Feature: Abel Longoria

Abel Longoria
Houston, Texas
1987 Vanagon Westfalia Camper
4 years

What lead you to wanting a Vanagon:
In 2011 a friend of mine bought a 1970 VW Bus on a whim and asked me if I wanted to spend a week driving it from Seattle WA back home to Houston TX. I was in! After looking at maps and trying to formulate a plan of attack we quickly agreed that a week was not long enough to make that kind of drive. Instead we decided to drive it to San Francisco CA and ship it home from there. This would give us the opportunity to take the bus on a final 1,200 mile west coast trip. Neither one of us ever owned a VW bus or vanagon at the time so this experience was totally new. I gained a new respect of road tripping in a vintage vehicle because the vehicle is what set our travel speed, not us. The bus made us go slow and take the time to look around and appreciate all the west coast had to offer. This slowing down is what got me hooked. I had to have one and after many grueling months of searching I finally found a Vanagon that was perfect for me.

Advice for potential new owner:
I often find myself talking people out of buying a Vanagon than I do talking them into buying one. Many people get wrapped up in romanticism of traveling the country in an old VW campervan which is very easy to fall prey to. What most potential buyers don’t see are the endless hours of research and mechanical work these older vans require in order to stay on the road and function properly. There will be breakdowns, there will be calls to AAA for a tow truck. If you don’t have a laid back, just roll with it attitude then the Vanagon may not be a wise choice for you. Consider a newer vehicle that’s under warranty.

Favorite Interior Mod
Adding a stock Westfalia refrigerator door to the rear closet in order to gain easier access to that storage area. With these Vans storage space is crucial and the stock camper rear closet is poorly designed. The factory only added a single long, slender door to access the largest storage space available in the van. Adding a fridge door to the side opens up the entire closet the way it should have been made. I added shelves and this closet serves as my girlfriend Lesa’s clothes closet. She keeps all of her clothing and shoes tucked away here.

Favorite Exterior Mod
My favorite exterior mod would definitely have to be the Fiamma 11′-6″ F45 Awning. This thing covers a ton of area and comes in very handy here in Texas in order to create our own shade and/or shelter from the rain. Yes Fiamma’s are expensive but they open and close very quickly and easily and can be done by a single person. Even though the awning is not something I use at every camp out it is my most favorite external addition to the van.

Favorite Campsite
I’ve been fortunate enough to drive my van all over most of the country and have seen some great campsites and vistas. The one campsite that stands out is one a fellow Vanagon owner referred me to. Shadow Mountain Campground just north of Jackson Wyoming comes to mind without even a second thought. It’s on National Forest land so it’s free to camp on for up to 14 days and the views are just amazing. Waking up every morning with the view of the Grand Tetons just on the horizon is amazing. I can just sit there and gaze over the landscape all day.

Favorite Repair Shop
As I have mentioned I’ve driven my Vanagon all over the country and with that being said I’ve also broken down all over the country as well. The one shop that I wish I had close to me is Peace Vans in Seattle, WA. Their staff is extremely knowledgeable and the best part is that they keep just about every part imaginable IN STOCK so your down time is very minimal. I had an early generation of GoWesty big brakes and for some reason I kept going through wheel bearings which in turn chewed up my spindles. Jason at Peace Vans diagnosed the problem and recommended that I needed new hubs and new calipers etc. He recommended the new and improved Gowesty Big Brake kit and was I surprised when he said they had all of the items in stock and ready to install. Sign me up! Seattle based Vanagon owners are lucky to have such a reliable resource nearby. Here in Texas there’s always a 4 day waiting period at least in order to wait for parts to be shipped in from California. Not fun.

Favorite Break Down Story