This probably doesn’t look like much of anything, I realize. But stick with me, drugs are mentioned later. This is a 1989 Volkswagen Vanagon GL Westphalia, and first things first, this car is slow. Internet Explorer slow. Most cars today take about 8 or 9 seconds to reach 60 miles per hour; this one took 30.
That meant that highway merging could be quite the stressful experience for Westphalia owners. Thinking about it, slight inclines were probably stressful experiences for Westphalia owners. The Vanagon, then, attracted a decidedly mellow customer base when it went on sale in 1980, as the mellow folk (totally adding that to my list of potential band names) were the only ones who could cope with the stress and angst that went along with driving one.
There are two reasons for all this slowness. First, the Vanagon was powered by a 90 horsepower four cylinder, which was simply not enough. Imagine Bill O’Reilly trying to compete in an Olympic 100-meter. I’m sure he could do it, but it’s less than ideal, and certainly not pretty. The second reason is quite literally, the kitchen sink. You see, this is no ordinary Vanagon. Oh no.
This is a Westphalia (or “Westy” as it is known to those who own one. Or to those who are high. Often one in the same, interestingly enough) which meant that it was outfitted with all sorts of amenities to make your car feel like a living room. One of these things was a fully functional sink. Another was a stove. It had a couch that folded out to become a bed, a three-door closet, two tables, a skylight, a refrigerator, and my personal favorite option, decorative curtains for the windows. What’s more, the front seats (which had funky stripes!) swiveled around so you could survey your new domain, and the roof could be raised several feet, bumping up the cubic footage.
As such, it not such a good idea to look at the Westphalia as a car, but rather a small house. And as a piece of real estate, the Westphalia shined. Whereas the Vanagon’s predecessor, the Microbus, attracted the hippie (who by this point in the 80s were decidedly old and un-hip), the Vanagon attracted a much more fickle and rare market: the hipster. People from Portland or Brooklyn adore these things. So much so that certain versions of it (such as the all-wheel drive Syncro model) attract Mercedes-level prices.
It’s at just the perfect age right now that the trendy millennials can pretend they don’t care about cars, and yet still make good use of their parent’s trust fund. It has just the right “old and stuffy” look to appeal to young people who worship at the altar of irony. Two generations of VW vans, two generations of young people who confuse their parents, two eras of marijuana legality. But if you look beneath all that, Volkswagen has built a genuinely interesting little car, and a truly great living room.
-The little white sticker on the back of the Vanagon is for a popular restaurant here on the island called The Black Dog. 10/10, would recommend. Especially for breakfast.
-The Vanagon and a little company called Porsche had a bit of a fling in France one summer. Read more here at the link. Or don’t, I’m not the boss of you.