too many words by laura lemay

the happy camper (part 2)

In the previous installment of this elaborate justification, a VW bus had followed us home.

This is not the prototypical 60’s hippie microbus. For example, it was made in this century, and has things like airbags and a decent engine. Volkswagen continued to make this vehicle — in different configurations, and renaming it to the Vanagon, and then the Eurovan — all the way up through 2003, and in fact they are still making them in Europe. (They call them “multivan” there. Please resist making nerdy Fifth Element joke). But they stopped importing them to the United States a few years back for of lack of interest. Eurovans don’t really fit well into the typical American car lineup: they don’t compete well with normal minivans because they’re big, boxy and they don’t handle all that well, and they don’t compete well with commercial vans because they’re too nice inside. It didn’t help that when they were new they were also way too expensive.

Given all the changes over the years there really isn’t much hippie left in the Eurovan anymore, although there are still plenty of them around in hippie towns like Santa Cruz, which is where we found this one (through craigslist. of course). Ours is a 2002 Eurovan, and is the “Weekender” model, which means it is set up for casual camping. Permit me to show you around:

Yes, it is very very blue. We have a thing for blue cars. Note the blue truck right behind it.

There are hippie stickers on the windows which will have to come off. I’ve been debating painting skulls on the back to counteract the hippie effect.

The van seats seven. Two in front, two rear-facing seats, and a big bench seat in the back. I suppose you could stack a few more people up on the floor if you had to. All the seats are way comfortable. The folded up rear passenger seat comes out easily. All the others will come out with a little more work. With the seats out it’ll fit a motorcycle with no problem.

This is a huge gaping maw of a back hatch. The shelf will hold about ten bags of groceries, and there is tons of storage underneath. The shelf itself lifts right out; Eric is going to fabricate some bike racks so that we can put bicycles sideways in back here. He thinks he can fit two bikes in, minus the front wheels.

The rear seat folds forward should we feel suddenly compelled to buy 4×8 sheets of plywood. (you never know. the space station might need a patch).

There are cupholders and accessory power plugs all over this van. One would not want to have to reach very far to get to your beer or plug in your computer, after all.

Speaking of beer, there is a little fridge under this seat. The fridge and all the accessory plugs are driven by a separate battery, so you don’t drain the car running your stuff. (tidbit: the manual for the refrigerator is in german, and they call it Die Kuhlbox. From now on all refrigerators shall be Die Kuhlboxes.)

There’s also a little table, and lights, a separate heating system for the back, and curtains. Basically: it’s a small studio apartment on wheels.

This is the best part of the Weekender model Eurovan: the poptop roof. There’s a real bed up here, a mattress and everything. You can also prop the roof of the van into the poptop when it’s up, which lets you stand upright inside the van.

The bench seat in the van itself also pulls forward and completely flat — you can sleep two up in the poptop and two down below. In fact come to think of it I once had a studio apartment that was smaller than this van.

How does it drive? Well, a sports car it ain’t. It is a big, boxy, heavy van. The engine is a 2.8 liter VR6 with 200HP. It is tuned for torque, which means it can get out of its own way but it won’t really beat much of anything in a quarter mile run. On our twisty bumpy road it grips just fine but it’s not all that happy. It rattles a lot. On town roads or on the freeway it smoothes out and has no issues; it feels like just a large, slow, car. Maneuvering it around in parking lots is somewhat challenging; ironically it is much easier to see the back thanks to enormous mirrors and the square back end than it is to see the front which is pretty much invisible below the windshield.

Now we just have to decide where to go. Somehow the trip ten miles into town for breakfast once a week now seems somewhat…limiting.