Introduced in 1950, the Volkswagen Type II made enough inroads in America that by the 1960s, the Detroit “Big Three” all developed ‘forward control’ offerings of their own in response, none of which outlived the VW. The Transporter’s popularity was also responsible in some part for the adoption of the so-called “Chicken Tax” that is applied to light trucks imported into the United States – a tax still on the books to this day. While our subject car most likely started life as a working truck, it’s today used as a daily driver by a coworker, who was kind enough to brave an irate farmer with me to acquire these photos.
It’s been nearly twenty years since I last drove a ‘bus, and I don’t remember my ’71 Campmobile being quite so “form fitting” as the ’62. But after sliding in one leg at a time and fastening the lap belt, everything fell right to hand, and a huge grin spread across my face for the trip back to the office. My coworker (we’ll call him Matt, since that’s what everyone else does) purchased the truck pretty much in the state in which you see it here – he had owned another van prior to college, and kept his eye out for a replacement after graduating.
Matt designed the door signage, which is in honor of his Grandfather. Matt said his Grandpa was always tinkering on things, making repairs rather than replacing (like a lot of men from that generation)… a lot of Matt’s own interest in mechanical things came from Herr Lingenfelter.
Underneath that canvas top is a pristine bed that sits a comfortable 38-1/2″ above the ground (stock ride height!), complete with a few vintage accessories. Having owned a ’64 Beetle, I suspect the gas can is functional as well as decorative, as the early fuel gauges were really more for suggestion rather than being precision instruments. The oak strips lining the bed gave the truck the nickname Pritschenwagen, or “plank bed car,” in Germany. The truck was also available in a three-door double-cab configuration, a convenience for which one traded a substantial portion of the bed area.
And yes, Matt does carry a copy of the ‘Idiot Guide,’ although this one is far too clean to be the one he uses for regular maintenance. I can barely read my copy any more! As an aside, Chilton’s manuals were a lot better back in the day than they are now. The Bentley manual is hands-down considered to be the best reference available for your vintage VW.
Under the bed resides a stock 1200cc mill making an optimistic 40hp (gross). The van is certainly not quick, but I found that it was still eager enough if you were willing to work with the low output and gearing – it’s only having to move about 2,425lb (unladen), after all. The ’62 would originally have had reduction gearboxes at the outboard ends of the rear swing axles, giving the van a 5.73:1 final drive ratio, sufficient to urge along the 3/4 ton payload at a leisurely pace up even the steepest incline. Those, however, are missing from this van – part of the extensive modifications made to lower the vehicle (and yes, I already warned Matt that not all CC readers care for the slammed look!).
While I’m not a huge fan of the lowered look myself, what appeals to me about this vehicle is that, as a daily (fair weather) driver, it gets used regularly throughout the late Spring through Fall here in the Middle West. I’d tuck it away during Salt Season, too, if it were mine! I was all the more impressed after driving it back to the office – the ride is quite choppy (I ran over a dime laying in the road and could tell what year it was minted, if that gives any indication). Not to mention the fact we got passed by a fully-loaded dump truck on our way out to the photo site.
But the “cool” factor is simply off the charts – there’s just something about driving an old Volkswagen that, for me at least, brings a huge smile to my face, even after being chased away from our first photo shoot location – and we’re *very* pleased to report that a forty-horse 1962 VW Single Cab can outrun a John Deere tractor pulling a grain auger!