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I finally did it!

Posted by MonkeyMan on October 23, 2015 in Blog Post |

Well after a long time looking at VW porn online, and dreaming of owning a vintage VW bus once again, I finally pulled the trigger and will be flying out to Kelowna BC next Wednesday to pick up my ‘new’ 1978 Volkswagen Westfalia Camper!


For those of you that don’t know my history of VW’s, let’s take a step back in time to 1977.

I had just moved with my family to Mississauga from Beaconsfield (Montreal) Quebec and had graduated from Grade 13 at Lorne Park Secondary School.

I had been accepted into the Business Administration program at Sheridan College and being the contrary person I am, I decided to go to the brand new, out in the middle of nowhere (at the time) Brampton Campus at McLaughlin & Steeles in Brampton, rather than the much closer (but less personal to me) Oakville Campus.

Why is this important you ask? I’m getting to that.

I now needed a car to commute to Brampton for college because of course I never considered living on campus :)

My Dad and I headed off to his favorite car dealer in Oakville – Queenston-Towne Chevrolet-Oldsmobile which was on Trafalgar Road across the road from Oak-Land Ford which is still there. Queenston-Towne is gone now, but it was where my Dad bought a kick-ass 1973 red Oldsmobile Delta 88 Brougham with a 455 4 barrel engine. My Mum used to race Corvettes off the lights on Lakeshore with that car.

But I digress.

When we got to Queenston-Towne we told the salesman we were looking for a good student car and he showed us this cool little red VW Beetle. It was a 1971 VW Super Beetle and very clean – only $1750.oldbug

Yes, I know – it’s not red in this picture. That’s because it’s a black and white photo!

Never mind kids – I’m not explaining.

So we bought a car I couldn’t drive because it was manual transmission.

Over the next few weeks my Dad (for a day) and then my Mum taught me how to drive a standard car.

I was still VERY rusty when I took off for my first day of college, and recall in trepidation stopping at what seemed like a very steep incline at the intersection of McLaughlin and Derry Road, praying my Bug didn’t roll back and hit someone, stall or both. Of course it stalled and jumped many times before I got smooth at it, but I didn’t end up rolling back and hitting anyone.

So – we get to the point. My very first car was this 1971 VW Super Beetle. They say fans of vintage air-cooled Volkswagens catch the ‘Bug’ (pun intended), and I did.

That Bug took me everywhere in the short three years I had it. It was my College Car and those were probably my most fun years. Not only because of College – I loved Sheridan, the teachers and the students – made good friends like FK, but also because with the car, I had found freedom. Cheesy 1970′s VW freedom.

I’ll never forget that.

1978 was probably my favorite year of all. Second year of College, so no longer scary, I had an awesome summer job at East-West Courier driving a car and delivering bank bags, while listening to the awesome music of 1978 on 680 CFTR all day long in the nice hot summer sun of Toronto. Gerry Rafferty, Billy Joel etc… This was the life – and they PAID me for it?

As my college life drew to a close, I made the choice to go west young man, following my brother David and the Alberta economic boom and decided the car had to go. It was tired and rusty (thanks Ontario salt!) and I really couldn’t afford to keep it.

So I watched sadly as a tow truck took it away to be parted out or crushed.

Fast forward to 1984, and I have moved back to Toronto from Alberta, and am now married and living in Rexdale – Kipling and Rexdale Blvd area.

Both my wife Mary and I had cherished memories of camping with our parent’s when we were young – me in Scotland with a ‘caravan’ (that’s just an RV trailer kids), and Mary’s Dad and Uncle Rocco had (in true Italian fashion) cut an old Bread Truck in half and extended it limousine style into a family RV Camper.

So Mary and I went looking for something affordable to camp in.

We went to see an old pop-up camper in Mt. Albert – the price was right, but the camper was… well it was not great.

I saw a VW Camper for sale in Auto Trader (don’t ask kids – I’ll tell you later), and went to see it. It was in the Bloor & Royal York area and was a 1979 VW Westfalia pop-top camper.

When we went to see it, the family’s two young boys were in it as we looked at it, and I recall snot running down their noses, and Mary looking at the camper (and in true Italian style) calculating how she could sterilize the entire thing.

It was in good shape other than the interior cleaning that I knew Mary could tackle, so $5500 later, we were the proud owners of a bright orange VW Camper!


We took it everywhere and had a lot of fun! This photo is in 1988 when we drove it to the summit of Mt. Washington in New Hampshire.

Coincidentally this was the same trip that our first daughter Lawren was conceived in PEI in this VW which we called Eric the Wild Car, after a children’s book of the same name. You can see the resemblance:


So my love affair with VW’s continued, mostly because of the awesome memories I have from the fun times we had in Eric :)

Our favorite spots were east coast – Nova Scotia, PEI, New Hampshire, Maine, Vermont.

Alas, the Eric era came to an end in 1991 when we had two small kids and camping in a VW bus was – let’s say a challenge.

We sold it to a young guy in Newmarket (where we had now settled), and he painted it purple and towed a Hot Dog cart behind it.

I’m not sure where it is now, likely Ontario salt has returned it to the earth.

Wow, this is taking longer than I anticipated…

OK, Fast forward to 2012. The best way for you to read this part of the story is to take a small detour here.

I’ll stay right here. Go ahead and click on it – read it all and X out of it and you’ll come right back here.

You’re back already? Did you read the whole thing?

OK, now you know about my dream to go west and drive back in a Vintage VW bus, but that it actually turned out to be a 1971 VW Super Beetle – almost the same as my first car, except green instead of red!

That trip with Sara was another unforgettable memory – for both of us.

In the next three years, I continued to view Volkswagen porn on my computer – almost an obsession, that my wife thinks is crazy.

The Samba was my life.

At first it was just dreaming and looking, but you know how that goes.

With the Canadian Dollar plummeting, the thought of actually buying a VW Bus was slipping out of reach.

Desperately I tried to find one locally and went to see several, sometimes driving for almost 3 hours to go see it.

My conclusion though was that for about $4000 I could buy a rusty hulk that could be transformed into a nice bus for another $20,000 or so.

My only hope was California or Arizona, and I was even willing to up the budget to get something nice.

My initial budget was about $7000 USD – at the time that the $ was around par.

Still nothing was available that was in reasonable shape at a decent price.

Then, I saw a few in Canada. One in Cornwall, one in Belleville, and a couple in BC.

The Ontario ones were priced too high (and in US $) and I was suspicious based on my previous trips to look locally, that there would be rust to deal with.

One of the ones in BC was priced really low and although it needed work – engine, interior and front floors, overall it was pretty solid.

It was a project bus, but at the price, a good deal. I got the seller to send me more detailed photos and decided to make an offer.

Unfortunately he said it was already sold to someone locally who had been interested prior to him posting it for sale but at the time he didn’t have the money.

I was not impressed, and told him so.

The good news is that I had asked him if he knew any local VW mechanics who could look at the bus, and he had given me a name.

I had already emailed the mechanic thinking I was ready to buy and asked him if he could look over the bus, so I had to email him back and say forget it.

As I did, I added:

Unfortunately the seller has sold the bus. I think it would have been a good buy even if it had cost that much for mechanical repair.

I don’t mind spending some money for mechanical, but want one that is solid – ie no rust or minimal rust.

If you are aware of any for sale that are solid, I would be interested.

I don’t really want to spend more than $10,000 but if I found a real nice one, I would consider paying more.

I doubt I will be able to get a $1200 one like this one was.

I may have to go back to California, but the exchange rate is so bad right now, that just pushes the price up.

In any event, I appreciate you taking the time to respond, and if you hear of any for sale that are solid – bay window bus or Westy, I would appreciate it.

Well he responded right away with this:
We’ve just finished some more work on a very nice ’78 Westy.  I haven’t looked really carefully for any rust, but the van is beautiful with not much wrong with it, and he does want to sell it.  He’s done some of his own work, and lately had us do a few things he couldn’t figure-out or didn’t want to tackle.  I guessed he’d want about $8,000, but he said he’d be asking $10,000.  It’s definitely worth a look.
You know how people talk about a silver lining? Well this was it.
To make a long story short, that 78 Westy turned out to be really nice and I did not let it slip out of my hands. I ended up splitting the difference at $9000 CDN which was accepted.
That was more than I wanted to spend, but this bus was worth much more IMHO, and didn’t need anything done to it – it was virtually turn-key.
So – this is neither the end or the beginning and yet both. My adventures creating more memories with Vintage VW’s is continuing, and I’m looking forward to that special kind of relaxation and adventure that only people who have experienced VW’s like this understand.
More to come…












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