" I bought my left hand drive, 1968 VW camper for £100. When we picked it up, the vendor gave us a nod and a wink while he showed us the dodgy MOT. "Make sure you pump the brakes, lads," he said brightly "
VW Transporter Evolution: how one brand of wagon ruled the world…
Homage to the VW Transporter - celebrating the totemic multi-role wagon and six generations of getting it right...
Nicknamed the ‘Bull’ , this first of a kind vehicle i.e. forward controlled, rear engined commercial van, went into production in 1950. It was the end of a story that started three years earlier when Dutch Importer Ben Pon was visiting the VW factory. He found the shopfloor guys had customised a Beetle to help them move parts around the plant. It gave him an idea, which turned into a famous sketch and would ultimately launch the most successful selling line of vans in history.
The many iterations of the original Type 1 had sold 1,800,000 units by the time VW decided to bring out the Type 2 in 1967. It was an updated, safer version of the original with larger windows, more light and better visibility – notably doing away with the now much sought after split window.
In the spring of 1979 after huge sales from the first two types the T3 is launched to a less than enthusiastic reception by the market. The body had been redesigned for greater visibility and more space but it weighed more, and still used the same old air cooled boxer engine of its lighter predecessors. This meant it was initially underpowered but in 1981 the 4 cylinder diesel version came on line which gave the van the pulling power it needed, both on the road and on the forecourt.
By 1990 over six million Transporters had been sold and at the start of the year the design was revolutionised in the form of the Type 4. VW likens the metamorphosis of T3 to T4 as similar to that which transformed the Beetle into the Golf. The engine is moved to the front and there are now two wheelbase options and three payload categories to choose from. The van causes a sensation in the commercial market and becomes the must have van for the tradesmen that can afford it.
2003 sees the launch of the new Transporter a state of the art machine with a 2 litre turbo-diesel engine as standard and choice of a 6 speed manual box or a 7 speed DSG twin- clutch automatic for a powerful and super smooth ride in whichever of its iterations you choose: Simple panel van, crew cab, the Kombi, California Camper or the Caravelle.
In 2015 – a straight 65 years after the Type 1 debuted- the T6 hit the streets in all its forms. VW have achieved their goal – as with the Amarok pick-up – of creating a van which drives like a car. The myriad different engine and model variants mean it is still as popular with the hard-travelling tradesman as the modern holiday maker wanting to retain something of the iconic Campervan feel but looking for a much more reliable, quieter and safer ride than setting off in a resprayed, retuned original.
At just over £38k on the road for the bobby basic California Camper it’s no cheap trip, saying that consistently strong residuals always have, and most likely always will, make these winning machines a good bet.
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