Have you ever heard about the good old Westfalia camper van?
Just in case you haven't, once you'll start exploring the world of camper van conversions, two words will usually pop out all around. Westy and Westfalia. Why?
Because the first camper van conversion ever build was the German Westfalia based on the legendary Volkswagen bus platform. This unique conversion became a huge success soon after, and the name became a trademark for freedom and adventure around the globe.
A living legend that paved the ground of camper van conversions to say so.
The epic Westfalia camper based on the Volkswagen van begun it's life back in the 1950's. It was a revolutionary design back then, enabling folks to cook, sleep and store their camping gear in a safe and dry box on wheels for the first time ever.
Westfalia-Werke was a well established German coach company at the time, manufacturing coaches and camping trailers before both world wars. One of the stories is, that an American (or was it British?) officer serving in Germany in the early 1950's asked the Westfalia crew to design the interior of a Volkswagen van based on their camping trailer designs.
The deal was made, the first camper van conversion was introduced to the public on a local trade fair and I believe immediately sold to...
Erna and Helmut Blenck, a couple of keen travelers who made an epic journey to South Africa in it and published a book about their travel in a Westfalia camper van, South Africa Today back in 1955. They also published a few other books, and you can still find them on the net.
Well, whatever the story behind it, they made history by using the legendary Volkswagen van as the base for their revolutionary camper van conversion.
Interior paneling, upholstery, a small kitchen with a cooler, running water from a water tank, cupboards and wardrobe with an extractable bed from the seating unit to sleep on became a standard that is commonly used today for camper conversions and larger motorhomes.
Let's have a brief look at some of the most outstanding designs that pioneered the camper van world as we know it today.
The innovative pop top camper with the elevating roof addition in the 1970's is a unique concept that offers generous standing height and four beds for the first time in a box van. This system is still widely used and copied today on various camper conversions around the world. With this type of roof, the van remains the number one multipurpose vehicle on the road for any camping enthusiast.
In the late 1970's another innovative Westfalia camper van design came out from their drawing room. The high top camper using a specially designed plastic roof, with ample standing height, neatly upholstered and including another extractable double bed fitted on the original roof level. How's that for comfort, huh?
Two larger vans from Mercedes Benz and Volkswagen were used for this upgraded and obviously more comfortable conversion. These top of the line campers were named after two famous explorers, James Cook and Sven Hedin and soon after became legendary explorer vans that are still flagship Westfalia campers today.
The vans are considerably larger than the VW bus, therefore there is more room to play with inside the van. And the Westy crew of course, came up with another outstanding feature, the double room concept as I like to name it.
Up front and right behind the driving cockpit there is the dinette and the sleeping compartment with one extractable double bed on the top and one on the seating bench below. The rear end of the van sports the galley, shower/toilet room with hot running water and storage area for food, clothes and camping gear neatly stacked in storage compartments of various sizes.
And soon after, another hard top roof was carefully tailored out for their best-seller and the most wanted camper van conversion at all times...
Based on the VW T3/T25/Vanagon platform the Joker (European version) came out in 1978 and was an immediate success. It came out either with the pop top or the brand new aerodynamic high top roof with a front panoramic window. The Joker with it's various variations was clearly one of the most wanted and iconic camper van conversions ever made.
For many people it became a daily driver and a camper van all in one package, something you just can't go wrong with if you prefer mobility to luxury.
The build to last Joker or the Vanagon in it's many versions, is still one of those "I want it" items that many simply cannot resist. Long lasting design and impeccable quality of these VW Westfalia vans obviously speak for itself here.
The Ford Nugget is another outstanding camper van conversion that came out in the 1980's and keeps a long standing tradition up to today. It's the only camper van that I'm aware of with enough seat-belts and beds for five people on board. Well make that two adults and three kids, but still...
The Nugget camper has a similar interior outfit as the larger James Cook and the Sven Hedin models. But build on the short wheel-base chassis it doesn't have the toilet/shower cabin. You can still use the portable camping toilet of course.
Basically this is the largest every day driver/camper configuration in terms of passenger capacity and therefore a great camper for a larger family.
And of course it comes in both roof models discussed above and recently a longer version with a small bathroom included.
The Volkswagen-Westfalia partnership lasted for fifty years and has converted four generations of the legendary VW van. Volkswagen terminated the long standing relationship in 2004, as a rival financial group (Daimler-Chrysler) became the new company owner for a short time.
But aside for the internal and financial turmoil that the company has experienced in recent years, the core of the management never lost faith in their concept of the camper van conversion.
Westfalia keeps on converting outstanding and Award wining camper van conversions on a variety of European vans. These camper vans are available either from the company network or the base van manufacturer itself.
Recently they proudly introduced The brand new Club Joker using the latest Wolkswagen T5 van for the base vehicle and therefore linking again with the roots, where it all started from more than 60 years ago.
Years of evolution are strongly present at every, always recognizable Westfalia camper. A distinctive appearance with an elegant and practical interior of an outstanding design, using high quality materials, innovative solutions and mature technology make these campers stand out from the crowd.
The roof designs and equipment lines with various customization options places these vehicles in a class of it's own. There is nothing that could compare them to any other camper van besides the basic bodywork of the van.
This legendary name has come a long way from the 1950's. From the legendary and so simple VW camper vans to the unique and innovative solutions of their present models with a truly outstanding design and impeccable quality of any Westfalia camper.