Owning a vintage camper is a matter of pride and a promise of adventure, and Volkswagen’s classic campervans are the very best options to consider if you’re planning to buy one.
However, as enticing as the idea of purchasing this little piece of history is, old cars have problems.
We’ve looked over some Classic VW Campervans and listed out some issues we found in them, which we think you should know about!
1. The Engine Doesn’t Start On A Whim
Like most older vehicles, many of the Classic VW Campervans you’ll find in the market are prone to have broken wirings and loose spark plugs.
This might make it a bit difficult for you to start them up.
However, this isn’t much of a problem with well-maintained campervans. A well-oiled, well-cleaned engine with working parts will always have a well-timed start no matter how old it is.
You can also buy parts for their engines, in case you get a unit with worn parts.
Parts for the VW Type II engine are available online, and these range from VW standard spark plugs and starters to whole units that are ready to be installed.
2. Roadside Breakdowns Are Quite Common
Thanks to the vehicle’s old, old age, it is indeed quite common for the vehicle to break down whilst you are covering long distances with it unless the vehicle has completely been remodeled.
There are a variety of reasons why you might find your campervan halted all of a sudden, and the most common ones include:
- Your campervan’s battery might need to be replaced.
- The pipes might have been leaking oil.
- Your engine has oil deposits and debris.
- Rust is breaking down your campervan’s chassis.
- The lubricant has all dried up and needs to be replaced.
- Broken or corroded battery cables.
- The catalytic converter has corroded.
3. Cables For The Accelerator Or Clutch Might Snap
Unlike newer models, this campervan uses accelerator cables to control the throttle.
This is what controls the engine’s power, which then makes the whole vehicle run faster or slower.
When the accelerator cable has become worn out, you could feel a sort of delayed response when you step on the gas pedal. If the cables break, then you will not be able to use the vehicle at all.
Luckily, accelerator or throttle cables are cheap.
You can have them replaced almost instantly, either by a repair mechanic or on your own.
Another cable that you might have to watch out for is the clutch cable.
If you notice that the vehicle’s clutch pedal has sunk down to the floor, then that means you need to have the clutch cable replaced. This only happens when the clutch has snapped.
For worn-down clutch cables, you might notice that the transmission tends to slip and pop out of gear. It might also have a jammed clutch pedal, which is a sign that the cable is about to break.
Again, this is more of a problem with the lack of maintenance than with the campervan’s design itself. However, the campervan might have been exposed to plenty of weight-related stress during its lifetime.
This takes away a large part of the clutch cable’s lifetime. And like accelerator pedals, the clutch cable can be quite simple to fix. It is standard procedure to have these replaced regularly in order to avoid accidents.
4. Its Speed Is Much Lower Than The Average Modern Campervan
For one, newer models are made to become better than their predecessors.
The Classic VW Campervan is no exemption, but this doesn’t mean that they will run that slow.
At best, their 1970cc flat-four engine will run up to 75mph. This is about 3/4th, the top speed of the 2009 Volkswagen California 1.9 TDI Campervan, which runs up to 96mph.
However, top speed is merely a small factor with campervans. Depending on where you are, the speed limit for a campervan might be as low as 50mph, way less than most campervans could run.
You also get what you pay for in this regard. If you can’t afford a newer model yet, then you can start off with something that runs slower.
On the plus side, the Classic VW Campervan can still let you drive fast enough to reach the speed limit.
5. Bus-Like Seating Position Might Not Be For Everyone
The Classic VW Campervan is designed to hold as many people as possible, somewhat like a bus for regular people.
That’s why these come with bus-like seating positions, unlike many modern campervans that could sport beds and sofas.
However, the campervan can also be modified to fit in a small bed, sofa, or even a countertop instead of the regular bus seats. The pop-top in some versions can also help you move around more easily once you have settled down on a good camping ground.
With the extra space, you can stand and walk from the driver seat all the way to a shelf.
6. Rusting And Water Damage
Older vehicles are very often plagued by rusting and water damages.
Although it is always advisable to inspect the vehicle thoroughly before purchasing it to look for these problems, especially in the vehicle’s chassis, one or a few such unexpected rusting or damaged spots are bound to turn up at some point.
Rust and water damage aren’t incredibly tolerable, since they significantly increase the chances of an entire wall or part of the vehicle breaking down or form large leaks.
If you do end up finding any water or rust damage on your vehicle, you should work quickly to remove it.
How Should you Remove Rust from your Vehicle?
Rust needs two things to form: air and moisture.
If you have a habit of leaving the vehicle out in the open even at night, or sometimes due to some hidden corners of the vehicle not getting dried off from a wash for long periods of time, you’ll be soon to notice the flakey reddish-brown substance eating your vehicle away.
If the rust is formed only on the surface of the vehicle, it’s relatively easy to deal with. All you need to do is use sandpaper to rub off the rust until you’re able to see the metal’s shiny surface underneath.
After that, use a rust inhibitor to make sure that you’re stalling the progress of any tin worms that might have formed upon its surface.
You could then use a primer to coat the surface before repainting it.
If the rust on your vehicle has spread out further and managed to reach below the vehicle’s paint, forming flakey spots or bubbles on it, that’s called scale rust and is the second level of rusting which occurs if surface rust isn’t removed for a month or two.
These might be a little tricky to solve. You’ll have to go in with a wire brush to remove the big flakes of rust completely until you reach the metal surface, and then use a grounding wheel and sandpaper to smoothen the rough surface out before using a sealant on it.
If the rust manages to be left alone for a very long period of time, it will ultimately corrode your vehicle’s surface and leave large holes on it. When that happens, there’s no other option left but to cut the rusted area out of the vehicle and patch the vehicle up with another metal sheet.
If it’s a part of the engine or the car’s frame, though, you’ll have to completely replace it.
Water Damage & Mold:
Old vehicles are awfully common to have some kind of water damage on their bodies, especially if the vehicle hasn’t been maintained well enough by the previous owners.
Water damages are hard to spot in vehicles, and they are the masterminds behind leaks, as well as faulty electrical systems in the vehicle.
Once you do see a moldy spot in the vehicle, be sure to look around, and you might just find that a large area of the RV has actually undergone undetected water damage.
However, at times, people aren’t lucky enough to spot these while purchasing the vehicle and discover them long after the damage has worsened with time.
The good news, though, is that these damages can be fixed without a technician’s help:
- The first thing you’ll want to do if your caper’s surface is covered with any wallpaper is to rip the wallpaper on the damaged area right off.
- Then, proceed to disinfect the area to ensure that none of the mold remains.
- After the surface has thoroughly been disinfected and cleaned as well as dried out, replace all the seals of the area and then waterproof it.
7. The Campervan May Not Be Wired
Another problem with older vehicles is that they may not have been designed to hold electricity.
Thus, you might find a unit with barely any electrical wirings outside of modified or customized ones.
But because of the flat surface of the campervan’s top, you may be able to install a solar panel that connects to an inverter and battery located in the passenger space.
Since the campervan has large passenger space, you can set up the battery almost anywhere as long as you are careful not to place it near areas that easily get wet.
8. Damages Are A Pain To Fix
A big problem with buying older vehicles is that some have been left unmaintained for far too long and that repairing them can get both expensive and labor-intensive.
For the most part, these are the most difficult problems that you might encounter:
Most engine problems can be fixed by simply replacing the parts.
This is a natural part of any product’s wear and tear. However, an engine might get so broken that you might need to replace the whole thing.
This can get expensive, as a new engine unit can fetch you up to $3,500.
You can’t just get any other kind of engine to fit into this campervan.
You can retrofit the Classic VW Campervan to fit in a different engine, but you will need to judge if the cost and labor would fit well with you.
Speaking of which, the back-engine design of this campervan also makes it a good frame for attaching an electric motor. But bear in mind that these motors have lower power output compared to fossil fuel-types.
You might slow down your already slow-moving vehicle.
A devastating problem for most older vehicles is that rust tends to form on the metal parts of the vehicle.
While most of these can be easily removed with rust removers, some vehicles might have been rusted hard to the point that they might tear apart at any time.
But take note: this is a regular problem for all vehicles, especially old, unmaintained vehicles, not specifically to the Classic VW Campervan.
General Pros and Cons for the Classic VW Campervan?
The VW campervans are extremely hardy and built to last, which shows how well the vehicles pull up despite their age. With some good maintenance, these are bound to last you for quite a while.
The vehicles are very spacious, and the engine has been positioned in the rear end of the vehicle to provide more space in front.
The vehicle’s make and exteriors are iconic and fashionable and are bound to grab everyone’s attention as you drive past.
The vehicle has an air-cooled engine, while the newer VW models have liquid coolants.
- Since they are old, the vehicles are prone to damages caused by past owners.
- The vehicle may not provide you with amenities, such as electricity, which modern campervans provide.
- The bus-like seating position might be uncomfortable.
- The vehicles run slowly and are difficult to start.
What Do the Reviews Say?
The T2 classics are large but compact and easily manageable.
The parts are old-fashioned and bus-like, which might be a little difficult for modern drivers to get used to.
“Having just 1.4-liters to propel a campervan as large as this does not sound much, but even the largest of the old boxer units (the 2-liter) peaked around 70bhp, while the modern motor manages 8bhp more from 400 fewer horses. “
The vehicle can get incredibly heavy, with some units needing 70 bhp just to get themselves running.
“What still impresses is the high standard of quality these vehicles were made to – in many ways shaming the latest VAG products.”
What’s the Resale Value On Classic VW Campervans?
|VW Camper Bus||1970||$16,000|
NB: These prices and their negotiability are subjected to differ from seller to seller.
The prices may also vary depending on your region.
The classic VW Type 2 campervans are a treat to own, especially if you are able to get your hands on a well-maintained model.
For the price point at which these quirky vehicles are currently available, their exteriors are not only eye-catching and stylish, but they also prove to function fairly well!
Morten is the founder of GoDownsize. He has filmed and interviewed people living in tiny houses and RVs since 2011. He grew up on the coast where his dad took him boating from a young age. He has completely rebuilt two RVs in which he travels with his family for months at the time. Read more about Morten here.