Pop a top in its honor: Westfalia is coming back to North America
Roadtrek is a premium Canadian brand of enclosed-van campers, famous for two things: Cramming an incredible amount of RV-related equipment into a van, and unapologetically high prices, sometimes close to $200,000. For those RVers who want everything contained inside a modest footprint, they may be the only way to go.
Now comes word that Roadtrek campers are about to pop their tops, thanks to the North American return of the German camper company Westfalia, known mostly for making Volkswagen vans into semi-livable quarters. They were popular during the 1960s and ‘70s, but haven’t been imported here for 20 years.
According to RV Business, a pre-production model of the North American Westfalia Van “will be unveiled exclusively to dealers this September at the RV Dealer Open House House in Elkhart, Ind., marking a new chapter in the brand’s legendary history.”
Len McDougall, head of sales for Westfalia North America, said, “We are excited to share our team’s hard work in development and engineering to bring this iconic brand back to North America. This is one debut that you don’t want to miss.”
McDougall hinted at the impressive design, stating, “The display model will feature sleeping availability in the front, rear, and upper pop-top area of the van,” apparently a Ram ProMaster. “You will have to stop by the display to really take in all the details.” That show ends today.
Indeed, the company has a fascinating history. It was founded in 1844 to build horse-drawn carts. According to Westfalia: The history of its conversions began in 1951 with one customer’s special wish: When Westfalia in Wiedenbrück created the so-called “Camping Box”, especially designed for an officer in the British Forces stationed in Germany, he had a simple request: equip a VW transit van as a home.
This had to be neatly built into the vehicle and at the same time had to be suitable as a room for sleeping, living, and working. “So the people at Westfalia took a VW bus, installed a double door between the B and C columns, and built-in multi-purpose furniture and decoration behind the front seats. For example, pretty ruffled curtains which matched the checked pattern of the furniture. A real zeitgeist combination.
“A studio couch, folding table, seat bench, roll-front cabinet, and sideboard completed the interior ensemble. The result was such a success that the Camping Box soon went into series production and the converted VW Bus became the dream car of the ’50s, because it was multifunctional and could be used as a hotel on wheels.”
In 1962, Westfalia built the first motorhome with furniture surfaces made of light plastic material, and named the VW bus-based vehicle the Westfalia SO 34. “The Westfalia SO 34 was shipped across the pond in large numbers, and was the first vehicle with camping furniture with white and grey plastic surfaces instead of wood veneer surfaces. The SO 42 was also very successful in the USA.
“This vehicle already had insulation but it didn’t yet have the folding roof which became typical for the Westfalia later on. The equipment comprised interior paneling, roof storage compartment, cool box with water tank, manual pump and folding table on the side, wardrobe with mirror, storage compartment with upholstery and folding table.”
Soon after the innovative folding roofs became standard, offering a lot of room in this jack of all trades’ “kitchen”, resulting in a comfortable standing height and more space to work in. “The vehicles converted by Westfalia created a feeling of freedom and independence that had been unthinkable until then. After all, you’re at home where you feel at home.”
Presumably, that’s how you should feel in the new Roadtrek Westfalia. For more information about the relaunch of Westfalia in North America, visit westfalia-americas.com.