Starling Travel

February 10, 2013

The CarBak Cartop Tent Camper

Filed under: Camping,Tents — Laura Moncur @ 10:00 am

It all started with this photo:

Carbak Cartop Tent Camper on a Beetle from Starling Travel

I found it on the Classic VW Beetle page and with a simple description:

Here is a VW Camper Bug

It was obviously an oddity because the picture shows a plaque next to the vehicle. How I wished I could read that plaque. What does it say and what the heck IS that thing?!

I found another photo of the same tent camper from a different angle on The Samba:

Carbak Cartop Tent Camper on a Beetle from Starling Travel

The person on that forum said:

Does anyone know if these roof top tents are worth anything.

I have never seen one and I think they are cool.

No one had an answer for him, though.

It took a lot of searching, but I found out what they are and found a bunch of other pictures of them.

I can thank the people at Non-westy tents for splitties (-1967) — and other VWs for identifying the tent for me. It is a Jiffy Camper made by Carbak Campers in Tampa, Florida. Here is a collage of photos from them.

Carbak Cartop Tent Camper on a Beetle from Starling Travel

They said:

John “Grungy” Gladu sent in these compelling shots of his Carbak Camper atop Frunobulax (ask him, not me). The main assembly is a flat-bottomed conestogaform tube with screens and rain flaps at either end.

Three internal metal hoops support the tube. At the rear, a plywood entry-step platform assembles with a vestibule (or perhaps, a non-Westy foyer?) to give access to a penthouse Bob Guccione never dreamed of. John reports a few mysterious features: the D-tab/pocket thingies in the vestibule opening, as well as small pocket/windows on either side of the main cabin.

He even posted the instructions for setting it up:

Once I knew the name, I was able to find a Popular Mechanics blurb about the CarBak Camper. It showed the tent deployed on an AMC Gremlin (instead of a VW Beetle), showing that it can fit on almost any compact car.

Carbak Cartop Tent Camper on a AMC Gremlin from Starling Travel

It reads:

Less wind resistance, fewer cylinders, smaller sizes, lighter weights all have new appeal for motorists stretching miles per gallon. A number of newly announced rigs are suitable for mounting on or towing behind compact lower horsepower cars. Others can be carried by the smaller import pickups. Predictions point to new popularity for camping tent trailers, plus growing – but more careful – use of all other RVs. – Bill McKeown

Pop-up penthouse Jiffy Camper fits compacts, is only 3 inches high when folded; $225 from CarBack Camper, 1115 Twigs St., Tampa, Fla.

Carbak Cartop Tent Camper in Popular Mechanics from Starling Travel

Reading that it was only three inches high when folded really made me want to see what it looked like folded up. Kevin on The Samba provided me with just that!

Carbak Cartop Tent Camper folded on a Beetle from Starling Travel

His CarBak Jiffy Camper might be a little frayed, but it looks fantastic on his blue VW Beetle.

Carbak Cartop Tent Camper on a Beetle from Starling Travel

Thom2 on The Samba forum posted photos of Burny, his 1964 VW Beetle, and his Jiffy Camper.

Carbak Cartop Tent Camper on a Beetle from Starling Travel

put-put…whee!! on The Samba also posted a photo of Burny from the Vintage VW Weekend in Washington 2003.

Carbak Cartop Tent Camper on a Beetle from Starling Travel

Long ago, this beetle was listed for sale on Motorkars, but it isn’t there anymore. It’s a beautiful picture, so click on it to see it full-sized.

Carbak Cartop Tent Camper on a Beetle from Starling Travel

Finally, j.s. clark on Flickr has posted an entire photo set of his CarBack Tent Camper.

He shows us how many people could sleep in the tent, which looks like one person comfortably or two very cramped people. This shot also shows the nice pockets on the inside for your items like keys, glasses and your phone.

Carbak Cartop Tent Camper Is roomy for one and cramped for two from j.s. clark on Flickr

He also shows it deployed on his pickup truck.

Carbak Cartop Tent Camper on a Pickup from j.s. clark on Flickr

When I saw this photo, I realized why I loved the CarBack so much. It reminded me of the Sportz tents. In particular, it really reminds me of the Backroadz Truck Tent.

Sportz Backroadz Truck Tent from Starling Travel

At only $190, it actually BEATS the original price of the CarBak Camper by $35, and that’s not counting for inflation.

In every way, it appears that camping equipment has gotten better and less expensive. I love the retro stuff and I absolutely adore the new stuff that is coming out as well. Isn’t progress grand?


  1. Frunobulax is the name of the monster in Frank Zappa’s song Cheepnis on the live LP Roxy & Elsewhere. The song refers to cheap horror movies where you can see the nylons strings on the mouth of the giant spider, etc. My guess is the owner of that VW is a Zappa fan.

    Cool tents.

    Comment by Mik in Montague — March 18, 2013 @ 6:46 am

  2. Mik,

    Thanks for that clarification! It’s always difficult to do the research on these things. It appears that Frunobulax has NOTHING to do with the tent and everything to do with the owner of it. Thanks so much for that help!


    Comment by Laura Moncur — March 20, 2013 @ 12:06 pm

  3. hello ! I was just wondering were I can get one of these tents for my beetle? If you can help me out that would be great!! I have a 73 super beetle ! hope to hear from you soon Thanks

    Comment by jason nelson — April 16, 2013 @ 6:10 pm

  4. I have a Carbak Camper in great condtion for sale in Muscatine, Ia. Email me.

    Comment by Scott lesnet — August 3, 2013 @ 6:06 pm

  5. I have one of these Campers in a barn if someone wants to make an offer. Worked good but that was 30+ years ago. Would love to get rid of it. e-mail me

    Comment by ken attkisson — December 11, 2013 @ 9:44 am

  6. Hi – love the discussions about cartop tents. I have a CoolTent on my VW (see other article). Ken Attkisson’s post about having a Carbak in his barn he would sell is of interest to me. Can you please forward my email to him so we can discuss. Thanks! Sam

    Comment by Sam Carbaugh — January 26, 2014 @ 7:26 am

  7. I have an old “Air Camper” built in Indianapolis in the Garage. It was fun to use, always stopped traffic in a campground. I am happy to see someone else has one.

    Comment by Donald N Wright — February 25, 2014 @ 10:52 pm

  8. Hi. Those tent are beautiful! I looking for one to my 70′ bug.

    Where can I found?

    Comment by shloki vainberger — April 19, 2014 @ 6:39 am

  9. I had one of these on a bug and seeing your site brought back lots of memories. Thanks. My favorite memories involved taking it to the drive-in theatre – the front unzipped for a full view of the screen. I’d say more but I’m getting verklept.

    Comment by Jim Reed — July 14, 2014 @ 10:04 pm

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