It is high time to introduce you to our house on wheels: “Popo”. If you have read our page about you already know a little about him.
Our van is a bit like a member of our family. Our adventure companion takes us everywhere, when he's not grumpy and we share 90% of our moments with him, he's our little cocoon. So we can say that we love our little “block” madly. Cinderblock?! Yes because let's be clear, it is not at all streamlined so as to be aerodynamic, if you know what we mean...
Anyway… We show you so many photos of him on social networks (it's a bit like “Popo at the beach”, “Popo in the mountains”,…), that it's really time we introduce him to you properly.
The "living space" is not huge and requires performing a daily ritual (folding the bed, putting away the table...) but we find everything we need there, all in a single multi-function "room". .
Basically, living in a van is like playing Tetris every day!
Interior design, improvements, ... We tell you everything. You will be able to better imagine our daily life!
So here is "Popo" our faithful steed! A 1984 Volkswagen T3 (or “Vanagon” in North America), originally from California with original Westfalia motorhome layout. Good for connoisseurs, this nickname, “Popo”, is very basic since it is quite simply that of this model in Europe, but in North America nobody knows it and inevitably it makes them laugh!
We found it painfully on the Montreal side two weeks after our arrival.
We were looking for a T2, the "real" combination of hippies like our Toaster in France but fitted out motorhome. The task has been very, very, very complicated in Canada. It must be said that rust is a big problem here and in addition the North American layout, which is a little different from what we are used to seeing, is not very suitable for long road trips.
So we ended up finding Popo. With its 4.57m long and 1.99m high, it goes everywhere and knows how to be discreet when necessary.
For the record, we are the fourth owners, the first lived in California, the second in Missouri and the third in Quebec. He passed recently the 300,000 miles or about 460,000 km ... just that ...
This is one of the first T3 water cooled (we easily recognize them thanks to the grille under the grille), not many options therefore, but it suits us very well! It's fewer potential failures! No air conditioning, no power steering, no power windows or centralized condemnation, ... Bas base what!
The engine is at the back, it is accessed from the inside via a large hatch that is located under the mattress. Here is a 1.9L 84h with the famous 4-cylinder flat. The transmission is 4-speed ...
Volkswagen has thought of everything: to make levels just pull a small hatch hidden behind the license plate, no need to open the trunk, to remove the mattress, the big hatch, ... phew.
That's fast for mechanics.
You see it in its v2.0 configuration. Yes, because when we bought it and we went directly with it in July 2015, it was far from being so clean and especially less equipped!
This is the original Westfalia development, type "Berlin". So there is a kitchen cabinet with a sink, two gas hobs (the 3-gallon tank is under the chassis, it's specific to American models), a refrigerator that works at three energies: gas, 12V and 110V (yes we are in the US) and storage. On the front we see a small led control panel that allows you to know about where we are in our consumption of water and electricity and a witness operation for the fridge.
The rear seats convert into a bed like a sofa bed. The bed is 120 x 190 cm, not very wide so especially with the walls on each side but you get used to it. Under the storage bed and the original rear heater (which only works with the engine running), which we recently replaced with a stationary heater (i.e. which can also work when stationary) . Yes, it's a small luxury but really what a joy to be warm! Before that, we covered ourselves like two Eskimos! We also see the box that controls the charge of the solar panel, which we placed here, easy to access, but like that it is not visible from the outside.
Above the bed, storage and side: storage again! We can also see the swivel table. Below, two hatches ... storage (well yes), with a double bottom in which is located among other 55L water tank.
The front seats swivel and you can install another table in between.
Yes, we see you coming with the “wooden balls”… Yes, yes, that smells like commentary! We call them “Pakistani taxi balls” (without a second thought of course!) To tell you the truth, we bought them with the van and the first thing we said to ourselves was that the we couldn't keep such a thing… But after having tried them, you will never believe us but it's really very comfortable, especially when it's hot! We love them so much that we bought nylon thread to patch them up about twenty times and then lately we spoiled ourselves and bought new ones for 9$US each at Walmart (per seat eh, not per ball!).
Finally, above the seats, optional, we can install a hammock as a children's bed. Under the passenger seat, the main battery and under the driver's seat we have just installed an auxiliary battery for this version 2.0. When we tell you that we went economy mode at the beginning of the trip and it for a year and a half ...
The main feature of the Westfalia model is its roof! Here, the liftable model, which can stand when it is open and also access two additional beds, basically it's the guest room! Yes, because for our part, we tend to sleep down! The mattress is thicker and we feel less claustrophobic ... The canvas, original (vintage huh?!), Can open on the front and has a mosquito net integrated (not stupid!). The new replacement canvases have the advantage of having two more openings on the sides!
It would have changed, but it will be for later ...
We have added to all this small world a home made furniture behind the passenger seat in which is a chemical toilet (in case of urgency only haha and only for the small commission one specifies!) And storage (one can never have enough ), as well as a small shelf that unfolds outward in the manner of previous models of combi, just to take a drink outside more easily ...
We also just installed a soft vinyl floor in the back. Not that the original carpet was in bad shape, but it's a lot easier to clean. No need for a vacuum cleaner, a brush and rags and it's impeccable! It is not that we are maniacs, but in a small space it is quickly the B% # $ @ L so we always make sure that it is tidy and clean.
It's a real little house on wheels, all that's missing is a shower… And yes, that's what happens outside! Let's go, let's go! River, lake, beach shower, etc. Otherwise it's under a small Quechua tent provided for this purpose, just to be sheltered from the wind and to have a little privacy when necessary. We add to that a solar shower: basically a pocket of black water (so that it heats up in the sun, but that's rarely the case…), and a hose that goes with it!
We recently, thanks to one of our partners Leisure Leader (specialist equipment for van and camper), could have a lot of extra equipment. The shower is now with pressure thanks to a 12V electric pump system and a knob at the end. We put the pump in a container of water, we plug on the cigarette lighter and presto, a shower almost like home, hot water in less haha! In any case it's really practical, no need to find a tree or do I do not know what mount to hang the solar shower on the roof of the combi ...
Earlier we told you about the solar charge controller. It works well with a solar panel that we installed on the roof. It is a flexible model of 100w that sticks directly with a silicone specially designed for this purpose. Everything is included in the kit from Leisure Leader. We are now autonomous, we can stay put for several days and recharge our devices, switch on the light serenely, etc ... without risk of power failure! We will soon give you an editing tutorial for that 😉
Outside we also installed an awning, because we were tired of literally baking in the sun, and we are heading further south now, so no it is not a luxury! The clothespin towel technique is not very effective, tested and NOT approved!
This is a Fiamma F35 Pro, we chose this model for its lightness (in our opinion more suitable for a small van), compared to the model F45, although it is a little more practical since it takes place with a crank like a classic home awning. Leisure Leader we ordered it to measure: choice of size, color of the canvas and case! We had a good laugh transporting it on the plane, it went like a letter in the mail.
The bike carrier is also a Fiamma model, we are often asked to do so, that's it. It was negotiated (hard), with the purchase of the van. It is aluminum so very light but very strong! This is a specific model for the VW T3. It has resisted the many stony, muddy and sandy paths that have put it to the test with the 2 bicycles permanently attached.
Many people have asked us if we weren't afraid of the risk of asphyxiation with the new heating... No, for several reasons:
- First, we don't leave it on all night. We start it as soon as we land and until we go to bed. Then we programmed it to automatically turn on a little before we woke up.
- Secondly because we have installed a noxious gas detector. It is a small box that analyzes the ambient air and emits a light and sound alarm in the event of a problem: butane/propane leak, CO2 level too high, narcotic gas introduced by someone malicious. We have done several tests and it works very well!
At the top of the following photo you can also see the 300W inverter which converts the 12V current generated by Popo into 110V (we are in North America, remember?!). You can then charge any device with a conventional power outlet. There are several power, more or less big in fact, but for us the 300W is enough to load all our equipment. The transformers of the latter being designed to operate at 110V/220V, there is no compatibility problem except for the plug of the socket.
You may also have noticed that there are three small hatches on one side of the van. From left to right there are:
- permanent water connection (at the campsite for example), never used.
- the electrical outlet (allows to use the refrigerator in 110v and feeds 2 taken inside).
- the filler neck of the 55L water tank.
Depending on the year and the origin of the model (Europe, USA, Canada, ...), traps are not necessarily placed in the same places and do not have the same shape.
On the roof at the front, there is a luggage rack. This is the part that stays fixed when you open the roof. It's not very deep but convenient to put some odds and ends in. At first we installed a waterproof bag with straps, found in Canada at Canadian Tire (one of Mister Eric's favorite stores). It was good, but not very practical to get what was inside… So we recently invested in a rigid box.
It's actually a gun box (you can easily find them in the USA haha, in “Outdoors” stores like Cabela's or Bass Pro Shop), which is completely waterproof and with a system that regulates the pressure, just to tell you that it doesn't not explode while gaining altitude and vice versa that we can open it when we come down. In short, it's very practical, there's no big catch in the wind and you can access it very easily even without taking it down from the roof. It is fixed with a secure key strap and we used the foam delivered with it to wedge it in place.
Finally, the other question we are often asked: the wheels / tires.
On the first models, like here, it's the original 14 inches. Volkswagen subsequently installed larger diameter wheels (15 and 16 inches). We had All Terrain 4 × 4 tires fitted for several reasons. We travel in all seasons and in all weathers. So we needed tires that hold the road also in the rain and snow. We are also very often out of the box. Bye bye bitumen, to us pebbles, sand and mud. This type of reinforced tires also limits the risk of punctures. The first time we had BF Goodrich All Terrain ridden, but unfortunately production in 14 inches was stopped. So we upgraded General Grabber All Terrain A / T2, a little wider by the way, but still available in 14 inches and just as well.
So much for Popo v2.0! We have probably forgotten things, so do not hesitate to ask questions in comment, we will answer with pleasure.
Ah yes ! The color ... big debate between us ... you see it rather orange, brown or caramel?
All the products that have been supplied to us by Leader Loisirs are useful products that we have chosen according to our needs after more than a year and a half in van. These are not "just gifts" but items that improve our lives, so we talk about it. No language of wood, our opinions are and will always be honest with respect to the products mentioned here!