A smile goes a long way, even in the automotive world. Just take a look at the front of a Volkswagen Bus built from 1950-1979 and you will know exactly what I’m talking about. It’s front bumper, lights, emblem, windows, and even trim all personifies that of a human face. Perhaps that is why Disney again used a Volkswagen in the feature film “Cars.” Its name was “Fillmore,” and I could see why a Volkswagen Bus was chosen to play the hip role of a Hippy vehicle. The Volkswagen Type II or “Bus” was a successor to the Volkswagen type 1 “Beetle.” It’s a small wonder that both are loved worldwide by legions of devoted fans of every age group.
The Volkswagen Type 2 Transporter also referred to as the VW Bus, was produced from 1950-1967 in its first generation and 1968-1979 in its second generation. They are world-renowned vehicles that are as likely to be found in Africa, as they are to be found in South America, or even at the prestigious U.S. auto event at Pebble Beach. The first generation Transporter shared the Type 1 Beetle’s running gear, which provided it with excellent ground clearance and an ability to run economically. These adaptable characteristics more than made up for the Transporter’s modest power output and low top speed, and helped spread it worldwide (The 1955 Model of Transporter only had 36 horsepower and a top speed of 59 M.P.H).
It was Dutch importer Ben Pon’s original 1947 notebook sketch, based on a factory parts vehicle runabout, that provided the inspiration to lead to over 6.5 million “Buses” being produced in air-cooled and later water-cooled variations. Today in Brazil the second-generation body style of the Volkswagen Transporter or Bay Window Kombi, is still in production, albeit with updated mechanicals and running gear.
The first generation, or “Split Window,” Transporter, was named for its two-piece windshield, and was produced from 1950 to 1967. Most people typically associate the VW Type 2 with the popular Kombi and Samba people movers, which have come to embody the 1960s Counter Culture.
Most Volkswagen Bus aficionados tend to refer to the different models of the collectible split-window buses by the number of their windows. The Kombi (popularly referred to as “T1,” “Bus,” or “Microbus”) is the 11-window version with a split front windshield. The Sunroof Deluxe version also known as the Samba or Sondermodell, has eight side windows, with two in the rear corners and eight small skylight windows, thus its 23-window designation. In 1964, Volkswagen got rid of the rear corner windows and added a larger rear hatch. This model gained the 21-window moniker. Both the 23- and later 21-window versions known as the “Samba,” are typically the most expensive and collectible Type 2 today. However the Samba option package was dropped after the 1967 model year.
Typical of Volkswagen’s style of constant improvements, a full synchromesh transmission was fitted from 1959 onward, into the Samba and other models of Volkswagen Buses. The one-millionth Bus was sold in 1962. The Type 2’s original 1,131-cc, 25-horsepower power unit was enlarged to 1,192 cc in 1953, and power was upped again to 40 horsepower in 1959. The 1,493-cc, 50-horsepower engine was optional from 1962 and the final 1585-cc engine arrived in 1966.
In 1968, the Bus was redesigned with more modern conveniences being added to the new “Bay Window” model also described by it’s large one piece windshield and was produced from 1968-1979 for the U.S. market. A modified version of this model is still in production today in Brazil.
Some sixty years after its initial introduction, the Volkswagen Transporter or “Bus,” is still going strong in certain markets around the world. Its longevity and timeless design made it a world-beater. Its ability to be customized to suit its unique owners endeared it to being more than just a “Hippy mobile.” As I said a smile goes a long way, and this legendary design is one that will hopefully be around for another 60 plus years to come. It is definitely a cultural and vehicular icon, a vehicle of multiple generations, not to mention a Boldride indeed.