This Lego VW Van Is Cooler Than Actual Van Life

This pop-up camper is probably the closest to living off the grid most dads will ever get.

by Sal Vaglica
Originally Published: 

When Lego released a version of the Volkswagen T2 Camper Van, it planted a foot in two distinct generations. Sure, it smacks of nostalgia for those who might remember how iconic the van was to the ’60s and ’70s hippie movement and the burgeoning West Coast surf culture. But for millennials, building it can feel like paying homage to the prototype for today’s counterculture movement: off-grid living and van life. But for dads, this is an iconic shape that is display-worthy. Want to make building a family experience? Some of the steps in the 2,207 piece assembly are challenging enough to keep older kid builders interested — but, no kid, this isn’t the Scooby-Doo Mystery Machine.

The T2 Camper Van ended the nine-year-long run for Lego’s older VW van, the T1 Camper. At 14x6x6 inches, the T2’s two-tone exterior looks basic and boxy, but there are details like the curved front windshield, round headlights, and fabric window curtains that keep things interesting. Upfront a chunky spare tire works to turn the wheels. Open the front driver and passenger doors to find a working steering wheel and interior colors that are spot on.

But the real action is in the party in the back. Lego adds fun Technic parts in assemblies for the sliding door and the pop-up roof. The sliding door opens with the press of a button underneath the van — which uses a rubber band — then slides within tracks. It reveals an interior you’ll build that includes a well-appointed kitchen with countertops, a sink, a stove with flame, and a kettle. Underneath, a pair of operable cabinets conceal the stove’s fuel tank and a mini-refrigerator. The rock-and-roll bed sets up as a sofa or folds flat like a mattress. There’s even a swing-out table for meals.

Out back you’ll spend a few pages building the sub-assembly for the engine tucked into a swing-up door beneath the rear window. But the star really is the roof. It’s a bit more complex as it pops up to reveal a fabric tent and retracts back down. The entire roof slides out of the van to make it easier to appreciate the interior. There’s a spot up top, above the driver’s seat, to nestle in a pair of folding deck chairs that you can set up outside, along with the navy blue surfboard.

If you owned a VW van, or had parents who did, this Lego set checks off the nostalgia box. But even younger dads can appreciate the escapist fantasy of packing the family into a van and taking off. At times it can feel like the right answer during the fourth video call of the afternoon.

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