Could a 30-year old VW bus make it through a 7k mile roadtrip?

Dear Car Talk

Dear Car Talk | Jun 01, 2001

Dear Tom and Ray:

As soon as I graduate from high school, my friends and I are planning to buy a VW Microbus and drive it around the United States. I figure it's roughly 6,000 to 7,000 miles round trip from Dallas to California, to Washington, to Boston, to Miami, then back to Dallas. So could a 30-year-old VW Microbus, in good condition, make it? -- John

TOM: I'm sorry for the delay in answering your question, John. But we've been doubled over in laughter for the past three days.

RAY: "Make it" is a very broad term, John. If you include "on the back of a tow truck" as "making it," then I'd say absolutely. But if the question is "Will it make it under its own power?" -- who knows? People who drove these things 30 years ago rarely made it that far without mechanical problems -- regardless of how fondly they reconstruct those days in their now-fuzzy memories.

TOM: But mechanical failure can create excitement. And that's what adventure is all about, isn't it? It's about not knowing what's going to happen, and not knowing how -- or whether -- you're going to make it. So if it's adventure you're looking for, John, then this is the right vehicle for you.

RAY: On the other hand, adventure is all well and good, but you DO want to come back sans wheelchair. And this is probably one of THE least safe vehicles in existence. The handling is terrible, it blows all over the road in the slightest breeze and it uses the front-seat occupant's knees as impact sensors. So I'd rather see you take something equally adventurous (i.e. old and unreliable) but a little bit more substantial.

TOM: Consider buying an old GMC Suburban, or even an old Chevy or Ford van, if a van is what really appeals to you. In fact, if you get an old V8 Chevy van and disconnect four of the cylinders, you can faithfully reproduce the feeling of the old Microbus! Happy trails, John.

Get the Car Talk Newsletter

Got a question about your car?

Ask Someone Who Owns One