The bay window Volkswagen camper is a staple of British holidays. Head out on your summer escape and you’ll either be in one, or you’ll see many of them pootling along the M5 on their way to Devon. More than just being a big tin tent, the Volkswagen camper is also an expression of freedom, of easy living and of personal expression. Park any two campers aside and there will be myriad differences. Wheels, paint, stickers, engine, interior – there is a thriving aftermarket out there to serve the vast and varied needs of the Volkswagen camper owner.
But what if some bolt-on parts aren’t enough? What if you want a Volkswagen camper, but you’d like it to stand out that little bit more? And what if, and this is a very real concern, the Volkswagen is a bit too small for you? What if you want the air-cooled life, but with a bit more space? What can you do then? Well, you could scour the internet looking for a Jurgens Autovilla. Or you could let us do the hard work for you – here’s one we found earlier.
What is it?
What you’re looking at here is a 1976 Volkswagen Jurgens Autovilla, which looks to be a VW bus that has been reversed into a caravan at considerable speed. However, instead of broken glass and twisted metal, we have a weird, but frankly wonderful coming together of worlds. We know the VW lends itself to being a camper. However, the Jurgens’ caravan-esque body gives those camping more space. You get breathing room in this. There is a proper, full-size double bed that folds out. There’s a little kitchen, there’s a loo and there is plenty of storage. And most importantly, you can stand up in it without banging your noggin on something.
Being a Volkswagen, the bonus here is the wealth of dedicated specialists who can look after this wonderful old bus. The back of it might be a little on the weird side, but it’s just a caravan body in essence, so the construction isn’t complicated. As such, it’s a doddle to maintain and repair. You can buy almost all the parts you can need straight off the shelf, while any decent motorhome repairer will be able to look after the rear body for you.
Why is it a project?
The vendor states that when he bought this, he actually bought two. One has since been restored, but sadly he doesn’t have time to do this one and as such, is offering it for sale. The VW is an import, though we can’t quite make out the origins of the number plates. However, we can see the camper is a right-hand drive, which is good. With all that junk in the trunk, you want to at least be sat on the correct side for UK roads, just for peace of mind if nothing else.
It looks to be in remarkably solid condition. The vendor does state that there is some work needed around the front arches along with the front panel and the bottoms of the doors. That’s not too bad, as these old VWs can rust for fun.
The engine is a 1800 and the vendor states it’s running and driving. It’s a good engine to have in this, as anything else would struggle to pull the extra weight of that body. And on that note, do remember that this is a camper for trundling along in – you’re not going to be setting any land-speed records!
Five things to look for:
1) Timber Frame
The caravan-esque body on the back of this Jurgens Autovilla is of a simple construction – aluminium over a wooden frame. But it’s that wooden frame you need to look at. If moisture has gotten in, the wood could be rotten and the strength compromised.
Old Volkswagen campers love to rust, and there is nowhere it won’t eat away. Check the doors, the arches, the roof seams, the front panel, the cab floor, the bed floor, the chassis, suspension mountings… just check it all and check it thoroughly.
The engine has only got a recorded 87,000km on it (54k miles), so it should be in good health. However, it has to move a lot of weight, so check it over. Look for any blue smoke, make sure it starts without too much hesitation. Also, check the gear linkages, as they can wear and make the gear-change sloppy.
4) Camper fittings
If you want to keep this Jurgens as is, all the fixtures and fittings need to be in good condition. In the photos, the interior looks to be in reasonably good condition, but it never hurts to check for any signs of damage, damp or wear.
You know the drill. It’s an import. Make sure all the paperwork you need to register it in the UK is on hand.
What should you do with it?
For us, we’d simply restore it to the best possible condition. We’d have to change the colour though, because VW campers should be vibrant and bold. It would also be a good vehicle to fit with modern tech. A discreet flat-screen TV, a nice stereo, some LED low-energy lighting. And while it’s a big job as you’d have to strip the interior, we’d consider some more modern insulation to keep it toasty and snug inside. Then, it’d just be a case of rocking up to the campsite!