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A brief introduction to the VW Campervan

A brief introduction to the VW Campervan

The VW Campervan was launched in 1949 with the original split screen windscreen design bus, affectionately nicknamed ‘Splitties’. Since then the Campervan has evolved through several generations, but for each different VW Campervan produced over the years, there were also companies producing different varieties of roof.

There are several designs and choices depending on your van model and lifestyle choice. The original tin top roof is where no pop-up roof has been fitted. It’s streamlined but doesn’t offer much headroom, so using the camper kitchen and moving around inside can get a little tricky. Their main advantage lies in being fully weatherproof and reasonably well insulated.

High top roofs are solid, non-moving roofs, providing the head height lacking in the original van. Great for storage and sleeping space, but as they permanently increase the overall height of the vehicle you need to be aware of this when driving. An advantage of high tops is that they are well insulated – helpful if you want to use your van all year round.

Pop-top roofs come in a wide variety of styles and sizes and can transform a van’s living space. Some offer just extra head height but others provide bunks for children and even adults to sleep in, plus lots of storage space. A variety of designs mean they can be a straight lift upwards, side lift along the long side of the van, hinged front or back lift. The choices are endless here, and advantages are numerous. The increase in space these offer can be enormous and hugely practical. Side-lifts offer better wind protection, for example when parked at the beach. A range of canvas colours and hinge types are also available with some roof styles. Disadvantages can include wear and tear – if the canvas wears or rips it could leak and will require replacing. As the roofs aren’t fully solid they are less insulated and therefore not necessarily as warm and cosy as a solid roof. With these roofs you can choose the whole package that will work best for you – enabling great views, better airflow and practical sleeping and storage space in your van.

There were a number of main roof manufacturers, many still running today, and several smaller companies who produced roofs in more limited numbers and styles.

Westfalia produced 4 different types of roofs:

For the Splitscreen, the SO42 Turret Top that you can stand up in. Space Roof's pop-top roof offers a similar classic style but has the advantage of modern materials. For the Early Baywindow they produced a front hinged, rear lifting roof with large luggage rack. This provides a single cot in America and in the UK a single fixed bed.

For the Late Bay they designed a rear hinged, front-lifting roof with smaller luggage rack which provides a 6ft x 45 inch bed.

Space Roofs’ Westy type elevating roof design will fit all bay window vans from 1969 to 1980, with the same look, feel and dimensions of the original and includes a 43.5 inch x 6 foot bed in the roof. This modern roof is easier to raise and lower than the original Westfalia as it uses external gas struts and scissor hinges.

For the Type 25 they produced a rear hinged, front-lifting roof with smaller luggage rack or shaped deflector. This design provides a 6ft x 48 inch bed.

Space Roofs’ design manufactured for the T25 is based on the later Westfalia Roof that was fitted to 1985 VW campervans onwards. This three-quarter length, front lifting, rear hinged roof runs from the back gutter to the front doors and over the cab area features a separate fibreglass luggage rack. This practical modern roof will fit on any T25 van from 1980 to 1991.

Devon, based in Sidmouth, made a Straight Lift Pop Top with concertinaed canopy sides fitted to both Splitscreen and Baywindow vans. This provided 2 pull-out hammocks. It was produced until 1973 then following this came the ‘Moonraker’, a straight-lift pop top with straight sides and mushroom vents on top of the roof – also providing 2 pull-out hammocks. The late 70s saw Devon produce a full length side lift roof called the Double Top for the T25, which provided either 2 separate smaller beds or 1 large bed.

Dormobile produced one roof, which they still produce today. This side-lifting roof has 2 opening air vents and 2 glass windows in the top of the roof, providing 2 pull-out bunks.

From the mid-1970s Viking produced side lift roofs in 2 styles: the Spacemaker elevating roof with bunks and the SuperViking roof with slide-out bed.  This style of roof was also fitted to the T25 and provided a double bed upstairs and 2 single fixed beds.

Bristol-based company Danbury make a straight lift pop top roof, the original of which provided 2 hammocks.

Holdsworth produced a roof similar to the Devon with a longer shell that covered more of the van roof, providing 2 hammocks.

Canterbury Pitt designed and produced 1 style of roof when Peter Pitt joined forces with Canterbury Motorcycle Sidecars. The straight lift pop top fitted on both split screen and bay window vans. It provided the most room of all the straight lifts and lifted twice as high as the Devon or Danbury, but once again still only provided 2 hammocks.

Space Roof’s other design for Splitties is the first new roof manufactured for Splitscreens in over forty years. A 3/4 length straight lift fibreglass roof, which provides a 6 foot x 42 inch bed platform, its retro design is based on the Canterbury Pitt so it sits comfortably on your vehicle and doesn't scream out "look at my new roof!" 

In our next post we’re going to look in more detail at Devon roofs for Volkswagon Campervans.

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