Volkswagen Westfalia Diesel

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Living with the Westy

Engine and Driveline

Body Mechanical

Not long ago I used to tease and laugh at people with more than one vw bus. In high school one of my friends had great plans of the ultimate vacation involving a vw bus. The bus was to take him around to every corner of Europe. He bought one, started working on it preparing it for the trip, and adding some camping interior. However, by the time we graduated from highschool the great vacation had still not happened. Instead my friend was the owner of three busses and even more engines and parts, in a varying state of functionality. This could never happen to me I said.

Now fast forward ten years. I have moved to the USA, and my previous "tree-hugger environmentalist" hatred attude towards cars has had to give in after having nearly been run over several times when trying to ride my bike to the grocery store. Even worse, in the US getting to places to hike, ski or any other outdoor activity is virtually impossible without a car. So eventually I found myself the new owner of a mint condition '82 Westy diesel. After all the VW is a functional vehicle, which will solve all my motor transportation needs (the weekly shopping and the occational outdoor adventures), so I won't need another car.

These WWW pages are dedicated to the love and care for the Volkswagen Westfalia Diesel campers. The uninitiated may ask: What is the appeal of these underpowered square boxes on wheels? No big engine, no ac, no power windows, locks, power this or that; they definitely don't conform to the current marketing hypes. But their spartan appearance is their appeal. This is a vehicle built in the 80's, but with the much simpler technology of the 60's and 70's. No power accessories mean fewer things that can break. In the 80's gasoline engines became more and more complicated with electronic fuel injection, computers and complicated emmission control equipment. Volkswagen's diesel engine was able to pass stricter emmissions regulations without any of this. For the home mechanic's viewpoint I'd say that a diesel westy is as simple as an early (pre emmisions, pre fuel injection) aircooled bus, but in a modern, more roomy (but arguably less charmy) package.

As for economy, in addition to being able to repair it yourself, fuel milage is excellent for a van this size. My diesel Westy gets an average 28.5 mpg mixed city and highway, and other Diesel owners on the internet report similar figures. The engine is reliable if not abused. It is nearly identical to the one used in VW's Diesel cars (Rabbit, Golf, Jetta, Dasher and Quantum) and the Audi 80/4000 so spares are plentiful and relatively cheap. These Diesel cars often run for 200-400k miles. Driving the heavy VW Vanagon of course puts more strain on the small engine, but I routinely hear from owners with 100 - 200k on their engines, and when an overhaul is needed it is not very expensive.

Last but not least, for it's length (only 1 foot longer than a VW Golf) the VW Vanagon Westy is huge inside. By clever design Westfalia Werke has managed to fit a whole camper package into it sleeping four people and with storage cabintes, stove, sink and fridge. That's all the luxury I need.


Mans best friend

Diesel engine and driveline

Suspension and body mechanical


Martin Jägersand                 Comments?