/25 Years of Volkswagen California

25 Years of Volkswagen California

volkswagen california uk at 25 Years of Volkswagen California

This year, the German carmaker celebrates 25 years since the legendary Volkswagen California was introduced. An exotic name for camper van dedicated to vacations. For many, this vehicle represented and still represents the freedom to travel and explore new places. The Volkswagen California also marked an important moment for recreational vehicles dedicated to families that want to spend their vacations looking for things to do in Pismo Beach, or simply on the road.

In the 1980s, traveling by air wasn’t as affordable as it is today and camping wasn’t that popular anymore, so travelers from Western Europe were searching for an alternative. Trailers and trains were an option, but these were not offering enough flexibility, so Western tourists chose campervans, a more practical alternative. These campervans were basically commercial vehicles turned into mobile apartments that allowed a new lifestyle. You could have spent a couple of days in one location, a few days in another and so on without having to worry for accommodation. This offered unprecedented freedom for many travelers.

One of the car makers that took advantage of this new opportunity was Volkswagen and the new model to be launched was the California. This was no new idea, because there were already several independent manufacturers that modified regular commercial vehicles for vacation purposes. One of the most popular, Westfalia, was actually quite connected to Volkswagen.

Westfalia was Volkswagen’s official partner in the recreational vehicles market, the first model the company released being the SO34, based on the original Volkswagen Transporter. The next model was the SO42, with a new collection of features that were extremely popular in the United States. Westfalia kept building recreational vehicles through the ‘70s, many of them being named after famous explorers such as James Cook, Sven Hedin or Marco Polo.

One of Westfalia’s most popular models was the Joker, released in the early ‘80s. The campervan was based on the Volkswagen Transporter T3 that had some amazing features: the rear seats could be turned into a bed and it had a small kitchen with a fridge, stove and a sink. The Joker’s features were incredible, but due to all these features it wasn’t cheap at all.

volkswagen california at 25 Years of Volkswagen California

And that’s where Volkswagen saw a potential market, with customers looking for a fully equipped yet still affordable campervan. When it was launched, the Volkswagen California was priced at 39,900 marks. Westfalia soon started having financial difficulties and in early 2000s it was acquired by DaimlerChrysler, but it kept offering customizations options for many models, not just the group’s. In 2010, Westfalia filed for bankruptcy and was bought by Rapido group in 2011.

As for the Volkswagen California, the car has been produced for 25 years, being one of the German carmaker’s most appreciated brands. The model’s most important element is the raising roof that creates an additional sleeping space if necessary. Previous models were using a fixed raised roof, but this made the campervan unstable and dangerous, so it was changed.

In the 25 years since the model’s launch, Volkswagen sold around 100,000 units from three generations of California. The current model is available with two 2.0-liter TSI engines (150 and 204 hp) and five diesel version producing between 84 and 180 hp. Some of these engines can be ordered with Volkswagen’s famous DSG automatic transmission or 4Motion four-wheel-drive system.

And to celebrate the important milestone in California’s life, Volkswagen currently sells an anniversary edition based on the Multivan, called Edition25, which has several unique features such as styling elements and a few optional features available as standard. Also, if you are on the lookout for vw transporter parts, just give Volkswagen California a call and they will find it for you! 

(Journalist) – Vlad Balan is an automotive journalist from Eastern Europe and he has been blogging about cars, reporting from auto shows, taking interviews or test driving cars since 2007.