The history of the Volkswagen Kombi, Transporter & Microbus
The Volkswagen Type 2, known officially (depending on body type) as the Transporter, Kombi or Microbus, or, informally, as the Bus (US) or Camper (UK), is a panel van introduced in 1950 by the German automaker Volkswagen as its second car model. Following – and initially deriving from Volkswagen’s first model, the Type 1 (Beetle) – it was given the factory designation Type 2.
As one of the forerunners of the modern cargo and passenger vans, the Type 2 gave rise to forward control competitors in the United States in the 1960s, including the Ford Econoline, the Dodge A100, and the Chevrolet Corvair 95 Corvan, the latter adopting the Type 2’s rear-engine configuration. European competition included the 1960s FF layout Renault Estafette and the FR layout Ford Transit.
Like the Beetle, the van has received numerous nicknames worldwide, including the “microbus”, “minibus”, and, because of its popularity during the counterculture movement of the 1960s, “Hippie van”.
Brazil contained the last factory in the world that produced the T2. Production in Brazil ceased on December 31, 2013, due to the introduction of more stringent safety regulations in the country. This marks the end of an era with the rear-engine Volkswagens manufactured (after the 2002 termination of its T3 successor in South Africa), which first originated in 1935 with their Type 1 prototypes.
The concept for the Type 2 is credited to Dutch Volkswagen importer Ben Pon who first sketched the van in a doodle dated April 23, 1947, proposing a payload of 690 kg (1,520 lb) and placing the driver at the very front. Production would have to wait, however, as the factory was at capacity producing the Type 1.
Although the aerodynamics of the first prototypes were poor. Simple changes such as splitting the windshield and roofline into a “vee” helped and it was approved for production in 1949 and the first production model, now designated Type 2, rolled off the assembly line.
Initially only two models were offered: the Kombi (with two side windows and middle and rear seats that were easily removable by one person), and the Commercial. The Microbus was added in May 1950, joined by the Deluxe Microbus in June 1951. In all 9,541 Type 2s were produced in their first year of production. An ambulance model and a single-cab pickup were added by 1952
The Type 2 was available as a:
Panel van, a delivery van or blind van (without side windows) or rear seats.
Double-door Panel Van, a delivery van without side windows or rear seats and cargo doors on both sides.
High Roof Panel Van, a delivery van with raised roof.
Kombi, from German: Kombinationskraftwagen (combination motor vehicle), with side windows and removable rear seats, both a passenger and a cargo vehicle combined.
Bus, also called a Volkswagen Caravelle, a van with more comfortable interior reminiscent of passenger cars since the third generation.
Samba-Bus, a van with skylight windows and cloth sunroof, first generation only, also known as a Deluxe Microbus. They were marketed for touring the Alps.
Flatbed pickup truck, or Single Cab, also available with wider load bed.
Crew cab pick-up, a flatbed truck with extended cab and two rows of seats, also called a Doka, from German: Doppelkabine.
Westfalia camping van, “Westy”, with Westfalia roof and interior. Included optional “pop up” top.
Adventurewagen camping van, with high roof and camping units from Adventurewagen.
Semi-camping van that can also still be used as a passenger car and transporter, sacrificing some camping comforts. “Multivan” or “Weekender”, available from the third generation on.
Apart from these factory variants, there were a multitude of third-party conversions available, some of which were offered through Volkswagen dealers. They included, but were not limited to, refrigerated vans, hearses, ambulances, police vans, fire engines and ladder trucks, and camping van conversions by companies other than Westfalia. There were even rail-going draisines built in 1955.
The first generation of the Volkswagen Type 2 with the split windshield, informally called the Microbus, Splitscreen, or Splittie among modern fans, was produced from March 1950 through the end of the 1967 model year. From 1950 to 1956, the T1 (not called that at the time) was built in Wolfsburg; from 1956, it was built at the completely new Transporter factory in Hanover. Like the Beetle, the first Transporters used the 1100 Volkswagen air-cooled engine, an 1,131 cc
German production stopped after the 1967 model year; however, the T1 still was made in Brazil until 1975, when it was modified with a 1968–79 T2-style front end, and big 1972-vintage tail lights into the so-called “T1.5” and produced until 1996.
The Volkswagen Samba, in the United States also known as Sunroof Deluxe, was the most luxurious version of the Volkswagen Transporter T1. Volkswagen started producing Sambas in 1951. In the sixties this version became popular as a hippie bus.
Originally Volkswagen Vans were classified according to the number of windows they had. This particular model had 23 windows including eight panoramic windows in the roof. To distinguish it from the normal 23-window Volkswagen van the name Samba was coined.
Instead of a sliding door at the side the Samba had two pivot doors. In addition the Samba had a fabric sunroof. At that time Volkswagen advertised with the idea of using the Samba to make tourist trips through the Alps.
When Volkswagen started producing the successor of the T1 (the T2) the company also stopped producing the Samba so there are no Sambas in later versions of the Volkswagen Transporter.
This Article is an extract from Wickipedie. For full details of the history of the Vikswagen Type 2, Volkswagen Kombi, Transporter & Microbus click here.