1980 Volkswagen Camper

During much of this time, one of my fraternity brothers and very best friends in the world had acquired a VW camper. His was based on the more modernized and spacious Vanagon configuration, and I had always been rather envious of him. On many occasions I told him that if he ever considered selling it that he should contact me immediately. That Winter he gave me a call. The camper was having problems, and although he had the money to get it fixed, his VW mechanic took an exorbitantly long amount of time to complete repairs and he needed to be on the road immediately. I offered to buy out the balance of the loan he was paying and he readily agreed. I had the mechanic go ahead with the repairs, and several months later I finally got possession of it.

I found the vanagon configuration to have plusses and minuses compared to the older van model. It was indeed more spacious, the heat worked better and it didn't have a lot of the air leaks that the van had, it had slightly more power, and the controls had a smoother feel. The gear shifting was actually clean and easy to accomplish. The one thing that I liked less, however, was the suspension and handling. VW had decided to go with coil springs rather than the torsion bars, and I could tell a distinct difference. The vanagon was not nearly as agile as the van had been.

But I fell in love with the camper package right away. There were myriad cabinets and drawers, an ice box, a sink with a little faucet powered by an electric pump hooked up to a 10 gallon reservoir, a back seat that folded out into a bed, and a pop-up top allowed a full sized man to stand upright inside and provided space for a fold-out bed that could sleep two.

Now that I had the camper the van was no longer necessary, but I decided that the 2002 had priority. I would put all my efforts into getting the 2002 in good enough condition to sell before I even thought about selling the van. Unfortunately I was having the same problem that I had the previous summer. We were playing this cat and mouse game where I would fix problems almost as quickly as it would create new ones.

Towards the end of the season I still hadn't gotten ahead of the game, but I was close enough that I at least put an ad in the paper. I didn't list the price, but intended to ask the $3500 that I originally paid for it. I did get a couple calls, but when I told them the price they would either make a snide remark or just hang up. By the time Winter was approaching I hadn't even gotten anyone to look at it, and I had to put it off until next year. At this point, however, my friend with the excess garage space had experienced the condition where one's belongings expand to fill the storage space available, and he no longer had room for me to stash the 2002. I had to leave it outdoors all Winter for the first time since I'd owned it.

During this Winter I drove the van and the camper interchangeably. I would generally drive the van around town and the camper on road trips. While the camper did have a little more heat than the van did, it still didn't really make for comfortable driving in the cold temperatures.

When Spring finally rolled around I decided that come Hell or high water, the 2002 was going to get sold. Unfortunately I found that sitting outdoors for the Winter had taken its toll on the car. While the body still didn't look too bad, the vehicle was starting to deteriorate from the underneath. I got all the little problems taken care of that I could fix readily, and put it out for sale despite the fact that it still had one or two things wrong with it. I knew that if I tried to get everything fixed that I would remain in the same quagmire I had been in the previous years.

With the remaining minor problems and the deterioration from the previous Winter I decided to lower my asking price to a more realistic $1000. I finally sold it to a nice young woman with long blonde hair who thought it was a cute car. I felt rather guilty as I knew she had no idea what she was getting herself into, and that the car's need for constant attention would be way out of her league. I was so desperate to get rid of the cursed vehicle, however, that I compromised my morals. I allowed her to talk me down to $900. I felt that if I had stuck to my guns that I could probably have gotten her to pay the full $1000, but I was in no mood to press my luck at this point. When she finally drove that car out of my life for good I felt like a 10 ton weight had been lifted off my shoulders. The curse was finally over!

Now with the 2002 nightmare over I could turn my attention to the van. Except for a little cleaning up, it really didn't require any work whatsoever to get it ready to sell. It was mechanically sound, and I knew that in this area it would be a very marketable vehicle. I decided to ask $1200 for it, which was just $50 less than I had paid some years before.

In a very short time I actually had three different individuals competing for it. This was a new experience for me. Usually if I was lucky enough to find someone who was actually interested in the esoteric oddity I had for sale, I would jump at the chance before they lost interest. I must confess that after the miserable time I had getting rid of the 2002 for a fraction of what I paid for it, I was reveling in this situation.

One of the potential buyers dropped out when he realized that there were other parties interested and that he would not be able to talk me down. But the other two remained committed, and each was willing to give me my asking price. One was a very nice young woman who worked at the local brewpub. The other was a particularly cute young man with sandy blonde hair and a really nice smile. I found myself being won over by his looks the way I had been with the buyer of my old Challenger. But I was determined not to discriminate against the young woman based on her gender. I began to consider objective criteria. The young woman had to scrape together the money, while the young man had the money immediately available. This was almost enough for me right there, but when I learned that the young man was a dog lover and that he had a dog that would be traveling around with him in the van, I knew my choice was clear. He rode by on his bicycle one day and paid me the money. I've since bumped into him once or twice, and as far as I know he continues to enjoy driving the van to this day.

With the 2002 and the van gone, I found myself relying entirely on the camper. While most people live out their lives with only one vehicle at their disposal, this had become a new experience for me. I found it very convenient to have a backup vehicle available if one had to go in the shop. still, it served me quite well as a daily driver, as well as the ultimate road trip vehicle.

My father had an old official VW camper tent from the camper he bought when my brothers and I were kids. It was a pretty neat arrangement. Almost the entire back panel would unzip and it would affix right to the side of the camper. The sliding door could still open and close while it was attached, and one could pass directly between the vehicle and the tent. My dad still had it stashed away in mothballs somewhere. I sweet-talked him into letting me have it, and with a few adjustments it fit acceptably well on the side of my Vanagon camper.

Functionally it didn't add all that much. It provided a lot of storage space, but I didn't really need it since all my stuff fit into the bins and compartments that were built-in. It also added a lot of space for additional people to sleep, but since I usually traveled alone this was also not needed. Still, it made for a nifty novelty. During my fraternity reunion weekend each year a "tent city" would spring up in the back yard by the river. I was always the king of the city with far and away the coolest rig in the yard. I called it the "Westfalia Hotel."

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