I’ve done 20,000 miles in the past 5 months driving a giant lap around the USA and Canada. With that much wheel time in the Westy its important that everything be just right. I’ve spent years perfecting my perfect Vanagon cockpit, and below i'm going to list all of the things big, and a small, i’ve done to make it comfortable, reliable, practical, and fun. Ill also give you my reasons for adding them to the Van, and why you might want to consider them too. There’s a lot going on here, so grab your favorite beverage and join me for a tour around the front of the Van.
Custom Speedhut Cluster Gauges by North Westy: $950
My Van was built in 1982, its 30 plus year old Speedometer was never accurate (it was off between 5 and 10mph), its analog clock no longer worked, it had no tachometer, and no way for me to monitor the engine's health. This custom cluster was assembled using Speedhut Gauges by North Westy in Renton, Wa. They take a stock vanagon cluster, remove the gauges in the middle, and install the Speedhut gauges in a custom bracket made to fit the stock cluster. What's more, they provide clear directions on how to connect it with minor modifications to your existing wiring.
More info here
Rexing V1 1080P Dash Camera: $99
You’ve spent all the time and money building your rig, and you need to do all you can to protect it. I’m a big fan of personal video surveillance. Video footage of any incident basically eliminates any he said, she said. If you ever find yourself in a accident thats not your fault, you have video footage to help your case. Its red light in your windshield also helps deter theft by letting would be thieves know your watching. When I replaced my headliner, I installed a dual USB port connector under it and ran two usb cable to just above the windshield and behind my rear view mirror, allowing me to power two accessories (the dash cam being one, my GoPro being the other) without ugly cables dangling all over the rest of my dash.
More info and link to purchase here
Dash Tidy with Fold out Map Desk: 58lbs
I had a big sloping slab of empty space on my dash. I knew there had to be a better way to utilize that space. Adding this Dash Tidy sold by CamperVanCulture in the UK gives you two cup holders, 3 trays, and a really cool (though not very practical) flip out map desk. The map desk looks cool as heck, but is a little too flimsy to be really useable. However when folded it acts as a 4th tray so the flimsiness of the desk isn't too big of a deal. It does require you to cut your dash pad to make it fit if you have the later model Vanagon’s padded dash, and to screw or fasten it some way (I screwed mine in). If you have a early Vanagon, it should fit your dash with less fussing.
Grab yours here
Steel Center Console Lock Box: $595
I hate underutilized space in the van. This steel console and lock box is designed to fit perfectly in the unused space between the front seats. Forged from a solid block of steel (ok not really) by the skilled hands of Dave Harrison of VanagonLife, this thing will probably outlast the rest of your Van. It has dual cup holders up front, storage pockets that I use to hold notebooks, and my spare change purse. It has a huge locking box built into the center for keeping all of your valuables as safe as possible. Although given enough time, nothing is impenetrable, this thing is sufficiently sturdy that most smash and grab thieves wont have the time and tools to break it open. I love the piece of mind it gives me when I leave the van, knowing that my valuables are protected behind multiple layers of steel and locks. It mounts to the van securely via the seat belt bolts. This has easily been one of my favorite additions to my van. Critics will claim its too expensive. Find a friend who has one, touch it, feel it, open and close it. This is a quality, hand made product, and worth every penny.
Grab yours from VanagonLife here
Anker Dual USB Car Charger: $9.99
Ever bought a cheap usb car charger from a gas station? How did that work out for you? Not all car chargers are made the same. Most will only charge at a maximum of 5w, barely enough to charge most phones, especially when those phone are running things like GPS, Spotify, etc. This car charger will charge not one, but two usb devices at 2.4 amps for a total of 24W. This will quickly charge my iPhone 7 Plus, AND my iPad Pro and is tinier than most on the market. I don’t know how they crammed so much power into such a small device, but this thing is a game changer for charging your small electronics on the go. Designed by a former Google employee, Its cheaper than most on the market to boot.
Purchase yours here
VW Seat Heater Switch with Outside Temperature:
This is a mod I got from Abel over at TexasVanagons.com. He does a tremendous write up on it and I recommend you got check out his blog entry on it for more information.
Go check out the article on Texas Vanagons here
Grid It Sun Visor Organizer: $19.99
A relatively recent addition, I wanted a place on my visor to keep toll tickets, my vehicle registration, a pen, etc within arms reach. The Drivers side Sun Visor was the perfect place as it was a big blank unused space. What I like about this organizer is it has all of these flexible nylon bands that you can securely store your stuff with.
You can grab one here
Visor Sunglasses Clips: $11.93
Need a place to keep your sunglasses? I installed one of these Sunglass Clips on each Sun Visor and now we both have a handy place to clip our Sunglasses while not in use.
Grab a set here
Renogy E.Lumen Multi Function Flashlight: $24.99
I’m a fan of Renogy’s solar panels, so when I heard they were coming out with a solar powered LED flashlight I was intrigued. It has a strong rare earth magnetic so it stays securely on my dash with the solar panel positioned just under my windshield so it stays fully charged for whenever I need it. The flashlight itself is plenty bright, and I have used it on numerous occasions in and around the van. This flashlight has a few other features that are worth noting, including a seatbelt cutter, and window hammer, a compass, red hazard flashing LED lights, and it even has a USB port for charging a phone or other USB accessory in a pinch. Its Metal construction makes it feel like a premium product too, not bad for a little flashlight.
Grab one for yourself here
Ram Cell Phone Windshield Mount: $41.49
Ever bought a windshield mounted cell phone holder and had it constantly lose suction and fall off while driving? It's freaking maddening! Its worse if your bouncing around off-road. I searched long and hard, and have tried a lot of different mounts for my iPhone. The best i’ve found, hands down is the mounting system sold by Ram Mounts. I think you could probably rip the windshield off if you wanted, it's that strong. What I also love about the mounts are they are modular. If you want a longer arm, they carry a longer arm. Buy a new phone and need a different mount, you can buy just that part. Everything is made of super strong ABS plastic, and feels well made. This is not your typical cheap mount and I can’t recommend it enough. In fact, I like it so much i’ve bought one for my parents for Christmas, and have them in my other cars. Definitely one of those, you get what you pay for purchases. Pay the extra money, and get the best cell phone (or small tablet) holder there is. Period.
Grab one here
Alpine UTE-62BT Stereo: $142
I had a Kenwood Bluetooth stereo since I bought the Van. It sounded decent, and it worked decently, but what drove me mad was its display, which was all but unreadable during the day. It drove me crazy! When I was in Upstate NY I visited a old car stereo shop I was familiar with from when I was a kid. I spoke the to the owner, a old hippie car stereo dude. The type of guy who would wax poetic about the good old days, when car stereos were made to last with high quality components. I told him my complaints with the Kenwood, and he explained to me how they used to be great, but had since gone cheap like most of the rest of the car stereo manufacturers using off the shelf components to hit a budget price. Alpine on the other hand, he explained, still designed and made most of their components in house, and could still be trusted to deliver a quality product. Most importantly to me, they used a display I could actually freaking see in the daytime. Take that story with a grain of salt, the guy was high on grass when we were talking, but what I can report is the stereo rocks, and I can easily see it in the daytime. The sound quality is better than the Kenwood to boot. Because of my In-Dash AC unit a regular sized single din stereo wont fit in the vans stock position. In order to make the Alpine fit I had to cut and modify my heater ducting below the dash and install it there. Its not ideal, but i’ve adjusted. Those of you who don’t have the In-Dash A/C like I do should have no issues installing it in the stock location.
Grab one for your Van here
Rockford Fosgate 4” Speakers: $42
Although 4” speakers by themselves won't blow your doors off, when paired with my 12” Subwoofer mounted under my rear bench seat these rock. They also fit in the stock locations on your Vanagon Door Panels.
Grab a pair here
Wireless Horn Button: $36.48
I got tired of screwing around with my Vans extremely temperamental horn button. So I bypassed the whole stock setup and instead purchased and installed this handy wireless horn button. Works great, and much less finicky than my stock setup.
Grab one here
CB Radio: $48.20
If your in the back country in a Vanagon convoy with your best buds your going to need a way to communicate. Cell phone networks are spotty at best. What you need is a Citizens Band Radio. A long time favorite of truckers with this handy radio you’ll be shouting “Breaker Breaker” to your buddies in no time. I ran a antenna from the CB Radio to one of the VanagonLife engine vent covers which has a CB Radio Mount in the back of the Van. There a huge antenna gives me all of the range I need to keep in touch.
You can get one here
Stow N Go Seats with Brackets: $600
I had finally had enough of my stock Vanagon seats and their poor padding. Driving across the country one of my biggest complaints was with the seats and their lack of comfort. After a long day my back would hurt, my butt cheeks would alternate falling asleep, and my muscles sore and achy. There are several options out there including Recaro Seats costing several thousand dollars a pair. Before I try that route, I wanted to give a set of Stow n Go seats a try. I was able to source custom brackets for them that allow them to mount in the Van from VanLab in Kennewick, Wa and I was also able to grab a pair that Mike had from another project. I have a few hundred miles on them so far and am very pleased.
GoWesty SYNC-ROLL-O-METER: $19.95
Even though my Vans not a 4WD Syncro, I do still take it off road quite a bit. With a top heavy van like mine its important to know what angle your leaning so you can try to prevent it from rolling over. Additionally it helps me, with the addition of another in the back to make sure the Van is parked level when camping.
Grab one here
Flip out Cup Holders: $19.95
Sourced from GoWesty Ive found these cupholders to be very rugged, hold large beverages, and then fold neatly out of the way when not needed. Theyre also inexpensive and match the black on the inside of the Van great!
Grab one here
VDO Transmission Temperature Gauge: $31.28
Keep your Van stock if you want the most reliability. Start to modify its suspension, adding extra weight, and a larger motor and you will likely be quickly requiring a rebuilt transmission (like I did!) If you insist on turning your Van into a non stock beast you will need to keep an eye on your stock transmission to make sure its operating at a reasonable temperature. Heat is one of the biggest enemies of your transmission. Ive found with the modifications I've made to mine, along with the best Synthetic Transmission Oil I can buy have helped to keep my Trans Temperatures down even in the worst of conditions. Still, if your Transmission is beginning to see signs of trouble it will likely manifest itself in higher than normal Trans temps and show up on your gauge, allowing you to limp it to a shop before catastrophic failure leaves you stranded somewhere.
Order one here
Buddha Bobble Head: $7.45
Spread some Peace and Love everywhere you go with this fun Buddha Bobble Head. They also have Jesus, Homer Simpson and more to suit your particular taste.
Grab yourself a Buddha here
Single Din Pocket: $5.95
When I moved my radio from its stock position due to fitment issues I had to plug the hole it left. I decided to fill it with a Single DIN pocket which gives me a little bit of extra dash storage space.
Grab one here
Big Shot Shifter: $309
The stock Vanagon shifter is wimpy. There, I said it. I also find its too short. This thing is big, burley, and feels like it belongs in a big rig. I love it. It sits right where my hand wants it to be, and its throws are precise. I wrapped the metal shaft in leather and added a empi boot off a old VW beetle to cover the base. This thing is definitely a favorite of mine.
Order one from RSFab here
Velcro Pockets: $12.72
I covered the walls and headliner of my Van in carpeting. I did this for several reasons. It covers most of the stock paint color of the Van (I didnt have the entire inside painted), It adds some extra sound proofing, it adds some extra insulation, and it allows me to use VELCRO! Woo! I have several of these pockets above each seat, which adds handy storage thats within arms reach while i’m driving. Its typically where I stash some gum, chapstick, and a spare set of sunglasses.
Grab a set here
OSRAM LED Hard Wired Reading Light: $39.95
Mounted above my swiveling passenger seat I use this light in the evening when the seat is in lounge mode (swiveled around) as a reading light.
Grab one here
RV LED Dome Light: $13.99
This LED Dome Light is super bright and consumes very little power.
Grab one here
Heavy Duty Vanagon Floor Mats: $69.99
Thick rubber mats help to keep mud and debris off the carpets.
Grab a set for your Van here
Werksberg ABS Door Panels: Starting at $95 each
Stock Vanagon Door Panels are made of a cardboard like material that tends to break down and get wavy over time. These panels are made from super stiff black ABS plastic. They look great, and are extremely durable. These will likely be the last door panels you will ever need to purchase for your Vanagon. The front bottom pocket is optional with the doors.
Order some from Werksberg here
Door Pocket with drink holder: £20.83
These are a great addition to the door panels and gives you another pocket with which to store stuff along with a spot to stick a water bottle.
Grab a set from CamperVanCulture here
Door Net Pocket: $12.72
Another great pocket for your door, it sits flush with a nylon net.
Grab one here
VW Jetta MK2 Window Cranks:
Stock Vanagon Window Cranks tend to break as your window regulators age and become more stiff. Even taking apart and regreasing my regulators didnt help and I continuously went through replacement aftermarket cranks which would regularly snap in half mid road trip. A friend turned me on to these, which are made of thick plastic, with a bronze bushing on the end where they meet the regulator. Ive yet to snap one in about a year and can attest they stand up to abuse. There is a guy who recently started carrying custom metal door cranks which I plan on trying soon, but for now these are the only window cranks I can recommend.
Grab yourself a pair here