What kind of camper van do you recommend for a Great American Roadtrip?

Dear Car Talk

Dear Car Talk | Apr 01, 1997

Dear Tom and Ray:

In a few years, I'm planning to take to the road in true hippie fashion,
and go "in search of America." I want to purchase a small, used camper-van
for my wanderings. The obvious choice would seem to be a VW Microbus (or
"V-Dub" in hippie parlance). I know there are plenty on the road right now
that are older than their drivers. However, a friend of mine, experienced
in such matters, recommends an American-made vehicle. His logic is that if
you break down in, say, rural Texas, you could be several days trying to
locate old VW parts, whereas most every small town in America has an old
Ford or Dodge engine lying around. What do you guys recommend? -- Alan

TOM: Well, it may just be my age catching up with me, but if I were looking
for America, Alan, I'd rent a Lincoln Town Car from Hertz. That way, if it
breaks down in rural Texas, you can just leave it there and rent another

RAY: Actually, I agree with your friend. Not only are you more likely to be
able to fix a Ford, Chevy or Dodge van, but, compared to the VW, it's
likely to have all kinds of amenities you might find appealing; amenities
like decent handling, brakes, heat and enough power to climb a hill or get
out of its own way.
As romantic an image as the VW Microbus has, the truth is that it was a dog
of the first order, and unsafe to boot -- with your legs protecting the
rest of the vehicle in the event of a front-end collision.

TOM: Since you have so much time, Alan, I'd just buy a Ford, Chevy or Dodge
cargo van in good shape, and convert it yourself to a camper over the next
few years. You can do the work yourself if you're mechanically inclined, or
pay someone to do the work a little at a time as money becomes available.

RAY: I agree. You'd be much better off slapping a couple of McGovern bumper
stickers on a Ford Econoline and dousing it with Patchouli. Then you could
have the whole hippie experience while still managing to get yourself
across the Rocky Mountains.

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