The VW camper is an adventure travel legend and action sports icon. They have created a well deserved place in our hearts. Designed to live from, the VW camper is home and vehicle, transport and recreation, all rolled into one.
A harbour from Cornish gales or a crag hopping climbers base of operations. A shelter from Aussie rays between surf sessions or a Ottoman empire or Silk Road overlanding adventure. This vehicle is etched in the action sports psyche.
If you never owned one, it’s still likely you’ll have known one. From the tap-tap-tap of their air-cooled motors, to the classic split-screen style (1949 – 1967) there’s something unique about each incarnation.
Ignoring, only briefly, just how damn cool they are, let’s look at what they do.
Originally a VW Beetle with a box on the back, the first models were pure utility – and known as ‘Bulli’s’ (workhorses). Launched at the 1949 Geneva Motor Show, it wasn’t until the mid 50s that they took off as sport utility wagons. The Camper evolved thanks to coachbuilder Westfalia, which made the first conversions in 1951.
The earlier split-screen versions (Type II) were later improved, but never bettered, with ‘proper’ windows and more efficient engines. By now, ‘Campers’ were slowly rolling into hippy and surf folklore.
In the 50s, 60s and 70s VW Campers were the vehicle of choice for adventurous travellers. My Parents explored Europe, North Africa and the Middle East in one. Along the way they met many other travellers, surfers, drug smugglers and draft dodgers who either had a VW of their own or admired my folks.
It is safe to say the VW camper led the way for overlanding, adventure travel and action sports. All of which are terms that weren’t even in use back when the campers were still rolling fresh out of the factories.
Earlier models are still so prized that they sell for an absolute premium – even if they require a complete overhaul. And thanks also to the huge refurb and aftermarket industry, there are always spare parts to be found. The passion people have for these is incredible, just head to one of the Classic VW events to see what we mean.
Recent attempts by VW to create a new camper are interesting. Yes, they have modern models that can do similar things, drive well and have all the modern comforts. But they just look like vans with windows, and they’ve nothing on the style of the classics.
The VW Camper is clearly an adventure travel legend and an action sports icon. If you’ve a camper story, or think there’s another product that has the same uber cool iconic status, let us know.
We hope this article has inspired you to travel. Check out our overlanding holidays for more inspiration.