to recall and repair the seat belts in my '80 Civic. Well-known issue with the retractors failing to retract.Honda cut a deal with the NHTSA at that time, to put a "lifetime warranty" on FUTURE seat belts, in return for not having to deal with the existing problems.Dirtbags all around. Customers screwed, corporation and Government moves on.
  • Bullnuke An acquaintance of mine 50+ years ago who was attending MIT (until General Hershey's folks sent him his "Greetings" letter) converted an Austin Mini from its staid 4 cylinder to an electric motored fuel cell vehicle. It was done as a project during his progression toward a Master Degree in Electrical Engineering. He told me it worked pretty well but wasn't something to use as a daily driver given the technology and availability of suitable components of the time. Fueling LH2 and LOX was somewhat problematic. Upon completion he removed his fuel cell and equipment and, for another project, reinstalled the 4 banger but reassembled it without mechanical fasteners using an experimental epoxy adhesive instead which, he said, worked much better and was a daily driver...for awhile. He went on to be an enlisted Reactor Operator on a submarine for a few years.
  • Ajla $100k is walking around money but this is almost certainly the last Dodge V8 vehicle and it's likely to be the most powerful factory-installed and warrantied pushrod engine ever. So there is some historical applicability to things even if you have an otherwise low opinion of the Challenger.And, like I said up thread, if you still hate it will be gone soon anyway.
  • Carlson Fan GM completely blew the marketing of the Volt. The commercials were terrible. You'd swear they told the advertising company to come up with an ad that would make sure no one went out and shopped a Volt after seeing it!...........LOL My buddy asked why I bought a car that only goes 40 miles on a charge? That pretty much sums up how confusing and uninformative the advertising was.