You know how cool Volkswagen Type 2 campers are, but they’re just too damn fast? Of course you know that. We all know that. If only there was some way to add a little more weight and a little worse aero to them, right? Then they’d be perfect. Well, you’re in luck, because a South African company called Jergens managed just that, and made some incredibly cool VW campers as a result. There’s one on Bring A Trailer right now, as we speak!
The 1976 Jergens Auto Villa camper that’s currently at the astoundingly low price of $22,000 with hours to go looks to be a great example of these fascinating machines. Even though Volkswagen made their own Type 2 campers with those very recognizable Westfalia pop-tops, Jergens managed to make a deal with Volkswagen of South Africa to provide them with Type 2 chassis-cabs upon which they’d build their Auto Villas.
The Auto Villa had normal Type 2 bus bodywork up to the B-pillar, after which was Jergen’s own corrugated-metal, rounded camper body. This used very familiar RV-type construction, and was taller than the normal Bus, allowing people to stand up inside the living area.
The engine was housed in its own little compartment under the bed at the rear, and was fed air via a pair of large triangular-ish vents behind the rear side windows, roughly in the same location as the normal bus air intakes.
It’s worth noting that these, while a good bit larger than the normal bus, were really not that big at all, at least on the outside. As Jergen’s own promo materials shows up there, the wheelbase was the same as the Beetle.
(Also, you may want to note the strange taillights on that Beetle, which were a South Africa-only thing, as noted here.)
The interior packaging was really clever on these, as you can see in that diagram up there, and in the pictures on the BaT auction page:
First, you may need a moment to just let that intense ‘70s brownness wash over you, but once adjusted, I think you’ll be impressed with how much is crammed in here. There’s a kitchen with counters and sink and stove and fridge and cabinetry, a long main floor area, a big double bed at the back, and, yes, even an enclosed bathroom area!
I don’t think there’s a toilet in there, or a shower, but there is a sink, and there may have been options to outfit it into a full bathroom—I can’t think of why it would merit its own cabin otherwise.
Look how cleverly the kitchen sink works—it can be closed away into the cabinet!
I love the tortoise-like look of this thing, a look that very likely mirrors the performance. But, in one of these, who needs to go fast?
Also interesting to point out is the tell for a South African vehicle: those little white reflectors by the headlights.
South Africa was the only country in the world to require them, from around the 1960s to the 1990s, so if you ever see a car with those, you can be pretty certain where it came from.
Speaking of lighting details, I love the taillights Jergens used on this thing, which are not from the normal VW parts bin:
The engine looks to be a Type 4 unit, which had been fitted to Buses and other Type 2s since 1972, at first optionally, then becoming the default.
The Type 4 engines were a touch more powerful than the old Type 1 upright-fan engines they replaced. The one in here is the 1795cc one, which would make about 85 horsepower and is pretty decent for an old air-cooled bus.
Of course, this one is hauling around a small house, so even with that huge-for-an-old-VW number, you should probably not get your speed hopes up.
There’s even a tow hitch on this thing, if you’re feeling especially optimistic.
I’m absolutely charmed by this thing, and I think it would be a real blast to have and actually use. There can’t be more than a handful of these in America, if even that, and this one actually looks clean and well maintained and has been given a decent mechanical going-over, as well.
With old air-cooled buses still going for crazy money these days, I’m quite curious to see how this one will end up. It’s not exactly what’s usually expected from an old VW camper, so that may tamp down some of the nostalgia factor, but that may get balanced out by the sheer delightful weirdness of it.
Oh, also, look at the crazy-ass keys for this thing:
What is that? A skeleton key? Does it also open up some creepy crypt outside of Johannesburg? Is it haunted, a little bit?
I think it’s great. I hope it finds a good home. If you want to bid on it in it’s final hours, here’s the link. Good luck!