The legendary VW California camper van is one of the best and most versatile camper van conversions ever made. Do to their compact size, easy driving and versatility these marvelous vehicles have been on the road for decades now and today they are more popular then ever.
The name California was first introduced in Europe by the famous German van conversion company Westfalia in the late 1980's. For the rest of the world these camper vans were simply known as the Vanagon camper based on the VW T3/25 platform and the Eurovan camper based on the VW T4 conversion by Winnebago for the U.S. market.
The interior Westfalia layout and later adopted for the VW California sticks to a simple and proven concept. The kitchen cupboards and storage room running along the drivers side, the rear bench converting into a double bed and the swiveling front seats creating a small, but comfy lounge with one or two swiveling tables. Depending on the conversion other layouts are available as well.
Driving a similar camper van myself people often ask me how and where can four people sleep in these vehicles.
Well this compact travel van will seat and sleep four people. There is a double bed on the roof line with the pop top opened and another double bed on the extended rear bench below. When you have no occupants on the upper bed, you simply push it up and enjoy full standing room.
Now let's take a brief look at the evolution of these marvelous vehicles.
Westfalia California was the new name for the phasing-out model range of the T3/25 range named the Joker in Europe. The new California came with power steering, new rectangular headlights, velvet seats, tinted glass and finally, a five gear gearbox.
At the same time another more luxurious version was introduced, named the Atlantic.
And let's not forget the most capable VW camper van ever made...the 4x4 Syncro version. Initially build for the German army these tough machines can perform some serious hard action.
Both models come with diesel and petrol engines. Pop top camper and high top roof conversions are available. And even today they both command high prices on the used camper van market today for mint condition vehicles.
In 1990 the brand new VW T4 transporter rolled out of the production line. A variety of fuel-efficient diesel and petrol front mounted engines and the front wheel-drive was worlds away from the previous model with the rear mounted engine. The 4x4 Syncro is still available, but with a different technology. And a long-wheel base version was available for the first time.
Westfalia introduced the all new California camper van conversion which was in production from 1990 to 2004.
The VW T4 is larger on the outside, but has a slightly smaller "dancing room" inside compared to the previous model. But with the front mounted engine a whole lot more storage room appeared in the back. Actually not that bad for all the toys we have to carry around!
The new interior design was upgraded with resistant materials and the 3-way camper refrigerator was replaced with the cooling-efficient 12V compressor cooler. It drains quite a lot of power from the auxiliary battery, but the ingredients will stay perfectly cool for a couple of days with no hook-up.
The Volkswagen California was available with either the pop-top roof or a hard top roof. And for the first time, two wheel-bases were available.
Three long wheel base versions were introduced using the hard top roof.
In 1996 the VW California had the front piece restyled which made room for the VR6 engine and was used on other models for a more modern look. Like the previous VW campers these camper vans sell like hot cakes on the used camper van market.
In 2003 the fifth generation or the VW T5 was introduced. Similar to the T4 the new van is slightly larger and arguably better then the previous model.
This multi-talented vehicle can be used in any business or it can simply be a comfortable and roomy passenger car. With a variety of powerful fuel-efficient diesel and petrol engines available complete with a 4x4 version (4Motion), this van became so popular that it has sold in the millions.
Volkswagen and Westfalia terminated their long standing relationship due to modern day business operations and Volkswagen designed its own camper van for the first time ever.
The new Volkswagen California is available either with the pop top roof or the hard top version. California Beach is the basic version available with a normal roof and the only model with a single double bed. Volkswagen kept matters simple this time and offers the California only on short wheel base.
The interior has the same basic layout like the previous models. But the evolution of the interior is of course another story. Using super high quality materials and a clean,minimalistic design with many practical features and a power driven pop-top roof, makes the California stand in a class of its own.
The VW California equipment is more or less standard for quite a few decades now. The compressor cooler box, sink with running water and a two burner cooker make up the kitchen area. The auxiliary diesel heating system keeps you warm on colder nights. And the on-board computer takes care of all the power toys on board.
Propane gas is used for cooking only in these vehicles, so you don't have to worry about empty gas bottles all the time.
A full line of additional equipment and accessories is available if the basic version is not enough for you.
The new VW California is an expensive toy. The prices start a little bit over €40.000 for the basic models and go all the way up to €70.000 for the better equipped versions. But you get a lot for your money. An all purpose vehicle with impeccable Volkswagen quality.
But look at it from the bright side...a good looking twenty year old California can have a retail price set around €20.000!The retail prices of these used mint condition vehicles just don't go down that easy, so on the long run you will not be loosing all that much.
The popular VW California even has a special owners forum with available accessories and other useful information about this popular travel van.
The VW California travel van concept has proved itself many times over the decades. It's a compact camper van with many great features, multi-purpose capability and for many people a symbol for endless mobility and adventure.
Please watch this video with a full explanation of all the neat features the California's offer on the inside...
The Volkswagen California is a camper van legend. If you drive one, old or new, we would love to hear about it. Share your experience of this great camper van.
And if you have a few pictures of it, well don't be shy and share them with us.
It's easy! just fill in the form below.