The Super Bugger is the most adorable of RVs

Brendan McAleer

The laugh comes bubbling out—no mockery, just sheer delight. What on earth is this thing? The love child of a Volkswagen and a motorhome? A Vee-Dub RV? A Mini-bago? It’s a Super Bugger, midway between a Beetle and a Westfalia camper, and it’s here to put a grin on your face.

Along with a name to raise the eyebrows of staff at Hagerty’s UK office, the Super Bugger boasts an incredible amount of practicality. It has the friendly face of a Volkswagen Beetle but also a sink and a stove and a comfy dining table just big enough for two. There are drawers and cupboards everywhere, just as you’d find on a single-cabin sailboat. The table folds down into a bed.

All of this in a footprint that’s scarcely longer than that of the Volkswagen upon which it is based. The Super Bugger is also relatively light at around 2400 pounds. Despite having a height of 92 inches and the aerodynamic profile of a garden shed, it can run along at highway speeds. Nobody gets annoyed if it’s cruising a bit slower than the slow lane; people often fall in behind and follow the Super Bugger to its exit so they can take pictures and ask questions.

Super Bugger VW camper shell window
Brendan McAleer

This example belongs to Sandra Paeseler and Bill Furlong of New Westminister, British Columbia, Canada. During the milder seasons, they often take it camping. Sandra, who doesn’t drive, is a bit more reserved than Bill, who is a Newfoundlander and well up to the task of chatting with strangers and fielding their queries. Generally, the latter run along the lines of “Wow! Did you build it yourself?”

While this Super Bugger benefited from a loving, ten-year restoration, the strange VW-motorhome hybrid was not uncommon 50 or 60 years ago. Similar to the dune buggy craze started by Bruce Meyers and his Manx, the sheer ubiquity of Volkswagens in the 1960s meant people felt free to get creative with them.

Super Bugger VW camper wide parking lot
Brendan McAleer

In Costa Mesa, California, somebody drew up plans for a Beetle motorhome conversion kit. Interested parties could either buy a turn-key “Super Bugger” or modify their own Bug. No matter which party did the work, everything from the firewall back was cut off and discarded, the chassis was reinforced, and the motorhome body built on top of the VW’s pan.

There are some variations on the theme, but anyone who owns the likes of a Boler or other small travel trailer will recognize the recipe used for the camper shell. The frame is of wood, with plywood floorboards and fairly standard RV-grade windows and fixtures. There are some clever tricks, such as the ball-and-socket rubber doorstops, and quite a lot of interior lighting. Originally, there would have been two beds: the main one and a loft over the seats for kids. Since the shelf for the latter was right at the height to smack an adult in the head, Sandra and Bill removed it.

Reupholstered in red, this Super Bugger’s interior is invitingly cozy. The Danish have a word for the feeling of the space: hygge, the contented feeling of spending all day in your pajamas.

All through the 1970s, the Super Bugger inspired imitations. Pinning down how many of these campers were built is tricky, and only a handful remain. But when Sandra’s father Herbert spotted the nose of this one sticking out of a Nevada Garage, however, the avid motorcyclist knew exactly what it was.

Super Bugger VW camper front end
Brendan McAleer

“The owner didn’t want to sell,” Sandra says, “But my dad kept stopping by, and eventually he convinced him.”

Herbert frequently took the Super Bugger on camping trips from California to British Columbia. After he died, Sandra inherited the car and stored it with some friends. Bringing it back to life took dozens of hours and tens of thousands of dollars, but the Super Bugger was part of the family.

The most recent camping season was cut short by some mechanical trouble near the ferry terminal at BC’s Sunshine Coast. Bill says there was a bit of trouble finding a tow company to retrieve the car; nobody had heard of a Super Bugger. But, he says, “by jigs and reels, we got her done.”

Happily, because the underpinnings are pure VW, finding a mechanic wasn’t difficult. Even better, the problem turned out to be only a failing U-joint, not a transmission failure, as Bill had feared. The mechanic, who builds drag-racing Bugs, had the Super Bugger sorted in a couple of hours.

Though it’s in fine mechanical fettle, the Super Bugger no longer ventures as far afield as California. When the conversion was new, the roads would have been packed with Volkswagens, and traffic would have moved slower. The basis for this RV was a 1969 Beetle, and while it has the lower-geared transmission of a Microbus to crawl up hills, it’s not really suited to interstate travel.

Super Bugger VW camper side profile
Brendan McAleer
Super Bugger VW camper rear three quarter
Brendan McAleer

It won’t be sitting still, though. Bill and Sandra will take their little red RV camping around the Pacific Northwest this season, down into Bellingham, or back up to the Sunshine Coast. And everywhere they go, the phones will appear, and smiling faces will come up to chat, just they did the afternoon we spoke. “I had to stop!” one jogger said, panting to a halt.

Of course you did. It’s a cute little bugger.




Check out the Hagerty Media homepage so you don’t miss a single story, or better yet, bookmark it. To get our best stories delivered right to your inbox, subscribe to our newsletters

Click below for more about
Read next Up next: According to You: The worst place you’ve dropped something


    Wow, what a small world. I used to live in an apartment across the street from the park where these pics were taken! Awesome little machine.

    “Let the, you know, the Jennifer Lawrence of it all — she lets it fade into the background so much.

    I remember seeing these (or at least something similar) back in the day. Very cool restoration, and a fun little rig, to be sure. I especially love the 8-track. Been having some fun with the one I installed in my ’66 Pontiac – just for looks, it isn’t even operable – as some older folks say, “oh yeah, everyone had one of those in the ’60s!” and younger ones ask, “what’s that thing?”. Either way, it opens up avenues for discussion, and when I show them the box of 38 tapes in the trunk, well, that leads to even MORE talking about my choices of music! 🙂

    Two notes: 1: “Adorable”? I guess “beauty” is truly in the eyes of the beholder. 2: Look up the definition of “bugger” then see if you want to be associated with it.

    I’d forgotten about these until one popped up on “Full Custom Garage”. I’m rather amazed that the VW engine pulls these things along at highway speeds, but yeah, it’s got entertainment value even if it’s in your way.
    “Bugger” has a different meaning in Britain, yet that makes it even funnier…

    It’s time for someone to do this to a New Beetle. With the turbo motor, I would bet it wouldn’t have a problem keeping up with daily traffic. Even better, the TDI version might keep gas mileage reasonable. I’m already out of garage space, or I’d volunteer. 😉

    I remember seeing something similar here in Oregon over the years, always in the same spot. I’m going to see if it’s still there and whether it’s a Super Bugger.
    p.s. I still have a shoebox full of 8-tracks.

    I love it, and have never seen anything like it. Only the classic Bug will work such as shown here. The one’s from the late ’90s and later, not so much. It looks very roomy and comfortable on the inside. Space efficiency always was one of the original Bug’s great hallmarks anyway.

    When these first came out I ordered a set of plans with the intent of building one some day. 30 years or so later I still have the plans and some day has never arrived.. oh well. I still think they are cute in an odd sort of way.

    Any chance you want to sell off those plans? I’m a life long VW guy and would love to have them. Might even build one as I have a background in cabinet making.

    An RV dealer in Beaverton Oregon had one as a an attention grabber. The Bug hood was dark yellow and the doors actually had door knobs. I suspect it was both a non-runner and either gutted, moldy or both in the damp PNW. It’s still a cool idea, although I think a Saab Toppola is a better choice as a camper car

    Back in the 70’s I had an auto shop that we specialized in the 4 cylinder air/oil cooled VW engine. I had a customer that wanted me to build him an 1835cc engine, 92mm cylinders and pistons. He just wanted a long block, everything out to the valve covers. At the time he did not give me any other info. Several weeks later he came to me wanting me to build him more of those engines and I wanted to know what this was going to be
    for. When he showed me a picture of one these “RV’S” I told him that that a bone stock 1835cc would not work in the long run as the thin cylinder walls were going to create too much heat and would have a very short life span. I offered other suggestions for that but he wanted nothing to do with that as the 12,000 mile warranty was all he was giving. Found out months later that he found some guy who built him those motors and as it turns out they both lost a lot of money with all the lawsuits and small claims judgments.

    I parked my beautiful 1958 Panama yellow 290 hp Corvette next to one of these at a Goodguys event. My car might was well been invisible. Everyone walked right past my car without even noticing it to admire the VW. Very cool

    I always liked these, sort of an alternative to a campervan. I’m most impressed by the deep-dish turbine wheels from the 70’s. Wish we could still get those wheels.

    Hello, my name is Tim Horn and I was the owner of the Black Forest vw porsche garage back in the 70’s. We used to put those stickers on the rear windows of all of my customers cars. I was truly surprised to see one on the back of this super cool little custom motor home. I am in my 80’s now and seeing this absolutely made my day!!

    @Hagerty, do you actually insure these “Super Bugger” vehicles? What about Meyers Manx Dune Buggies in Ontario, Canada? Insurance is a big issue with VW custom kit cars and we are forced to get high risk insurance that costs a fortune!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *