ST. GEORGE — Tapping into the desire to embrace nostalgia and the love for Volkswagen vans, a new business in Hurricane is offering a different way to camp out at any number of Southern Utah’s premier outdoor destinations.
Although retroVWs “official” opening is this week, with business signs going in, the word-of-mouth soft launch has already given owners an indication that the business model could be successful, and they are hoping for a grand opening later this month.
Borrowing from a similar company based in Los Angeles, retroVWs rents vintage Volkswagen vans that have been renovated and converted into the tiny home version of a camper van.
“One of my friends has been renting from the company in Los Angeles every summer for years,” retroVWs co-owner Kevin Kennedy said. “They take a couple of weeks and drive the California coast in a camper bus, so we thought this would work here with Zion being so close.”
Historically, Kennedy added, Zion National Park has discouraged visitors driving larger recreational vehicles and fifth-wheel trailers because of their size and the lack of parking spaces.
“We thought this would be a unique niche where people could park their car at our location on State Street in Hurricane and rent one of our VW busses,” he said.
Although Kennedy said he is adding to his fleet of VWs all the time, his current armada consists of six vans that can accommodate anywhere from just one camper with a hammock and a beanbag to a pop-top van that can sleep up to four.
However, Kennedy advised that currently they only have one automatic drive van, a model that is extremely hard to find.
For the VW community, another one of the most desired and hard-to-find vintage vans is a split-front window version – commonly known as a “splittie” – which the company made from 1950 until the end of its production year in 1967. RetroVWs owns a 1966 splittie.
“The splittie is are getting so valuable, with restored vans selling for $100,000-$200,000,” Kennedy said. “It’s getting to the point we are just looking for the transporter bay vdub vans.”
“With our vans, we are going for the full camping experience,” Kennedy said. “Some of our vans have refrigerators and propane, but we also provide extra stuff like firewood, marshmallow sticks, heaters, sleeping bags and camp stoves for an additional charge.”
Van rental costs range from $40 per night up to $190 per night.
“They don’t go fast,” Kennedy said of the vehicles’ top speeds. “We have one that will do about 80, and the rest will do about 65 max. You’re not getting anywhere fast, so we are trying to discourage anyone from taking really long trips but taking more of a weekend getaway to places like Zion. This is what we have found to be the most popular.”
To keep the trips to a manageable distance from Hurricane, Kennedy also suggests visiting places like Pipe Spring National Monument, Sand Hollow, Kolob Canyons and Lake Powell.
One area of concern with nearly any vintage automobile more than 50 years old is its quirky mechanical reliability. Along these lines, each van is equipped with an automatic fire extinguisher above the engine, and rentals come with roadside assistance and a replacement van if necessary.
“We’re learning,” Kennedy said. “We know we’re going to be fighting these. … There is always something that needs to be done.”
Tapping into what could be considered a niche market among the older generation, retroVWs is also attacking a much younger clientele.
“So far with the little experience we’ve had, it is the Instagram generation,” Kennedy said. “They just want to take a trip and have cool pictures.”
Future plans are for the company to possibly branch out to rent Class B style RV campers, as well as maybe someday venturing into renting out the much larger Class A motorhomes. Time will tell, Kennedy said.
Copyright St. George News, SaintGeorgeUtah.com LLC, 2019, all rights reserved.