There’s something about the Woodlands, TX, where I currently live, that makes it a bit of a mecca for obscure old vehicles. They seem to be mostly hidden away in garages and behind gates, but occasionally one will suddenly materialize out of the deep woods, like a shy bunny, and then disappear again. Equally occasionally, I have my camera ready for one of these elusive creatures. Case in point, this rather nice ’69 Volkswagen bay window (T2a) pickup, snapped as it clattered by the car wash where I was a giving my old Subaru one of its rare baths. Given that the owner apparently has a thing for air-cooled, rear-engine trucks, wonder if he’s got a Corvair pickup at home as well?
New for 1968 and replacing the original split-window Transporter variants, this model was powered by a 1600cc engine putting out a stonking 47 HP. The single-cab pickup was one of four “commercial” body styles offered in the US that year, and probably the second most rare (after the double-cab version, which I don’t remember ever having seen on a domestic road). As far as I can tell, very few T2a truck versions were sold in the US after 1971: the infamous “chicken tax”, adding a 25% penalty tariff to foreign-made trucks, was a fairly effective sales killer.
I couldn’t find sales figures specific to VW pickups imported to the US, but it appears about 54,000 Type 2s of all styles were imported in ’69 and the pickup versions were likely a small fraction of the total. With only about 34,000 of the T2a pickup versions sold worldwide that year, I guess it’s no wonder if these don’t turn up on the road very often.
Speaking of shy bunnies, at least once the enchanted Woodlands has also coughed up an example of another VW foray into light trucks, in this case a 1981-82 VW pickup (or Caddy for the non-Yanks among us). Look closely and you’ll see it’s towing a trailer full of landscaping equipment, so it’s a bona fide worker, still earning its keep.
Obviously based on the series I Golf/Rabbit, and built at VW’s short-lived Westmoreland facility in New Stanton, PA, gas-engine models came with a 1600cc (later 1700) in-line four, good for 78 HP, and with a 1500cc diesel available as an option. The ‘LX’ emblem haphazardly stuck to the rear quarter panel identifies this as the deluxe model, with extra chrome and a slightly fancier interior.
About 75,000 Rabbit-based pickups were built during the model years 1980-82, so one supposes these are not quite as rare as ’60s Type 2s. They are still infrequently seen in this part of Texas, however, especially in as decent shape as this one appeared to be. I owned a ’75 Rabbit, and while it remains one of my favorite vehicles of all time for its handling and drivebility, it had a well-deserved reputation for rust-through and general flimsiness.
Now, if I had only had my camera ready for some of the other unicorns I’ve seen here, like a Citroen DS, or Aston Martin DB2, or…