portmanteau - a word made by blending two other words
I'm an avid outdoorsman. Most weekends, holidays, and vacations are spent in the woods of East Texas building cabins or in the mountains of the Western United States fishing for trout. The story of Elemefalia started in the Spring of 2016. I was looking for a Volkswagen T3 Syncro van (like the ones shown here.) I've always had a fascination with these vehicles, maybe because they look cool or maybe because my dad had one that he bought from my uncle when I was growing up.
In recent years, the majority of my wilderness time involved trout fishing in the Rocky Mountains between New Mexico and Montana. A disproportionate amount of that time was spent making and breaking camp as I moved from Wilderness Area to Wilderness Area stalking brook trout in the remote mountain streams where they live. The van just seemed like the perfect solution for getting more time on the water.
The T3 Syncro Westfalia is a tough find, and one in good mechanical condition can be exceedingly expensive. But getting one in questionable condition could be even more expensive, in both time and in money. Being the owner of a 1994 Land Rover NAS Defender 90 (#113) is proof that I have a soft spot for finicky and eccentric vehicles like these. Suffice it to say, I didn't need another liability. But in March of 2016, I was seriously considering this option.
That's when I discovered the ECamper: a Westfalia-style conversion for the Honda Element offered by Ursa Minor in Chula Vista, California. I instantly knew it was the answer to my problem because it was the practical solution to my impractical and irrational obsession. Though the VW and the Honda were both discontinued, the Honda would be much easier to find. Albeit less capable, the Element was offered in an all-wheel-drive version, so over non-technical terrain any compromise would be kept to a minimum. I'd have the best of both worlds; the reliability of a Honda with the relative luxury of rooftop sleeping accommodations iconified by the Westfalia.
After a quick call to Ursa Minor and a reassuring talk with John Gish (my NAS Defender 90 simpatico), I was armed with enough advice to begin my search for an Element.
I would soon learn that those used Honda Elements have reached near-cult status since being discontinued in 2011. Most are high mileage, and those that aren't are relatively pricey for comparable vehicles of a given year. But in the end I was successful, flying to Sarasota, Florida to buy a 2005 "Rallye" Red Honda Element sight-unseen from John Steinhauser at Encore Motorcars. John was great and the Element didn't disappoint.
In August 2017, Ellie made the journey to Chula Vista, California to have the ECamper installed. Upon completion, we embarked on a "sea trial" road trip to Jackson, WY to view the solar eclipse that eventually had us visiting every state west of Texas.
So there you have it... Elemefalia is a portmanteau: The marrying of Honda Element and Volkswagen Westfalia.