1969 US Westfalia Camper with an East German History

30 08 2016


Here is another beautiful van from the Berlin Bus Festival 2016. It is an early bay window (or T2a) Westfalia campervan from 1969. I learnt a bit about its history when I had a chat with the owner, a friendly elderly gentleman. The bus was originally built for the US market and also exported to the US. From the paper work he found in the bus, he thinks it was brought to Germany in 1972 by a student from the US who used it to tour Europe. It probably broke down in East Germany – I guess not necessarily a standard tourist destination for an American tourist in the seventies, as you had to apply for visas etc. to get behind the iron curtain. The bus then stayed in East Germany, changed hands three times in the seventies or early 80ies until in 1982 the current owner bought it in East Berlin. He said it was quite run down at that time and needed a lot of repair, which was hard work, with very limited access to spare parts from West Germany. Seven years later the wall came down, and another 27 years later he still owns the bus and proudly keeps it running. What an amazing history!

A couple of interesting details: A sticker in the driver’s door indicates the bus was once maintained by Herb’s Garage in Newark, Delaware, southwest of Philadelphia. The label on the electricity inlet is in English (and expects 110 V instead of 240V) and the speedometer is in MPH instead of km/h, but interestingly the reminder on the steering wheel attachment, below the speedo, is in German (“Fahren nur mit verriegelter Schiebetür” / “Drive only when sliding door is locked”). The original middlewave/MW radio is still in its place in the dashboard. A more useful FM radio is installed below the dashboard. Stick-on headrest for the driver – I actually remember those from a Lada when we were visiting friends in East Germany in the 1980ies! The back indicators looked unusual. Turns out they are made in GDR (label “DDR Ruhla”) and in fact are the front indicators of a late model Trabant, the prototypical East German car. The additional rear fog and reverse lights may also be of East German origin, then.



The Berlin VW Bus Festival 2016!

28 08 2016

We spent last weekend at this year’s Berlin VW Bus Festival, on an old airfield about 60 km south of Berlin. It was the first camping event for us this year, and also the first one as a family, with parents and now two children, in the small bus. We set up the big bus tent we bought last year and used it a bit as veranda, but mainly as a shed to put away all the kid’s related equipment. We had mixed weather with great sunshine and also some serious rain, but all doable when there is a dry tent and bus. Wonder-daughter enjoyed her very special bunk bed above the driver’s and passenger seats and discovered two routes to climb up to the roof rack – via the passenger door window and via the sliding door, using the Porta Potti box as base camp. Great to see her so happy and excited about the bus!


With a one-year-old and a 4-year-old on board, we skipped the four-wheel-drive syncro trial on Saturday morning and instead took part in the kid’s program, bouncing castle and kombi painting. Turned into a whole-family event, with a beautiful hippie buy as our joint outcome:

Over the years the mix of buses at this meeting has slowly changed from almost exclusively T3 to now still mostly T3, but with large numbers of T4s and T5s thrown in the mix, while there was just a handful of late bay window buses and only one T1. So my slightly biased selection of fotos below shows basically all the air-cooled buses that attended.


On the T3 end, again very many of the four-wheel-drive syncro buses, and many of them trimmed for serious all-terrain action. Here is a truely awesome one, from a visitor from the Netherlands:


The Czeck Syncro club came with around 9 of these monsters. Very cool!

And there was something I haven’t seen before: A T4 syncro with a seroius all terrain attitude – cool!

We had a great weekend – thanks to the crew from the Berlin Kombi club for organizing such a great meeting! See you again next year!


The 9th Berlin VW Bus Festival starting tomorrow!

18 08 2016

It is this time of year again – tomorrow the 9th Berlin VW Bus Festival will open its gates in Jueterbog, a bit south of Berlin. I have just carried a movable kitchen block from the cellar into Taiga Lily and started loading the camping gear. Tomorrow we will start for a two-day kombi party! If you want to join, all details can be found on the festivals web site, www.vwbus-treffen-berlin.de. Hope to see you there!


The 8th Berlin VW Bus Festival coming soon!

2 08 2015

It is time again for the next Berlin VW Bus Festival! This year celebrates the Syncro, the four-wheel drive version of the T3 which has turned 30 this year. The festival will start on Friday, August 14 on a former airfield in Jueterbog, about 70 km south of Berlin. Check out the festival web site for all details, http://www.vwbus-treffen-berlin.de/ Sadly I will miss out this year. We will be on a family reunion. But I am sure this will be a spectacular meeting, so go and enjoy!


Awesome 1969 Early Bay Westfalia Camper

21 03 2015

Spotted this truly beautiful Early Bay Camper at last year’s Berlin Bus Festival. It is from 1969. The Westfalia badge quotes the “Year of Manufacturer” as 1970 which will then be the year of conversion. The color is probably light grey (I345). The van lived most of its life in California and was re-imported and then restored in Germany only recently. Speedo with “MPH” instead of “Km/h” and “Emergency” on the hazard light pull switch and yellow and red reflectors on the sides of the van as details for the US-American market. Beautiful original wooden campervan interior. Interesting exhaust pipe construction to funnel the exhaust fumes of the gas fridge out through the ceiling. 1600 ccm B5 engine with 47 horse power. Looks a bit unusual that the spare tire is in the rear and reduces the bed space. Would have expected it to be at the front of the car. But hey, might be original as well.
The bus is now the pride of a fleet of about 3 kombis of “Old Berlin Bulli”, a new VW bus rental company in Berlin. They offer kombis with chauffeur service for city tours, weddings and film sets. Some more technical details on this campervan (“Mr. Alvah”) here on their web site. The slightly bumpy company name probably stems from Volkswagen’s strategy to come after you if you use “Bulli” in your company name. In Germany “Bulli” is the well-known and very positive nick name for the VW kombi. Volkswagen purchased the rights to this name only in 2007 and since then enforces that only VW is allowed to use it. As I understand, you have to add something like “Old” or “Classic” to your Bulli-related company name to get the official approval of VW. This seems what these guys have done as there is a little “Officially licensed by Volkswagen” note on the footer of all their web sites. Anyway, nice to see some kombi/bulli lovers have found a way to make a living of the kombi. And cool that they keep this beautiful bus in good shape and on the road!













The Berlin VW Bus Festival 2014!

23 08 2014

Last weekend Leon Dogwonder and I made it to the 2014 Berlin VW Bus Festival on an old airfield in Jueterbog, south of Berlin. Relaxed camping weekend in the bus, luckily less hot than last year, with lots of buses to check out and nice people to meet. In total about 450 buses, with the occasional late bay window between lots and lots of T3/T25s. The usual program, with people racing their buses and other vehicles on the old air field (1/8 mile), with a sand pit playground for the 4WD Syncro buses to test what they can handle, a show and shine competition and kiddie’s program. Great Weekend – hope you will enjoy the photos! Greetings to Jan, Kerstin, Flo, Heiko und Meike!

This samba  won "best van of the festival"

This samba won “best van of the festival”

1974 ex-Red Cross ambulance microbus turned campervan

1974 ex-Red Cross ambulance microbus turned campervan





Another ex-ambulance van, this one from 1976

Another ex-ambulance van, this one from 1976

Nice and clean T3/T25 bus...

Nice and clean T3/T25 bus…

... and its VR6 Volkswagen 6-cylinder engine.

… and its VR6 Volkswagen 6-cylinder engine.

"Can't go fast - but everywhere"

“Can’t go fast – but everywhere”


Spectators at the start of the Syncro Trial...

Spectators at the start of the Syncro Trial…

... and a syncro coming to the rescue of another one, stuck in the sand.

… and a syncro coming to the rescue of another one, stuck in the sand.



About to present the results of an afternoon of hard crafting...

About to present the results of an afternoon of hard crafting…

And some of their beautiful products!

And some of their beautiful products!

Start of the 1/8 mile race, T3 vanagon against a Ford Mustang.

At the start line of the 1/8 mile race, T3 vanagon against a Ford Mustang.

My friend's 1992 T3 Bluestar, Leon Dogwonder and Taiga Lily

My friend’s 1992 T3 Bluestar, Leon Dogwonder and Taiga Lily

Leon guarding our Taiga Lily.

Leon guarding our Taiga Lily.

Leon allowed on the bed - a very special weekend.

Allowed on the bed – a very special weekend.

1956 Samba with Matching Trailer

2 08 2013

I spotted this beauty last weekend at the Berlin Bus Festival and thought it deserved its own blog post. Judging from the vanity plates, the Samba bus is from 1956 and the hearse trailer from 1961. The bus is a pre-1960 23-window early Samba with semaphores in the B columns. The additional indicators on the front must have been added later, after they became available in 1960 (some snapshots of another beautiful 23-window Samba here). The trailer started its life as a hearse and has now been re-sprayed in matching colors and turned into a tow-behind bedroom. Perhaps a bit spooky to sleep in an ex-hearse. But it’s a beautiful bus-trailer combination, and you can keep the bus in its original nine-seater condition and still use it for camping.