Want a break from the VW Bus campers? Do you want to experience the hippie van movement, but want to stand out from the sea of Volkswagens? Well, I have a pretty good contender right here, let’s take a look.
First of all, we should take a look at this movement. Van culture is nothing new in the States. It started in the ‘60s, with the acid-fueled youth traveling Route-66 in their hippie mobile vans. They were sort of a statement piece, unconventional through and through. They were the very manifestation of freedom and a carefree attitude, and that’s what made them so attractive.
When I say hippie, you probably think about guitars, some recreational activities I will not mention here, and the vans. Particularly, the Volkswagen Type 2, also known as the Bus. It was widely used by this rebellious youth, and when you look at its devil-may-care attitude it is easy to understand why.
While yes, the VW Bus is the cool kid on the block when it comes to hippie mobiles, there are other cool campers out there. Like this 1962 Mercedes-Benz L319D that is said to have been converted to a camper by Westfalia.
The Mercedes-Benz L319 is a commercial vehicle built from 1955 until 1967. As opposed to its competitor, Volkswagen, it did not follow the engine-in-the back recipe, opting for a front engine design. That said, it had a modern cab over cabin layout and a flat nose.
Now, let’s get to Westfalia. Westfalia was, at first, more of a designation than a brand in itself, named after the contractor that made these conversions. As expected, we don’t escape Volkswagen when it comes to these campers. Yes, Westfalia is known for its conversion of the Busses – and they have been doing it since 1951.
They also worked on some other makes and models, including from Mercedes. The reign of their VW conversion ended in 1999, when, quite ironically, DaimlerChrysler bought a 49% stake in Westfalia, cranking it up to 51 percent in 2001.
In 2008, Westfalia changed hands once again, and since then, they are an independent entity, still building campers that are ready to eat up the miles and provide you with comfort anywhere your adventurous self might end up.
But enough history lessons, let’s get into this absolute beauty of a camper – oh, wait beauty might be an overstatement. It looks cartoonish, with that face that resembles a pug. It has pretty weird proportions. It looks bloated and too tall, but in kind of a cute way. And I think that this is exactly what makes it so close to the life style of the 1960s and a great encapsulation of the hippie vibe.
When it comes to this example in particular, it had it pretty rough. It has certainly seen better days, but it is not that bad, and with a little love you will be back on Route 66 in no time. There is some corrosion on the underbody parts, rust started to rear its ugly head on the roof, and the window seals could use a change. Among the list of problems with this van, we can note the dry-rotted and miss-matched tires on the steel wheels with body-colored covers.
Under the hood, we will find a 1.8-liter (110 ci) 4-cylinder diesel engine producing 43 hp (44 ps), mated to a four-speed manual transmission. As you can see, speed is not its strongest feature, which is also enforced by the 90 kph (56 mph) speedometer. This is a good thing when you take into consideration the fact that all this weight has to be stopped by four-wheel drum breaks. Yikes!
Getting to the interior, this is where all the fun happens. The interior is in the perfect color for this camper – tan. It just looks like a time capsule from the ‘60s. In technical terms, the interior features wood paneling on the walls, a folding table, a gas heater, and a seating area with a fold-out bed. You also get a kitchenette, with a refrigerator, lots of cupboards, a washbasin, and a period-correct stove.
Among the cool features on the interior, we find a plethora of storage cubbies, a radio, and a map pocket complemented by a dash-mounted compass, so you can feel like an explorer. It also has a lavatory that has been recently refurbished and an auxiliary 45-gallon (170 liter) fuel tank to keep you on the road for as long as possible.
This particular L319 is up at auction in Ladera Ranch, California – honestly, where else would it be? It has 15,000 kilometers (9,000 miles) on the five-digit clock, so most certainly that number is way higher. It comes with a clean California title and some additional equipment. Right now, the price sits at a little over 10,000 dollars, but it is on the rise, as it went up by 7,000 dollars in how long it took me to write this article – and I like to think I’m not that slow of a writer.
This bubbly van is not perfect, but it might be a fun and quirky alternative to the ever-so-popular VW Bus.