Steve’s Rustic 1978 Volkswagen Bulli Van Conversion with Foldable Roof

last updated: Aug 28, 2023

Van conversions are nothing new. In fact, they first became popular around 60 years ago in the early 1960s. But despite seeing countless designs and fit-outs, I’m always curious when I meet someone that’s opted for a classic Volkswagen as their base.  

About Steve

Steve lives in the picturesque municipality of Kriens, Switzerland. Throughout the week, he works as a transformation coach –  a role that encompasses both hypnotherapy and coaching. Outside of this, he is an avid athlete and spends most of his weekends either training or competing in triathlons. This is where his quest for a van began, after Steve started researching convenient, economical ways to transport him and his equipment from location to location. 

The van in question is a 1978 Volkswagen Bulli. It began its life as a radio bus for the Swiss army, before being transformed into a surf bus by the following set of owners. Finally, in 2006 the van fell into the hands of Steve. For years, he used it to travel to triathlon competitions across the globe. Back then the interior was sparse – it had a foldable bed and a camping stove but that’s about it. 

As time passed, Steve started to appreciate the true potential of the van. He dreamed of having his own little bijou, so began collecting pictures and videos to create a vision board. In 2019, he eventually bit the bullet and started the conversion process.

Follow Steve on Instagram: @phoenix_the_bulli

Get a copy of the Van Conversion Guide: here


  • 1978 Volkswagen Bulli van

Kitchen and Appliances

  • 2-burner gas hob– As well as cooking, Steve uses the hob for brewing tea in his metal stovetop teapot. 
  • Sink 
  • Glass fold-down sink cover
  • Utensils shelf 
  • Hanging spice jars– As a self-proclaimed ‘spice junkie’, Steve travels with a plethora of cooking ingredients. On his spice shelf, you’ll find everything from cardamom to organic curry powder. 
  • Mobicool cool box– This has two access points: the top and the side. On the one hand, this allows the driver or passenger to access the cool box from the front cabin, which is extremely handy if you want a drink while driving. Alternatively, the box can be slid out and accessed from the main living quarters. The box also has a convenient on-off switch in the kitchen, which means Steve can turn it off at bedtime to quiet the humming sound it makes. 


  • Foldable roof– One of the unique features of Steve’s Volkswagen Bulli is the foldable roof. This extends the roof height by around 2 feet, creating space for a double bed. The roof itself has three windows and closes with a zipper. Sleeping at this elevated height allows Steve to wake up and watch the sunrise from the warmth and comfort of his bed.
  • 10cm foam mattress
  • Emergency back-up bed– If the weather outside is rainy or stormy, it’s undesirable to raise the foldable roof and sleep at an elevated height. So Steve’s van also features an emergency backup bed in the main living quarters. This is built using two transverse beams and two wooden boards that are slotted between the adjacent bench seats. 


  • Fold-down dining table– This is one of the features of the van that Steve is still unhappy with. He finds it inconvenient having to constantly open and close the table, and instead would prefer a bigger, pivoting table. However, he’s still figuring out the best course of action and in the meantime, it serves its purpose. 
  • Full-length wardrobe
  • 2 x bench seats– Both seats lift up to reveal large storage compartments underneath.

Power and Electrical

  • Swan lamp
  • 12v and USB sockets
  • 5 x spotlights – 3 above the kitchen space and 2 above the living space. 
  • Inverter
  • Solar panel

Heating and Cooling

  • Auxiliary diesel heater– The outlet for this is next to the rear-side bench seat. To ensure he never runs out of fuel, Steve carries a 10 litre diesel tank with him during his travels.

Water System

  • 25 litre fresh water tank
  • 20 litre grey water tank
  • Water filter– This gives Steve on-demand access to drinkable water, which is ideal for emergency situations where he only has access to dubious water sources, such as rivers and lakes. Although he rarely needs to use it, it’s great for peace of mind. 

Cabinetry and Finishes

  • Peg locking system– Throughout the van you’ll notice that all of the cupboards and drawers have a small wooden peg lock, which ensures they stay closed while the van is in motion. The cupboard contents are secure and will not fly around during travel. 
  • Magnetic hooks– The magnetic hooks allow Steve to easily hang ornaments and decorations in his Volkswagen van without having to drill any holes. The magnets themselves are very robust and covered in felt to avoid damage to the internal paintwork. 
  • Hanging plant
  • Wooden ceiling


  • Bike rack– Most of the time Steve uses his Volkswagen to travel to triathlon competitions or training courses. Therefore, it is imperative that he has a handy and secure place to transport his bike. 
  • Wooden boards– Used for the emergency back-up bed. 
  • Full-length wardrobe
  • Outdoor shower
  • Volkswagen emergency kit– This includes engine oil and jumper cables. Both things you cannot afford to forget when you’re travelling in an old van like Steve’s. 
  • Outdoor table– In the roof space of the garage is a telescopic pole. Using one of the wooden boards from the emergency bed and the pole, Steve can build a wonderful outdoor table. This is perfect when the weather is nice and he wants to make the most of his surroundings. 

To see the full tour of Steve’s Volkswagen Bulli, check out my YouTube channel:

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