- My 1971 Volkswagen Westfalia Bus - Day Camper -
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- A 1971 Volkswagen Bus - Westfalia Weekender Edition -

Andrew Yue

© 2009 - All Rights Reserved:


- Old and Slow, but still chugging along in the 21st Century -

Welcome to my aircooled Volkswagen Bus pages.   My own VW Bus is a 1971, Tin Top Westfalia - which means it has a Camper interior.   The Weekend Edition does not have a pop top fiberglass roof.   So, it is more of day camper.   Before I properly introduce my 1971, which is a Bay Window series, let me provide a quick overview of the air-cooled VW Bus or Type 2 as it is know in Volkswagen speak.

- VW Type 2, T1 1950 through 1967 -

The general idea behind the first VW Bus was to mate the late 1940's 1100 cc, air-cooled, engine and transaxle unit from the VW Type 1 Beetle into a lightweight truck or van body.   With the exception of the rear-mount engine and transaxle, the Type 2 was truly designed from a blank sheet of paper.   Volkswage took the extra step step of welding a ladder frame chassis to a van or truck body shell that made for a payload capacity of 3/4 of metric ton.

To allow the 25 hp motor to pull a heavier load than the Type 1 sedan, the split-windshied VW Bus was fitted with with a pair gear-hub reduction boxes.   These reduced the final drive ratios at each rear wheel and thereby lowered the gearing in all four forward gears.   It's similar to those which were on the wartime Type 82 Kubelwagen - which could be driven at an infantryman's walking speed in 1st gear.


The early VW Type 2 bus which was built between 1950 and 1967 had an iconic look.   Their signature split windshield design, creased metal stampings that formed a V at the front of the van were undeniably Volkswagen.   By 1966 the aircooled engine had grown to 1500cc and made 44 brake horspower.   Still not a freeway flyer, the Bulli, as the German's sometimes refer to the split-screen Bus, now had a safe cruising speed of 55 mph and could eventually reach an unsafe 70 mph if the rev limiter rotor was replaced with a normal.   1966 and 1967 would be the golden years for the split window Type 2   These were truly the best years from a modern sense for the old Splitty.

By 1967 the old spit-screen Type 2 had been soldiering on for 16 1/2 years, with total sales nearing the 2 million mark.   - Nearly every large auto producer by now had a "me-too! box on wheels that could be called a van.   Most of these upstarts drove like ill-mannered pigs due to their primitive truck-like suspensions and steering.   With these developments in mind, VW finally introduced an all new bay window design to replace the old split-windscreen Type 2 for 1968 model year.

The 1968 Type 2, T2a - Bay Window Bus - still retains a relatively high ground clearance of the older Split-Window Bus, which comes in handy on unimproved back roads.   It features an all new big windowed body, an updated front suspension and rear drivetrain.


- The 1968 - 1971 VW Type 2, T2a Bus -

You are looking at the reason why I own a 1971 VW Bus as opposed to some other road warrior.   It's the packaging, a big space on the inside with a foot print of small car on the outside.

The above cutaway diagram is that of a 1968 - 1971 Bay Window Type 2 Bus.   It which was Volkswagens reply to the competition.   It looses much of the charm factor when someone is on the outside looking in when compare to the previous generation of VW vans.   Inside however, it's a bit more spacious inside the front cabin and with its larger windows the new design offer better visibility and is more airy than its predecessor.   Gone are the days of choosing between either 9 windows or 11 windows or 19 windows or even 21 windows.   The Bay window bus uses 8 very elongated windows.

If you made it this far, I'm glad, because this is my favorite part.   The Bay Window VW Bus makes for a great platform on which to build a fully enclosed camper - and - it is still based on technology which a home mechanic can stil service with a limited amount of tools.

The cutaway diagram below shows the layout of the S0-69/2 Westfalia interior, which is what I currently have.   It's not perfect, but notice how the rear bench seat folds out into 75" long bed on the right side of the drawing.   The SO-69/2 interior is a carry over and near dead-on match of the SO-42 interior of the early 1960's.   I prefer the SO-44 derivatives that were common in Europe.   Mainly because, they had a full kitchen mounted behind a full-length bench seat in the driver's compartment.   The SO-69/2 is a walk-through design with two individual bucket seats rather than a 3 across bench seat.


Behind the front cab on the S0-69/2 Westfalia is a rear facing jump seat on the driver's side with a nice out of sight, out of mind storage area underneath the removeable cushion.   On the passenger side, the pre-1974 Westy has cabinet with an icebox, 7.5 gallon water tank and a sink mounted above the 1.6 cubic foot icebox.   The ice box uses about a 5 lb bag of ice every two days during the summber, if I also freeze a gallon container of water.   A catch-all shelf unit is mounted to outward side of the ice box.   It has a small fold up table for a camp stove, which serves as a cover for the catch-all unit when folded down.

To the rear of the vehicle - as one opens the sliding door - is a massive clothes closet, with an adjoining linen closet unit.   Most the rear most floor space is taken up by a rear bench seat that folds out flat to become a very well padded, sleeping space.   The space beneath the rear seat hides a substantially sized storage locker for gear that you want to be safe from prying eyes.   Access to the storage locker is by a front door or better yet, by tilting the platform for the bottom cushion upward.


The whole set-up works remarkably well and - when on the road - I find myself using the storage space as it was intended.   The problem I have with is that everything should be on the reverse side.   The massive combination clothes and linen closet creates a massive blind spot - which would not be the case, if it were mounted to the left rear on the driver's side of the Bus.   Since, the cabinet for the icebox and sink is pretty massive - it too should be mounted behind the driver where it would make ingressing and egressing the rear paasenger compartment much easier.

The Westfalia interiors were one many aftermarket Camper set-ups.   If one desired, the S0-69/2 interior was fully removeable should he or she desire to regain the full 175 cubic feet of cargo space that lays behind the driver's compartment.   By the way, Westfalia finally mounted the bulky cabinets that I mentioned above over to driver's side of the vehicle - starting in 1975.


- Four-Wheel Independent Suspension -

The above image is that of the pan and chassis of a Type 3 Sedan, but notice the tubes for the rear torsion bars, which lay directly in front of the rear wheels.   Back in the day what made a Volkswagen a Volkswage were the of a rear mounted, air-cooled engine to drive the rear wheels and an all-wheel independent suspension that had Porsche roots. 

The placement of the air-cooled engine in the rear of the car not only greatly improves traction in mud or snow, but there also is none of the front-heaviness that is a associated with front-engined vehicles.   On an old-school VW, the steering is light and resposive.

On a 68-79 Bay Window Bus the rear transmission, which is referred to as a transaxle, is no longer that of a Type 1 Beetle.   The transaxle is now a larger, more robust design, which is share with the large Type 4 sedan.

Before 1968, old-school Volkswagens used swing axles the were single jointed at the transaxle.   The two axles act as drive shafts to each rear wheel.   The Bay window bus uses a pair of fully independent axles which now utilize a double-jointed design with constant velocity joints at the end of each axle, similar to those found on a BMW.   The result is that the rear wheels no longer camber inward or tuck under as it called, which was the case at high speeds with the old swing-axles that are found on the the Split-Window Buses and Beetles before 1969.   The difference in handling is that C/V joints are what allows each rear wheel to maintain a constant vertical camber, which improves safety at freeway speeds.

Front and rear suspension units use the traditional Porsche design, independent torsion plates uprfont and two independent torsion bars for the rear.   This type of torsion bar suspension may have dated back to the e 1930's, but it is an all-wheel, independent suspension system that works and it is very robust.   The 1968-1979 Bay Window Buses would be the last VW vans and trucks this use the old-timey Porsche set-up.   The Bay Window Bus's replacement, the 1980 Vanagon, utilizes coil springs at all four wheels.

Just a note - Chrysler has been building minivans since the mid 1980's - and - they still lack an independent suspsension at the rear to this day.

Engine displacement was increased to 1600cc for the 1968 through 71 model years.

- The 1971 VW Bus, the last of Type 2, T2a series -

The 1971 Volkswagen Type 2 finally featured powered front disc brakes, which make an amazing difference in stopping the Bus.

Also of importance, 1971 was the first and only year that the Bus received dual port heads, mated to a new dual relieve case and a new oil cooler design.   The new dual port 1600cc engine makes 51 DIN bhp or 60 SAE hp, which is twice that of the first engine that graced the 1950 Type 2, twenty-one years earlier.   Highway fuel mileage is about 20 miles per gallon on today's gasoline - while cruising at 65 mph.

Notice below that the weight of the camper version of the VW Bay Window Bus weighs in at 3200 lbs. versus 2600 lbs for the stripped down Panel version.   Every pound of weight comes into play when pulling up a mountain.   So, top speed is very much relative to the angle of the road.


Speaking of top speed, VW quotes 68 mph.   Just remember that is under ideal conditions - which include an ambient air temperature of 60 degrees Fahrenheit.   The VW air-cooled engine pre-1972 was essentially designed for the small and lighter Type 1 Beetle.   In a Bus it tends to run hot.   So, on a hundred degree day, one must slow down to about 55 mph.   On a 32 degree day, it will run all day at 70 mph with no problem.

The last part of the above chart shows terrain gradients for each gear.   You do row through the gears alot when climbing steep mountain roads.

- The 1972 through 1979 Bay Window Type 2, T2b -

In 1972 VW again addressed the speed issue by installing an all-new 1700cc engine from the 2300 lb. Type 4 sedan and wagon.   When fitted to the VW Bus, the all-new, twin carburated, Type 4 engine made 63 DIN hp.   The Type 4 engines are incredibly smooth and make good torque.   It's a beautifully designed air-cooled engine, but a bit of pig to remove and install into the Bus.   The main reason for this is after the 1971 the rear apron of the vehicle is no longer removeable.   From 1972 forward the engine must be installed from the bottom of the vehicle rather than from the rear.   The old way, since the inception of the Type 2 in 1950, was remove the center most portion of the lower rear body work and simply roll the which ever jack was use to support the engine rearward.

In 1973, the front end of the Bay Window was redesigned to meet new US crash standards in the US.   The front chassis from 1973 to 1979 has an added Y structure up front.   So beneath the front cab there are now four frame rails instead of two where the frame joins the front most crossmember.   A crumple zone unit was also added to the front cross member on to which is mounted a 5 mph front bumper.   Last but not least, a horizontal crash rail was added across the back of the front nose structure.   In total the safety improvements make for a stronger front cab, they do come with a weight penalty, especially when you tally in the added weight of the Type 4 engine assembly.

For 1974 Type 4 motor was updated yet again to 1800cc with the use of larger cylinder bores and valves.   The dual carburated 1800cc that produced 68 DIN hp and was starting to make enough torque to pull a VW Bus up long hills without having to downshift into 3rd gear.   In 1975, the twin carburetors were replaced with a Bosch L-Jetronic fuel injection system to meet US emission controls.   Horsepower is down by 1 hp, but torque is up to 90 ft/lbs.   The good news for 1974 and later Westfalia owners was the switch to a rear hinged pop up roof and the movement of the interior cabinetry to driver's side of the vehicle.


The combination of US emission laws for autos, the chicken tax on imported trucks that amounted to 25% and collapse of the Dollar against the Deutsche Mark were taking its toll the ability to sell the aircooled Type 2 Bus in what had been VW's largest overseas market.   VW perserved, but the price for a Westfalia Camper rose from $2,765 in 1968 to $7,595 for the lowly 7 passenge model by the end of Bay Window production in 1979.

1976 through 1978 saw use of a nearly 2000cc, fuel injected, Type 4 engine.   Horsepower stays the same, but torque is now up from 82 ft/lbs on my 1971 to 101 ft/lbs on the later 2 liter engines.   You may not be impressed, but 0 to 60 mph times that took 36 seconds in 1971 were now down to 19 seconds and that's with a taller gear ratio transaxle.   The taller gears allowed the late 1970's Bay Window Bus to cruise at 75 mph.

During the period from 1975 through 1979 when US automakers were building crap cars, VW spent time and money to get the Type 4 engine done right.   The later buses are true freeway flyers, with an improved interior - which is especially true with regards to the Westfalia Camper, when starting in 1974, the pop up roof hinges from the rear.

Some final words - after 35 years off and on VW ownership - I still do my own engine work and I'm getting old enough not to wrestle the bulky Type 4 motor out of or for that matter back into the engine bay from the bottom of a late Bus.   Therefore, I drive a 71 Westy, shown below for a second time.   1971 was the last year with the detachable rear apron for an engine removal or installation.   However, I do miss my former 74 Bus with a 2 liter Type 4 built to Porsche 914 specs and a 79 Bus 091 transaxle.


- Last Updated on July 10th, 2009 -