Volkswagen Type 2 (Camper) – 1950

The Type 2 KombinatiornsKraftWagen or ‘Kombi’ was originally intended as a utilitarian commercial transporter for the numerous new business enterprises that sprang up after World War II. It was built on a modified Type 1 (Beetle) platform and almost as soon as it was introduced it became clear there was a market for a passenger version with removable seats – the campervan was born.

The split-windowed early models, known as ‘splitties’, had various styles of interior layout and degrees of luxury, of which the best-known are the thousand or so original ‘westies’ produced by Westfalia, VW’s official coachbuilders.

From its inception, the Type 2 was recognized as a uniquely versatile new type of vehicle. The novelty of its very un-American low-powered, air-cooled rear engine and space-saving boxy shape appealed enormously to the US market and in the 1960s it was adopted by the counter-culture as the ultimate fashion accessory for living out the hippie dream – the epitome of wanderlust chic.

The VW Camper’s great attraction lies in the fact that it is extraordinarily easy to drive with excellent visibility and easy steering and, although it has the acceleration of a snail and is neither particularly comfortable nor very economical, these are small prices to pay in return for the towering sensation of power you feel at the wheel – a veritable king of the road.

Over the years, the Type 2 has evolved through a multitude of styles to come almost full-circle: the latest model is a retro second generation 1970s ‘breadloaf’ version but with more power, a water-cooled engine and a vintage price tag. Too much to hope, though, for a remake of the original classic ‘splittie’ – it is destined to remain a rusty collector’s piece for dreamers.

COUNTRY OF ORIGIN:

Germany (also produced in Brazil and Mexico)

FIRST MANUFACTURED:

1950 (Split-screen until 1967)

ENGINE:

Depending on model, ranges from 1,131 cc to 2,000 cc Flat Four (air-cooled until 1984)

PERFORMANCE:

Top speed of 60 mph (97 km/h);0-60 mph (97km/h) in 75 secs

YOU SHOULD KNOW:

The VW Type 2 Camper has acquired almost as many nicknames as it has had incarnations. As well as ‘kombi’, ‘westie’, splittie, and ‘hippie van/bus’, you may hear it referred to as a ‘microbus’, ‘bulli’, ‘loaf’, ‘bay or ‘vee-dub’.

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