It is often erroneously claimed that Westfalia produced the first camper conversion of VW’s Transporter. Actually, they were beaten to it by a Dresden coachbuilder. However, Westfalia was the first volume converter.
Their prototype, exhibited at the 1951 Hamburg Show, was purchased by Helmut and Erna Blenck in early 1952, and travelled around Southern Africa for most of 1953… which is a noteworthy maiden voyage.
Early VW Transporters are affectionately known as ‘Splitties’, because of the decision to divide the windscreen to aid streamlining. The puny 24bhp engine would have needed all the help it could get!
These early Westfalias were built on the standard-height van, but could be specified with Dormobile’s distinctive side-hinged elevating-roof, with its instantly recognisable candy-striped canvas. Westfalia’s unglazed sunroof gained the nickname ‘the submarine hatch’.
VW insisted on any conversions retaining the half-height bulkhead behind the cab, which prevented ‘walk through’ from cab to caravan. Nevertheless, Westfalia produced three layouts, initially with a removable full-width kitchen containing a petrol-fired two-burner hob and sink immediately behind that bulkhead, and later attaching the hob and sink to the inside of the twin side ‘barn’ doors. An insulated cool-cabinet and galvanised chemical toilet were other options.
- Interested in getting a more recent campervan? Then be sure to take a look at our best campervan round-up
You can also see what Gentleman Jack had to say about two more inductees into the Practical Motorhome Hall of Fame, the Martin Walter Dormobile (1957-1968) and the Swift Kon-Tiki (1985-Present).
Westfalia Camping Box on Volkswagen Transporter ‘Splitty’. Manufactured in Wiedenbrück, Germany, 1951-1967. Length: 4.15m (13’ 7.5”). Drive train: 1131cc air-cooled four-cylinder Boxer petrol engine, mounted at the rear, driving the rear wheels via a four-speed ‘crash’ gearbox and reduction gears in the hubs
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