VW quality, technology and extremely cool credentials

17 November, 2013

Next month the VW camper van which, 64 years ago, started life as a goods van in postwar Germany, became a symbol of 1960s peace and love, and is a vehicle which has somehow retained its cool credentials while simultaneously occupying a warm place in all our hearts, will retire. Changes to health and safety rules in Brazil – where the bus is still manufactured three decades after it stopped being made in Germany – have made further production impossible.

While you can still buy and rent VW camper vans they will soon not only be cool and warm, but incredibly valuable too. In 2011 a 1963 Samba version was sold at auction in California for $198,000. For any of you interested in the history of this classic van, take a look at this:

1949 The Volkswagen Type 2 is unveiled at the Geneva Motor Show in November (Type 1 was the Beetle), writes Jocelyn Petrie. The Type 2 had been developed while VW was being run by the British military; control had been returned to the German authorities the previous month.

1950 Production begins at the Wolfsburg factory on March 6. The Type 2, also known as the Transporter, is a basic commercial van, with an aircooled engine at the rear and a split windscreen (hence the nickname “splitty”).

1951 Major Ivan Hirst, a British army officer who played a key role in reviving VW in the postwar years, commissions Westfalia, a coachbuilding company, to convert a Transporter so it can be used for camping. The result, with a cooker, sideboard and folding bench seat, was so successful that the company put it into production.

1953 VW Brazil is founded, quickly becoming the company’s largest foreign subsidiary.

1956 Westfalia sells its 1,000th camper van. Several other companies go on to create camping versions of the Type 2 – VW itself did not make a “camper van” with beds until the California was launched in 1988.

1962 The millionth Type 2 leaves the production line.

1963 Popularity spreads to the US, and Bob Dylan’s secondThe Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan features a van on the cover. Later, fans of Grateful Dead start following tours in a camper van convoy.

1967 The “splitty” is superseded by the T2 version, which has a single “bay” windscreen.

1969 According to VW, sales are boosted by the appearance of the “Mystery Machine” van in theScooby-Doo.

1979 Production stops in Europe as a result of tighter safety regulations, and the classic “smiley-faced” T2 is superseded by the, squarer, more robust T3, nicknamed “the Wedge”. T2 assembly continues in Argentina, Brazil and Mexico.

2001 VW sets fans’ pulses racing by showing a futuristic reimagining of the T2, the Microbus concept car, at the North American motor show, but plans for it are cancelled in 2005.

2011 Early Type 2s are considered valuable classic vehicles. A 1963 Samba version is sold at auction in California for $198,000.

2013 When production ceases in Brazil on December 31, 6.23m of the T1 and T2 will have been built.