When it comes to restoring your bus, you want a shop you can trust! There are plenty of good shops out there, but we stopped at Westy-Werks last time we were in California… here’s a little interview with Jonathan Jurgens who founded the shop in 2004.
When did you get your first Westy and which model was it?
My first Westy was not actually a Westy at all. I opened my shop in 2004 and by 2005 had saved up enough money that I could afford a VW bus of my own. Although I desperately wanted a camper I needed a shop truck much more. So I bought a 1959 VW Single Cab pick up truck. I also bought a Canvas tilt canopy for it ( Basically an old school camper shell made out of canvas). During the week the truck was my daily driver and also parts getter. On the weekends I would throw a futon mattress in the back and use it as my camper. The old VW trucks actually have a really big and lockable side cabinet referred to as a treasure chest. I would not hesitate to use the truck again as a camper it was great. Only I have gotten a little spoiled these days as I own a decked out 1990 Syncro Westfalia.
Jonathan’s daily driver! (photo: Westy-Werks)
Which Westfalia model is your favorite and why?
My favorite model of the VW Westfalia is the Syncro full camper. The best years in my opinion are the 1990 and 1991. In these years the only way you could get a Syncro Westfalia was fully optioned meaning cruise control, power windows, power mirrors etc. Also by 1990 they had refined the vehicles slightly and even stiffen up the body on the Syncro’s. If you see an older model Syncro that has been off road quite a bit you will notice that quarter panels are slightly buckled or wavy. The reinforcements to the body starting I believe in 1990 help to reduce this greatly. I also like the full camper primarily for the amount of storage space that it has. I don’t actually use the stove in my van at all. In fact I don’t even have a propane bottle mounted to the van.
1990 Syncro full camper (photo : Google)
When You’re looking to buy a Westfalia, what are the most important parts to take a look at?
Bening that you are most likely buying a Westfalia to travel in and not just put around town. The mechanics to the vehicle like engine, transmission, brakes etc are the most important. You don’t want to be breaking down all the time in strange tows or out in the middle of nowhere. You also do not want to duty a van that has lots of rust issues. Even if the rust does not bother you that much it will cost you much more later on for repairs when nuts and bolts are rusted in place. If you are looking to buy a Westy we always recommend having it inspected by a professional first.
What are the most useful tools to keep in your vehicle?
Well I can tell you what I carry. A basic set of metric wrenches and sockets , ball peen hammer, flash light, side cutters, a couple pair of pliers, a couple screw drivers. I also carry some really basic supplies as well. Gorilla tape, bailing wire, engine belts, a throttle cable, oil, water, Some basic electrical connectors. And probably the most important things of all a jack and lug nut wrench just in case you get a flat tire.
Would you say it is worthed to convert to a Subaru engine?
Oh Man, I get asked this question a lot. If you are an extremely mechanical person and basically do the conversion yourself then it might be worth it. The problem with a conversion as I see it is the fact that it is a conversion. There are lots of people doing conversions and many of them do them slightly different than the next guy. The problem is not really a problem as long as you are close to the shop that did the work and as long as they did a good job in the first place. The problem arises when you are on the road and break dow especially in a remote place. It can be hard enough to find a shop that works on VW Vanagons in the first place now try and find a shop that works on Vanagons with Subaru engines. Don’t get me wrong Subaru makes a really nice engine I just prefer a basically stock set up with some improvements made to add a little HP and torque. If you do unfortunately break down I feel that your odds of getting back on the road quickly and with as little hassle as possible will be much higher with a VW engine in your van.
Could you name 5 useful accessories to add to your bus?
Auxilary battery system and power inverter.
An AC/DC powerd fridge. ( no more searching for ice)
A nice mattress topper.
What was the most expensive restoration project you did?
The most expensive van that we built so far was in the $100K range.
Do you sleep with head close to the trunk or the other way around?
Closest to the back of the van.