I have always loved VW’s. I learned to drive in a ’68 Autostick. It was the first year they came out with this ersatz automatic transmission. My dad bought a brand new one from Fred Angle VW in Kansas City North. I think he paid about $2000 for it. Seems like it was always in the shop, when something went wrong with the gear selector. I seriously drove that car to it’s grave. No concept of moderation, it was always balls out driving. The folks let me treat it as my own, but they maintained it, which was a constant struggle. I wish I had been more on top of it. Such simple machines.
I currently own three Dubs: my daily driver, a 2009 Tiguan, a 1956 Euro model Beetle and my ’74 Westfalia Weekender camper bus, named Tullio Campagnolo.
My first bus was a 1973 Transporter, bought in 1983. I used it as a daily driver and to haul band equipment around on the weekends. I was not very mechanically minded and did practically no maintenance or repairs on it (idiot!).
Its death knell came shortly after a trip in ’85 to the Grand Canyon with a brother and a friend. We drove the hell out of it, straight out in 24 hours, 1300 miles, at as high a speed as I could make it go. It was blowing oil out from somewhere, but that didn’t stop me from making the big trip. By the time we got there, a thin film of oil was all over the rear of the bus.
We made it home, but soon afterward, it gave up the ghost and refused to start. Not having time, money, facilities and/or expertise to fix it myself (or have it fixed), I sold the inert beast to someone for a couple of hundred bucks.
Fast forward to 2004. I owned a full-size Dodge conversion band that was a good family truckster, but, due to divorce, I was without a family. I still needed something to haul my drums around in and was still interested in traveling and camping. So I began to search for a VW bus that would fill the bill.
I found one after months of research, on the Internet. It was a Westy Weekender, which is like a pop-top Westfalia without the top. It has all the Westy stuff in it: stove, sink, bed, storage. And it was relatively close to home in Kansas City. A young priest in Omaha had bought it the year before from someone in Wisconsin. Herein lays an interesting tale.
It had 41,000 original miles on it. It had always been garaged. The original owners, a recently retired couple from Wisconsin, had bought it brand new in 1974 with the intent of traveling about the country. Shortly after they bought it, one of them died. Heartbroken the other partner garaged it for many years. It never got used.
Enter the priest, who, like me, wanted a camping vehicle. However, his pastoring duties demanded too much of his time and he didn’t use the bus much, either. So it sat in his garage until he decided to sell it. He listed it on The Samba, which is where I discovered it. I drove up to Omaha and immediately knew that this was the bus for me. It was pristine! Not a rip, tear or stain in the upholstery, not a scratch or dent anywhere on the body and everything worked. Everything was original. It was as if it were brand new, just barely broken in! So, I bought it from him and drove it home to KC.
In the intervening years, I have used the bejeezus out of it. It is still pretty clean, but I have to keep after it all the time to preserve it. In 2013 I had the motor redone by Jake Raby in Georgia, arguably the pre-eminent air-cooled rebuilder in the U.S. With dual Webers and race-balanced guts, this is a smooth, powerful engine. I can easily cruise at 70 mph and more, though I don’t push it. With continued good care I should be able to will this Bus to my grandson!