VW Westfalia versus Boler-13' - Page 2 - Fiberglass RV

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Old 09-20-2012, 03:37 PM   #15
Junior Member
Name: Evan
Trailer: 1983 13' Scamp
Posts: 14
We have a 1978 Westy with full kitchenette and poptop (and a furnace I installed) that we used for 5 years until we bought our 13' Scamp last fall, now we haven't used the VW once this year! While I still love the VW (I even completely rebuilt the motor myself a few years back) you simply cannot beat the convenience of a trailer in terms of leaving camp and exploring the surrounding areas. We pull our Scamp with a Honda Odyssey.

I've thought a lot about Westy vs. Small Trailer and will summarize my thoughts, in order of importance (for me at least):

Small Fiberglass Trailer Pros:
-Once you have camp set up you can leave the trailer behind and hit the road to see the sights and get food etc in five minutes, anytime you want.
-Driving a 1999 Honda Odyssey with AC, cruise control, modern seats, quiet ride, engine power, 7-passenger load, etc etc, is in reality much better than (though maybe not as "cool" as!) the Westfalia. Think about windy days on the road.....
-We leave the beds made up in the trailer so when you arrive at camp you can put the kids to bed in 10 minutes, no fuss no muss.
-You can actually hang out in the Scamp and eat meals and play games with the kids when it's raining outside without falling all over each other (though a 16' would be even sweeter).
-Scamp is better in wet/cold weather as there's no canvas to get you wet or to dry out when you get home after camping, it also holds the heat in much better without the canvas.
-Since I have a whole minivan to haul camping stuff we can now bring a real grill, bigger camping chairs, spare cooler, inflatable kayaks, a canoe on top, etc. Though that's easiest with just us and the kids with the back seat folded into the floor.
-No real mechanical items to maintain (other than the axel, $500 to replace) on the trailer vs. the whole VW drivetrain which can be quite pricey to fix and is a little more likely to leave you stranded than a Honda.
-Trailers are generally cheaper than Westies in similar condition. The RV parts on trailers are way cheaper than the Westfalia equivalents.

Westy Pros:
-They're just pretty darn awesome in almost all respects. A minivan camper that can sleep 4 adults with decent gas mileage that can fit in a compact car parking spot is sweet no matter what the alternatives are.
-Ground clearance is better on the Westy, though I haven't bottomed the Scamp out yet and we do camp in the backwoods like we did with the Westy.
-You can park in smaller parking spurs at campgrounds.
-The canvas poptop may be a negative in the winter but I like it in the summer when you can hear outside like a tent.
-Did I mention they're pretty cool in general?.....

Now that we've use the Scamp for a year straight we're almost considering (gasp!) selling our beloved Westfalia, though I'd like to hold on to it as a classic car so we shall see. Both the Scamp and Westy fit in our 2-car garage with a 7' door (saggy axel) so storage isn't an issue for us. When I replace the axel I'll just get some 8" wheels to put on the Scamp during the winter to fit it back in the garage.

Good luck.


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Old 09-20-2012, 06:31 PM   #16
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Name: Anne
Trailer: Escape 17 ft 2006 / 2005 Honda Pilot
Posts: 467
I had an 82 Westphalia for years before I upgraded to my Escape.

You can't beat the Westie for day trips - I loved that I could change clothes while at the beach, kayaking, skiing, etc. so much more comfortably than in a regular car.

I also loved having the kitchen and a porta-potty available.

The biggest downsides to the Westie were:
- You can't stand up in it without popping the top - hard on my back
- The canvass got wet in the rainy NW and was difficult to dry (I didn't have a garage).
- Using it for camping meant packing everything up every day if I needed transportation to sight-seeing, hiking trailheads, etc. That gets old very quickly.
- Very cramped inside - I was always moving storage boxes around or storing stuff outside and then having to pack it all up again.

The only negative to the Escape is having to tow (but, as you mentioned, you're already doing that!). I find myself having to exercise more caution before entering side streets or parking lots - just making sure I can turn around.

I'm not as spontaneous with the trailer. With the Westie, I could be on the road in 15 minutes or less - hardly longer than it took to think - "gee, I think I'll spend the weekend at the coast". With the Escape, there's just more gear and a little more to think about.

Anne H and Fay Wray, the cat | Portland, OR
en Plein Air (2016 19' Escape; 2016 Honda Pilot )
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Old 09-21-2012, 03:13 AM   #17
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Name: George
Trailer: Waiting for the Sprinter van and designing the converion modules.
Posts: 629
Originally Posted by Anne H View Post
......... You can't beat the Westie for day trips...................................
After the sale of our 21’ Bigfoot we are in the midst of our next RV decision. With 35 years of camping experience based on two Westfalias (77 and 85), a Bigfoot camper, and two travel trailers we are standing at the crossroads of either a small trailer and towing vehicle (Mazda Diesel with Trillium Outback) or a new or used Sprinter conversion.

Our Bigfoot was great for longer and extended trips which tended to become rare for us. With the pattern of 2-3 day trips we would like to simplify setups such as hitching, unhitching, backing, leveling, storing etc.

A smaller TV/TT or a converted van could achieve our goal to various degrees. Cost favors small TV/TT but the experience of two previous Westfalias is drawing us back to a van. $135K Price for an Airstream Sprinter is insane but a home brewed Sprinter conversion price could be 10-20% more expensive than a Mazda/Outback like combo. Cost of a converted van could be dramatically reduced by subcontracting small jobs and doing bulk of work by ourselves. For example, a $2K Rock N Roll seat/bed could cost us $500 with my design and manufacturing using 80/20 components.

The ease for 2-3 days trips is becoming a dominating factor in our soon to be finalized decision. The frequency of RV trips will be directly related to “ease of use” and with age this relation will become stronger.

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Old 09-21-2012, 06:56 AM   #18
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Name: barnaby
Trailer: boler 13
Posts: 8
Hello Franck

I am in the same boat as you and others who replied to your post.
I have a '86 Weekender Westfalia, and a 1998 Jetta TDI with a 13' Boler.
I have had the Jetta and Vanagon for some years now,the Boler is a new addition. I had not finalized what my TV/TT combo would be at the time that I purchased the Boler, it was more of a quick purchase.

As I see it the decision should be based on the practicality of the combination of towing vehicle with trailer. You mention saving money on registration etc. so you probably have a suitable second TV.

Looking at the Vanagon/TT combo:

You have the Weekender, so there is less undesirable overlap between the two as far as having the double kitchen.

You mention the heavy rear end of the Vanagon, which must refer to the packing of stuff in the rear. The Vanagon otherwise is noted to be very well balanced front to back in stock form, something like 45/55 weight wise.

You mention the upgrade to brakes as being a cost concern. If you are thinking of upgrading the Vanagon's brakes, I am wondering if this could be better addressed with a new axle and brakes in the TT. I would think that the braked TT with the Vanagon would be quite satisfactory in the braking area. There are mixed reports on various brake upgrades for the Vanagon. I don't think that disk brake upgrades to the rear would make a huge improvement. As far as the fronts, the larger disk and caliper and rotor combos have mixed reviews.

When looking at the Vanagon/TT picture that you posted, the height of the two seems to be a perfect match. It would be interesting to know of the wind drag effect with this combo over a much lower towing vehicle.

The wet canvas problem can be overcome to some degree by the GoWesty Wasserstopper.

The pros of the Vanagon for a tow vehicle are the RR drive and a solid construction. The cons though are the short 96 inch or so wheel base, the exposure to wind affecting handling, and in stock form, the lack of power.

This may be beside the point made by your original post though. You mention that you have to shrink the stable to save on insurance and registration fees.

If you choose to stay with the Vanagon sans TT a combo that may help would be to purchase a Springbar Campsite 3 canvas tent
The Springbar Store: Deluxe Tents: Springbar Campsite 3 Tent. Easy to set up, full stand up height, will leave a marker in the camping spot to reserve a spot, and give a place to dump off (albeit in an unsecured way) your stuff to free up the Vanagon for scooting around.
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Old 09-21-2012, 09:13 AM   #19
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Name: Terry
Trailer: 1996 Casita Freedom Deluxe 17 ft
Posts: 402
The Westfalia was my first choice when I retired and started looking for a way to enjoy the outdoors. I still think it's a great option--probably the only way that you can have a vehicle in which to camp that gets good enough mileage for everyday use. However, I quickly lost that idea when I started looking around for a Westy to buy. A later model Westfalia in decent condition can easily sell for more used than it did new. I saw prices in the mid $30k range for 10 year old vehicles! But I cant complain. My Casita/Escape combo has been good to me and was probably a much better choice for some of the trips I've taken. But it seems that as gas prices continue to rise and incomes stay stagnant, there is a burning need for another lower-cost, bare-bones people's RV like the VW Westy. Maybe the Ford Transit?
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Old 09-21-2012, 10:00 AM   #20
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Name: barnaby
Trailer: boler 13
Posts: 8
TerryG-I see where you're coming from and agree on the need for a "people's RV". As far as the price you quote to get into a Westfalia though, 30K would be on the very highest level. I would say that the average for '86 to '91's would be 8K, the 91's being the last year of the Vanagons. Check the classifieds on The Samba for price-and those that post there tend to ask higher since they are knowedgable about values.

All of the points mentioned in prior posts have been really well thought out as well. Franck's original query had to do with comparing the Vanagon mini-motorhome to a TV/TT combo. After that it was mentioned that the Vanagon may serve as a tow vehicle itself, which fell into my current area of interest.

As far as the points that were mentioned concerning pros and cons of the Westy as a stand alone RV though, some "pros" that not have been mentioned are:

1-I cannot think of one tow vehicle that would match the Westy going through scenic areas as far as the driving experience. It would be as if on a regular sedan you drew a line up from the front headlights and pushed the front seats into this new area. The effect has been referred to as a "gondola effect" or a "magic carpet". There is a large glass area around you and you are propelled forward in a very forward driving orientation. This makes the "getting there" much more memorable than in any other vehicle that I know of. Since the "getting there" involves so much of the overall vacation time allocated, this is something to consider.

2-I believe the overall length of the Vanagon is shorter than the Camry, and the turning radius is even shorter. This makes the RV car-like, and this in turn brings many more things into consideration on the trip. You can quickly parallel park, and jockey around areas, especially dense urban areas, that you would tend not to do in a 30 foot rig ( and that's with only a 13 foot trailer.)

3-The Westy with a rocket box on the roof rack has a pretty good overall capacity.

4-The Westy is really a "transformer" vehicle, a vehicle that is practical in the city for hauling almost anything, and yet quickly convertable to a capable camper in a pinch. It is not as good a stationary camper as a Boler or scamp and not as capable a camper as a Sprinter-but how many times sprinting out your front door are you going to jump into the Sprinter to do an errand, and how are you going to justify a limited purpose vehicle like that cost-wise to your better half?
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Old 09-21-2012, 11:29 AM   #21
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Name: Franck
Trailer: Westfalia
Posts: 82
Once again... Thank you all for sharing so many varied point of views. I was not expecting so much, you guys rock!!

Evenwilliams: Your list matches ours..... Many advantages falls into the Boler section. More than into the Westy. The boldest VW point being.... It's cool, very cool indeed.

Anne H: You're right on the day-trip point. But.... we do have other plan for this, see further down.

Barnaby: Yes, we do have a suitable T.V, recently acquired... and here is the problem: I like it very much. It's an 18 years old Mercedes Station wagon (W124). I find it so smooth and relaxing that I'm feeling now more inclined to travel long distances in it rather than in the Westy. It's a 7 seater, great for car sharing, it's reliable, reasonable on gas etc...
The Westy on the other hand is a bit more of a brut! it has been converted with a Subaru engine which solves all of the maintenance issues, fire hazards and underpowered specs as well as being 30% more fuel efficient. But, it's rough on unpaved roads or damaged Quebec roads, difficult to drive smoothly in town.... and expansive to maintain or/and upgrade... + bloody registration fees & Insurance!! Oh and... we don't drive it in the winter to save our investment + many other reasons.
A couple more things as well: The passenger seat in the VW does not recline very far which makes napping uncomfortable; as much as we love sleeping in the upper berth (pop-top), the mattress is toot thin.

Terry G: 30k for a Westy is a bit too much but not so much. We paid 17K for our first 1979 full camper, and 20K for our current 1985 Weekender (allready converted). I know for a fact that the 5 to 10 k bracket always leads to heavy maintenance and, according to fellow VW owners..... it's a lot of work, or expansive, and sometime both! On the other hand, we fully enjoyed the first van, and are fully enjoying the second..... not a single break down.

Yes...Shrinking the stable.... (I love the expression!) as they are other project too!
Like my Citroen 2cv6 currently waiting for a full restoration: That's on the ice due to a sudden lack of cash (other half decided a brutal change of career meaning no revenue for some years). Selling the VW for what it's currently worth would finance a 13' trailer, the restoration of the Citroen 2cv and some cash left for the T.V (the wagon). Then, I'm currently planning to convert to electricity a Japanese Micro van as well, for those downtown very short journeys that count for most of our gas expenses (+deterioration).

This would leave us with:

- a bicycle for me to commute to work (same as previous years, no change)
- An electric micro van for Nat instead of the Subaru outback guzzler (terrible mpg for winter short trips)
- A citroen 2cv for spring/summer/fall day trips..... loads of fun and cheap to run (45mpg)
- Our beloved wagon for whenever the electric van can't take us (range), or car sharing (we do that often.... and too many times, we ended up with passenger seating in the outback's trunk... not legal or safe!)
- A combo Wagon+Boler for camping week ends, vacation, road trips.

Finally, I got in touch with a couple, not far from us, who like have on child and currently travel with a Boler13'. They kindly offered us to visit them in order to show us their way.
Seeing the real thing will help greatly in making a final decision I guess! Can't wait!

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Old 09-21-2012, 12:36 PM   #22
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Name: john
Trailer: scamp 13
Posts: 1,318
having had a van,,,a motor home, and a couple trailers,, i will say get the trailer. you still going to need something to pull it with of course.
my reasons, fast to set up camp,,, and you don't have to put it all away everytime you want to run into town.
you don't have a whole vehicle,,motor and trans to maintain that you only use part time, expense is reduced a lot.
and other reasons too.
but! you will miss the van. so just realise that. those westies are cool.
Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for by doing so, some have entertained angels unaware.
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Old 09-21-2012, 01:55 PM   #23
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Name: barnaby
Trailer: boler 13
Posts: 8
Franck-I love all the choices in transportation that you have made so far:
Mercedes w124
citroen 2cv
electric microvan
Bicycle for commuting

You must be reading my mail!

I think a Mercedes wagon/Boler combo may be the ticket as well. Also, I guess I did lowball the current price of a Westy at 8K, I bought mine for $3200.00 sight unseen in Reno and drove it back in '06, so maybe that is still in the back of my mind.
I just wanted to give a good airing of the positive benefits of Westy ownership. Good luck to you.
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Old 09-21-2012, 05:20 PM   #24
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Name: Maud
Trailer: 1985 13' Scamp
Posts: 12
Bon jour! What a coincidence! I was coming to post my first post here on the site and found this thread instead. I was going to do one of those "Hi, I am Maud from Wisconsin and I just bought a 13' Scamp.... " but truly, the huge news in my life is that I just parted with my beloved 1985 VW Westy with a full camper - Harold.

For decades my husband and I were always a one-vehicle family until 7 years ago when Harold came into my life. He became our first second "car." I loved him so. I sewed new curtains. I got a little body work done. I put in a new radiator. I bought 4 new special European tires. I bought a couple new starters. I put in new power steering lines.... Everything rare, special, German and expensive. Alas, even though he had only 80,000 miles, Harold needed owners who were much more mechanical than me and my musician husband. Camping was fabulous. Driving him was best ever. But a 27 year old vehicle is not the car for the likes of us who had to hire all of this done.

Meanwhile, a 2002 Lincoln Continental (with a v8 and a towing package)was dropped into our laps.

Oh, one more thing. My husband and I rarely drive. We bike everywhere. To work, to grocery shop, to go out to eat. We even do most of our camping with two bikes and two bike trailers. Problem is, we now had THREE vehicles! Each one had a battery that would go dead if it wasn't used often enough. All three vehicles were just atrophying in our tiny (garageless) driveway. We realized that we had to get back to one car and Harold was not "the one"

Once the decision was made, everything just started happening. Come to find out, our Scamp-owning friends were also making life/vehicle changes. Unbeknownst to us, they put their 13' foot Scamp on Craigslist. They had done all sorts of work on it - including new axle, tires, and floor. We had already fallen in love this the Scamp long ago and as soon as we found out we put our own ad on Craigslist (Harold sold to a very good home within 24 hours to the first caller). Last weekend we picked up our new Scamp and took it for a maiden voyage to a little campground just outside of town.

I miss the Westy very much but I am beside myself joy over my new little rv. She is so very, very cute. Right now I am choosing a name (possibly Purl or Agnes, not sure) and thinking curtains. The Scamp has no fridge like Harold did so I am mulling over that upgrade as well.

Oh, and one other coincidence... we were planning our first road trip with her next Summer to Ottowa & Montreal! Now that we don't have to worry about hot-start problems, tiny little headlights, a leaking gas tank we are no afraid to take a long road trip. The world is our oyster and our Scamp is our new little pearl.
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Old 09-22-2012, 08:03 PM   #25
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Name: Franck
Trailer: Westfalia
Posts: 82
Originally Posted by barnaby View Post
Franck-I love all the choices in transportation that you have made so far:
Mercedes w124
citroen 2cv
electric microvan
Bicycle for commuting

You must be reading my mail!

I think a Mercedes wagon/Boler combo may be the ticket as well. Also, I guess I did lowball the current price of a Westy at 8K, I bought mine for $3200.00 sight unseen in Reno and drove it back in '06, so maybe that is still in the back of my mind.
I just wanted to give a good airing of the positive benefits of Westy ownership. Good luck to you.
Thank you Barnaby! This is precisely what I was after. It helps to remain objective.
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Old 09-22-2012, 08:07 PM   #26
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Name: Franck
Trailer: Westfalia
Posts: 82
Thank you Maud. I see that we're pretty much on the same wave. I know that I will miss the vw very much too but.... There are choices to be made.
Good luck with your trailer. I know for sure that I will want to customize our trailer too if we end up buying one. Stay tune!
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Old 09-23-2012, 05:05 AM   #27
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Name: Dave
Trailer: Bigfoot
Newfoundland & Labrador
Posts: 400
Question VW vsTRL

We have owned Westfalias and Trilliums. The biggest hang up with the Westy was getting parts if we had a problem on the road. They are available from a variety of sources but the wait was sometimes three(3) days or more. After a particularly harrowing trip to northern Ontario a few years back we decided to go back to the Trillium. The Westy was sold last year and I now have a '76 Trillium 1300.
I have just completed a 24 day run to Michigan and the Falls for two rallies and family visits. Pardon the pun but it went off without a hitch..
You could mothball the VW, make a few trips in the trailer and then let your own experiences be your guide. The final decision is yours but there is always good advice here so take it all into considration.
Welcome to the site and good luck.
Scouter Dave
Embark upon this journey with enthusiasm and eagerness.
If we were expected to remain in one place we would have been created with roots
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Old 09-24-2012, 11:21 PM   #28
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Name: Murray
Trailer: in the market for a Boler
Posts: 5
I have found this discussion very enlightening. I am currently looking at both options--a Boler or a Westfalia. I'm thinking footprint--how much gas each solution takes, and wanting to use as little as possible. I'll be travelling with dogs, and want a place to leave the dogs safely, so it's clear the Boler (or similar) is the best solution...if I can keep the fridge safe from them. And the cost is better. It would be nice to be able to claim a spot and have the car to go do things with, too. Thanks for beginning the discussion. I do love VW vans, though--and was even considering the older, less-reliable but funky air-cooled vans.

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