The History to the VW Bus Camper
1947 The Beginning
In 1947 the VW Type 2 Bus was born! Dutch importer Ben Pon got the idea from the motorised trolleys used to transport parts around a VW factory in Wolfsburg. They were made from stripped down Beetle chassis!
This lead to his sketch on 23rd April 1947 of a Beetle-based van, slightly resembling a box on wheels!
A year later when Heinz Nordhoff became the Chief Executive of Volkswagen, he took on this idea. The first VW van was launched at the Geneva Motor Show in November 1949.
The Type 2 Camper Van had humble beginnings. It was created to carry car parts around a humongous VW factory in Britain.
Before its invention, manufacturer used stripped down VW Beetles for this task. In 1947, a Dutch VW importer, by the name of Ben Pon, came up with an idea for a van based on the Beetle. A mere two years later, the concept (an alternative to a cart and horse) was released at Geneva Motor.
1949 The Introduction of the “Splitty”
The ‘Splitty’ or split window model VW camper bus was released in 1949. It is still one of the most popular models to this day. In fact, one of these vans, in good condition, can cost as much as $50,000.
VW manufactured the ‘Splitty ‘, or as they are officially known, the Type 2, until 1967. The first of its kind, the Bulli, was released as a Kombi and Panel van in 1949. They also released the Microbus one year later.
In the mid-1950s, the Splitty was introduced to the US market, where it experienced a wealth of success. In fact, almost 200,000 vans were sold by by the early 1960s.
1967 The First Evolution of the Type 2
The Bay (an evolution of the Type 2) replaced the ‘Splitty’ design in 1950–1967 (Europe and US)
1950–1975 (Brazil). Improvements included:
• A bigger body that could carry larger loads
• A speed increase of up to 80 mph
• More comfortable ride
• A more powerful engine. It was later changed to a 2L model
• Better electrics
1975 The Bay Camper Bus
The Bay Camper Bus model rolled off of the assembly line in 1975. Although it had many of the same features are the Bay, the Bay Camper Bus had a different bay window design. This model soon gained a huge following among those who wanted to use it as a camper van or mobile home.
The late bay also introduced a range of safety features including improved brakes, a crumple zone and a reinforced passenger cell.
Late bays were converted into campervans by various firms such as Devon, Viking, Danbury, Dormobile and Westfalia.
The last bay rolled off the production line in 1979 with 3,292,272 buses made.
1979 The T4, T5, and the T25
VW stopped producing the Bay window bus and replaced it with the T25 in 1979. They also released the T4 and T5 models. Although these models didn’t become icons like the Splitty, they were wildly popular.
1979 production of the T2 Bay ceased and it was replaced by the T25, although the Bay is still manufactured in South America.
1981 bought the introduction of a water-cooled 1600cc diesel engine with 50bhp (37kw). This engine originally came from the Golf.
Introduction of the Caravelle, offering a more luxurious interior.
This month saw the first water-cooled flat four petrol engines in two versions: DF 1900cc 60bhp (44kw) and DG 1900cc 78bhp (57kw). Rear air intakes became plastic inserts.
End of production of air-cooled engined models in Germany.
Introduction of a higher spec ‘Caravelle’ with the option of a 4 lamp square grille.
The year of a full ‘revamp’ of the model. Changes included new exhaust systems, front suspension, sliding door locks, fuel injection systems, to name but a few. It is said over 1000 changes were made in this year alone. 1985 also saw the introduction of the Syncro, a four wheel drive vehicle, which was built with Steyr/Daimler/Puch in Austria. Capable of climbing a 54% gradient utilizing a center viscous coupling.
Onwards vehicles did not suffer so badly with rust as a result of a new rust treatment in the production process.
The last T25 left the Hanover factory, however production carried on in South Africa until the end of 2002. The last Syncro was built in 1992.
2014 to Present
The VW Camper Era Comes to an End
After almost 70 years, the VW camper Bus was retired in January 2014, mainly because VW was no longer able to adapt it to keep up with the safety regulations of the modern age. Despite being discontinued, the camper bus is still a popular vehicle. You can expect to see these vehicles on the road for many years to come.