By on August 20, 2013

kombosa-last-edition-2

Call it a Microbus, Kombi, or Transporter, the Volkswagen Type II (the Beetle was the Type I) is one of the oldest, if not the oldest, motor vehicles in continuous production, having first appeared on the scene in 1950. It was based on a suggestion and sketch by Ben Pon, VW’s Dutch importer and a water-cooled version of the second generation bus is still being made and sold in Brazil. Pon knew that Europe, rebuilding after the destruction caused by World War II, needed inexpensive cargo haulers and small commercial vehicles. Pon’s sketch showed a boxy body mounted to the Type I’s platform frame. The Type II ended up being more successful than Pon could have imagined, but production is coming to an end with a run of 600 “Last Edition” Type II Kombis, as the vehicle is called in Brazil.

kombosa-le-1

Other than the radiator grille (for the ethanol burning water-cooled inline four that replaced the venerable and emissions spewing air-cooled VW flat four) rather inelegantly grafted onto the front of the vehicle, the Type II Kombi looks (and is) much like the second generation “bay window” Bus that was sold in Europe and North American from 1968 to 1979. Though still popular enough in Brazil to stay in production, the 45 year old design doesn’t give any thought to crush zones or passenger safety cells and it cannot be made compliant with modern safety regulations, even with airbags.

Agenda Ben Pon

The Kombi’s popularity with Brazilians can be seen in the pricing of the Kombi Last Edition, approximately $36,000 US, about double the price of a normal Type II in Brazil. Though second generation Buses don’t get the silly six figure money that the earlier split window versions can fetch, they are starting to appreciate and collectors outside of Brazil will likely buy some as well.

 

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30 Comments on “VW Microbus Rolls Off Into The Sunset With 600 “Last Edition” Kombi Type IIs In Brazil...”


  • avatar
    IHateCars

    Love the VIP curtains.
    Needs some hellaflush stance. Lol

  • avatar
    Vega

    In the VW-scene it’s ‘slammed on earlies’

  • avatar
    jpolicke

    It’s amazing. There truly is no such thing as a vehicle so old, crude and technically obsolete that somebody, somewhere won’t buy. Must be the basic no-frills utility that has a certain appeal – the anti-technology car. They could probably find people willing to buy these things for another 20 years, although possibly not at a profitable volume; after all, it shares nothing in common with any other VW product.

  • avatar
    -Nate

    *sniff*

    Goodbye Old Paint .

    You served us well , I remember riding in Pop’s new Grey Market 1954 Kombi .

    I’ve criss crossed America many times in a wild variety of old Typ II’s and my son still has my 1968 # 211 one tin Parcel Delivery van (panel truck) .

    You will not soon be forgotton .

    -Nate

  • avatar
    Lorenzo

    Volkswagen has teased (mostly) Americans with several prototypes of modern versions, but never dove into the production pool. Maybe this is the event they were waiting for? If they can put out a modern bug, they can do the same with the bus, and revive the compact minivan in the process.

  • avatar

    In Germany this is nicknamed “the Bulli” and remains much-loved. I drove a Westfalia camper version with the flat-four on the Autobahn once just a few years ago and found it both fun and terrifying. It is the only vehicle I have driven with the gas pedal flat to the floor for the whole trip, except when slowing down and then it was the brake pedal that was flat on the floor. The best feature was the massive horizontal steering wheel (and the fact the Weissbier stayed cold in the fridge in the back).

  • avatar
    afflo

    I wonder if a forward control design can be made compliant with crumple zones and such. Toyota still builds forward-control vans (the Hi-Ace) in Japan, so theoretically it’s possible.

    A “microbus” reboot that is just a redressed EuroVan won’t do the trick. Maybe even toss in a split window just for the fun of it!

  • avatar
    joynercon@msn.com

    Just a few small disadvantages to VW busses: 60 hp engine, tips over in wind, no heat, no air, your legs are the first line of defense in a front end crash, and my friend had one that burned to the ground in the middle of the holland tunnel. Besides that and the pour braking, and horrible handling, they were great.

    I almost forgot; the #3 cylinder notoriously burned up causing the entire engine to grenade.

    And the shift linkage sucked and the transaxle allowed the outer wheel in a turn to collapse causing snap oversteer and a deadly spin often combined with a roll over. Those were the days

    And the windshield washers were powered by compressed air supplied by the spare tire. So if you washed the bugs off your windshield alough and got a flat, your spare tire would be flat as well. But that really didn’t matter because they only seamed to get flats at 2:00 AM driving through a blizzard in the Berkshire mountains and your hands would be so cold and numb (due the the complete lack of heat and the fact that your hands are 2″ away from the ice covered windshield) that you would be unable to change the tire anyway. Fortunately, the buses only redeeming value is it is a rolling room so get out the sleeping bag and go to bed and deal with it in the morning.

    Lets fondly remember the electrical fires, and lack of any whiplash protection from the seats. And you gotta love lap belts only. and a top speed of 40 mph up hill. And the odd fact that every cop in the world hates you if you drive one. Your post has caused the memories to just come flooding back.

    • 0 avatar
      schmitt trigger

      in addition to all you mention, let’s not forget the tremendous racket the poor engine made while attempting to haul it.
      I once drove one in Mexico, the speedo was maxed out at 90 Km/hr. Yes, that is kilometers…
      But even then, you would not achieve that speed unless it was a steep downhill.
      Speaking of hills, even trucks would overtake you on the slightest of hills.
      If I remember properly, the fuel economy wasn’t great at all, a consequence of having to have the engine at full throttle at all times.

      The thing did not have a fuel filter, which combined with dirty gas available on rural Mexico would cause an almost certain stall at any -and most likely inconvenient time.
      Fortunately the carb jets were readily accessible, removed easily with a small screw driver and cleaned up with a little “compressed air” coming from your mouth.

    • 0 avatar
      Russycle

      Heh. When I was kid, one of my best friends family always had a VW bus. We used to go camping together in the 70s, our family in the Suburban, theirs following in the VW. Once we hit the mountains, they tended to drop behind, and we’d have to pull over and wait for them to catch up. Or turn around and help them fix whatever had broken.

      They were great vehicles in many ways, but not without significant limitations.

    • 0 avatar

      I don’t think that the Type II ever used the spare tire’s compressed air to power the windshield washers like the Beetle did. The spare in the bus is carried in the back, not in the front of the car like in a Beetle.

      I had a ’67 split window bus and while the windshield washer was indeed powered by compressed air, there was a dedicated bladder with a Schrader valve. If I recall correctly it was mounted under the dashboard on the passenger side.

      I owned two buses, a ’67 and a ’72. The ’67 was very primitive and with a 1500cc single port engine with a one barrel carb it was too slow to be safe on American roads, or at least on the Interstate. For my ’72 (which had real IRS, not swing arms and disk brakes up front so it was a much better vehicle dynamically) I build a 1648cc Beetle motor (one reason I picked a ’72 to build was that it could still take a Beetle engine provided you added some sheetmetal around it to keep the air-cooling from drawing hot air up from around the engine), with dual port heads, a street cam and a Holley-Weber two barrel carb. It could cruise comfortably at 70-80 MPH all day long. We took it camping in the Upper Peninsula at least a couple of times. Great fun to drive except for being a handful crossing the big Mac bridge. With all the weight in the back and sides like billboards, it was tricky in windy conditions, but still a massive improvement over the 1st gen Type II.

      Too bad I thought the flickering oil pressure light was just a short circuit.

    • 0 avatar
      Geekcarlover

      And if I had the cash to spare, I’d buy one today.

  • avatar
    azmtbkr81

    My girlfriend’s 80-something grandfather owns a Kombi which he drives at breakneck speeds through the mountain passes outside of Mexico City. Needless to say she takes a cab when she goes to visit.

  • avatar
    CoreyDL

    Why didn’t Marcelo write this article as a final tribute to the end of production? Maybe with the story of how this van shaped the landscape of Brazilian utility cargo/personal transport for 50+ years.

  • avatar
    probert

    A friend has a transporter – the pickup version – that he restored and uses for his contacting work – and another he stores in California (ives in Boston) for touring and camping. Seems a happy man.

    beautiful machines; I’d love to drive one but not too far.

  • avatar
    ExPatBrit

    I had a 61 “VW Devon Camper” for a while that I picked up for nothing and drove around. Devon was the UK version of the Westphalia.

    Like others have said, when it broke you could park it take a kip and wait until daylight.

    Mine was really rusty and when the front appeared only to be loosely connected to the rear I sold it a couple of somewhat naive punters.

  • avatar
    ponchoman49

    Suddenly those 70′s and 80′s cars don’t seem so slow any more.

  • avatar
    Aleister Crowley

    VW Type I “inspired” by the Tatra, and the VW Type II inspiration came from Buckminster Fuller’s revolutionary 1933 Dymaxion. Look it even has a split front window. But for all you TTAC aficianodos, it had a Ford V8 in the rear.
    Here’s a nice restored one.
    http://www.theguardian.com/artanddesign/2010/oct/05/norman-foster-dymaxion-buckminster-fuller

    • 0 avatar
      th009

      Back then most cars had either a split window or a flat windshield so that means little.

      As for the recurring Tatra meme, the first V570 prototype (in 1931) looked nothing like the Beetle. The second prototype (in 1933) does look like the Beetle — but then it also looks like the Auto für Jedermann (everyman’s car) prototype Ferdinand Porsche had developed for Zündapp two years earlier, in 1931.

      There was little secrecy and a lot of cross-pollination among the car designers back then, at least in Europe, and things were not as black and white as some people would like see them.

      • 0 avatar
        Aleister Crowley

        According to the books “Tatra – The Legacy of Hans Ledwinka and Car Wars,” Adolf Hitler said of the Tatra ‘this is the car for my roads’. Ferdinand Porsche later admitted ‘to have looked over Ledwinka’s shoulders’ while designing the Volkswagen.Tatra sued Porsche for damages, and Porsche was willing to settle. However, Hitler canceled this, saying he ‘would settle the matter.’ When Czechoslovakia was invaded by the Nazis, the production of the T97 was immediately halted, and the lawsuit dropped. After the war, Tatra reopened the lawsuit against Volkswagen. In 1967, the matter was settled when Volkswagen paid Tatra 3,000,000 Deutsche Mark in compensation.

        VW evidently took something from Tatra, 3 million DM in ’67 is not small change.

  • avatar

    These are all over my wife’s city (Sao Jose dos Campos) as delivery vehicles. I wonder what will replace them? Another very common delivery vehicle is the 125cc motorcycle….

  • avatar
    gslippy

    On a family camping trip last month in Massachusetts (I live in PA), we had the amazing fortune to see two 1966 Buses on adjacent campsites.

    One was driven by friendly hippie couple from California, the other was registered locally. The CA car had a second complete engine in a box on the floor, along with countless sundries for the original engine (cylinders, pistons, etc). The drivers compared their vehicles’ top speeds: CA could do 58 mph; MA could do 65 mph, and he excitedly shared his tuning secrets that enabled such incredible velocity.

    I froze the awesome moment on digital film.

  • avatar
    Robert Gordon

    “the Volkswagen Type II (the Beetle was the Type I) is one of the oldest, if not the oldest, motor vehicles in continuous production”

    Land-Rover Defender…?

  • avatar
    SixDucks

    I think the record for longest in production (albeit with many many revisons) would be the Chevy Suburban (1935). The longest with almost no changes would be the Hindustan. Still, the Bay Window’s record is impressive.

  • avatar
    Joss

    PULL THOSE DRAPES unwashed hippie sex ON BOARD..

    Driverless cars will do away with crumple zones. Type II is future Gattica material back to sting LBJ’s chicken tax.


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