The fundamental question about a car (who would buy this, ahead of any other car?) is already answered by the VW California Ocean. This is for people who want to camp in their van. All those existential questions, like “If you want a shower and a cooker and a kettle and a sofa and a bed, why not stay in a building instead?” we just have to park, which will be easier to park than the California. Ours is not to interrogate camping in principle: only in practice.
Especially if you’re eight, but even when you’re 43, the sudden acres of space at the push of buttons blow your mind. The controls are very intuitive, and the showstopper is the roof: make sure the ignition is on, the van is not moving (that bit is crucial), the windows are open, the tap is not running (just because it makes a distracting noise), you are not having a shower, the side door is open (unless you listened to me about the windows) and press the central button. The roof pops open like a clam shell. The top bed is gigantic. A small amount of jigging joins the passenger seats into a bench behind and a second double bed emerges. They are actually not as large as I thought: I thought I could sleep on the bottom with two children. When this didn’t work, it set in train an epic, childhood-defining row over which kid I would choose, which ended with me sulking in the driver’s seat like a dad in a 1960s cartoon strip.
But my God, it is amazing. You could load four adults horizontally into a vehicle that isn’t much more cumbersome than a Zafira. The drive is fine; you’re definitely aware of hoisting about more than an average load, but it has plenty of acceleration. The cornering has that distinctive white-knuckle frisson of a vehicle with high sides and a not particularly large engine, but you’re in a mobile home and should not be bouncing all over the road anyway.
Far, far more delightful than driving the thing is playing with its accessories. Pretty well everything turns into something else: the driver and front passenger’s seats, for instance, swivel 45 degrees, to become seats at a weird angle. We spent a mind-bending amount of time just playing; it was like being an incredibly spoilt womanchild with a doll’s house.
This van is amazing. The only thing I don’t know is whether or not all recreational vehicles are this amazing; if they are, modern life is incredible.
VW California Ocean
Price £50,391 Top speed 121mph Acceleration 0-62mph in 11 seconds Combined fuel consumption 44mpg CO2 emissions 169g/km Eco rating 5/10 Cool rating 10/10
The expansion of Volkswagen’s largest factory uncovered an unexpected surprise late last week.
Construction workers at the automaker’s Wolfsburg headquarters last month found metal fragments in several locations, which fueled speculation that the complex was hiding more unexploded bombs from World War II.
Volkswagen’s Wolfsburg headquarters in Germany (AP Photo)
A subsequent inspection by explosives experts found an undetonated 400-pound American bomb, one of several to be found at the plant in the more than 70 years since Wolfsburg was a major target of Allied bombing campaigns.
Created in collaboration with the German transit company Custom Bus, Moormann’s mobile home was started as a labor of love. The project served as a stylish solution to the designer’s need for comfortable mobile accommodation—something he says hasn’t been found on the market. He and his team began the process by “omitting everything that could possible be omitted” and left the vehicle as inconspicuous as possible from the outside.
Marrying luxury with minimalism, the interior comprises a kitchenette, a foldout futon, and ample storage space for a wardrobe, books, laundry, and more. The ceilings and floors are lined with real oak wood for a cozy appearance, while the cabinetry is made from black nanotech laminate with a silk-matt surface for a velvety and fingerprint-resistant finish. The powder-coated zinc alloy handles have compression latches to ensure the cabinets stay closed and silent during the drive.
The small but impressive kitchenette includes a sink, gas hob with two burners, counter space, and a 65-liter compressor fridge with a freezer. The converted vehicle also includes two folding tables that are stowed magnetically during driving. The sofa bed is upholstered in merino wool and can comfortably sleep two. The Moormann Campus bus is available for purchase from Custom Bus
It happened every time we stopped for gas. Someone would approach, usually someone kind of old. “Great van,” they’d say. “What is it… an ‘80, ‘81?”
Sometimes we’d slide open the heavy side door to let them have a look inside at the tan cabinetry and sensible stow-away compartments. What they’d find wasn’t what you’d call photo-ready. Two carseats, a cardboard box full of cans of chili and bags of noodles, trail mix and Cheerios, our family’s signature Legos-Cheerios melange in most nooks and crannies, copious baby wipes, children’s outerwear draped over the surfaces, plastic shopping bags of fruit and veg hung from the clever little pegs behind the front seats.
This past January, my husband and two young sons and I spent a week road-tripping around New Mexico and West Texas in my father-in-law’s 1981 VW Westfalia, christened “The Fillmore” a few years ago by my older son. (It is named after the van character voiced by George Carlin in the movie Cars, in case you’re wondering.) The trip was extremely fun. But it was also challenging, physically and emotionally—as many endeavors that look adorable on the outside but are taxing on the inside tend to be.
I learned that people love the sight of a family road tripping in an old van. We got repeated props at every campground and RV park we stayed in. Our trip was also a hit on social media, and not just among my friends. The #vanlife hashtag will introduce you to a world of rad customized vans inhabited by what appear to be mostly fit, beautiful people, many of whom seem to do a lot of yoga and surfing right next to where they park their vans. But #vanlife with a two- and five-year old is not all steaming mugs of Aeropress coffee at dawn, nor is it late afternoon light slanting through the open back door over a freshly cracked novel. Here are a few of the nugs of wisdom acquired on my van trip.
It’s freezing cold at night in the desert, so we stayed in RV parks with electric hookups until we got far enough South to be able to handle the nights without a space-heater. Each time we pulled into an RV park, I felt a bit like Borat put-putting along in a jam-packed Yugo: “Hello everybody! We are here in our van!” Beside a row of gleaming RVs, DirecTV dishes deployed and Venetian blinds angled just so behind the tinted windows, The Fill was so abbreviated. Friendly RV people would come and say hi and admire the van and the kids, and there was always a part of me that wanted to see what would happen if I asked if we could come watch TV in their rig for a bit. You love this van, I’d think, but you wouldn’t want to travel in one.
Food and Beverages
VW campers have little kitchens that are so beautifully functional, but it’s not like cooking at home. It’s still a hot dog situation, or chili from a can. It’s not like you’re in there mashing up garlic for your zesty from-scratch sauce. Granted, there’s plenty you can do between a picnic table and a tiny stovetop, but leave that to the #vanlife people don’t have kids in the #van. Luckily, kids love camping food, so there’s really no trick to this beyond chilling with your high standards.
Booze-wise, you will definitely want some, unless you don’t drink. Don’t bother with beer because it won’t stay cold, and wine is too bulky. We enjoyed a dinnertime marg most nights, and it was a delight. All you need is a little bottle of tequila, a bag of limes, and a squeeze-bottle of honey. Hand-squeeze your limes into an empty, lidded container of some sort, add the other stuff and some water to stretch it out, shake well and serve. No ice needed. Tastes great, but be warned, all that lime squeezing will make you wary of sharing. One evening our kids were playing with a boy from a neighboring RV and his dad was lingering in our zone, making small talk with my husband while I sat cross-legged on the van floor, slaving over those fresh limes. My husband popped his head in, and I asked if he deemed neighbour-dad worthy of a marg himself. He looked over at this friendly dude, who was animatedly telling our kids about the local wildlife, narrowed his eyes and said, “He’s nice, but he’s not that nice.”
Health and Beauty
Needless to say the entire hygiene situation is one we tried not to think about too hard. It helps that I was raised on a commune whose facilities in those days my mother once likened to “nineteenth-century Poland.” The best possible advice I could give is to not be like us, and wait until all of your children are toilet-trained before taking a van trip. Hand sanitizer is comforting but sometimes I wished it had mildly abrasive qualities, too.
For reasons that, trust me, you definitely do not feel like reading about, our kids don’t have an iPad. We brought a few toys—Lego, markers, little cars—but most of the entertainment came from being outside. We tried not to drive for more than five hours in one day, and organized most days around a hike, so that by evening everyone would be tired out and we’d sleep well. Hiking with little kids is a whole other article, and it can be summed up with the word “chocolate.” My five-year old is a champion who hiked five miles and made me very proud, but he wouldn’t have done it if we hadn’t used chocolate to motivate him through the rough patches. Pack more than you think you’ll need.
We mostly hiked in Big Bend National Park, which is wonderful and huge and forms part of Texas’ border with Mexico. Throughout the trip we saw tons of evidence of the massive cross-border migration of undocumented people, and we were stopped at checkpoints at least 10 times ourselves. We took one hike that was probably ill-advised, along a trail with zero shade that went straight out into the desert for many miles. It occurred to us, as the kids became justifiably hot and whiny, that what we were doing for “pleasure” was a lot like what many migrants endure at enormous personal risk in order to enter the U.S.
There’s a lot of packing and unpacking on a VW van trip, because you have to transform the interior to sleep and eat. For the first couple days, we struggled a lot with these transitional times because the kids would be getting in the way and fucking stuff up, and then they’d get upset when we’d try to boss them around. We figured out that the kids love the whole packing and unpacking ritual if you give them jobs and approach it like a camp counselor. At the risk of sounding like a giant tool, we had some satisfying if nascent “family teamwork” experiences on this trip. My older son loved learning the van’s organizational systems, and helped us remember the checklist of things that we always went through before hitting the road.
Ha ha. Discipline is actually sort of a huge deal on a van trip because there’s no getting away from each other. ’On this trip, my two-year old was going through a potent screaming phase. He screamed mostly out of frustration, presumably because he wanted to tell us things and didn’t know how. It was hard for all of us. Every single morning, around 6 a.m., he was the first guy awake. I’d slide him down from the loft bed that he shared with his brother and bring him into bed with my husband and me. It was warm and cozy—primo cuddling conditions. For whatever reason, this situation made him need to scream super loud, for a long time, every single morning, brutally destroying the predawn peace. We could not figure out how to calm him down.
Ultimately, the only thing that worked was threatening to kick him out of the van. Literally. “If you don’t stop screaming, we’re going to put you outside,” my husband said one morning, which caught me a little off guard. It worked. It was cold out there, and definitely still pitch black. I’m not sure if the little guy knew this, but there were probably mountain lions out there. The next morning the threat didn’t work, so my husband reached for the door and started opening it to show he wasn’t kidding (he was, obviously). After that, no more screaming. I’m not trying to tell you how to parent, but I mean, it worked for us.
Unless you can afford a nanny, traveling with little kids very rarely feels like a vacation. “Making memories,” sure, but those blazing moments occur inside of days that can feel impossibly long. But if you have the time to get into a new rhythm together—say, more than four days—traveling with kids can be transformative, especially if you’re forced away from your habitual coping mechanisms. That’s not bullshit. The Fillmore has its drawbacks, but I believe that the interior of that van is a transformative place, and not just because the seats fold down into a bed. I think that’s why people wanted to come look inside.
Kathryn Jezer-Morton lives in Montreal with her husband and two sons. She’s 33, her kids are 2 and 5, and she’ll be contributing a semi-regular parenting column called Hey Ma here on Jezebel.
THOUSANDS of Volkswagen enthusiasts descended on Stonor Park for the 32nd annual VW Rally on Sunday.
There were trade stands, a Miss VW contest and a boot fair as well as thousands of cars on display, including Beetles, camper vans, classic Golf GTis, Corrados and Sciroccos.
John Daniel, from Burnham, who was part of the committee who organised the first event in 1984 and is now in charge of organising trade stands for the event, said: “The success of the event depends entirely on the weather but we still get a good attendance if it rains.
“There is a mix of people who come along – you have experienced guys with their Beetles and younger guys with their Golfs.”
Mr Danel, who ran a VW memorabilia stand with his wife Phyl on Sunday.
Alan Horwood, from Brighton, and Simon Wharton, from Redditch, both brought their replica “Herbie” Beetles to the event.
Mr Wharton said: “This is one of the best shows because it has been going for donkey’s years.”
Host the Hon William Stonor said: “This the biggest one-day event we have at Stonor. It has been going for so long and I grew up with the event so it’s one I enjoy and look forward to.
“We were absolutely thrilled with how it went. The weather was lovely and everyone was having a good day.
“It means we have had two fantastic weekends with almost 7,000 people visiting over two Sundays, a week after having our antique and vintage fair.
Car enthusiasts made a 2,000-mile pilgrimage to a lonely graveyard to pay homage to a man from Marsden who saved the iconic VW Beetle from the scrapheap, writes Ken Bennett.
They drove from Germany in a collection of classic cars to stand in silence at a small tablet marking the grave of former army major Ivan Hirst who is buried at St Thomas’s church, at Heights, near Delph.
Although the major was born in Saddleworth, he lived in Marsden for the the last 25 years of his life and would have been 100 this year.
At the end of WW2, the REME major was sent to Wolfsburg to examine the bombed remnants of the Volkswagen factory for the British Army.
His objective was to dismantle the entire production line and prepare it to be shipped out as reparations while running a workshop to repair British army vehicles.
And although the Russians and Americans had reached the battered site first they failed to recognise the site’s potential.
While he was sifting the debris, the bespectacled major miraculously discovered an early Beetle and considered it would make ideal transport for Allied troops and believed it could be a commercial success.
But Britain’s motor manufacturers shunned the early prototypes with an official report famously stating:”It does not reach the fundamental technical requirement of a motor car.
“It is quite unattractive to the average buyer … to build the car commercially would be a completely uneconomic enterprise.”
However the major and his superior, Colonel Charles Radclyffe, got one of the rare surviving saloons running and persuaded the allied management to re-start production.
By the end of 1945, the factory had rolled out more than 20,000 saloons for the occupying American, British and French forces.
The enterprising major set up a sales and service network and arranged for the vehicles to be exported. The first Beetle, as it became known, went to Holland in 1947.
Having handed over the Volkswagen factory to a new trust run by the new West German federal government, he left Wolfsburg in 1949 and was demobbed two years later.
Jane Braithwaite, cousin once removed, who lives near the graveyard at Heights, said: ”Ivan was a very unassuming man and would have been deeply touched by these VW enthusiasts who came so far to celebrate his incredible belief in the car.
“Some were former VW engineers and they said seeing his resting place was the highlight of their trip. It’s good to know he’s not forgotten.”
“ Ivan would always be seen with an obligatory pipe in his hand and surrounded by history books.
“He enjoyed a peaceful life in Marsden but the death of his wife Marjorie in 1992 was a hard blow and a number of years later, when asked what had been the most important factor in his life, his unhesitating answer was: ‘A very happy marriage.’
Jane’s husband Paul, an internationally acclaimed mountaineer, gave a eulogy at the major’s funeral at Marsden Church.
He said:” Ivan’s vision and achievements at the VW Wolfsburg factory in 1945 have rightfully earned him a place in the illustrious history of Volkswagen. “
The major died in 2000 at the age of 84 and the President of VW, the Mayor of Wolfsburg and many other VIPs who came to pay their respects.
The VW Beetle was originally known as Volkswagen Type 1
It was spotted by Hitler at an auto show in 1933
Ferdinand Porsche was commissioned to design the car in 1934
The car was manufactured from 1938 to 2003
The top speed of the original Beetle was just 50mph
A virtually unused 1974 VW Beetle was discovered in mint condition and is now going under the hammer in Denmark.
This one-owner example was originally sold in Genoa, Italy to an elderly gentleman who had never owned a car before.
This Beetle was only used for short Sunday trips from his house to the local church but as the owner grew older, it was used less and less as his church-going became more infrequent. The car was last used in 1978, where it was stored in a barn for almost four decades.
Silverstone Auctions say that after its discovery, the Beetle was lightly recommissioned before it heads to their Classic Race Aarhus Auction on 28th of May. Finished in blue with a black leather interior, the car still has the original oil in its engine and its original set of tires. Even the tool kit is unwrapped and offered with it, along with the original books and invoice.
“The VW Beetle is one of the most successful and loved cars worldwide, and we’re no strangers to them at Silverstone Auctions,” said Nick Whale, managing director. “This one is a very special example and something we rarely see. With such an incredibly low mileage it is in virtually new condition, 42 years after it was first bought.”
Seeing a classic Beetle in this condition is a rare sight but whether it will reach the estimated 35,000 to 40,000 euros (around $40,000 to $45,000) remains to be seen.
Everyone wants what they cannot have, whether it is the forbidden fruit or a diesel Power Wagon. For S. Lucas Valdes, it is a diesel Volkswagen DOKA Syncro. There are a lot of words in there that our readers might not be familiar with, so let us break it down for you. Volkswagen imported the Vanagon to the United States from 1980 to 1991. It was the son of the hippie bus and father of the Eurovan. Kind of like the XJ was a Cherokee, but the son of the FSJ and father of the current KL Cherokee. The Syncro is the 4WD version of the Vanagon, and is fairly rare. The DOKA is the double-cab pickup version of the Vanagon, which was never sold in the U.S. Still confused? It is a 4×4 Volkswagen crew cab truck, based on a van, with a diesel.
As it happens, Valdes has built an entire business (GoWesty) around these unique vehicles and their dedicated following. So it makes sense that he would have the coolest of all Vanagons with tons of rare options and custom features. His friend Thomas, who frequently scours the German countryside for all sorts of interesting VW stuff, imported the DOKA shell from Germany where it served as a railroad municipality vehicle.
For four years Valdes built the truck up in his spare time, something you all can relate to, whether you drive a Jeep, a Chevy, or a Volkswagen. The end result is not only super-rare, but with a diesel engine and lockers front and rear, it is uber-capable as well.
When a friend of owner S. Lucas Valdes negotiated for this DOKA in Germany, he argued that the condition, or even the presence of the engine and transmission, were not important, which was a feature the sellers were pushing hard. After reaching a deal with the sellers, he went to grab a quick lunch. When he returned, the sellers were gone—and so was the engine and transmission! Valdes took the opportunity to replace the stock naturally aspirated 1.6L diesel with a turbocharged, intercooled 1.9L diesel. The engine is backed by a five-speed transaxle with revised gear ratios to crawl over obstacles while still being able to comfortably travel at freeway speeds.
30-inch-tall tires may seem puny, but they are a significant upgrade when you consider that the factory tires are only 25 inches tall. Valdes has been really pleased with the low noise and high traction of the Falken Wildpeak AT3W tires. They have 3D siping and a silica tread compound for excellent wet weather performance.
The Syncro platform uses independent front and rear suspension with A-arms in front and trailing arms in the rear. Valdes’ DOKA has GoWesty progressive-rate coil springs that provide 3 inches of lift and 1 inch of additional wheel travel. The springs work in conjunction with Fox smooth-body reservoir shocks, one at each corner, that have GoWesty-specific valving.
The differentials in the front and rear of the Syncro are interchangeable. Valdes put Peloquin limited slip differentials inside the factory vacuum-actuated selectable lockers in both axles. He also swapped the factory 4.86 gears for lower 6.17 ring-and-pinions front and rear. In addition to the locking front and rear differentials, the DOKA is also fitted with a driveshaft decoupler for 2WD/4WD selection on the fly.
An incredible amount of work has gone into the interior of this truck, but the quality is so good that it looks factory to the uninitiated. The original, bare-bones DOKA dashboard has been replaced with a more plush Vanagon GL assembly, complete with knobs to activate the center differential driveshaft decoupler, as well as the front and rear lockers. The seats are also from a Eurovan, and the rear window is out of a Ford Ranger. Most DOKAs only have one rear door, but Valdes added a second rear door from a Tristar to his truck on the driver’s side.
Those seats though! Valdes swapped in late-model heated front seats from a Eurovan and had them covered in black leather and vintage 1974 VW camper bright yellow, black, and green plaid that has an uncanny resemblance to our Ultimate Adventure Summer Camp Jeep. For more comfort and legroom he swapped out the rear seat for a much more comfortable and safe Eurovan GL rear seat. Since the diesel Vanagon battery is in the rear rather than under the front seat, the underseat battery boxes were cut away to provide more legroom for rear passengers.
Tech Specs 1990 Volkswagen Syncro DOKA Drivetrain Engine: 1.9L intercooled turbodiesel Transmission: 5-speed manual transaxle Transfer Case: Volkswagen decoupler Front Axle: Volkswagen with 6.17 gears, Peloquin limited slip, and selectable locker Rear Axle: Volkswagen with 6.17 gears, Peloquin limited slip, and selectable locker Suspension Springs & Such: GoWesty 3-inch coil lift springs and Fox remote reservoir shocks (front and rear) Tires & Wheels: 30×9.5R15 Falken Wildpeaks on factory VW rims Other Stuff: Fourth door added, Ford Ranger rear sliding window, VW Camper plaid/black leather interior, custom diamond-plate bed with sprung-hinged engine compartment door, removable rear side panels, Vanagon GL dash, heated Eurovan seats, power windows, power door locks, sliding sunroof