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The VW camper van is an iconic vehicle dating back to the end of the 2nd World War. Since then, Volkswagen has produced several generations of camper van right up until January of this year when the last ever ‘Type 2’ rolled off the production line in Brazil.
Below we take a look at the life of the infamous VW camper van.
1947: The early years
In post-war Britain, the Type 2 campervan was originally invented to transport car parts across a massive VW factory. Beetles were stripped down and turned into ‘transporters’ until in 1947 Ben Pon, a Dutch VW importer sketched the idea of a Beetle based van. Two years later in the concept was launched at the Geneva Motor described as a modern alternative to a horse and cart.
The first VW camper van was born from this concept and started out as a very simple 170 cubic ft box built over a four-wheeled chassis. Over the next five years, Volkswagen created 90 different body combinations to include an ice-cream van, delivery vans, mobile milking machines, bread vans, milk floats, police wagons, fire engines, ambulances, pick-ups and, last but not least the camper van.
The split window model or ‘Splitty’ was the first VW camper van to be released in 1949 and it is still one of the most desirable models today, fetching as much as £25,000 if in good condition. Split screen buses continued production for a further 18 years and became known as the Type 2. The first Type 2 was called the Bulli and was available as a Kombi and Panel van whilst the Microbus was introduced a year later in 1950. The Splitty was released in the USA in the mid-1950s and was highly successful with over 150,000 vans sold by 1963.
In 1967 the Split was replaced by the Bay (still known as a Type 2). Improvements to the latest model included an increased speed to 80mph and it offered buyers a slightly larger body capable of carrying larger loads and it came with a more powerful engine line-up, which went up to a 2 litre model towards the end of its production. It also boasted better electrics and a more refined comfortable ride, although owners felt that the bay window was not as popular a design as the original Splittie.
1975: The Bay Window Bus
Despite its different bay window design, the Bay became increasingly popular as a mobile home or camper van and a variety of different firms converted the vans into different configurations for sleeping, cooking and storage as well as inventing differing elevating roof heights, some of which could sleep up to 7 people! By 1975 the Hanover factory had produced 4 million of these vans.
1979: The T25, T4 and T5
In 1979 production of the Bay camper van ceased and was replaced by the T25. The T25 and subsequent T4 and T5 continued to bring the VW camper into the modern age. Whilst these later models did not enjoy the iconic status of the Splitty and Bay, they remain massively successful, selling in huge numbers and still enjoying the same loyal following.
After 64 years, the VW camper van was retired in January 2014 because it could no longer be adapted to meet with the modern safety regulations of today’s era. But despite its cease in production, the campervan continues to remain popular among a diverse group of owners, not just the stereotypical surfers and hippies, but also amongst builders, transport companies, families and collectors.