Raising the roof transforms the compact VW Trooper from a cramped car-like space to a palatial pad. Auto-Sleepers’ traditional craftsman-built cabinetwork, never-to-be-surpassed parallelogram roof and high equipment levels ensured a strong following.
In the 1970s, Dormobile and Devon were the main UK-based converters, but from 1980 Auto-Sleepers stole the show, ending up with a remarkable 48 per cent share of the UK’s T3 ’van market.
The Trooper has a traditional VW camper layout which places a run of furniture along the offside wall and a forward-facing settee at the rear (this converted into a longitudinal double bed). More seating was available by swivelling the cab passenger seat. Children could sleep in the roof bed, while some dealers offered a stretcher bunk that went across the cab area.
There wasn’t the space for a separate washroom although a Porta Potti toilet was provided to go in a dedicated storage cupboard.
All of the T3’s flat-four petrol engines (mounted at the rear) offered quiet and relaxed cruising, and the all-round independent suspension provided a class-leading smooth ride.
• Auto-Sleeper Trooper on VW T3 Transporter four door panel van with elevating-roof. Converted in Broadway, UK from 1980–1991
Tips to help you buy better…
The earliest examples of these are now 20 years old so caution is needed. VW ’vans are iconic and worth far more than any competitor of this age. To prevent making a costly mistake, take an expert along with you or buy from a specialist. The 1.6-litre diesels were unreliable and delivered milk-float performance. We would recommend a petrol-powered unit. Engines did get a bit incontinent after 100,000 miles, though, so a few oil spots on the drive are to be expected when looking at models of this vintage.
One of the hardest-wearing conversions available on the pre-owned market today. Sturdily built and easy to refurbish. A quick rub-down and re-varnish will restore all the hardwood edging, whereas any rucks in the vinyl-based insert panels can be removed with the judicious use of a hair drier.
■ Iconic ’van
■ Mechanical and body spares availability are second-to-none
■ Roomy conversion
■ Insulated roof
■ Ancient VW campervans cost twice as much as those on other base vehicles
■ Early air-cooled examples were thirsty and had poor heating/demisting capabilities
2.1-litre (112bhp) fuel-injected petrol-powered automatic
What to pay
£10,000 will buy you a low-mileage example. However, minters (especially the 4 x 4 Syncro version) sometimes fetch in excess of £15,000 and are sold to VW nuts
Or you could try…
Devon, Danbury or Bilbo’s conversions. You may hear talk of ‘Westies’. These were a favourite of hippies. They were LHD-only models and converted in Germany by a company called Westfalia.