COAL: The Roadster Bus Brings Back The Spark

That fateful weekend in Alabama when I fell in love with a Bus with two windshields.

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.

VW 1959 Adam Simpson COAL

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.

My '67 13-window as found in late 2004.

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