Vintage Van Adventures: Hippies May Be Old and Retired, but Their Old VW Campervans are Still Going Strong

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Vintage Van Adventures sees a new trend by empty-nesters, Millennials, couples, honeymooners and families wanting a unique "Glamping" experience. They are "Glamping" in old, 30-40 year-old vintage VW Westfalia campervans.

"Who wouldn't want to go glamping in a cool, nostalgic VW Westfalia van."

Hippies may be old and retired but their vintage VW vans are still running strong.

Camp and car – a hotel on wheels – all rolled into one very old vehicle, a VW Vanagon. “Glamping” in a former hippie van, peace van or love wagon is a growing niche market. Old is new and people again seek old fashioned, nostalgic and vintage VW campervans of yesteryear. Others are restoring old Gulfstream trailers, retro trailers and unique 60’s vehicles. – Outside Adventure Vehicles.

People seeking adventure camping are interested in a unique, different adventure experience with upscale convenience. There is a growing niche of people wanting a nice road trip, not in a complicated huge RV which requires a land yacht captain’s license (plumbing, septic, generator, navigating, jacking and setting up), but in a simple original VW van. They have fond memories of their old van or their parents had one as a family campervan. They seek State and National Park “glamping” made easy. Many want a remote biking, kayaking and canoeing experience camping right on a lake or stream in a remote primitive camp site with just a fire ring; no outside facilities. But, “glamping” accessories and convenience with these vans is king.

Toronto Blue Jays Daniel Norris lives out of his van full time (TODAY). Millennials as well as older folks, are now living off the grid, continually living in their vans and traveling around the world in their Westy. Some are working full time out of their vans while traveling -- trending 2017 (NewYorker).

European tourists are familiar with VW Westfalias, Vanagons and older Eurovans. There are more vans available for rental overseas and Westies are common in Europe. Going on holiday in these niche vans is common. These tourist are becoming a large market in the US. They look for an inexpensive way to “glamping” with mobile flexibility traveling to our parks and sights.

European couples, adventurous couples, newlyweds, young families, or someone who wants to try out a nostalgic VW van before purchase, seek out VW vans for rent. They want to get away from fast hassle and gadgets of today’s world, especially cell phone/email. Camping in nature, they seek a local, quiet, intimate experience. They are not inclined to tent camp with all the required accessories. Foreign tourists rent a VW van in the USA because it is less costly and made easy when the van is fully provisioned; just bring toiletries and make a grocery market run. No need to bring camping supplies on the airplane.

Unusual, unique and nostalgic and that slower experience is sought after again. Folks get that old, slow and nostalgic experience with original pop up VW campervans. (60 mph tops) If it is the Northwest, in Washington State, it might be Harley Sinter’s Peace Vans Rentals. If it is the Mountain States, in Montana, it is Scott Quinnett’s Dragon Fly Vans. If it is anywhere in New England and the Canadian Maritime Provinces, in Maine it is Bob Muller’s Vintage Van Adventures.

There are dozens of specialized niche Vanagon rentals elsewhere in California (GoWesty), Florida, Colorado, Minnesota and the Southwest. One van rental owner is referred to as the “Van Nazi” as a parallel reference to “the Soup Nazi” on Seinfeld. But in this case, the “Van Nazi” is an endearing term for a super passionate, “all things Westfalia” owner who loves the old vans, literally. “Just don’t mess ‘em up.”

Named hippie vans, love vans or peace vans otherwise known as Vanagons, Westies and plain old V-dubbs, these vans are very rare. They are 30-40 years old, not made since 1991. They remain The Iconic Van of all time. More rare and expensive than ever, these vans are still known as one of the best most efficient designs to this day. A few have sold for more than $287,000, but most good restored vans including new engines, cost in the range of $50,000 to $145,000.

Deadheads seek them out and people like Tom Hanks own/love them. People see an old one pull up and they feel compelled to come over and talk.

Vanagons easily sleep 4 people, comfortably on mattresses, include a stove, storage closets and drawers, refrigerator and onboard water and a sink. And, they have easy seating for four with two built in swing out tables. They are sometimes referred to as “the Swiss Army Knife of vans.”

Vanagon rental firms provide varying levels of included gear and supplies. Maine’s Vintage Van Adventures only provides fully provisioned vans for weekly rentals for an all-inclusive, single convenient price. It includes a “farm-to-van” welcome basket of locally supplied goods such as coffee, jams, energy bars and gourmet meals in a bag (foil). Pickup is at ”Brunswick’s Crystal Spring Farmers. “We loved van pickup at the farmer’s market; we found local goods we would not have found otherwise”

When fully provisioned there should be no camping accessory lacking. Westies come accessory-loaded including sleeping bags, pillows linens, outside grill, extra shelter, towels and wash clothes plus a lot more. Just pop the top up and the van is ready to sleep 4. People just get in the van, drive to the grocery store and stock up, get s’more-making, fireside items, some wine and cheese and the rest is all provided to simply “arrive & drive”.

VW Van lives are now starting over as they are being restored and rebuilt again for another 30 years. Vans have a long life and thus have a low carbon footprint. Big RVs are restricted access in many parks. And they are noisy with generators, big TVs and boom boxes. Westies are not restricted and go anywhere a car can go, are easy to drive, have tight turning radiuses and get excellent gas mileage. They’re cool.

“I liked sitting right over the front wheel, a little higher up, looking down at the cars, and having a large window and easy-turning big-truck-like steering wheel. I’ve never driven anything like it before.” Explore without a rigid agenda; camp almost anywhere in an instant. The fun is the adventure of exploring; finding fun unique, majestic remote sites near the lakes, oceans and streams and trails and be popped up and camp ready in minutes.

Comments include “best camping trip ever”, and “the most fun we’ve had in a long time” and “camped right on the ocean listening to the waves.” And of course “my cell phone did not work and I had no internet” is not an unusual comment.

According to an article in the Financial Times, Europeans sometimes have a “stress elimination” transformation. The same is happening in the USA. One repeat client in the USA enjoys the solitude so much he has left standing orders with the rental owner. “Reserve the van for the same weeks every year. If I don’t show up, I’m dead” He has shown up for ~7 years straight so far.

Some families rent vans on their yearly “see America” road trips. They seek out vintage van rental firms in each region as their preferred low cost travel package. After several such trips of test driving vans from different outfits, one family had such a wonderful Westy experience (without gadgets), they immediately went out and bought their own vintage VW van.

VW Vanagon “glamping” – all the amenities, different, easy, cool, and convenient and a nostalgic experience is rapidly trending niche. You never know if you like it until you adventure in one of these nostalgic VW Vanagon vans.

These and other companies book up quickly so you may want to contact them to make reservations early.

Dragon Fly Vans – Montana & Rocky Mountains
Peace Van Rentals-- Washington & British Columbia
Vintage Van Adventures -- New England and Canadian Maritime Provinces

Robert Muller
Vintage Van Adventures
56 Little Bird Lane, Harpswell, ME 04079
info(at)vintagevanadventures(dot)com, (207) 956-0699.

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