It’s funny how it sometimes takes a while to recognize something familiar. In the mid-1980s, when my daily driver was a slightly hi-po’d 1972 VW Type 2, I was driving a work vehicle from the Detroit area to Toledo to pick up a part. As I drove down I-75 and got closer to Ohio, I noticed one Volkswagen Bus traveling north in the opposite direction — and then another. “That’s unusual,” I thought. By then air-cooled Vee Dubs weren’t terribly common, and *Transporters were less common than Beetles. Then a Vanagon passed by, but, as I said, this was the 1980s and Vanagons were still being sold new and didn’t think much about it until I saw a few more Type 2s, including some older split-windows. Was there a VW club convention going on? I once drove to Cincinnati and I passed a large group of MG enthusiasts on their way to a meet. (Read More…)
This being Colorado, I see quite a few Volkswagen Vanagons on the street and in local wrecking yards. Mostly I ignore them for this series, because their local popularity means examples that show up at a Denver self-service yard get stripped immediately and aren’t very interesting photographic subjects. So far, we’ve seen just this exquisitely stereotype-reinforcing Steal Your Face Edition ’83, and that’s it prior to today’s find. An ordinary Vanagon with most of the parts gone, I’m not shooting it. A Vanagon Syncro (which I believe to be the most unwise money-pit available on four wheels or a Westfalia Camper, on the other hand, I’m always willing to photograph those rare birds. Here’s a squalid ’81 Westy that I found at a Denver yard last week. (Read More…)
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. (Read More…)
The VW Bus’ history in Eugene isn’t just tied to the counter culture. In the early sixties, Eugene’s privately-owned bus service was shrinking, like everywhere during the car boom. No longer able to afford the maintenance and fuel for the old large transit buses, a radical decision was made in a last-ditch effort to keep the buses rolling, and a small fleet of VW buses was purchased. Here they are, lined up and ready to roll, with their snappily-attired drivers, just a block or two away from where today’s CC bus was sitting. Not surprisingly, it didn’t pan out, but I’m sure these buses went on to have a colorful second life.
Here’s the very sketch that gave birth to the VW Bus. Dutch Ben Pon was visiting the VW factory in 1947, which was then controlled by the British Occupational Forces. Interested in buying some early Beetles to import to the Netherlands, Pon saw an improvised boxy parts mover on the factory grounds, and the light bulb went off.
Welcome to Eugene. Feel free to stay on the bus, either literally or metaphorically. If it’s the former, no hard feelings; Eugene is not for everyone, and we’ll be back in fifteen minutes or so. But if you’re “On The Bus”, then let’s step out here in the center of downtown, also known as Kesey Square. There is the statue of Ken Kesey, Eugene’s hometown cultural and literary hero, reading from his most famous book “One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest”. And what’s that across the street? How serendipitous indeed: a vintage VW bus, the official transporter of Eugene. (Read More…)
It’s one of my (many) fantasies: fly one-way to Brazil, buy a brand new VW Kombi and drive it back. But alcohol is a little hard to come by here, especially since Oregon has state liquor stores. Actually, the Kombi’s 1.4 liter motor drinks gas too, but I would have preferred a diesel. Anyway, Brazil is celebrating fifty years of domestic production of the VW bus, and today seems to be Brazil day at TTAC. So if you share my fantasy, head to VW do Brasil’s site and their special Kombi 50 Anos site and check out the current Kombi and a disappointingly small gallery of vintage shots. (Read More…)