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Old 06-27-2015, 07:44 AM   #1
Join Date: Jul 2008
Location: Charleston, SC
Posts: 33
The Westy Crossroads - Sell for an SMB?

I posted this on also but considering that I'm strongly considering a SMB, and did the buildouts on both of JBuffett's SMB's, I'd welcome you guys' collective wisdom. Apologies to the mods if I'm posting to the wrong forum spot, but Member Classified is the one I look at a lot - and if I do sell my Westy, I reckon I'd post it up here anyway.

Bottom line Iím at a crossroads with my 1991 VW Westy and would welcome your thoughts.

To start, my Westy is still in really good shape.

Itís this van that was in Outside awhile back.

New tent. 160K miles or so on original motor and tranny and pretty much everything - PW, PDLís, A/C - all work. Iíve also upgraded it substantially with replacement components - basically doing preventative stuff on it. By way of true mods, the only real one is a Truckfridge with a roof solar panel to keep it running on aux battery and a Promariner charger setup. It runs great.

Through the years, Iíve also collected a bunch - a bunch - of spare parts. So I have most bases covered maintenance wise if anything goes wrong on the road (within reason).

So my crossroads is this:

1. The kids are getting bigger. This means that they take up more room on camping trips and are at the point where theyíre going to want to bring friends on campouts - if weíre not camping with our fellow Westy families that is. That means I will soon need to seat six.

The seating issue means upgrades to my own Westy. Rear headrests (I have shoulder belts for the rear to install already). Middle seat with headrests and shoulder belts - which I know arenít even available, but I'm going to have to find a solution - even if it means bolting in a pair of removeable Sprinter seats. My wife insists on shoulder belts and I agree. Other point of course, is that the rear seats aren't really all that great for long trips for bigger kids.

The Westy of course, also, has to be kept in really nice condition (which the wife I insist on as it's the daily driver and Iím a grown up who needs a reliable car) also simply requires regular infusions of cash.

2. My OG motor runs great, but I canít tow the boat with the van (we use the Highlander for that), but would like to at least be able to drop it at the ramp a coupla miles down the road. (21 footer - maybe I could with a Subie transplant and big brakes). Not sure if the current Waterboxer (WBX) would even pull it up the ramp - and I havenít tried. If Iím going to keep the van, Iím figuring on a motor upgrade - probably a 2.5 Subie or perhaps a tencentlife higher horsepower WBX (since I have so many spares).

3. I live in Charleston, which has a wet, humid, rust-inducing climate. Iíve been able to keep the rust at bay to this point because Iím attentive to my van, but I have had to make repairs to seams and window seals - and I know rust is going to become more of a battle over time.

4. I just got back from a trek to England where we rented a mini-RV diesel based on a Fiat Ducato/Ram Promaster. Damn, that thing was impressive and the mileage was phenomenal. Really got me thinking further on the Promaster/$printer (4wd Sprinter particularly) platforms. My neighbor has a Promaster diesel too - a fellow surf trekker. And he loves it.

5. As I said, I have a boat - and only have so much time for tinkering with my machines. Between the Westy and the boat and wanting/needing to do fun stuff with the kids, my spare time is stretched thin.

6. I love my Westy. The vintage iron factor. The maneuverability. The fact that I know it so well and can work on it. The community. That itís not just another damn run of the mill van. That I'm beating back planned obsolescence every time I take the wheel.

7. I also love the idea of a warrantied, modern safety feature-equipped diesel van that I can jump in and go for the next five years or so at least, when the kids (currently 6 and 10) will be at prime camping/adventure age. I could sell my Westy for a decent chunk of change and get a nice down payment into a Sportsmobile or Outside or Leisurevan conversion - finance that for 15 years and have a reasonable car payment on a vehicle that Iíd probably keep for another 15 years. I also think you SMB community folks are a solid bunch.

8. I could also of course, keep putting money into the Westy and keeping it on the road. But as I said, Iím going to have to do some real upgrades for the embiggening kids and their need to travel with friends.

9. The Westy is in fairly primo, sellable condition right now.

Considering all these factors, what would you do? And what else have I not thought of?

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Old 06-27-2015, 08:48 AM   #2
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Re: The Westy Crossroads - Sell for an SMB?

"And what else have I not thought of?"

A price

1999 7.3 4x4 RB50 SMB
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Old 06-27-2015, 09:55 AM   #3
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Re: The Westy Crossroads - Sell for an SMB?

I can see all the reasons you love your Westy. It really is a different experience when you're traveling in a unique, "cute" recognizably nifty rig (I know this from boats and previous cars).

But: what would I do in your situation, given what you have told us?

I would sell the Westy and get a new/newish, "modern" camper van that does everything you need with your family, with modern safety and reliability. Enjoy these "best years" with your family out doing stuff! Later, in your "dotage" (kids gone, maybe you retire, might want a hobby), maybe get something like a VW to putter on.

If you don't need 4WD where you are, that makes it easier, but if you do.... then find one that accommodates that.

I drove a Transit high top a few weeks ago and I'm seriously thinking about one.

That all said, I can see a case for many different approaches, but this is what I would likely do in your shoes as you have described them.
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Old 06-27-2015, 10:27 AM   #4
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Re: The Westy Crossroads - Sell for an SMB?

As an ex-VW bus person I can tell you I still miss the Vanagon for a variety of reasons but never enough to regret having bought a Quigley Ford and getting an SMB PH top put on it.

Yeah, I wish there was a more modern equivalent of the old VW's that could be had here in the US, but there isn't. And given the degree of control imposed on importing vehicles, it's essentially impossible to bring one in yourself. (How do you spell "free-trade' by the way?)

Anyway, at least now you do have the choice of a couple of vans that were designed and built in the 21st century and not just the Ford E-series as the only option. That and there will be people lining up at your front door to buy a late model Vanagon camper in great condition. I will bet you will be able to come close to break even on a used Ford SMB or even a new base model Ducato/Dodge
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Old 06-27-2015, 03:07 PM   #5
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Re: The Westy Crossroads - Sell for an SMB?

Well you spelled out my dilemna perfectly, I'm even in the Southeast too, Atlanta. I own a '99 SMB with 7.3 diesel and a '69 Westy. This has been my experience with the 2.

Both have been a race against kid growth. The SMB really doesn't solve it either, I have mine for sale now. Obviously I love the campervan platform. But I believe they are best suited for 2 people.

Most trips are just me and my son anyway. That becomes ever more the case as my daughter gets older. She still loves camping but she's involved in more things now as she gets older.

As for my son, his favorite activities above sports and everything else is camping and wrenching. He's even chosen to skip sport seasons for camping at times. So the '69 Westy has been perfect and he has claimed it as his own in the future.

We definitely camp more with VW folks. We have many times this year already and have more trips planned. There are not that many SMBs in the Southeast. I camp with 86Scotty from this forum and apart from his, I never see them.

I do think you'd be happy with a SMB, I'm just trying to provide a dose of reality. Seating six? Yes it can be done. But I'd wonder how often I'd actually have to do that. We typically go as just a family of 4. If we go camping with others, the kids typically have friends in the group we're going with. My kids have not really asked to take friends along.

Since my '69 does not provide the modern amenities like A/C I have sought something newer like the SMB. I plan to sell my current SMB and buy something with a better floor plan that can technically sleep 4. My son can't bear the thought of selling the Westy. And we've made it very nice having just won "Best Camper" at a big show. I consider it more of a collector at this point that I actually go camping in.

If I could rewind the clock before all those purchases, knowing what I know now? I'd get a Vanagon Westfalia and put a Subaru engine in it as my daily driver.
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Old 06-28-2015, 09:57 AM   #6
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Re: The Westy Crossroads - Sell for an SMB?

Hello Neighbor! I was just down on Johns Island with the van 2 weekends ago camping at Mullet Hall.

We live just above you in Georgetown County.

I completely understand the humidity issue, especially right now.

Kids is an issue with us as well. We have three and there is never enough room for the 5 of us. Drop me a PM and I will send you my contact info. Maybe we can meet up and compare notes.

Brian Garman
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Old 06-29-2015, 01:55 PM   #7
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The Westy Crossroads - Sell for an SMB?

We had an 88 VW full Westy in great shape. No rust, ran great, etc. (We live in PA.) We took it in a few trips, but I never totally felt comfortable taking it far due to its age, rarity of parts, and lack of potential mechanics to work on it away from home. We sold it.

A few years later we bought our 1998 SMB EB 2WD. So far we've put almost 20,000 miles on it with few issues. I'm currently sitting here in California in the middle of a XC trip. I don't worry about breaking down because Ford parts and mechanics are everywhere.

Do I miss the Westy? Sometimes. A Ford EB is a lot more van to drive than a Vanagon. On the other hand, the other day I passed at 55+ MPH at least six Vanagon Westies that were crawling up passes in Colorado.

Really the only advantage of the VW is the cool factor. You'll get over that quickly. Plus, SMBs get a lot of attention when you pop the top, even basic 2WD vans like mine. And, there is a LOT more room in an EB Ford than a Vanagon!
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Old 06-29-2015, 03:00 PM   #8
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Re: The Westy Crossroads - Sell for an SMB?

Good point on the top, BrianW. My SMB was kind of unnoticeable with the top down ('97, 2WD, with the teal stripes, so not very "SMB" looking). BUT, as soon as I popped the top, it apparently had cool written all over it. Got lots of attention and thumbs ups. And it did feel cool then!

Then I was incognito again rolling down the road. (Of course if you had a 4WD SMB with Aluminess, etc. you'd be less anonymous when driving.) Anyway, there is something undeniably cool about the popped top, so that might help make up for the Westy factor.
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Old 06-29-2015, 06:26 PM   #9
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Re: The Westy Crossroads - Sell for an SMB?

We go back and forth daily on the room available in the SMB and a growing family. A/C is often a concern also during summer months; however, we decided that if we want A/C and more room, we would just buy a pop-up or an A-Liner and tow that with the SMB.

Problem solved.

It makes more sense than upgrading to some of the obnoxiously large campers that are on the market. The trade off between added creature comforts and additional maintenance just doesn't makes sense.

That way you could use just the van or Westy if you want to camp with 2 people and you could tow something small for the added guests when needed.
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Old 07-01-2015, 06:44 PM   #10
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Re: The Westy Crossroads - Sell for an SMB?

Keep the Westy.

Buy the SMB.

Then decide.

Peace, Regis
2011 Express 1500
I'm a camper not a glamper
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