Why install a Hightop ?

We stock Hightops, Van Bodies for donor restoration and sell completed hightop conversions with stock or modified VW and subaru power.

Links to more Hightop info and pics

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We install hightops, convert interiors, add cabinets and rebuild stock / modified VW or convert to subaru.

OK – if you’re reading this, you probably already have a vanagon or westy and know what a great vehicle they are. Or maybe, you know in your heart that you want one to travel and explore in. Maybe you’re considering your options after having used your westy for camping and have found it to be just too crowded.

Camping and traveling in a westy is analogous to “back packing through Europe”. You know, the times when you traveled with a pack filled with all that you had or needed, able to wander from place to place unencumbered by the creature comforts that surround us, taking in new sights and experiences on a daily basis.  Or wish that you had.  However, time passes, spouses and kids arrive in our lives and the distances of North America dictate traveling in a somewhat more comfortable and mobile fashion.

The versatility of the pop top iteration of the vanagon is both its strength and its weakness.  With sleeping accommodation for 4 people, its great to be able to pull up to a campsite or off into the wilderness somewhere, pop the top and begin to camp. But hold on – 4 people means 4 sleeping bags, 4 pillows and clothing for 4 people – all of this “stuff” had to be accommodated in the vehicle for the trip to that campsite or wilderness retreat. All of the other stuff for camping had to be accommodated inside as well, or on the outside of the vehicle on roof racks or rear racks.  It doesn’t take long before all of the space behind the rear seat is consumed and “stuff” starts to spill over into the floor area between the rear and front seats.  Anyone can put up with this for a few hours of driving to a campsite where you can pop the top, get camping stuff outside, the bedding “upstairs”  (sort of – the westy bed, folded up doesn’t accommodate much more than the bedding of the upper bunk) set up camp for a few days and make the interior space useful for what it was intended for – cooking or eating, changing clothes and so on.

The T3 vanagon and Westfalia and its air cooled predecessors have been called “the ultimate back pack on wheels”.  Small enough to be relatively energy efficient, agile enough to go almost anywhere, large enough to carry what you need.  Well – almost large enough.

However, if you are starting out on a road trip – sort of back to the back packing analogy – where you’ll be travelling for  hours, camping overnight and then driving again the next day for a few days or more, the functional limitations of the pop top become evident.  It becomes more and more tiresome to be constantly stowing and unstowing all of that “stuff” that is essential for sleeping but that just takes up space (and a lot of it) during the driving time on the road. The thought very quickly comes to mind – “wouldn’t it be nice to be able to put this stuff somewhere out of the way?”  This is where the advantages of the high top become evident.

Our hightops (not all hightops, but ours in particular) provide ample space over the rear bed platform in driving position to accommodate all of the bedding “stuff’ for 4 people with space left over. The front “locker” space has more than sufficient volume to accommodate the clothing “stuff” for 4 people.  This leaves the “downstairs” pretty well clutter free for driving and using the interior of the camper for “camping” during the day. In addition, because the bed does not have to be folded onto itself to fit under a top that is lowered, a comfortable foam mattress can be used on the top bunk. The standard westy “upstairs” mattress is just too thin and hard for comfort. If you have one, think about how nice about 3 or 4 inches of a nice memory foam would be.

“Stealth camping” is much more inconspicuous – the sight of a raised pop top is a pretty significant sign that someone is camping or sleeping in the vehicle.  Not so with the high top – add some curtains and from the outside there is no sign that anyone is inside at all. Well – no visible sign – others in my family tell me that I snore quite loudly – I don’t believe it but ……   There are lots of good discussions on stealth camping on the  Samba with a great deal of very valuable information as to how, when and where to stealth camp.


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