by Susan Crandall
Let's talk tents. First, any tent with fringe is not a Westfalia tent. But there are several kinds and colors of Westfalia tents for split window campers. If you define a tent as having a floor then these weren't tents at all but fancy awnings with sides. There are 3 basic styles. The first 2 are interchangeable on the early year busses. They hooked into the roof mounted brackets. The large version is common and in 1962 cost 475dm. It had a peaked roof for head height and optimumstrength and drainage. All the pieces had to be used for the support system. The pieces were black and came in pairs. Each half screwedinto a matching piece. The neat thing was if you had all the pieces you could do your own adaptations. It almost seemed as if it were expected with all the extra slats and sleeves.
The large tent covered threequarters of the side of the bus and the sides were supported by poles off the front and rear bumpers. There were 3 removable sides. The sidetoward the front of the bus was a straight simple piece that followedthe curve of the bus. The rear facing piece was actually a cabana roomfor changing or for use with the ever elusive Westfalia port-a-potty (actually it was a glorified zinc plated breathable outer container and an inner, sealable ordinary bucket with a handle). Then it was topped off with a nice wooden seat and lid. The front of the tent facing out from the double doors was a huge piece and by removing the outermost cross barand inserting it into the bottom of the front piece you could pick up the front and support it off the peak of the original awning and twopointed poles (provided) farther away from the bus, doubling either your dry area or your shade. Since all the sides attached by pull snaps you could actually choose how you wanted to configure the front section by where you attached the snaps and whether you were seeking privacy, wind block or shade.
The most common color for this tent is yellow/gray but it was also available in red/white, orange/blue (very early we have only seen in pictures), orange/white or green/white, all vertical stripes. The smaller tent was a single piece and was supported from the twocenter roof brackets and the jack points with a total of 4 poles. It went up in a jiffy and covered just the double doors either open flat against the bus or closed or at half mast held there by clips off thetent poles. Ideally used for a changing room or a dry entry on multistop camping excursions. In 1962 it cost 150dm. Most people opted for the large tent and only a few chose the small tent usually as an additional tent not alone since the larger tent was so much more versatile. We have only seen the smaller tent in red/white andgray/yellow.
Both tents had an optional allowance for the roof rack- a hemmed cut that wrapped around the front rack leg. 1966 introduced the enormous blue topped burnt orange sided tent with a circus striped door that attached to the bus by a rope wrapped welt slid through a U shapedslide attachment mounted on the gutter. The poles and frame work were traditional tent framework supporting from the inside. The gutter slidewas the only modification necessary to the bus. Split window era tentshad no floors but provided as much room as could be asked for the 2 week bivouac. Finding one of these in top condition with all its pole piecesis a real find. Often you see a later version of these with a gray rubberized floor and slightly smaller that were designed for bubble window busses after 1967.
Fortunately for split campers these tents fit identically to the earlier version and
didn't need a gutter attachment. They attached to the bus on the gutter by a roll on rubber molding attached
to the rain gutter. The harder you pulled on a properly connected tent the tighter the seal became.
Sometimes there is a triangular flap at the rear of the opening for the double doors sincethey were
actually designed for sliding doors but on the earlier slider versions the flap is small and can
be easily pushed out of the way. The beauty of these tents was that once you disconnected the bus
you could fully zip up the tent and drive away with your stuff out of sight but your site was still