I could write so many COALs, but that would basically inundate this page with Volkswagens and I’ve already told my most important one (my ’59 Beetle) and another on my favorite watercooled VW I’ve owned. But there’s another one which I think deserves some recognition in a write up of it’s own. The reason being that it brought me out of a dark period in my VW days and put the spark back into my enthusiasm for these crazy old German cars. This is how I came into my affinity for the 1967-older split windshield Type 2s.
Back in 2004, an 18-19 year old me was going through a rough period with my VWs. The ’71 Beetle I’d been driving since age 16 had not only been involved in a wreck, and a week later having a wheel fall off of the car while I was driving, destroying all of the hard work I’d put into making it look so nice. It had also been nickel and diming me to death, causing my enthusiasm for that car fade away. I also had a ’74 Bus with an engine in pieces I’d also lost interest in, which I traded for a Squareback, which promptly blew the engine. I couldn’t get into anything to do with my VWs and that worried me.
My whole life, my identity had been the “VW kid”. What do I do if I’m no longer that? Early that summer I met someone face to face whom I’d talked to on VW forums for a long time. We were the same age, but where I’d been more into Beetles, he was more of a split-windshield Bus guy. I’d seen a few “split Buses” as they are commonly called at shows and in junkyards and such but never had even been in a running one much less driven one. My new VW friend Andrew would soon change this. (He’s also the same person who would later spark my interest in water-cooled Volkswagens after he bought an ’89 GTI).
While his own 1967 Deluxe Bus was in a body shop being reworked and painted he decided to take its drive train and a junk ’67 Bus shell with serious roof damage and make what is certainly the most unsafe, death trap of a vehicle I have ever been behind the wheel of, which we still lovingly remember as the Roadster Bus. He brought it down to an event in my hometown and after we went to a Lowe’s to pick up some bolts, to install a rear apron he’d purchased a junkyard I’d shown him on the way to Birmingham, he put the keys in my hand and said “Here, you’re driving it back to your house.”
I can’t explain what came over me but before I was out of the parking lot I was smitten. It was as if a voice inside me said “This is what you are supposed to be driving.” I know many people I tell this to, including some reading this, will not understand why I love driving an early VW Bus as much as I do. I should hate it. It should be the most terrible thing to be behind the wheel of. I can’t explain it myself. All I can tell you is that no other vehicle puts a smile on my face when I’m on an open highway in a split windshield VW Bus. I’ve never felt more at home in any other vehicle.
I drove that roadster Bus around that whole weekend. I couldn’t get enough of it. When I say it was unsafe I mean looking back now at age 30, I can’t believe we actually drove around in that thing. A VW Bus is far from a safe vehicle itself and this one was roof-less. Despite “reinforcements” being welded in, you could still feel and see the body flex when you took it through curves. Later on, my friend actually lost control of it in the rain and wrecked it, luckily and perhaps miraculously without injury. That poor Bus may have been doomed, but it did accomplish getting me my interest in VWs back.
When he and that Bus left that Sunday I began my quest to have one of my own, albeit with a roof. By years end, I’d dragged home my first split window Bus, my 1967 13-window Deluxe Microbus and prepared to awaken it from a 20 year slumber beside a garage in a small Alabama town. My enthusiasm was back. I worked outside, in my parent’s backyard trying to undo 20 years of returning back to nature.
But that is whole other story in itself, perhaps a part two………
Adam Simpson’s “Ultimate Car Of A Lfetime” (a 1959 VW he’s had since he was three) is here
It’s true, there really is some sort of logic-defying magic going on with those old Splitties. My ’60 makes me smile just thinking about it, much less driving it.
`I hacked the roof off- along with about 100 different flavors of modification proposals- on paper. Glad that’s as far as that got.
Now days split screen VW Kombis sell for huge coin and the hunt is on worldwide for restoration candidates, I’m reliably informed that if you have the roof the rest is available reproduction Ive read the adverts in a VW nutter friends magazines not cheap of course the days of cheap split screen vans is over apparently I would have left the upper section of the windscreen frame on I reckon just to keep the glass from moving other than that his creation is a cool roadster utility.
I’ll have to see if I can find a before picture but the right front is where a tree had fallen onto the roof which is why he cut the roof off the way he did. The upper windshield overhang was pretty mangled and he actually had to straighten that a pillar to get the lexan windshield to fit.
Oh to be 18 again, haha.
Ditto on old VWs bringing a huge smile…
I may be the only person on CC who also has a box blade sitting behind an early 60s VW, too!
Isn’t it funny how there is that one kind of car that lights that special fire in each of us. How happy we are when we find it.
I can’t wait to read the rest of your story.
Wow, great story. Way back in engineering school we were talking about torsional rigidity in machine design class, and one of the classic examples was how much stiffer a shoe box is with the lid on it. So I can draw on my vast engineering experience and say that yes, that vehicle has very little torsional rigidity in the chassis.
Still looks cool though.
FWIW the other classic example is if you break a piece of (uncooked) spaghetti in torsion you get a classic 45 degree brittle fracture helix. Try it!
Big fan of your VW stories – can’t wait for part 2!!!
This oughta be a good thread .
I know they’re unsafe and I personally never want to work on a pre Bay Window Typ II ever again but I’ve looged more miles than you can imagine behind the wheel of early Typ II’s going up and down the Continental Divide (not through the tunnel) , towing , unloaded , through Mexico etc. ~ as long as you’re not hurrying and have a properly set up single port engine you’ll be fine if tired from rowing the gears all day long =8-) .
In the 1950’s and 1960’s it was fairly common to lop the tops off these and install old War Surplus fat air craft tires and take folks for ‘ dune buggy rides ‘ in them , wheezing and clattering but never getting stuck…..
Yes! Let there be a part two! We love seeing CCs left for dead by others get another chance to hit the road again!
The Roadster Bus might be a little unsafe, but it’s also one of the coolest thngs I’ve ever seen done to an old Kombi. I’ve always been partial to old Volkswagens – it might have something to do with the fact that I came home from the hospital in a ’61 Bug.
Good luck with your ’67. I’m looking forward to reading Part 2.
It was terribly unsafe but by far one of the most fun vehicles I’ve ever been behind the wheel of.
As you’ll find out, the ’67 has since been passed to another owner, my current Bus is rather nice ’63,
I really liked the fold up windshields my ’65 Bus had. Open up the rear gate and flip up the windshields and it felt like a 4 wheel motorcycle. Also had a really nice ’66 Sundial camper Bus, if only I still had them today. My brother had a ’56 panel Bus, complete with ’54 25 HP Beetle engine, painted bright orange by Earl Schieb, along with wood bumpers I made in shop for him, had the ’70’s side air scoops and cut out rear fender wells with fiberglass extensions, chrome Chevy wheels on JC Whitney wheel adaptors to complete the package. I loved the ’66 a little less when the engine threw a rod in 115 degree heat at Parker, Arizona. I put in a used engine after the 400 mile tow back to home, and sold it in 1975. That was my last Bus ownership, but drove plenty of ’68 up pickup and van versions running parts for VW dealerships in the ’70’s and early ’80’s. Looking forward to part 2. Today my addiction is A2 German built Jettas, bought one last month (’87 GL) for $700.00 with great body and interior, even the same color as my identical looking ’86 Jetta GL I’ve had since ’91. Needed a little minor work, all it needs now is a new windshield and so I have twin Jettas. I’m planning to sell the ’87 to a nephew when (if) he gets a job. I’ve had many aircooled VW’s in the ’70’s and early ’80’s. In 1982 I bought a ’75 Rabbit and it’s been water cooled since. Still toying with the idea of with getting another air cooled VW sometime in the future.
I’ve owned five Mk2 Jettas, an 85, two 87’s (one I sold to my best friend and it’s his current DD) an ’88 which I wrote a COAL on, and a ’92. I love that generation.
You can have both air and water. My current stable includes my ’59 Beetle, ’63 Standard Microbus and a ’79 Rabbit diesel.
They are durable. Over 300k miles on the ’86 with original engine and 5 speed trans. The ’87 shows 260k miles. I found the original owners receipts and the trans was rebuilt early in it’s life at around 40k miles at a dealership. The 5 speed ACN transmission is normally bulletproof. The head on the ’87 says “made in Mexico” so it probably has been changed although I can’t find any receipt in the collection showing this. It runs great and shifts fine, even the original paint is good. I also have an ’89 GL that my niece drove for about 6 years, she wrecked it and bent the frame rails pretty badly so I’m using it for parts. I always really liked my ’66 Fastback, thought about getting another.
Maybe that roofless bus could be converted to a pickup. Find an old VW pickup cab, and weld it on. Add a VW pickup bed with the drop down sides and tailgate. It would take a lot of work and experience. Something you’d see in Hot VW magazine. I saw a crew cab VW pickup in that magazine that had some windows from a deluxe 21 window Samba bus. Looked pretty cool.
I try not to read these VW stories but am never successful. Haven’t had alcohol or tobacco for over 15 years but VWs were harder to quit by far. I stuck an electric motor in the last one I had and turned it into a trike. Now thanks to having read this story I’ll probably be thinking about VWs again. Probably a trike and at my age thats even worse.
I’ve always had an affinity for 4-door convertibles, but a Kombi Konvertible is one I never would have thought of. Very cool, if not exactly safe! Would have been fun with the seats installed and a bunch of people headed out on a nice day…