About 2 years ago I purchased a 76’ VW Bus. Knowing absolutely nothing about old VW buses other than they look rad I aimlessly started browsing craigslist to see what was out there. I’d find what looked like a good deal and take it into a shop to get checked out. They would tell me it was junk. In fact no one was recommending I purchased an old VW bus. Especially for what I was going to be using it as - a daily driver, a home, and putting hundreds of miles on it a week. These are hobby vehicles they would tell me not intended for everyday use.
Still I became determined to make it work. I now had a vision and a dream of this van-life and wasn’t taking no for an answer. I kept searching.
Digging though craigslist more and more each day as it turned to Spring I finally found the one. Eleanor I called her (after my grandmother). She is a fantastic bright pea green color, original engine, original interior and very little rust. She speeds down the highway with a tailwind at a whapping 55 mph and up Loveland Pass she tops out at 30. She was perfect and ran great as far as I was concerned. Originally sold in Denver, Colorado back in 1976. And then sold again to me in Denver in 2014. A true Mountain Standard native.
I have a pretty sweet job that requires lots of travel and inspired the need for this van. I’m a salesman for my family’s company Wilcor Outdoors. We sell camping supplies, hiking gear, pretty much anything to do with summer time fun outdoors. I visit customers in mountain towns and vacation destinations throughout Colorado, Utah, and Wyoming. So I’m on the road a lot, from February through September. Traditionally a salesman would just go from hotel to hotel and eventually go back to their home life during their weekends. I’m from Upstate NY so I wasn’t going home and I didn’t want to stay in hotels. My first summer on the road (3 years ago) I’d tent camp just about everywhere I went/stay with friends. Only staying in a hotel as a last resort. It was great but in order to keep doing it I wanted camper.
Eleanor came pretty bare bones. No heat, no fridge or kitchen, an old cassette player with speakers that worked half the time but to be honest I didn’t need or want much. I have a small double burner stove and a water jug that work just fine. Sometimes in the early spring on chilly nights I’d put my sleeping bag on while driving.
I did make a couple additions. First I added a roof rack for storage of toys and to minimize clutter in the van. On top I keep my snowboard, bike, kayak and the accessories that go along with them. I wanted to be sure no matter where my job and travels took me I could play. Ski in Telluride one week and bike or float in Moab the next. Also a second battery to hook up an inverter up to, allowing me to charge computer and use the van as an office, although I usually prefer coffee shops. Recently I also had a second oil cooler installed as the engine is air and oil cooled, this is supposed to more than double the life of the engine as over heating is usually what kills them. And of course I had to upgrade to more some rugged tires for ripping around the dessert and to get off the beaten path.
Now I have my dream vehicle and most people around me seem to like it too. Always getting smiles from pretty ladies and thumbs up/peace signs from other fans on the road. The world seems friendlier with the van. I think it symbolizes a free sprit that we all seek. I have everything I need with me and can go anywhere at any moment. It truly is an adventure – even a trip to the grocery store feels like a road trip.
With winter just around the corner I’ll be storing Eleanor for a few months but will have her back out in the spring for another epic tour in 2016.