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.
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.
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.