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Volkswagen Campers: Pioneers of Van Life

Apr 21, 2023

Rooted in the rich traditions of gypsy culture, and later embraced by icons of rock and surfing, the concept of van life has evolved dramatically since the late 19th century. It's transformed the conventional notion of a vehicle, turning it into more than just a mode of transportation or commerce; it's become a mobile home.

The Volkswagen camper played a pivotal role in popularizing this lifestyle, particularly through the iconic conversions from the 1950s to the late 1970s. These conversions, offered officially under the Westfalia Camper brand, were meticulously crafted by the renowned German manufacturer, Volkswagen, and distributed worldwide.

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Volkswagen Campers: Redefining Mobile Living
Designed to embrace the essence of van life, Volkswagen Campers are equipped with essential amenities that transform a van into a fully functional living space. These include features such as a comfortable bed, a convenient stove, ample storage cabinets, and a refrigerator to meet daily needs.

Many Volkswagen Camper models also incorporate innovative design elements to optimize space usage and enhance comfort. Some versions feature a pop-up roof, providing extra headroom, improved ventilation, and an additional sleeping area 'upstairs.' Additionally, certain modern iterations even boast the inclusion of a lavatory, further enhancing the convenience and functionality of the camper.

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Companies Making Volkswagen Type 2 (VW Bus) Campers:


Westfalia Camping Box
Westfalia Camping Box based on T1 (split-screen)
Westfalia stands as the official camper conversion partner for Volkswagen throughout the production of the VW bus from 1950 to 2003. Established shortly after the global success of Volkswagen's first car, the Beetle (Type 1), the Volkswagen Type 2, known as the T1 (split-screen), was introduced in 1950. Within a year of the T1's release, German camper builder Westfalia initiated camper conversions, forging an official partnership with Volkswagen. Westfalia campers were exclusively sold through authorized Volkswagen dealerships.

The journey of Westfalia's camper conversions began with the creation of the pioneering "Camping Box," crafted at the behest of a British military officer seeking to transform a van into a mobile hotel room. Featuring a sofa bed, a folding dining table, and even matching window curtains, this innovative concept garnered immense popularity, prompting Westfalia to commence regular production of camper conversions.

Westfalia began making early camper conversions based on the Volkswagen T1 for 1951 through 1958 model years, about 1000 units were built, well known as Camping Box. Then continued to make a camper with the SO code (Sonderausfuhrungen) which means a Special Model known as SO-23 for the 1959 through 1961 model years, after that 6 more models the SO-34, SO-35, SO-33, SO-42, SO-44, and SO-45 were build upon the 1962 through 1967 model years.

Westfalia's early camper conversions, known as Camping Box, were based on the Volkswagen T1 and were manufactured from 1951 to 1958, yielding approximately 1000 units. Subsequently, Westfalia introduced a series of camper models designated with the SO code (Sonderausfuhrungen), denoting Special Models. These models, including the SO-23 (1959-1961) and later iterations such as the SO-34, SO-35, SO-33, SO-42, SO-44, and SO-45, were produced from 1962 to 1967.

Expanding beyond the T1, Westfalia continued camper conversions for subsequent generations of VW buses, including the T2, T3, and T4, extending production until 2003. Notably, the name "California" was adopted for Westfalia campervan conversions spanning the 1988 to 2003 model years.

In 2001, Westfalia underwent acquisition by Volkswagen's competitor, DaimlerChrysler. Consequently, Volkswagen opted to bring camper van production in-house.

Westfalia Classifieds

Dormobile: Iconic Campervans from the UK

Dormobile Campervan
Dormobile Campervan based on T1 (split-screen)
Dormobile stands as a prominent campervan manufacturer based in the United Kingdom, renowned for its camper conversions spanning from the early generation T1 to the latest iterations of VW buses, maintaining its operations to this day. During the 1960s, a period marked by surging worldwide sales of VW campers, a plethora of conversion companies flourished, with Dormobile emerging as a notable player in the industry.

Dormobile distinguished itself with its unique design features, including two large sunroofs and two spacious vents situated above the pop-top. Notably, these features could only be opened from one side, either to the right or left, adding a touch of exclusivity to Dormobile's offerings. Remarkably, this distinctive design has endured through the years, serving as a hallmark of Dormobile campervans.

Another notable feature of Dormobile conversions is the ability to flip the back of the front seat, allowing passengers to face backward. This innovative design element enhances versatility within the camper, providing occupants with flexible seating arrangements and optimizing interior space utilization.

With a rich history spanning decades, Dormobile continues to uphold its legacy of craftsmanship and innovation, offering campervans that seamlessly blend functionality with timeless design.

Dormobile Classifieds

Devon Conversions: Setting Standards in UK Campervan Excellence

Devon Campervan
Devon Campervan based on T2 (Late Bay)
Devon emerges as another prominent UK-based company renowned for its camper conversions built upon VW buses. With nearly six decades of experience, Devon Conversions has earned a stellar reputation for its commitment to design excellence and unparalleled quality. Remarkably, the company remains a thriving force in the industry today, a testament to its enduring legacy of innovation and customer satisfaction.

Since its inception, Devon Conversions has been dedicated to pushing the boundaries of campervan design, consistently delivering products that exceed expectations. With a focus on craftsmanship and attention to detail, Devon has become synonymous with superior build quality and thoughtful design features.

Through the years, Devon Conversions has evolved alongside advancements in technology and shifting customer preferences, adapting its offerings to meet the evolving needs of modern travelers. Yet, amidst these changes, the company has remained steadfast in its commitment to craftsmanship and reliability, ensuring that each Devon camper conversion embodies the highest standards of quality and performance.

As one of the leading names in the UK campervan industry, Devon Conversions continues to inspire adventure seekers and travel enthusiasts with its innovative designs and unwavering dedication to excellence. With a rich history spanning nearly six decades, Devon Conversions stands as a true icon in the world of camper conversions, shaping the future of mobile travel for generations to come.

Devon Classifieds

Danbury Motorcaravans: Crafting Timeless Campervan Classics

Danbury Motorcaravans
Danbury Motorcaravans based on Brazilian T2
Since its establishment in 1964, Danbury Motorcaravans has been a cornerstone of the UK campervan conversion industry, a testament to its enduring legacy of craftsmanship and innovation. With over half a century of experience, the company continues to thrive, remaining a leader in the field and delivering exceptional campervans that capture the essence of adventure and freedom on the road.

Danbury Motorcaravans is renowned for its meticulous attention to detail and commitment to quality, evident in every aspect of its camper conversions. Each vehicle, built upon a VW Transporter chassis, is meticulously crafted to combine functionality with eye-catching design, creating a harmonious blend of style and substance.

What sets Danbury apart is its unwavering dedication to excellence, reflected in the superior build quality and timeless appeal of its campervans. From the iconic VW Transporter to other vehicle models, Danbury's campers are synonymous with reliability, comfort, and unparalleled craftsmanship.

As the years have passed, Danbury Motorcaravans has remained at the forefront of innovation, continuously evolving its designs to meet the changing needs and preferences of modern travelers. Yet, amidst these advancements, the company has stayed true to its core values, ensuring that each camper embodies the spirit of adventure and discovery.

With a rich history spanning decades, Danbury Motorcaravans continues to inspire wanderlust and create memories that last a lifetime. As it forges ahead into the future, the company remains committed to pushing boundaries, setting new standards, and redefining the art of campervan travel for generations to come.

Holdsworth Motorhomes: Pioneering UK Campervan Conversions

Holdsworth Campervan
Holdsworth Campervan based on T3
Established in 1968 and operating until the mid-1990s, Holdsworth Motorhomes left an indelible mark on the UK campervan conversion industry. As one of the early players in the field, Holdsworth was among the first UK-based companies to earn approval from Volkswagen, a testament to its commitment to quality and innovation.

Holdsworth Motorhomes stood out for its exceptional designs, which seamlessly blended a sense of romance and adventure. Each campervan conversion was meticulously crafted to evoke feelings of wanderlust and exploration, capturing the essence of the open road.

What set Holdsworth apart was its ability to combine practicality with aesthetics, creating campervans that not only provided comfort and convenience but also exuded charm and character. Whether it was the layout of the interior space or the choice of materials and finishes, every aspect of a Holdsworth campervan was thoughtfully considered to enhance the overall experience for travelers.

Throughout its years in operation, Holdsworth Motorhomes remained dedicated to pushing the boundaries of campervan design, continuously striving to innovate and inspire. While the company may no longer be in operation, its legacy lives on through the countless memories created by those who were fortunate enough to experience the magic of a Holdsworth campervan.

As a pioneer in the industry, Holdsworth Motorhomes paved the way for future generations of campervan enthusiasts, leaving behind a legacy of creativity, passion, and adventure that continues to resonate to this day.

EZ Camper: Pioneers in Pop-Up Camper Trailers and Van Conversions

EZ Camper Campervan
EZ Camper Camper based on T1 (split-screen)
Since its inception in 1957, EZ Camper has been a leading name in the recreational vehicle industry, renowned for its innovative pop-up camper trailers and van conversions. Founded in Loyal, Wisconsin, EZ Camper initially gained acclaim for its high-quality pop-up camper trailers, providing outdoor enthusiasts with a comfortable and convenient way to enjoy camping adventures.

In the late 1960s or early 1970s, recognizing the growing demand for versatile and customizable camper options, EZ Camper expanded its operations to include van conversions. Acquiring a plant in Littlerock, California, the company embarked on a new chapter, offering conversions for various models and brands of vans that were popular during that period.

Among the models that EZ Camper serviced, the VW T1 bus stood out as an iconic choice for van conversions. Known for its distinctive design and enduring popularity, the VW T1 bus provided an ideal platform for EZ Camper to showcase its expertise in creating innovative and functional living spaces on wheels.

EZ Camper's van conversions were characterized by their attention to detail, craftsmanship, and ability to maximize space utilization. From cozy sleeping quarters to functional kitchenettes and storage solutions, each conversion was tailored to meet the unique needs and preferences of its owners, providing them with a home away from home on their travels.

As pioneers in the industry, EZ Camper played a significant role in shaping the evolution of camper trailers and van conversions, leaving a lasting legacy of quality, innovation, and adventure. Today, the spirit of EZ Camper lives on in the countless memories created by outdoor enthusiasts who have experienced the freedom and joy of life on the open road.

EZ Camper Classifieds

Riviera Camper: A Trailblazer in Van Conversions

Riviera Campervan
Riviera Camper based on T1 (split-screen)
Originating in Oregon, Riviera Camper left an indelible mark on the camper conversion scene from 1963 to 1967, offering innovative solutions for VW T1 enthusiasts and beyond. The company's journey began within the confines of Riviera Motors, a Volkswagen dealership nestled in Beaverton, Oregon. Despite the skyrocketing demand for Westfalia campers in the Pacific Northwest during this era, acquiring them proved to be a formidable challenge. Volkswagen's stringent regulations mandated dealers to procure multiple pickups and panel vans to access Westfalia campers, placing a heavy burden on dealerships across the region.

In response to these challenges, Riviera Motors charted its own course. In 1963, the dealership took the bold step of crafting its own camper conversion based on a panel van—a decision that would prove to be a game-changer. The resulting "Wasty clone" garnered significant acclaim, prompting Riviera Motors to formalize its conversion operations. By 1965, official production of Riviera Camper conversions commenced, extending its offerings to encompass the evolving lineup of VW buses up to the third generation.

Riviera Camper distinguished itself with its commitment to quality craftsmanship and innovative design features. From high-top to pop-top styles, each conversion was meticulously tailored to meet the needs and preferences of adventurous travelers, providing them with a comfortable and versatile home on wheels.

As a pioneer in the industry, Riviera Camper blazed a trail for van conversions, leaving a lasting legacy of innovation and ingenuity. Though its production span may have been relatively brief, its impact resonates to this day, inspiring a new generation of camper enthusiasts to embrace the spirit of exploration and freedom on the open road.

Riviera Classifieds

Sundial: A Rare Gem in American Camper Conversions

Sundial Campervan
Sundial Camper based on T1 (split-screen)
Hailing from the United States, Sundial stands out as a notable camper conversion company that left its mark on VW buses during its heyday. Despite being relatively few in number compared to other conversions like the renowned Westfalia, Sundial campers have gained a reputation for their uniqueness and scarcity, making them highly coveted among collectors and enthusiasts today.

While Sundial conversions may have been perceived by some as "inferior" in quality compared to the revered Westfalia, they possess a distinct charm and character that sets them apart. Each Sundial camper reflects the ingenuity and craftsmanship of its makers, offering a glimpse into a bygone era of American camper culture.

The rarity of Sundial campers adds to their allure, making them prized possessions for those fortunate enough to own one. As a result, Sundial conversions have become sought-after collectors' items, commanding considerable value in the vintage camper market.

Despite their relative scarcity, Sundial campers continue to capture the imagination of VW enthusiasts and adventurers alike, serving as a testament to the enduring appeal of classic camper conversions. With their unique blend of nostalgia and craftsmanship, Sundial campers remain cherished icons of American road-tripping heritage.

Sundial Classifieds

Sportsmobile: Masters of Van Conversions Since 1961

Sportsmobile Pop Top Camper
Sportsmobile Pop Top Camper based on T2 (Early Bay)
Since its founding in El Paso, Texas in 1961, Sportsmobile has stood as a premier specialist in van conversions, leaving an indelible mark on the recreational vehicle industry. From humble beginnings, the company quickly gained recognition for its expertise in crafting bespoke camper conversions for a wide array of van brands, including the iconic VW bus.

From the early T1 to the later T2 and beyond, Sportsmobile's camper conversions became synonymous with quality, innovation, and versatility. Each conversion was meticulously tailored to meet the unique needs and preferences of its owners, providing them with a comfortable and reliable home on wheels for their adventures.

Today, Sportsmobile remains at the forefront of the van conversion industry, continuing to innovate and adapt to the evolving needs of its customers. While the company's offerings have expanded to encompass a variety of van models and customization options, its commitment to craftsmanship and customer satisfaction remains unwavering.

As pioneers in the field of van conversions, Sportsmobile has played a significant role in shaping the way people experience life on the road. With a legacy spanning over six decades, the company continues to inspire adventurers and travelers worldwide with its innovative designs and unwavering dedication to quality.

Sportmobile Classifieds

Adventurewagen: Redefining the VW Camper Experience

Adventurewagen Campervan
Adventurewagen High Top Camper based on T2 (Early Bay)
Born from the expertise of Adventure Campers builder in California, USA, Adventurewagen emerged as a premium camper conversion option for VW buses from the second generation onwards. Renowned for its exceptional quality construction and innovative design, Adventurewagen quickly garnered acclaim as a superior alternative to traditional campers like Westfalia.

One of Adventurewagen's standout features is its high-top form, which not only enhances aerodynamics but also provides ample headroom, allowing occupants to stand fully upright inside the camper. This spacious interior design sets Adventurewagen apart from its counterparts, offering unmatched comfort and convenience on the road.

Unlike traditional campervans that require tedious setup procedures, Adventurewagen boasts a hassle-free camping experience. With its well-thought-out design and layout, everything you need is readily accessible, making it effortless to relax and unwind wherever your adventures take you.

Adventurewagen's commitment to quality and innovation has made it a preferred choice among VW enthusiasts and road-trippers seeking the ultimate camping experience. With its blend of functionality, comfort, and style, Adventurewagen continues to redefine the way people explore the great outdoors, inspiring a new generation of adventurers to embrace the spirit of wanderlust and freedom.

Adventurewagen Classifieds

Country Homes Camper: A Legacy of Practicality and Ingenuity

Country Homes Campervan
Country Homes Camper based on T3
Although Country Homes Camper, based in California, ceased van conversions many years ago, its influence continues to resonate within the camper community. While the company now maintains its website primarily for posterity and parts supply, its legacy lives on through its frugal and sensible camper layouts, which remain highly regarded among enthusiasts.

Central to the appeal of Country Homes Campers is their practical and sensible layout, designed to maximize functionality and comfort within a compact space. This emphasis on efficiency has made Country Homes Campers a favorite among travelers seeking a no-nonsense approach to van life.

Interestingly, some enthusiasts have drawn comparisons between the layout of Country Homes Campers and the old Riviera conversions from Oregon. Both companies prioritized simplicity and functionality, creating camper interiors that were intuitive and user-friendly.

Although Country Homes Camper may no longer be actively producing conversions, its impact on the camper industry endures. By maintaining its website and providing parts supply, the company ensures that owners of Country Homes Campers can continue to enjoy their beloved vehicles for years to come.

As a testament to its enduring legacy, Country Homes Camper continues to inspire a new generation of van enthusiasts who appreciate the timeless appeal of its practical and sensible designs.

TRAKKA: Elevating the Campervan Experience Down Under

TRAKKA Campervan
TRAKKA Campervan based on T3
Based in Sydney, Australia, TRAKKA stands as a premier designer, manufacturer, and retailer of high-end campervans, motorhomes, and 4x4 accessories. With over 50 years of experience in the industry, TRAKKA has earned a reputation for excellence, specializing in conversions for Volkswagen Transporter and Mercedes-Benz vans.

Despite its long history, TRAKKA remains at the forefront of innovation, continuously pushing the boundaries of what's possible in the world of campervan design. Each TRAKKA conversion is meticulously crafted to provide the ultimate blend of luxury, comfort, and functionality, ensuring that travelers can embark on their adventures in style.

TRAKKA's commitment to quality is evident in every aspect of its conversions, from the finest materials and craftsmanship to the latest in technology and innovation. Whether it's a weekend getaway or an extended road trip, TRAKKA campervans offer a home away from home, providing all the comforts and conveniences one could desire on the open road.

With a focus on sustainability and eco-friendly practices, TRAKKA continues to lead the way in responsible manufacturing and design. By prioritizing durability, efficiency, and renewable energy solutions, TRAKKA ensures that its campervans not only provide a luxurious travel experience but also minimize their environmental footprint.

As TRAKKA continues to thrive, its dedication to excellence remains unwavering. With a passion for adventure and a commitment to quality, TRAKKA continues to redefine the campervan experience, inspiring travelers around the world to explore, discover, and embrace the freedom of the open road.

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