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Old 11-04-2010, 08:02 PM   #1
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Attn anyone who had westfalia and then SMB - Your thoughts?

I'd like to get anyone's input who has in the past owned a VW Vanagon Westfalia (pref. full-camper) and then owned a Sportsmobile (or SMB then Westy, the order isn't important).

I have a westy and am considering a SMB. To me, the primary motivation is 4x4 (i'm not interested in paying big bucks for a vw syncro). Secondary motivations are mostly related to having a vehicle that is newer and more common, and also the heavy-duty capabilities are nice.

The primary tradeoffs for me are the size and weight, fuel economy, and general impression. By general impression, i guess what i mean is, appearance, attitude, perceptions, etc. I see myself in some ways as more of a westy kind of guy, than a 'big truck' kind of guy. But that doesn't matter much, because most of all i'm a 'use what works' kind of guy.

Anyhow, i'd love to hear feedback from others who've made the switch, or have experience with both vehicles.
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Old 11-04-2010, 09:17 PM   #2
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Re: Attn anyone who had westfalia and then SMB - Your thoughts?

The Troyster

I have had a
'62 split window westy
'68 panel cust interior
'84 westy, bought two years ago, dumped a ton in, tricked it out
my next move was new seat covers and subaru @ $12,000 if i was lucky
i already had 20k into it, making it reliable was another 10k, sheesh i could have a SMB

the coolness factor is not the same with a SMB
however another kind of coolness is to be had

pics of Wilson 1.0 in my album

Wilson 2.0 ( the smb ) is miles ahead of my Westy
i have ac, power, room, reliablity, 4x4

GoWesty is selling reconditioned Syncros for $50,000 PLUS

you can get a great SMB even with 4x4 for alot less

would i go back, no
do i miss my Westy, yes
would i like both, yes
but it would not be a daily driver
would not camp in it
hard to maintain "camp readyness" in both rigs

several Westy to SMB guys here

connect up with the Ladies here
we are all prettty much open to showing off our rigs
sit in a couple
stand in a couple
buy some gas and have them run you around the block
on and off a freeway exit

bw out
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Old 11-04-2010, 09:29 PM   #3
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Re: Attn anyone who had westfalia and then SMB - Your thoughts?

I had an '83 air-cooled, full camper.

What I miss:

- the coolness factor / brother/sisterhood of the VW
- sitting over that big steering wheel, hauling it around corners
- the sound of the engine
- the incredible design of the interior
- the louvered windows

What I don't miss:

- dripping oil on my driveway
- replacing the engine in my driveway
- fridge that never worked
- lack of power
- the loud sliding door when trying to answer the call of nature at night

Bonus SMB:

- air bags, huge brakes, cruise control, A/C and heating that really works
- not being gouged every time I need a mechanic
- much bigger interior

I was just looking at pics of my Westy today, in fact, and briefly dreamed of picking another one up. But then I remembered how much maintenance they need, and quickly saved myself many, many lost hours A newer Ford van will always be more reliable, and let you spend that time camping and enjoying yourself.

I'll always have a soft spot, though.
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Old 11-04-2010, 09:31 PM   #4
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Re: Attn anyone who had westfalia and then SMB - Your thoughts?

I have never owned a Westy but I have camped in one many times with a friend. Having the SMB is a much better option in my mind. Way more room and better living conditions for two people. I personally prefer the SMB hands down to a westy. The ONLY thing a Westy may have an advantage on is the driveable size of it. Meaning the westy is just a smaller rig and easier to park/ manuever. That is easily overcome.

My 2 cents.
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Old 11-04-2010, 10:55 PM   #5
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Re: Attn anyone who had westfalia and then SMB - Your thoughts?

Oy. Where does one begin? I had an 84 Wolfy too--nice rig. Then I got into Syncros (see my gallery if interested). I also had--for a short time--an E350 SMB/Quigley diesel 4x4.

The Syncros have become pretty exotic these days. Finding a good mechanic is very difficult where an SMB is usually a Ford, so repair is prevalent if not necessarily competent. You have, BTW, a couple excellent shops in Bend for VW's, and German Transaxle is one of the premier trans builders--someone you should know if owning a Syncro. VW's are pretty old now, and seam rust is a major issue.

The VW's are much more carlike. Smooth, quiet, excellent handling on road. SMB's are big trucks, and ride, sound and drink accordingly. Properly set-up, Syncros are awesome off road with their independent suspensions and locking diff. A Subaru powered Syncro Westy is a very civilized rig and have dropped in price lately: http://saltlakecity.craigslist.org/cto/2027743817.html . I built TDI Syncro Westies. They weren't especially quiet, but very drivable and got well into the mid 20's on the highway and pretty much everywhere else. My SMB managed 14mpg tops. I could cruise my TDI's at 80 If I wanted, not fun in the SMB.

I think the Westy camper interior is higher quality than the SMB's which are usually heavy, but delicate, MDF. I also felt much more confined in the SMB. The Westies have windows all around and over 8 feet of headroom with the top popped. My SMB had a fixed roof and only one window aside from the ones in the doors. For some reason this huge van felt smaller inside than the VW, even though it wasn't. Also the pop top mechanism in the VW is better, but I'm probably already in trouble for saying so.

Once a VW has been gone through, especially with an engine swap, they can be very reliable. I had more than my share of issues with the SMB: water pump failure and a bad injector harness come to mind at only 60k. I wasn't impressed.

That said, I have plans to build my own SMB like rig, but without the SMB/Quigley short comings--one of which is price. The aftermarket is enormous for Ford diesel goodies: custom turbo diesel crap, bumpers, transmissions, axles, suspension etc.. There is basically no limit to what one can do. I wish I had known this before buying my Quigley which kinda stunk on and off-road. It rode like a tank, but wallowed all over the road--Bad.

Perhaps my SMB experience was an anomaly, but having read this forum for as long as I have makes me think not.

Hope this helps
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Old 11-04-2010, 11:41 PM   #6
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Re: Attn anyone who had westfalia and then SMB - Your thoughts?

Had an '89 VW Westy before getting our GTRV. We designed a custom interior based on many years spent in the VW.

I miss "the wave", the manual tranny, and the turning radius (the Ford turns like a battleship in comparison EDIT: 2WD obviously). I don't miss the lack of a heater, the cramped space, the repair bills, the small bed, the rust, and the relative lack of power (although I do kinda miss travelling in the slow lane, going Westy speed).

We love our new rig, but there was definitely a tear or two as the VW drove down our lane for the last time.

Brent
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Old 11-05-2010, 12:48 AM   #7
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Re: Attn anyone who had westfalia and then SMB - Your thoughts?

All true. I really loved, and miss my westy. These days I need to get my crew home in one piece, and on time. Westfalia good, Sportsmobile better.
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Old 11-05-2010, 02:03 AM   #8
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Re: Attn anyone who had westfalia and then SMB - Your thoughts?

Thanks for the input guys, some good things to think about there.

My westy does have a subaru engine (last winter's project) and will go over the pass probably as fast as the SMBs (if i want to downshift and rev it in 3rd, it will go over most any highway pass at 60-70). The subaru is reliable and this is a water cooled van with 2 heaters so that's no problem.

The lack of windows in most SMBs and the excellent use of space in the westies would probably lead to me building out my own van if i do go the ford route.

Bottom line is, i MUST have 4x4. And for the money the syncros are commanding, I can get a rig that is so much newer. Hard to ignore that.

I do love the driving position in the westy, being over the front tires like that. So much fun on back roads/off-road. And great visibility while driving. And good god, the thing turns around on a dime. Do the syncros turn as sharp as the 2wd?
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Old 11-05-2010, 10:31 AM   #9
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Re: Attn anyone who had westfalia and then SMB - Your thoughts?

Quote:
Do the syncros turn as sharp as the 2wd?
Yes. Especially if you have a decoupler.

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Old 11-08-2010, 04:45 PM   #10
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Re: Attn anyone who had westfalia and then SMB - Your thoughts?

Had a 81 full camper Westy

Loved the organization and german efficiency of the layout and loved camping and surfing trips once I got to where I was going. Hated the lack of power, lack of AC, and the general maintenance that comes along with owning a VW esp a aircooled. I have always been a fan of Ford vans (first van was a 61 econoline camper) so migration to a SMB was perfect. I bought a used 2wd and haven't looked back

Love the powerful gas sucking V8 5.4
Love the layout and full raising roof and the ability to walk from the front to back of van the refrigerator that works although my 3 way did work and I could keep it going on Gas at 60mph most of the time, it did not cool down much. Both were daily drivers.

The wife misses the ease of raising the VW roof and the rear bed.
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