The Dodge Tradesman camper featured yesterday elicited some comparisons from our readers to the Volkswagen Vanagon. The comparisons tilted heavily towards the undeniable awesomeness of the Tradesman and the ridiculous prices of a classic Bus…but…perhaps a Westfalia from the ’80s can make a decent competitor to the big ole Dodge. Find this 1983 VW Westfalia Vanagon offered for $9,900 in Port Charlotte, FL via craigslist. Tip from Dascpcu.
The purpose may be the same, but the Tradesman and Vanagon get to the end goal of camper via two very different approaches. The Dodge uses thick steel and a big conventional engine mounted up front, while the Vanagon prefers tin can construction and an aircooled flat-4. Both are technically unibody vans with structural “framerails” welded to the main body tub, incidentally.
The Vanagon is powered by a 2.0 liter flat-4 that is fed fuel via Bosch L-Jetronic fuel injection and puts out 70 horsepower. The manual gearbox you see in this one isn’t for driving pleasure, it is because you’ll need to control those gear ratios properly if you plan on driving up an large grades. It might not be able to climb mountains at the same speed as the Tradesman, but it will certainly deliver better fuel economy.
Putting the engine out back also reduces noise, increases grip at the rear wheels, and allows for a spacious pass-through between the front seats and a semi conventional dashboard layout (no mountainous engine hump to get between driver and 1st officer). And the Westfalia camper conversion had reached its zenith by this generation of van and would be supremely practical for a handful of road-trippers.
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