VW BAY WINDOW CAMPERVAN BUYING GUIDE
Here's some useful information specifically on type 2 campervans...
1968-1971 Bus & Westfalia Campervans
The second generation of the Bus was introduced in 1968, and included a long list of mechanical and ergonomic improvements over the older Splitty (along with a new nose, which some people liked more and others less). The early years of the "bay window" bus used a Beetle drivetrain (1600cc upright motor, also referred to as Type 1). The advantage of this motor is that parts are very cheap and easily available. The drawback is that it's somewhat underpowered for such a heavy vehicle as a Westfalia camper, resulting in a slower top speed and reduced engine life as compared to later models. Of these years, '71 is the most desired because it has a more-powerful dual-port motor and power front disc brakes (although many earlier models get upgraded to dual-port along the way). The camper interior for these years was very functional, but basic compared to later models. It included an icebox, sink (with manual hand pump), a sofabed, a rear-facing passenger seat, and plenty of cabinetry. Options like stove and fridge were not yet available, and sleeping facilities were limited to two adults and two children (as opposed to the later models, which slept two adults in the poptop area rather than just one child). This interior layout was used until 1974 with only minor changes.
1972-1973 Bus & Westfalia Campervans
These were the first years for VW's new "pancake" engine, originally developed for the commercially ill-fated Type 4 sedan and also used on the Porsche 914. (Outside of the U.S., the old Beetle engine remained an option until the early 1980's.) The Type 4 engine is considered by many to be VW's finest air-cooled motor, more powerful than the bug motor with no sacrifice in reliability or gas mileage. Also, many items can be serviced without removing the motor (heads, alternator, pushrod tubes, etc.) The new Type 4 drivetrain was to be refined over the years; these early versions had smaller engines (1700cc) and clutches than later versions, so the improvement over the earlier 1600cc versions was minimal.. The '72 lacks an engine hatch, making access to the new, larger motor difficult.
1974-1975 Bus & Westfalia Campervans
By now VW was starting to optimize their Type 4 motor. Displacement was increased to 1800cc, and in '75, fuel injection and a larger clutch were fitted. The Westfalia interior, too, became more modern. The poptop was redesigned to fit a full double-bed up top rather than just a child's cot (now 4 adults could sleep comfortably). The front seats got headrests, the sink got a convenient electric pump, and more options were offered (fridge, gas stove, dual battery, etc.) These were the first years for the brightly colored plaid upholstery.
1976-1979 Bus & Westfalia Campervans
These last years of the bus were its most modern. The motor was now at 2 litres, the biggest it would ever get (although horsepower stayed roughly the same as the 1.8). Also, in '78, it got hydraulic lifters, eliminating the need for valve adjustments. The camper interior was redesigned, and in fact resembles the version that would stay around straight through 1991. A much roomier layout was achieved by placing all the cabinetry behind the driver's seat, leaving open space behind the passenger seat (which now swiveled to face rear).
Shopping Tips for 1968-1979 Bus & Campervans
Rust is the big problem with campers of this era, especially in snow prone areas (due to the use of road salt). Think very carefully before buying a rusty bus. Unlike a Bug, floor pans, fenders, etc. are not easily replaceable. Rust at the front axle beam is a common, and very expensive, problem. Also look for rust under the sliding door (can cause the door to fall off), inside the wheel wells, on the rocker panels, front floors, and steps by the front doors. Rust under the windshield seal is also common, but can be repaired without too much difficulty unless severe (although the windshield must be removed). The Type 4 motors tend toward valve seat failure if overheated. Make sure all four cylinders are running strong; take a closer look if one is weak. (One tight valve can also be a sign of a dropped seat.) Minor oil leaks are the norm; on a Type 4 motor, most can be repaired with the engine in place. Other common (but relatively minor) problems are horn, four-way flasher switch, gas guage, and electric sink pump failures. Also, be warned that the heater in a Bus is only marginally functional in below freezing weather (unless equipped with a gas heater).