Westfalia Interior Descriptions '58-'67
by Susan Crandall
Remember this article is meant to be an overview or an introduction anda way to describe
as many features as we can. It doesn't mean it's gospel. Owning Volkswagens should make you
aware that every country kept features for a different length of time and that Volkswagen
subscribes to the left over theory. If it's left over just put it onthe first ten or first
two hundred models of the next year to confuse everyone!
During the early sixties the idea
of a "ready to go" camping vehicle seemed to have caught on in Europe and especially here in
America. Volkswagen had already made in roads with this new market as early as1952, when they
made available roof racks and awnings. In America, interest in the camping vehicle steadily grew
right through the end of the split window era and beyond. Some of the refinements that we've seen
are still being used, some were discarded as impractical.
Camping BoxWestfalia did incorporate distinct styles of kits in the early buses
through 58, unfortunately not many good examples exist today. Whatmakes theses kits unique was
the large use of wood (not much plastic there) and a fairly simple design. 1953 introduced the
camping box. Aremovable box that would allow part of the kit to be removed to be used as a sort
of chuck wagon by the picnic table. One of the models used arollback bread box style cabinet
as rear compartments. The camping box expanded to "standard" and "export" models in 1955. In
1956, the kits were renamed "standard" and "deluxe". These early models used a set of very
prominent decals with the Westfalia horse logo. Most unusual of all were 2 large red fuel
containers for an optional Westy cooking stove. (pretty high on my cool factor) While the
sleeping cot was primitive by later standards, it was very functional. Available from 1952 to
1964was the operable steel hatch in the roof so you could enjoy the good weather and the stars
at night or let the bus fill up with water if you forgot to close it tightly.
1958 brought about the deluxe SO-23. SO designations come from "sonderausfuhrung" meaning
special model or edition. The original standard SO22 camping box was still available and
possibly was available through1966. We are unsure of this total timeframe. Offering the same
basic design 58-61 Westfalia was using the 2 rear seats with 2 back cushions to form a bed.
Either red and black or yellow and black plaid were thechoices for upholstery. Cabinets were
made of plywood veneer with woodfinish, the doors of cabinets were oval or half rounds with
metal edging. Early style child's hammock using same plaid as rear bed hooked around back of
front seat to make a small hammock and bottom of frontseat could actually hold another child.
These campers came with or without an ice box section that included another storage compartment
on thedriver's side above the engine compartment. Also as an option was anelastic catch all for
shoes across the ceiling of the rear area. These campers came with the highly sought after spun
colored aluminum drink sets in the clear bread box display cover. There were your basic cocktail
6 oz cups and your accompanying shot glasses. There was anenormous water tank that took up half
the area under the seat behind the driver that operated on an electric siphon hose. There were
2 clamshell side lights and an abundance of
There were 2 tent options. Small foyer and large cabana room. A lot of busses came with both
sets of mounts on the roof hence the four mounting eyes on early Westys. To increase the amount
of stuff you could bring, Westfalia racks started to appear regularly. A rack from this era is
distinctivefrom a side profile. The back bow has a lower profile than the other 2,or look at
the attaching clamps. They are smaller without press marks from stamping. The wood slats were
screwed with 2 screws instead of oneas in later racks. The later racks all had equal bow height.
In 1960 the "MOSAIK" program was introduced to create more optional kit offerings. With the
MOSAIK program you could buy just the camper pieces you could afford or really wanted. Additional
pieces were available through the dealer.
1962 brought out a different kit altogether. The SO-34 or 35 depending on the
upholstery. While the flip top hatch was retained and the hanging locker and rear cupboard unit
was in the same place everything was different. From a kid’s perspective it is also the
The hanging locker unit was wider than before. The camper interior was arranged
for seating looking out the side doors rather than facing each other front to back. The bed was
made up from 3 narrow (uncomfortable) cushions going lengthwise in the middle of the bus that
used the front seat and the fold up middle seat in the rear tunnel as extensions for tall people.
Extra seating for socializing was provided by spinning the back of the front seat 180 degrees on
swivel arms accessed at the front doors. The seat back completely flipped around so from the
side doors you could access the entire bench seat now facing backwards. So in addition to the
bench seat facing the
double doors there was one across the front of the bus and in the tunnel
or alley in the back in front of the engine compartment a single seat flipped up. An optional item
was also a small standard folding chair that clamped to the floor for travel in front of the
hanging locker. The table screwed into the floor but could swivel on a bent arm that allowed
the long way to be either horizontal or vertical across the bus. But the best part about the
table was its ability to come out of the bus and be used. Why did they ever give that idea up?
SO-34/35 parts photo by Michael Heron.
The back of the bus under the rear hatch was the primary access to the kitchen area. Facing the
rear of the bus the left hand
unit had a large fold down doo to act as a flat surface with 4
recessed shelves to hold canned goods, silverware, condiments, fuel bottles, cups,etc. and in
front of that was the icebox. On the right hand side was a cupboard with 2 side opening doors
behind the hanging locker. But if the weather was inclement just unbolt the kitchen fastener
and swing it around on its roller wheel to face the interior of the bus and work from there
albeit hunched over. The swivel unit itself had logical storage and even accommodated the
stove when you were ready to pack up. No digging under the bed for kitchen stuff. While the
unit was swiveled forward it allowed access the spare tire behind it. By taking the spare tire
out and laying it flat on the ground, with the plate that came in it you could mount your table
to the tire and have a little serving table or prep table wherever it was most convenient.
On the front of the ice box facing the front of the bus was a very early sixties traditions, the
bar. The upper
cupboard sported the traditional spun aluminum glasses in the 8 oz size with space for your
own extras and the bottom cupboard tilted out with cutouts to support two fifths of your favorite
before dinner beverage and storage for a third. This was definitely a martini crowd camper!
This year introduced the common green child's hammock that we saw through 1967 and its basic
style is still used in today's Westys. The "social" frontseat swiveled to a 90 degree rotation
to form the lumpy support underthe child's hammock if needed but also opened up the front seat
to be the overflow foot room for the main bed. This year instead of the traditional wood finish
the white laminate with the gray dashes and lines was the indestructible material for the cabinet
The upholstery was either yellow/orange plaid with a red vinyl front seat or
blue/green plaid. Instead of a water tank and pump this model came with 3 water jugs. Very
handy to take out of the bus and use anywhere and refill. One of the most novel ideas was that
of a movable light. Alittle cone shaped patio lamp on the end of a lamp cord that plugged into
a cigarette lighter like opening and could be hung from various hooks or even hung from the tent
made seeing what you were doing a breeze. This kit has been seen in 1963 which appears to be a
transition year, sharing most designs with 1964 but not quite.
1963 and 1964Interestingly the 1963-1964 kit is reminiscent of the 1958-1961 kits
where the 2 back seats oppose each other and the table affixed itself inbetween them. To make
the bed the seat bottoms slid to the middle andthe seat backs came off and were used to fill in
the gaps. The rear seat back fit fine as is but the front seat back was thinner and needed to
use lifters to level out the bed. These were the little hinged pieces of wood inside the forward
seat compartment. Under the seat bottoms were huge storage areas. A lawn chair easily fits in
the storage compartment. The cupboards had squarish doors with roundedcorners trimmed in plastic
but instead of the wonderful brass swivel latches used previously Westfalia attempted to copy a
cheap American camper design and went to plastic pull knobs that bent broke and fell apart.
The conical light remained through 1965. 1964 marked the last year of the real wood finish.
It was also the last year for the fliptop and the first year of the large rear window. Seat
cushions were still the yellow/orange or blue/green plaid Pendleton wool material. On the front
side door was the ‘bathroom’ with a rectangle cupboard divided in half. The top opened up and
had 3 shelves with a mirror on the inside and snapped to the door and the bottom folded down and
was held perpendiular with a chain and the cupboard held a ‘dishpan/bathroomsink’.
SO-421965 brought out a totally different kit and certainly the one that is most familiar to
everyone. It was known as the SO-42. What really made this kit different
was the use of a retractable (very comfortable withsprings)
Z bed which
allowed instant sleeping arrangements and could be put away again post haste. Coupled with the
new fiberglass top and canvas side straight up pop top there was plenty of room to move around
in. They finally brought the ice box
to a more accessible area in aself contained cabinet just inside the front double door where it
could be opened from inside or outside the bus. This unit also housed the upright water tank
and excellent plunge pump dispenser. No sink was installed, so there was room for a utensil
drawer and a more useful flatcabinet top.
The cushions were covered in easy to clean solid color vinyl for the export market or the
yellow/orange plaid was available generally in Europe. The side lights were covered with
rectangular slide out covers and there was no conical light with this kit. This kit came in a
walk through style with a single seat behind the driver and maybe a lid on the map storage
section in between the driver and rear passenger or maybe not, or with a three quarter bench
with a built in map junk compartment with or with out a lid that a small child could sleep on.
If it wasn't a walk through then there was a narrow what-not cupboard in the rear corner of the
bus on the driver's side. A surprisingly roomy cupboard went across the top rear. A full
week'sworth of clothes for one person could easily fit there. The rear access hatch for the
space behind the hanging locker opened up, rather than sideways as in the past. Some how you
had to hold up the hatch and dig around in the depths to find what you were after. A snap strap
to hold it open like the kind used above the table to hold the table up and out of the way would
have been handy. The table was permanently hinged to the side of the bus and would fold down
against the side wall out of the way or swing up to the roof. The child's hammock remained an
option. The most practical addition was the what not cabinet on the rear sidedoor. It holds a
ton of food, spices and glassware. The two fold up tables one on the front door and the other
on the side of the ice box
under the pivoting arm of the water dispenser made an easy working areaunder the awning. To add
a little sleeping room a factory option sparetire mount could be ordered right in the middle of
the space for the front emblem. Or for those Alaska hiway trips you could bring two spare tires.
Since camping is sometimes done in the rain the jalousie windows and screens made water and bug
proof cross ventilation possible. The SO-42 sold for 1850 dm in 1965. Basic components of this
kit can still be recognized in the newest offerings from Westfalia even today.
SO-44Also available starting in 1965 was the SO-44 kit. It employed a significantly
different interior layout. It was for non walk throughbuses with the bulkhead behind the driver
made up of a kitchenette with a flip over cover and a hanging locker directly behind the driver.
Inside the lid of the kitchenette there was space for a stove or work area and a small sink. In
1965 water was obtained from siphon pumping from two removable bottles while later there was an
installed watertank. There were three doors on the kitchen section the one closest to the outer
doors was the ice box. The middle one had 3 small utensil drawers and storage for the bottles.
The one by the hanging locker had 3 shelves and plenty of storage for canned and dry goods.
Instead of a fixed dinette table the table was on a moveable swivel with a small jumpseat between
the hanging locker and the huge Z bed.
The Z bed went wall to wall and like the SO-42 was a spring bed with all the size and comforts of home.
What a difference a foot makes. There were cute armrests on either side. The yellow naugahyde
was the usual upholstery. Hanging from the roof in the rear and extending from side to side of
the bus was an optional 3 section clothes compartment. Great for extended storage but almost
completely blocks the view out the back window. Frequently found in this kit was the small
hanging light with the adapter hole. This kit was a bit more money at 2540dm.
While there is no ultimate year by Westfalia all models have a favorite feature. It is the
imaginative designs that have made owning and restoring Westys a real treat.