The Vans of Vantigo: Adopting Lillie

This series will follow Vantigo owner Erik Hormann’s journey in acquiring and restoring the vans of Vantigo. 

When you decide to start a VW van tour company the first thing you need is a van. What no one tells you is what an adventure finding the first van will be! When we started to search for our first vehicle, there was a lot to consider. Do we go for a 23 window? How many seats do we need? Where will we be able to park a classic VW van in San Francisco? How crazy are we to want to drive a manual car up Telegraph Hill? The list goes on….

The thought of buying a restored van was as exciting as anticipating Christmas morning at age 5 (for me anyway). I developed spreadsheet after spreadsheet, and amassed a list of potential vehicles to investigate. In the early days of the hunt, I became obsessed with finding the right van. Day in and day out, finding the perfect van was my only goal. The list narrowed down to a couple possible options in Southern California, so I flew down to see the options first hand- hoping to return to San Francisco with “the one”.

vantigo-private-toursThe first van I wanted to check out was at a classic car collectors dealership. The owners picked me up from the airport, and when we arrived at the dealership I started my inspection based on John Muir’s book “How to Keep Your Volkswagen Alive”. The van passed most of the checklist except I noticed the left carburetor (the thing that gives the motor gas) was leaking fuel. Hmmm. The dealership mechanic was not in so the dealership owners agreed to bring the van to a local VW shop down the street. I explained to the mechanic that I wanted a full walk through so I knew what I was getting myself into if I purchased the van. When I came back the next day I was taken aback by what they had to say. The van had been nearly fully restored, but crucial components such as having shocks installed in the front was overlooked, and to boot, the engine was in pretty bad shape. Suffice it to say, this was not our Vantigo van. So, the search continued…

I finally found Lillie (our first Vantigo van) in Lake Elsinore, belonging to a guy who had bought it from the original owner. This was the first sign I knew it was meant to be- the van had been lovingly taken care of and passed along from one VW aficionado to another. She was at a VW mechanic’s shop getting an oil change- which worked out perfectly since I had the shop ensure she was travel ready for our trip up to SF. The owner arranged to bring Lillie over the next day- which turned into two days, but to make a long story short I finally had our van. The next morning, I hit the road bright and early for my epic eight hour journey up the I-5 and over to San Francisco. Lillie only came with one CD and a stereo system which had seen its hay day in the early 90s. Luckily, I found some quality tunes in a gas station bargain bin (Lynyrd Skynyrd, Alabama, Otis Redding just to name a few). As I trucked along I reflected on the choice I was making in my life to start the company. I also began another journey- that of understanding the aerodynamics of driving a VW down the freeway at 55 miles an hour. We bonded over truck stops and tumbleweeds, finally arriving at Lillie’s new home: The City by the Bay.

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About the Author // Erik Hormann is the owner and founder of Vantigo. He enjoys Pliny the Elder, geeking out over Volkswagens, and cruising down Highway 1 in Lillie.

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