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Couple drives from Alaska to Tierra del Fuego in their rebuilt ’75 VW camper van


In fact, she said, people have been “open and kind and welcoming” everywhere
they’ve gone on this odyssey. “You hear bad things in the news, but overall
people are willing to help. They’ll drop everything they’re doing and invite you
Vought was quick to ascribe their cordial reception to the vehicle. “It’s the
bus,” he said. “People in all countries seem to love the VW bus. They’re already
kind of looking at you anyway, and when they see the bus, it’s like instant
smiles and instant friends.”



The bus at “Mano de Desierto,” a large sculpture of a hand in Chile’s Atacama Desert.





Dillon Vought and Tessa Ely didn’t know each other when they attended Service
High School at the same time. Big school, different classes, different crowds.
You know how it goes.
But they’re plenty familiar with each other now. For the past year, they have
traveled 26,000 miles throughout the Western Hemisphere in a Volkswagen
Westfalia pop-top camper bus.

“We just got the idea that we wanted to do some long-term travel,” said Vought.
“We did a few road trips around Alaska and it sort of evolved into this.”
The Alaska Dispatch News contacted the couple in Tierra del Fuego, the
southernmost part of South America. Ely said the place felt a little like
“There’s free camping everywhere,” she said. “It’s very safe. And everyone’s
very friendly.”

Vought, 29, got a degree in marketing at a college in Reno, Nevada, before
moving back to Anchorage, where he has worked in logistical support for the oil
industry. Ely, 27, studied at UAA and became a special-education teacher with
the Anchorage School District. Of course, for the last 13 months they’ve been on
what can only be described as an extended leave of absence.
“It’s more like two years,” Vought said. But during the first year of the
adventure, the bus didn’t go anywhere as they rebuilt it.
They bought the broken-down 1975 Westfalia for $500. “It was the only one for
sale two years ago,” he said. They found it slowly weathering away in Hope. It
took a year of busted knuckles and “a lot of duct tape” before the thing was
ready to roll. In the process they added insulation, an RV furnace and changed
the horrible orange paint to a classic green and white two-tone.
Most important, they replaced the old air-cooled engine, a 1960s design, with a
modern Subaru Boxer 2.2 water-cooled engine. The original could churn up 66
horsepower and was famously underpowered, particularly on hills. The Boxer
produces 100 horsepower or better and is more fuel efficient than the vintage
It was time well spent, Vought said. “It’s really a blessing that we rebuilt the
entire thing, because now we know what’s going on with it. We can do most of the
fixes ourselves. You don’t need to worry about finding a good mechanic.”
They had considered taking a year to drive around Asia, but decided South
America would be easier, more right-in-the-neighborhood. “Tessa knew some
Spanish,” Vought said. “It was a more reachable trip.”
The journey began with a long drive down the West Coast. “We were hoping to ski
quite a bit,” Vought said. “But it was a bad year for skiing all over. We didn’t
actually get out and do anything until we got to Vancouver Island. And then it
was surfing. In February.”
They did manage to find snow in Montana. Then they joined a couple of other VW
buses for a mini-caravan drive down the Baja Peninsula, where they spent a
month. From there, the couple ferried the bus to the mainland, headed down the
west coast of Mexico, cut over to the Yucatan and proceeded through Central
America, surfing and camping on beaches as they went.
The Panama Canal brought a gap in road travel. The bus was shipped to Colombia
and the travelers followed by sail. After another month in Colombia, they
continued into the Andes, traveling through Ecuador, Peru, Bolivia and Chile.
The southern terminus of the trip came at the end of the Pan American Highway,
just past Ushuaia, Argentina, latitude 54 degrees and change. It’s sometimes
referred to as “the end of the world.”
“We considered going further by boat to Antarctica,” Vought said. But “the
cheapest tour would still have been $5,000.”

Though the trip has been decidedly frugal, it hasn’t been free. The travelers
are already contemplating their return to home and jobs.
“We’ll cruise around Patagonia for a few months, then ship the bus to Florida
from Buenos Aires,” Ely said. While the bus is on the boat she’ll come back to
Alaska to work and Vought will backpack. They’ll reconnect with their trusty
transport in mid-June and drive through the U.S. and Canada “and see how long we
can make our money last,” she said.
The last logical leg will come after they return to Alaska, a run up the Dalton
Highway to Prudhoe Bay.
“I think we’re going to do a photo book,” Vought said. “But we probably won’t
actually complete it until we’re back in Anchorage.”
They’ll come home with a log-book of white-knuckle experiences. “Bolivia has the
worst roads,” Vought said. “We came out there with suspension issues. I’ve had
to replace the shocks and replace the clutch cable five times now.”

“And we’ve gotten a few bouts of stomach illness,” he continued. “Times when you
have to hole up in a hotel for a while and just pray you’re going to get

“I was getting pretty sick in El Salvador,” Ely said. “Dealing with hospitals
and the language barrier is something I don’t want to relive again.”

“The good part is that the local medical care people know how to treat the
common ailments in the area,” said Vought. “They can help you get well, even if
it seems like the most horrible thing.”

The payoff has been the people, Vought said. That goal was at the top of their
reasons for making the trip.

“We wanted to get more engulfed into the culture, go places that the tourists
don’t go, talk to the locals,” he said. “It’s been great. Every time we have a
question or a loss, you don’t hesitate to ask anyone because everyone is so
willing to help. You ask someone for directions and they ask you to stay at
their place.”

One question they get asked a lot is whether they want to sell the bus. The
answer is always no. “It’s our baby!” said Ely.
“Besides, if we have kids, they’re going to see pictures of this trip and
pictures of the bus,” said Vought. “And if we don’t still have it, they’ll kill
BLOG Follow the travels of Dillon Vought, Tessa Ely and their 1975 VW camper bus

VW makes electric vehicle

Following on from our recent post about the id Buzz did you know that is not the first electric vehicle from Volkswagen based on the classic type 2 chassis?

Ah, but did you also know this original version was a little older?

Back in 1970, Adolf Kalberlah was there looking at alternative methods of power and VW made a type 2 T2 Bay window with a top speed of 43mph and a range of 43 miles.

That is about 7 times the range of some of the current crop of electric vehicles and this was 48 years ago.

Read the full details at

The id Buzz

If you thought that the T6 was not sufficiently different to the T5, well the next incarnation (or should that be in-van-ation) of the Volkswagen camper van is the id Buzz. Due to launch in 2022, this all electric van has been the talk of the VW world for many years with a lot of rumours.

Destined for a 110KWh battery pack, this promises a range of over 350 miles.

Behold, the camper van of the future!

I.D Buzz ready to be charged

The interior can be configured many ways

Notice the family resemblance…

id_buzz_release id_buzz_specifications

I.D Buzz ready to be charged

Contemporary with a nod to the past

Contemporary with a nod to the past

At home in the city

The interior can be configured many ways

The interior can be configured many ways

The interior can be configured many ways

The boots in the front!

I.D Buzz dimensions

Location of the batteries

Location of the batteries

Practical and versatile interior

Drivetrain conceptualised

1955 Forest find split screen

The Type 2 Owners Club welcomes all transporters from this Type 2, T1 (the split screen) up to the current T6 and the planned id Buzz.

Here is a short video on a group of friends who rescued a split screen from a Swedish forest.



Westfalia’s latest Volkswagen camper van literally grows to add foot room

The new VW Crafter has been finding its place in the camper van market, in production campers like the Knaus Boxdrive to wild concepts like Volkswagen’s own California XXL. But there’s no better indication that Volkswagen’s latest full-size van has officially arrived on the camper van scene than a new package from Westfalia, the shop whose name will be forever intertwined with VW camper vans and buses. Westfalia turns the new Crafter into a smart, versatile camper with extendable bed, flexible storage and all the amenities you need to spend some time in nature.

While the second-generation Crafter that underpins the 2018 Sven Hedin is one of the latest vans on the market, the Sven Hedin itself isn’t a new model. In fact, Westfalia has been building it since the 1970s, first on the VW LT, the Crafter’s predecessor, and later on other vans like the Mercedes Sprinter. The new Sven Hedin capitalizes on the Crafter’s impressive suite of driver-assistance technologies while fitting a bedroom, kitchen, indoor bathroom, dining area and plenty of storage inside.

The Crafter is large enough to inspire converters to add a full bathroom, unlike smaller campers in which the closest thing to a bathroom is a storage compartment for a portable toilet. However, it’s not quite large enough to accommodate the bathroom and all the other fixins without a little extra strategy on laying out the interior.

In their respective Crafter campers, Volkswagen and Knaus address bathroom spacing with expandable bathroom compartments that extend out over the kitchen/hall floor space. Each uses a different system, but the idea is the same: grow the bathroom interior while in use, retract it back to free up space when not in use.

While Westfalia places its bathroom in the same place, amidships across from the kitchen, it uses a simpler, smaller fixed layout. A swivel toilet and corner sink help to save space inside the small wet bath, and wall-integrated cubbies hold soap, shampoo and other hygiene staples. A door provides privacy. The Sven Hedin’s bath compartment definitely looks more claustrophobic than the aforementioned expandable baths, but it does beat the other alternative – no indoor bathroom at all.

Westfalia also has its own ideas on how to best provide a comfortable sleeping experience without eating up too much interior floor space. Volkswagen actually extends out the bodywork on its California XXL concept, and Knaus cuts out a central chunk of its bed to add floor space. Both beds are longitudinally mounted, but Westfalia opts to swing the bed into transverse position. In order to provide the full 6.6 feet (2 m) of length that it wants for sleepers, an optional electrically extendable foot panel is added that pushes out the side of the van inside a fiberglass pop-out. This module is insulated, so it presumably keeps all 10 piggies nice and warm (or cool). When the bed’s not in use, the pop-out retracts flush with the van side, maintaining the standard van width and aerodynamics on the road.

The bed is also raised up, creating an empty cargo space below that can be used to load gear or luggage. The rear half of the bed can fold out of the way, too, making room for taller cargo. On the other side of the bed, the step that helps campers climb up doubles as a storage compartment for shoes or slippers.

The kitchen area plays host to the familiar camper van mix of dual-burner stove, sink, countertop and storage drawers. An innovative feature here is a specially designed dual-drawer refrigerator system that offers 70 liters of cold storage, replacing the more common stand-up refrigerator to save space. A high-mounted cabinet over the top of the dinette stores dishes and other serving ware.

The dining/lounge area features a two-seat bench, swivel driver cab seats and a retractable table top in between. This particular dinette does not convert into a bed, meaning that the Sven Hedin sleeps only two people (unless, we suppose, someone doesn’t mind sleeping sitting up in a seat or on the floor).

The Sven Hedin includes a 100 L fresh water tank, 84 L waste water tank and a 4.8-kW hot water heater that heats the interior and also delivers hot water at the tap. A 92 Ah AGM battery powers onboard equipment like the touch-operated LED lighting.

The base Sven Hedin relies on Volkswagen’s 101-hp 2.0-liter TDI engine and six-speed manual to power the front wheels. Westfalia does not list a 4Motion option, but it does offer the eight-speed automatic transmission and larger engine options up to a 174-hp TDI.

Standard vehicle equipment includes a radio with TFT display and Bluetooth, a remote-controlled locking system, an engine start-stop system with brake recuperation, and various assistive technologies like crosswind assistance and brake assist. Available options include heated front seats, added driver-assistance features like lane keeping and ParkPilot, and an infotainment/nav system with 8-in touchscreen.

Westfalia has created a fully equipped camper van out of the Volkswagen Crafter

Westfalia presented the Sven Hedin at the Düsseldorf Caravan Salon and gave it a UK premiere at last week’s Motorhome & Caravan Show. The camper van starts at €59,990/£59,100 (approx. US$70K based on euro conversion) when equipped with the 101-hp engine and six-speed manual. Options like the extendable bed with pop-out, second AGM battery and outdoor shower are available at extra cost. For more pricing details, you can check out the price lists on Westfalia’s downloads page.

Volkswagen Ring from an Old Key

Picture of Volkswagen (VW) Ring from Old Key

Step 1: Materials

Picture of Materials

So, the materials for this project are pretty straight forward.

First you will need a key or several keys. I had a bunch laying around that I had picked up over the years.

you’ll also need the following:

A blowtorch (or other heat source)

a mandrel (for sizing) I did not end up using mine in the end

A pipe to rap the key around (I used some scrap that was similar in size to what I wanted, but you could also use a steel Mandrel to get a perfect fit)

A hammer (I used a regular hammer for the grunt work and a jewelers hammer for some finer touches)

A pair of vice grips

Some metal polish

A dremel with a buffing attachment

Step 2: Heat it up

Picture of Heat it up

Place the key under the flame of the blowtorch. Wait till it starts to a light pink, then dip it in some water (I found it to be to brittle if you tried to bend the key when it was to hot)

ATTENTION: Please make sure you use blowtorches outside or in well ventilated areas.

Step 3: Clamp and Hammer

Picture of Clamp and Hammer

I clamped the key to the end of the pipe (placed some cardboard between the vice grips and the key to prevent scratching) and slowly began to hammer the ring around the pipe. I had to heat it two more times to get the desired shape.

Two Scots explain why they love the VW camper van as it reaches the end of the road

IT was the vehicle of choice for everyone from hippies and surfers to Shaggy and Scooby Doo but, after 63 years, time has finally caught up with the Volkswagen Kombi.

Stephen King
Volkswagen camper van owner Stephen King with his van Myrtle.

The German manufacturers have stopped making the van in its last stronghold of Brazil after new regulations meant it was no longer practical.

But for the many thousands of fans around the world, who spend huge amounts of time and money caring lovingly for their quirky vehicles, the Volkswagen Kombi is a timeless classic that will never die.

CRAIG MCQUEEN speaks to two Scottish owners about their love affair with the curvy minivan.

Stephen King

Stephen King Volkswagen camper van owner Stephen King with his van Myrtle.
Volkswagen camper van owner Stephen King with his van Myrtle.



STEPHEN’S love affair with the Volkswagen Kombi remains undiminished, despite him selling his most recent one to fund a business venture and his previous one catching fire while he drove it.

“I liked the classic design of it,” he said. “I remember seeing them when I was about 10 and thinking how great it would be to own one or to go on holiday in one.

“So it was a longing from my childhood and the design element fascinated me. I also enjoyed the height of it and the vision it gave you.

“Then there’s the adaptability of it, as it turns into your accommodation at night. They draw a crowd as well. People always come and speak to you when you’re in one.”

The 50-year-old’s most recent van was a 1973 Australian-made model called Myrtle.

“It had a 2000cc engine and was in beautiful condition, and I kitted out all the interior,” said Stephen, from Glasgow.

“I’d bought it for about £10,500 and I sold it for about £15,500, so they hold their value. When I was selling it, I had a woman who came to see it in a new Brazilian Kombi. But she was desperate to get hold of an old classic like mine as, at all the owners’ festivals she went to, people would turn their nose up at her for driving a power-steered modern one.

Stephen King Volkswagen camper van owner Stephen King with his van Myrtle.
Stephen King’s van Myrtle.


“So there is a bit of snobbery within the fraternity. But in 40 years, those newer ones will be like the classic ones just now.

“People are restoring them like crazy and there are now lots of spare parts available that you couldn’t get 10 years ago.

“That’s something else that a lot of owners can be very snobby about.

“You end up with a bit of light competition between owners to see if they can spot an unoriginal part on someone else’s van.”

Stephen’s first van was a German-built model called Pepperpot but his second van didn’t survive long enough to get a name.

“She set on fire when I was driving along Edinburgh Road,” he said.

“Stephen Purdon, who plays Shellsuit Bob in River City, was in it, too, as I was running a youth theatre he was involved in and I was driving some of the cast home. All of a sudden we smelt burning. It was like an alien invasion as the whole dashboard went blank and then started flashing before this fire appeared in the engine at the back.

“Within 10 minutes, the fire brigade were there putting it out. So they do require a lot of love and attention but, that incident aside, I’ve been very lucky.

“I’ve always looked after them and, when I’ve bought them, I’ve always taken the right people with me to help me.”

Stephen’s love for the vehicles also helped provide the inspiration for his business venture, the website, which aims to help people trace old or lost possessions.

He said: “Before I bought Myrtle, I was desperate to find Pepperpot and I was wondering how to do it, thinking I’d need to do some sort of name search or registration search. That’s where the idea for the website came from. Reunitems is a site you can search for things you’ve lost by name, by product or by registration.

“And there’s a timeline, so you can search for things you’ve lost yesterday, like a wallet or a jacket, you can search for retro antiques and collectibles, and you can search for family history things that would have a name attached.

“So I’m still hoping that one day Pepperpot might turn up again.”


Chris Bell

Chris Bell Volkswagen camper van owned by Strathblane man Chris Bell.
Volkswagen camper van owned by Strathblane man Chris Bell.



CHRIS remembers his parents owning Volkswagen Kombis when he was a young boy.

So when he had a family of his own, the father-of-two from Strathblane, Stirlingshire, decided to get one himself.

He said: “I did a bit of research and looked at a few vans down south before picking one up in Warwick from a guy who imported them from the US.

“It’s a 1975 Westphalia bay-windowed, left-hand drive orange van with the dormer roof and it spent most of its life in Los Angeles.”

Chris spent £6500 on the van, called Bertha, and has owned it for about 10 years.

He said: “I’ve not had a lot of mechanical trouble and I’ve driven all over Scotland with it.

“I’m involved in the traditional music scene and I do a bit of hillwalking with my pals as well, so I’m away with it maybe three or four times each year. The only problem is that it does 19 miles to the gallon, so if you want to drive it to somewhere like Brighton, it’d cost you a fortune.

“And I can’t fill it right to the brim as the petrol would spill out when I’m going round corners, so I get about 120 miles between stops for petrol if I’m lucky.

“Having a left-hand drive van is good in the sense that you’re looking straight down on to the kerb. But your biggest problem is that your poor passenger to the right of you is as nervous as hell as you can start drifting too far to the right.

Chris Bell Volkswagen camper van owned by Strathblane man Chris Bell.
Volkswagen camper van owned by Strathblane man Chris Bell.



“So it does take a bit of getting used to. When I let my other half and a couple of pals have a go at it they said ‘no way’. A lot of people also rip the interiors out and bring it up to date and you can go to companies spending thousands to get that done.

“But the units I’ve got are all original. I’ve got the sink and cooker and the mid-70s Formica.

“It needs a bit of a brush-up but I’ve decided to leave it the way it is.”

Chris says that the van is a regular conversation starter thanks to its quirkiness.

He said: “We were at a campsite recently and, when you go to places like that, you get the caravan club types coming out of the woodwork saying they had one just like it in the 70s.

“They want to have a look inside, so you put on the kettle and start swapping stories. It creates a common bond between people that you just don’t get with other vehicles.

“It’s because of the character they have. I’m 47 now and it takes me back to the 70s.

“There’s nothing better than taking the van up to Glen Etive, popping the roof up and staying there for a couple of days. It gives you a sense of freedom and really it’s an extension of your character, so it’s great to have.

“And given that the vans are no longer being produced, it’s nice to help keep them alive.”