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.
Millions 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
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.