VW Vanagon fanboy warning — put on your swim trunks before reading this because it might make you moist. This super-clean 1991 VW Vanagon Westfalia is a 1-owner vehicle with 100,000 original miles. The original 2.1-Liter boxer four powers this Westy. It cranks out 95 BHP. It won’t win many races, but that’s the strongest of the stock VW Vanagon engines that made it to the US.
When the Vanagon arrived at Reparadise, the owner wanted a light refresh and a few upgrades. The 30-year-old fridge was performing like a 30-year-old fridge. The owner needed more space for food, anyway. The owner asked us to replace the floor, which was showing 3 decades of wear. We also added 3M sound-deadening material to the floor to bring the noise level down. The customer also wanted to add insulation and a Propex propane heater for winter travel.
The Vintage VW Vanagon Look Part 1
The Reparadise team got to work on the upgrades. The plan was to modernize all the requested systems without disturbing the original look of the VW Vanagon. We started by replacing the fan in the original refrigerator with a new Retrofit Refrigerator Fan from gowesty.com. We supplemented the original refrigerator with a versatile Dometic Electric Cooler. The team also installed a new PRV 37420 Strainer & Drain Kit in the sink.
The team repaired the upholstery with materials similar to the original VW Vanagon’s to retain the OEM look. We added 3M Thinsulate synthetic insulation to increase temperature regulation efficiency in both summer and winter. We also added 3M Thinsulate sound deadening material in the floor, a new Loncoin floor cover, a new kick panel, and grip tape.
VW Vanagon Solar Upgrades
With the first set of upgrades complete, the customer wanted to look into options for a more powerful battery bank and a lightweight, efficient solar power system to help feed it. With several original equipment cabinets to work with in the VW Vanagon, the team installed a completely modern electrical system in van while keeping the look almost completely original.
Outlets for Small Appliances
In a small cabinet under the sink, Reparadise installed a NOCO Genius trickle charger and a 600-watt inverter. The team installed two outlet panels—one with standard 3-prong plugs and one with USB plugs—on the outside of the cabinet. These outlets run through the inverter for small appliances.
Major Electronic Components
The big-ticket hardware hides under the rear bench seat of the VW Vanagon with the Propex propane heater. A Lion Safari lithium-ion 105 amp/hour battery is fed by the vehicle’s alternator and by a Zamp 140-amp/hour portable suitcase solar panel. The power is managed by a Redarc BCDC charge controller and a Blue Sea distribution box. a Victron Smart Battery Monitor keeps an electronic eye on the charge state of the battery bank. Our installers hid all these components beneath a false floor under the bench seat to maximize storage and preserve the original look of the van.
The Vintage VW Vanagon Look Part 2
Some components need to remain visible, so we either found products with the OEM look or fabricated them in-house. The team machined the thermostat and switches for the LED lighting. Recessed FlexFire LED strip lights line the ceiling above the tent and run the length of the cabin above the galley. The team moved the original interior light to the inside of the cabinet aft of the galley. The Victron battery management gauge is hidden behind the driver’s seat, maintains the retro look of the van’s OEM gauges.
While we made most of our improvements to the van’s interior, we had to make a few changes to the exterior, as well. First, we installed a new propane tank from GoWesty. The team also installed an exhaust pipe for the propane heater. Finally, we installed a solar port above the propane tank for the suitcase panels.
What started as a minor refresh turned into an extensive electrical system upgrade of this 1991 VW Vanagon. Our favorite projects are hiding state-of-the-art technology in vintage vans and camp trailers for modern convenience with the vintage look. This project is a perfect example of the concept in action.