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Keeping the Westfalia outdoor tradition alive with the Minnesota Westies

Setting up camp, complete with awning room, at Carly Lake State Park in Minnesota. In Volkswagen and #vanlife circles, the “Westy” nickname has a special meaning. What started as a one-off German conversion in 1951 of a Volkswagen Bus to a mobile living room became a worldwide success under the Westfalia name. The first Westies…

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Setting up camp, complete with awning room, at Carly Lake State Park in Minnesota.

In Volkswagen and #vanlife circles, the “Westy” nickname has a special meaning.

What started as a one-off German conversion in 1951 of a Volkswagen Bus to a mobile living room became a worldwide success under the Westfalia name. The first Westies arrived in America in 1956, and the pop-up roof tents added in later years soon came to symbolize an embrace of the great outdoors all the way through the end of U.S. sales in 2003.

Westfalia campers were surprisingly spacious inside with loads of storage, often equipped with a two-burner stove, sink, a fridge, a couch that converts into a bed, and a second bed in the pop-top. Over the years, owners could add side and rear tents, air conditioning or other creature comforts. In some models, there’s even a special storage bin for a child’s cot. No space is wasted.

Aaron Davidson had long thought about buying a Westy for his camping adventures. After much searching, he found a 1971 Type 2 Bus. Since 2016, he has taken it on adventurous trips all over the U.S. and found a new pack of friends to camp within the Minnesota Westies, an enthusiastic band of owners around the Twin Cities.

Davidson was a member of the Chippewa Valley Volkswagen Club, based in Eau Claire, before he met John Lynden, the founder of the Minnesota Westies, through Instagram.

Davidson came across a post in which Lynden had put a card on the windshield of someone else’s Westy that read: Come camping on Father’s Day weekend? Sign up for the car show and the camping is free!

“I inquired about the meet-up he had planned,” says Davidson. The rest is history.

A Westies meet-up.

Another avid VW enthusiast, Lynden became addicted to the Westy life by taking a camping trip with his kids in 2014.

“My buddy lent us his refurbished 2002 GoWesty Eurovan Westfalia Weekender,” says Lynden. “We went to an area up north where there was no phone reception and no internet. It was incredible.”

On the way home, Lynden decided to buy one. It took a year, but he found a 1989 Vanagon that struck his fancy. “I flew to Colorado and drove the van back to Minnesota before the title was transferred,” Lynden says.

Then, he hit the road, driving it from Tennessee to Florida to Texas to Colorado and beyond. In the spring of 2016, Lynden decided to launch a group of like-minded owners that liked to hit the road and camp out under the stars, passing out cards at the Twin Cities Bug-In that happens every year on the first Sunday in June.

“They had Westy stamped on the front with my number and on the back asked if the recipient wanted to get together and camp out,” says Lynden. “We had five buses that first campout and 12 at the last.”

Though small, the Minnesota Westies are well connected in enthusiast circles around the globe. “I’ve found that this community is willing to drop what they are doing to help a fellow Westfalia owner, whether that be a tow, tools or parts,” says Lynden.

“My engine blew, and I reached out to the club,” Davidson adds. “Almost immediately, someone said they had an engine. Another offered up his shop so that I had a place to install it. Where else does that happen?”

A Westies meet-up.

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Toyota Motor Corporation works to develop and manufacture innovative, safe and high-quality products and services that create happiness by providing mobility for all. We believe that true achievement comes from supporting our customers, partners, employees, and the communities in which we operate. Since our founding over 80 years ago in 1937, we have applied our…

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Toyota Motor Corporation works to develop and manufacture innovative, safe and high-quality products and services that create happiness by providing mobility for all. We believe that true achievement comes from supporting our customers, partners, employees, and the communities in which we operate. Since our founding over 80 years ago in 1937, we have applied our Guiding Principles in pursuit of a safer, greener and more inclusive society. Today, as we transform into a mobility company developing connected, automated, shared and electrified technologies, we also remain true to our Guiding Principles and many of the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals to help realize an ever-better world, where everyone is free to move.

SDGs Initiatives https://global.toyota/en/sustainability/sdgs/

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Orchard business blossoms with Hilux help

It’s late Sunday afternoon on one of the warmest spring days of the year. The ground looks dry and is already beginning to crack. Songbirds and bees compete for attention as the low sun gently warms thousands of blossoming apple trees on a south-facing hillside in the heart of Kent.But with unseasonably low temperatures in…

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It’s late Sunday afternoon on one of the warmest spring days of the year. The ground looks dry and is already beginning to crack. Songbirds and bees compete for attention as the low sun gently warms thousands of blossoming apple trees on a south-facing hillside in the heart of Kent.

But with unseasonably low temperatures in the overnight weather forecast, the race is on to protect a 75-acre orchard from frost damage. One way to do this is to make sure the grass between each row of trees is kept short. This helps to increase airflow and reduces the chance of cold air settling. 

Claire Seymour, 43, gently edges her Toyota Hilux between a row of trees at Tubslake Farm, near Hawkhurst in Kent. Her pick-up’s white paintwork and red signwriting match the flowering pink and white Braeburn apple blossom. Her husband, Steve Bowles, also 43, then sets about unloading a large green Fendt 209V tractor from an enormous six-wheeled flat-bed trailer behind the Toyota. He starts up the brand new tractor and then begins to set up and test the Fisher variable-width mower before handing it over to its new owner for an evening of urgent grass cutting.

Claire is managing director of NP Seymour Ltd, an engineering and agricultural machinery dealer set up by her family in 1974. Based in nearby Cranbrook, the company supplies and makes equipment for orchards, vineyards and fruit growers across the UK. 

“We’ve had other pick-ups in the past but I was impressed with the comfort of the Hilux. We bought it from Beadles Toyota, Medway, in the spring of 2019.

“It’s the Invincible model and is fitted with off-road tyres and a Truckman top on the back. We use it all the time for customer deliveries all over the UK, visiting growers and going to shows. The 3.5-tonne towing capacity is really important to us as lots of our kit is very heavy,” explained Claire.

Surrounded by apple blossom, NP Seymour’s Toyota Hilux delivers a tractor to an orchard at Tubslake Farm, Hawkhurst, Kent.

“We’ve been really busy since we’ve owned it. Covid didn’t really slow us down at all. We just had a few difficulties with staff numbers. But the demand for our machinery hasn’t stopped.

“The Hilux has already done 50,000 miles, and absolutely nothing has gone wrong with it. We’ll definitely buy another Toyota when it’s time to replace this one,” she said, just before hurrying off, leaving the orchard in a cloud of dust to go and enjoy the rest of her Sunday evening with Steve.

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Toyota Motor Corporation works to develop and manufacture innovative, safe and high-quality products and services that create happiness by providing mobility for all. We believe that true achievement comes from supporting our customers, partners, employees, and the communities in which we operate. Since our founding over 80 years ago in 1937, we have applied our…

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Toyota Motor Corporation works to develop and manufacture innovative, safe and high-quality products and services that create happiness by providing mobility for all. We believe that true achievement comes from supporting our customers, partners, employees, and the communities in which we operate. Since our founding over 80 years ago in 1937, we have applied our Guiding Principles in pursuit of a safer, greener and more inclusive society. Today, as we transform into a mobility company developing connected, automated, shared and electrified technologies, we also remain true to our Guiding Principles and many of the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals to help realize an ever-better world, where everyone is free to move.

SDGs Initiatives https://global.toyota/en/sustainability/sdgs/

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