VW Westfalia versus Boler-13' - Fiberglass RV


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Old 09-20-2012, 09:03 AM   #1
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Name: Franck
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VW Westfalia versus Boler-13'

Hi

My name is Franck, I live near Montreal, Qc with my partner and my 5 yo son. we love camping and road trips and currently enjoy our 1985 VW Westfalia Weekender (roomier minimalist version without kitchen) with a small utility trailer.

I really got a soft spot on Boler's / Scamp 13' now.... And, as we're going trough a tighter financial phase, I'm seriously considering selling the VW camper and opt for the light trailer option instead. I will save on expensive registration fees, insurance and maintenance.

My main question now...
Is there anyone on this forum, who made such move (motorized camper to towed camper)? Any regrets, advantages, pros & conds etc....

I would really appreciate your feed back.
Thank you

Franck
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Old 09-20-2012, 10:45 AM   #2
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Better yet, could you tow a 13ft with the VW?
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Old 09-20-2012, 10:46 AM   #3
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Hello !
We are in the process of doing exactly the same thing...for the same reasons. We also considered the fact that with a nice little Boler, you can set everything up and take the car to go out and visit around without having to close all windows, the top...We also won't have to consider where to park the van on site to be able to go out for errands or a side trip, knowing that we have a screened kitchen tent. Of course, we will have to master the art of towing.

I understand your ambivalance though !
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Old 09-20-2012, 11:17 AM   #4
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Quote:
Originally Posted by franck2cv View Post
Hi
My main question now...
Is there anyone on this forum, who made such move (motorized camper to towed camper)? Any regrets, advantages, pros & conds etc....
Franck
Prior to purchasing my Scamp TT I had used truck campers and small motor homes - 2 different sizes. The trailer is hands down for me the best of all in regards of ease of use, especially as I often travel on my own. With both the motor home and the truck camper if you were staying someplace and wanted to go off exploring or buy something from a store you needed to pack everything up & secure it all and disconnect power & water in order to do that - not something you want to do everyday if staying in a place more than a few nights. Yes it was possible to jack the camper up and take it off the truck but I always found that to be a bit of a heart stopping experience especially when camping on less than level ground & not to mention the rather tight fit the camper was to the truck. Not something I really want to do everyday. Its way easier to disconnect the trailer from the tow vehicle on arrival and leave it all set up while you head out to explore the area or shop. Also get way better gas mileage pulling the small trailer than with the small 20' motor home and the more powerful truck needed to carry the camper. I can tow the Scamp with a car that is small enough that I dont need to search endlessly for a parking spot downtown that will fit it as is the case with bigger trucks.

For me the only downside to owning a TT is storage - I live in a city that does not allow TT to be parked in driveways from Oct to May or even during summer months if it doesnt get taken out ever couple of weeks. The cost of storage is high (abt $120/month) in my area so the trailer needs to be low enough to fit in a garage/carport. One & only reason I havent purchased the TT of my dreams as although only 1' longer it would be 4" to high to fit in my carport.
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Old 09-20-2012, 11:26 AM   #5
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Thank you Mireille. Very pleased to share this 'thinking process' !
The fact that the towing vehicle can be easily driven anywhere without any packing & tidying up IS indeed the punchy line.

As per the towing issue, well, we do tow already. I know, it's very small but we're already accustomed to the u-turn restriction, annoying backward maneuvers. I guess, the Boler will only be bigger and heavier.

I thought about towing a Boler with our Westfalia. It certainly looks fabulous but A) the brakes would need to be upgraded at great expenses, Not sure the driving experience will be that good... so much rear weight already.
and then.... bottom line: $$$
Cannot keep all the toys

Franck
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Old 09-20-2012, 12:03 PM   #6
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Brake upgrade may not be that expensive. Might be less expensive than purchasing a different tow vehicle. The following is a 7" electric however they also have Hydraulic Disc surge brakes that cost more should you not be able to install the electrics.

Tow Zone Electric Drum Brake Kit — Pair, 7in., Model# 56124 | Drum Brakes| Northern Tool + Equipment
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Old 09-20-2012, 12:13 PM   #7
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Word of caution re the cost of brakes. . Many of the older Bolers & other 13' trailers do not have the flange attachment on the axle that is needed to install brakes - in order to add brakes to the trailer the axle may need to be replaced so you would be looking at more (abt $400/500) than just the cost of the brake kit.
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Old 09-20-2012, 12:25 PM   #8
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We made our decision few weeks ago. The van is «for sale» and we found our Boler. I just wish the van was sold, because like you, we can't have all the toys. Hoping the Boler won't find another family before we sell the campervan...

Good luck !
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Old 09-20-2012, 12:29 PM   #9
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Originally Posted by Carol H View Post
Word of caution re the cost of brakes. . Many of the older Bolers & other 13' trailers do not have the flange attachment on the axle that is needed to install brakes - in order to add brakes to the trailer the axle may need to be replaced so you would be looking at more (abt $400/500) than just the cost of the brake kit.
Oh...And how do we know we have, or or don't have that the flange attachment on the axle ? What does it look like ? Because, I have to have breaks on my trailer in order to tow with the car I want...
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Old 09-20-2012, 12:39 PM   #10
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Thank you all for sharing. Some great stuff here that help me making good progress!
The Axle seems to be THE thing to look at closely according to the few searches I did.
I think it would be wise to plan ahead a replacement/upgrade, just in case (depending on what we end up buying of course!). Now, is there a thread dedicated to DIY Axle replacement and Part suppliers?

Cheers

Franck
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Old 09-20-2012, 12:41 PM   #11
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Name: Franck
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Originally Posted by Mireille L View Post
We made our decision few weeks ago. The van is «for sale» and we found our Boler. I just wish the van was sold, because like you, we can't have all the toys. Hoping the Boler won't find another family before we sell the campervan...

Good luck !
You too! You're ahead of us. If we decide to proceed then, it will have to wait 'till Spring 13.
F.
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Old 09-20-2012, 12:50 PM   #12
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Originally Posted by Mireille L View Post
Oh...And how do we know we have, or or don't have that the flange attachment on the axle ? What does it look like ? Because, I have to have breaks on my trailer in order to tow with the car I want...
The flange to attach the brakes looks like the square piece here with the 4 holes in it. It is behind the wheel on the axle stub.

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Old 09-20-2012, 01:51 PM   #13
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Nice choice on selling the van. I've travelled in and owned 3 vw vans now and though they rival my Scamp in cuteness, they are overall more of a hassle to camp in and much more expensive when considering upkeep and registration. My scamp makes the van feel like a closet, even with roof popped up
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Old 09-20-2012, 01:55 PM   #14
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Thanks Tom !
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Old 09-20-2012, 03:37 PM   #15
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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.

-EW
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Old 09-20-2012, 06:31 PM   #16
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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.
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Old 09-21-2012, 03:13 AM   #17
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......... 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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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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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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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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