Paul Wilson: A Moment of Silence Please for Death of the Beloved VW Bus

bus doneThink of it as a blow to hippies everywhere…

It’s with great sadness that I  must tell you  that the  Volkswagen Kombi a.k.a. the VW Bus is alas no more. After producing more than 1.5 million units between September 1957 to September 2013, it turns out that the last-ever Type 2 Kombi rolled off the production line in Brazil on this past December 31, 2013.

Ah, the memories…

My second vehicle was a VW Bus – it was the Prius of the 1960’s and 1970’s – and the standard equipment of surfers everywhere. Not to mention the official vehicle of Grateful Dead Heads worldwide. 

Call it a bus, Kombi, Westfalia, camper, microbus, split window – you name it – the long-in-the-tooth VW has long been my favorite car. I’ve owned two in the last 10 years alone – a ‘63 and a ‘67. I sold my last one two years ago to a set designer in New York who restored in three days with a team working around the clock.

After its completion it was air shipped to Greece where it lives aboard the Silver Seas cruise line ship the Silver Spirit – a 36 ton, 500 passenger ultra high end ship with minimum cruises of three weeks up to a year plus – as a prop for their theater production.

And while VW announced its death last year and production ended in December, the last one just sold. Germany stopped building them in 1979, Mexico in 1995, with Brazil the final holdout.

bus loadingMillions of these things were built, equating to a lot of white knuckled drivers flying down hills with the wind to their backs at 57 mph, top speed. I can’t tell you the love affair I had with the bus, knowing all along if anyone hit me without a doubt I’d be a goner. You know, with nothing but a single sheet of light gauge metal separating me from the opposing vehicle.

The bus represented freedom,” says Damon Ristau, the Missoula, Montana, director of a documentary called, “The Bus,” which follows van fanatics and their affection for the machine. “It has a magic and charm lacking in other vehicles. It’s about the open road, about bringing smiles to people’s faces when they see an old VW van rolling along.”

In other areas of the world it was nothing but utilitarian.

It served as the standard mail truck in Brazil, troop carriers in 3rd world countries, school busses and taxis or parts haulers for the carpenters and plumbers of the world. Just another delivery vehicle.

Brazil produced a “Last Edition” as a commemorative farewell with a total build of 600 units will all the trimmings

Next?

Next?

Trimmings with a nod to traditions such as window curtains and vintage trim alongside modern amenities like MP3 and USB for the radio. VW got nearly $25,000 grand for the last of the last but that doesn’t hold a candle to the fully restored splitty’s here state side which I’ve seen sell for as much as $150-200K!

Bikers have their traditional low-arm wave of acknowledgement. Drivers of interesting marques and vintage sports cars acknowledge each other with waves or flashing lights in passing, but nowhere will does one get the unanimous smiles and endless parking lot conversations that accompany driving a VW bus.

Trust me, I’ve yet to own my last one – there’s just nothing quite like it.

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25 Responses to Paul Wilson: A Moment of Silence Please for Death of the Beloved VW Bus

  1. the dude says:

    This and no Ultimate Warrior tribute Hearne?!?!?!
    Tsk, tsk.

    • Stomper says:

      I think Hearne’s true wrestling allegiance is to those warriors that toiled at Memorial Hall during the glory years. That era ended well before this guy stepped in the ring.

      Having the first two comments here relate to “professional” wrestling must be quite depressing to Paul.

      • the dude says:

        That’s fine and dandy but just because you like old school wrasslin’ doesn’t mean you can’t make room for the newer kids.

        • Stomper says:

          No argument from me. As you might surmise from my moniker, I’d love a piece on any aspect of professional wrestling.

          Admin. ?????

        • Stomper says:

          Oh, and as a segue back to Paul’s topic, I think Handsome Harley Race once rode in a VW Bus.

    • Hearne says:

      Well after all, dude, this is amPaul Wilson item.

      What, did you expect me to “tweak”‘ it or something?

      Honestly, I looked into it and if there was something out of the ordinary, I would have done something. Or may still, but it looks like a pretty clean news event at this point. Besides, the pitch has a nice piece.

      Me? I’m either an old school wrestling fan or into the current…last few years.

      I had a life back when this dude was happening

  2. paulwilsonkc says:

    My worst nightmare isn’t Harley, he’s a kindergarten act. My worst fear is having a story hijacked by WWE COMMENTS! Thanks, gentlemen. I just can’t thank you enough.
    I did text Hearne when the story broke. His reply; Never was a huge fan.
    I’m embarrassed I even had the conversation, short as it was.

    • Stomper says:

      Admit it Paul, as a youngster, you were up late every Saturday night putting tin foil on your TV’s rabbit ear antenna so you could watch Gust Karras host his wrestling show out of St. Joe, Mo.

      • paulwilsonkc says:

        Stomper, had I done so I could not find the nerve to admit it. I do, however, recall Saturday nights visiting my dads step father as he sat on the edge of the couch, smoking his Swisher Sweets screaming at the TV at the top of his lungs for his favorite wrassler.

  3. mike t. says:

    for those of us who follow an automotive blog, the demise of the bus was well-known.

    I personally never owned one, and am not sure I even rode in one – even when I lived in Hollywood in the late 60s early 70s. they were ubiquitous at that time, complete with flower decals, with peace signs and other psychedelica in day-glo paint, and god knows what else plastered on them. and nearly every single one that passed you could smell either patchouli oil, weed, or (usually) both emanating from it. strains of In A Gadda Da Vida or Steppenwolf’s Magic Carpet Ride wafting in the air as well. yes and Grateful Dead, Vanilla Fudge, too many others to name…

    • mike t. says:

      man, now I feel old!

    • mike t. says:

      but I’d be remiss if I didn’t also mention Jefferson Airplane, Velvet Underground, Sgt. Peppers Lonely Hearts Club Band of course, Big Brother and the Holding Co…..

      okay, now I really feel old.

  4. newbaum turk says:

    Oh gawd, what a piece of crap. I had one just like the baby blue one pictured. Why the Germans produced such a piece of sh*t is beyond me. I could see some warm weather country make this thing but Germany? After 45 minutes of driving you might actually feel some heat. That is if you’re still alive from not being able to see because the defrost barely works. And let’s not forget topping out at 55 mph going downhill. I can remember going to school back when 69 was a two lane highway. There would be a long line of cars stuck behind me all pissed off. Thankfully I only drove that piece of crap one semester.

    • paulwilsonkc says:

      Oh, Turk, you’re so right but still so wrong. While being quite possibly one of the worst vehicles ever made they likely have the biggest cult following of anything ever built while all the bad remains true!
      The heat was notorious, coming from an air cooled motor in the rear, by the time what little hot air could be pushed to the front by a horribly ineffective fan, it was cold!
      A couple of mine had a GAS heater, burning real live gasoline fed from your gas tank; what could possibly go wrong there!
      The powder blue one pictured is actually one I gave my son, being loaded on a Fed Ex custom carrier, headed for NYC.
      The other pic is the final product that, today lives on the cruise ship.
      Loved my busses; the best of times, the worst of times.

  5. a lil baggie with a pool ball on it says:

    WARRIOR LEVEL

    0/10

    would shake ropes and yell again A++++++

    • paulwilsonkc says:

      Baggie; decode that for me later if you get a minute!

      • pool ball baggies says:

        While this article was well written and informative, it needs more ultimate warrior for it to be a bestof. The reader is satisfied and will mimic the warrior to show his approval.

        You might not know this but CG ties ribbons around appendages until his veins pop out but eventually it cuts off the circulation to his “lanny poffo”.

        • the dude says:

          I knew it!!!

          Warrior Level after that info leak:
          1/10
          Shake ropes vigorously and give rambling take on next match

  6. Pleasure meeting you yesterday. Hope to see you at Volks-Weston this year, (Msay 17th) http://www.mokanvwclub.org/EVENTS/VolksWeston/2014/VolksWeston2014.html <- shameless plug

    Maybe we can light a fire of sorts and get you back into a bus.

  7. balbonis moleskine says:

    Youre a rich old dude, you should customize one of those fancy mercedes sprinter vans. But we will be disapointed if you leave out the port window and the aztec mural…

    • paulwilsonkc says:

      Balbo, you crack me up! Lets go get a beer some time, you know how to find me! Youre a little misguided on the “rich old dude” comment, but I can fill in the details for you. I’ll buy.

  8. mike says:

    Those things were built so light, the Ultimate Warrior could have bench pressed one of them!

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