It doesn’t matter whether we’re talking about Tokyo, or the world at large, or even CC itself: the VW Type 2 is everywhere and it is universally loved. Perhaps even more than the Beetle it was derived from, if only because it maximized the platform’s usable space, while keeping a sweet ‘40s design throughout its impressively long production life. Utilitarian, yet lovable. A potent kombination.
Volkswagen started Type 2 production in late 1949 and the Transporter (or Microbus, or Kombi, or Bulli take you pick) was an instant hit. It evolved in parallel to the Type 1 and sprouted several variants, many of which we’ve had the pleasure of seeing on CC before (see the related posts listed below, though I’m sure this is far from an exhaustive list), but kept steady and contributed to the German miracle, the post-war boom and eventually became an unofficial symbol of the rise of the counter-culture in the US. Quite the achievement.
But, but but but. There was a major makeover in 1967. Still the Type 2, but apocryphally referred to as T2, it was a very notable esthetic and technical hinge in the Transporter’s history. The completely redesigned Vanagon (a.k.a the T3) took over for the 1980 model year in Europe and North America. Though it is technically considered as a Type 2, the T3’s completely different styling marks a complete break with the original design. But the ’67 redesign kept being made in Argentina and Mexico for many years, and lasted in Brazil until 2013.
So the question is: which Type 2 would you pick? In the two-tone corner, we have the wide-eyed, swing-axled, split-screened O.G. T1 with the big V-shaped face crease…
And over in the orange corner, we’re looking at the post-hippie, flat-snouted, user-friendly, double-CV-jointed T2 Kombi. Gentlevans, start your flat-4s.
To add to the dichotomy here, the older van is obviously a recent / second-hand import, probably from across the Pacific. It is wearing a little too much added bling for my personal liking, but this colour combo still makes for a very handsome Type 2.
The orange van appears to be an original JDM vehicle, being RHD and wearing the importer’s hallmark blue and yellow sticker on its rear window.
As such, this later JDM van is probably quite a rare find now, as the overwhelming majority of VW Type 2s one sees are of the American variety. Well, I suppose some could have also been sourced in Europe, but the US West Coast is an easier option from this country.
The dilemma extends to the interiors, obviously. The classic cream-coloured charm of the older van’s dash is hard to resist…
…As is the rest of the interior. Somewhat austere, alien plush toys notwithstanding, but in a good way.
On the other hand, the T2’s dark plastic may be a little harder on the eyes, but I bet this setup is far more driver-friendly. The steering wheel seems a little more tilted than the T1’s quasi-horizontal one. Your ribs will thank you.
The plaid and curtains gives this cavernous cabin a much warmer ambiance. And I always loved the layout of these Camper versions, with that rear bench seat and the picnic table…
It’s not an easy choice. The original design’s face is beyond iconic. The huge VW emblem, the glass-covered headlights, the bold V-shape… This is what so many others emulated – including Honda when they made their first four-wheeled vehicle. Influential to say the least!
However, the revised and rationalized T2 has its undeniable appeal – and not just to reason. The high-set rear air intakes look awesome, the interior (minus the dash, I guess) is funkilicious as hell and the squared face managed to keep being interesting, despite being less groundbreaking than its predecessor’s.
I guess it also depends on what your personal memories about each vehicle might be. That kind of seals the deal for me, because alas, I have never been in a pre-1968 Type 2, as far as I can remember.
I did however have a very memorable ride in this van’s virtual twin – same cabin layout and same superb body colour, but LHD. It was in Freiburg (Germany) back in the late ‘90s, when I visited a friend who lived there. He picked me up at the train station in this gorgeous thing and had beer in the cooler back there. Great times. So for me, I guess the orange takes the (carrot) cake. But I’m sure your memories may vary.
Curbside Classic: 1962 VW Double Cab Pickup – The Granddaddy Of Double Cab Pickups Is Still Hauling The Veggies, by PN
Curbside Classic: 1960 VW Bus – On The Bus, by PN
Curbside Classic: 1965 VW Deluxe Micro Bus “Samba” – Tinnibus, by PN
Craigslist Classic: 1972 VW Westfalia Camper – “Annie Is For Sale”, by PN
Curbside Classic: 1978 Volkswagen Westfalia Campmobile – Vanifest Destiny In Plaid, by Jon Stephenson
The End Of The Road For The Last Classic VW Bus: Brazilian VW Kombi Production Wraps Up, by PN
CC Outtake: VW Type 2 and Rabbit Pickups — Zwei Kleine Lastkraftwagen, by GGH06
VW Bus: The 12 Passenger Version, by PN
In-Motion Classic: VW T2 Truck – Still Being Worked!, by Yohai71
Curbside Capsule: 1962 VW Type II Single Cab – Not Your Typical Daily Driver, by Ed Stembridge
Vintage Magazine Article and Brochure: 1955 VW Westfalia Camper – The Beginning of an Icon, by PN
Cars Of A Lifetime: 1977 VW Type 2 Westfalia – Concrete In The Console, by Heath McClure
T2 camper. Orange plaid (also available in green!) beats all else. Comparing bus to bus it’s a harder call since the T2 buses didn’t get plaid, they mostly had the basketweave vinyl that infected VWs for decades.
I’ve spent quite a bit of time in both of these. The first car I ever drove with a stick shift was a T1 in the same colors as this one, although it was the lower trim Combi bus and not a DeLuxe bus like this one. I ended up driving that bus quite a bit, in all sorts of conditions including snowy mountains and such. I got over swing-axle phobia in it, as I learned to deal with its more eccentric handling “qualities”.
The first time I drove a T2, it was a bit of a revelation, as its more powerful engine, proper IRS, and that new front cabin made it feel much more civilized. It would roll along on the freeway happily and stably at close to 70, something the T1 was not capable of. It almost felt like a new vehicle, which of course it wasn’t. It was still very much the same basic body structure with a new front end section grafted on, as well as the new IRS without the reduction gear boxes on the axle shaft ends.
If only because it maximized the platform’s usable space,
A minor quibble: the Type 2 did not use the Type 1’s platform frame, as that was not sturdy enough for the weights that the Type 2 was designed to be able to haul. So it got a totally new body structure, which includes hefty frame rails underneath the floor, all of it welded together into a single unitized structure unlike the Beetle’s separate platform frame and body. Suspension was similar, but not identical, again designed for higher weight capacity.
And as to which of the two I’d take now? The T1, as its quirks are appealing and familiar to me and of course it’s worth a whole lot more.
The Brazilians wound up taking a lot of liberties with the Transporter. They put the nose of a T2 onto a T1, https://autohunter.com/Listing/Details/7008442/1994-BrazilianMarket-Volkswagen-Kombi
They never stopped making the T2 until the 21st century, when they were basically legislated out of existence in 2013.
There are all sorts of articles online about the Transporters of Brazil, but it’s a deep and weird rabbit hole, and will blow your mind.
While the T2 is the better driver no one is really going anywhere fast in a T1. The face of a T1 is such a classic look rarely seen today. When I first saw the beauty at the top of the page there was a quick emotional pang at seeing a familiar face after decades.
What a couple of great finds! The orange 77 T2 Westfalia looks very familiar to me. In my article you linked in related posts, I talked about my experiences with my parents’ succession of camper vans which included an orange 74 and brown 78. I’m assuming the 77 identification is confirmed through license plate or VIN, which brings up a question of how much the JDM version differed from the U.S.
I know from experience interior photos can’t be taken through the jalousie window screens, though one obvious difference is that this JDM van has a jalousie on the passenger sliding door only(left side in Japan), where U.S. had both sides. From what I can see in the photos, the cabinet arrangement looks more like the pre-76 than the 76-79 U.S. version. It’s also missing the rear “way back” side cabinet that U.S. versions had.
Judging by the intact driver seat plaid cloth upholstery, this van looks to be in pretty original condition, so I wonder if the chrome beltline trim and chrome front VW emblem are original.
The pre-67 split window bus is iconic as all get out, but for reasons I don’t quite understand I have a preference for the 68+ bay window bus (not that I’ve ever had the chance to ride, much less drive, either of them). They started putting the more powerful Type 4 engine in them in ’72 IIRC, so that creates another “version” (commonly called T2.5 if I’m not mistaken). Not sure if I want to deal with the added complexity of a Type 4 engine though, so maybe ’68-’71 is the right range for me?
I’d pick the one with the least rust and fewest signs of an owner who did half-assed repairs themselves.
My Bay Window was a 1973 Westfalia with a typ 4 engine, leuchtorange & pastellweiss.
It was imported to England when it was about 30 years old, left hand drive, and I sold it to my brother’s neighbour, it’s still providing family holidays at almost 49 years old.
There were different Westfalia layouts available, but only the Bay was made in right hand drive with the sliding door on the passenger side.
The current factory VW T6 factory campers use the LHD camper units in a special RHD body with the slider on the driver’s side.
The chrome trim on the featured Bay is deluxe specification, more usually the paint above the belt line would be a different colour. The trim strip moved lower down for the last few years of European production.
I’ve driven a Split screen and preferred the typ 4 engine bay because you can at least get through the massive gap between 2nd and 3rd gears and make some progress up a hill. At the expense of horrendous fuel consumption, 20 mpg (imperial) if you’re lucky.
My T25 (T3/Vanagon) had a non standard 1.9 diesel and was no faster, but otherwise a much more modern vehicle.
Currently I’ve got a 1993 T4 (Eurovan) 2.4 diesel, which is of course much more civilised, although hardly modern.
Miss the friendliness you encounter when you’ve got a rear engine VW though.
Forgot to mention, my T3 was made in Austria at the Steyr factory. They made a few thousand a month there from 1990 to 1992 when the T4 took over at Hanover.
A note : Typ I means Beetle and derivative ~ NO VANS carry the Typ I designation .
Having driven many early Typ II’s across America and back, I’d prefer a ’68 ~ ’71 bay window van , they’re better in every way .
He didn’t say “Type 1”. he said T1 and T2, where the “T” stands for Transporter. That is how the various bus generations are called: T1, T2, T3, T4, etc.
You’ve objected to this several times before, but that’s really how they are referred to. There’s a difference between “Type 1” and “T1”. Got it?
“So the question is: which Type 2 would you pick?”
To look at or drive? I love the look of T1’s, but for driving I’d pick the T2 in a heartbeat.
T1’s needed a better engine and engine support, the little 40-60 HP engines just got worked to death here in the US, by most, including myself. Impatience and doing, or trying to do freeway speeds just cooked those things with the air they were pushing. And I saw a few with broken transaxles due to the reduction gears at the hubs loading the tranny case the wrong way. On the plus side, they didn’t really handle as bad as they should have, I routinely passed cars on winding roads and the only issue was power to pass in time, not handling. And just try to overload them, they’d carry anything, weight wise.
T2’s? Newer and better, but less emotion to them.
Curiously I swear I see more of all transporter variants (versions, not a VW variant) on vacation in recent years than I ever have. Seems like they’re coming out of the woodwork. And ironically I think they’re driven now more at the speeds they were designed for, rather than at a modern pace. They do always bring a smile to my face.
Given the choice, I would choose therapy, or a T2.
I’ve never mentioned here before that I grew up in a green and white T1, nor that it was a trauma-inducing embarrassment, nor that it was quicker being pushed by us than driven loaded, nor that the heater of HTL 495 – truly, they WERE the numberplate letters – tried to gas these offspring of a Hitler refugee whenever turned on, nor that it had oxidised holes roof and floor where once good German metal had been, making one wet of both head and feet in the rain (seriously, it’d been drier to travel on the bumper bar). At least, I don’t think I have.
Say, see the door handles in the back interior shot? Well, for reasons unknown, ours was “closed” with both pointing upwards (unlike here, and perhaps a RHD quirk?). On rough roads, one handle would slowly but surely work its way down to horizontal, and, presto, the door would open. Luckily, we had no seat belts to increase the risk of dirt hitting us. We had always to put an elastic band , or rubber glove, over the two when bumpy roads were due. This part is a completely true story, btw.
I loved the T2, and do still. It just felt like a modern car when my cousins got one new. The 2 litre pancake sounded like a WRX before they ever did – and only the 2 litres ever sounded like this, every lesser capacity being ring-a-ding Veewee screamy – and with my demented Uncle scything at the big wheel on mountain roads, it actually handled. And best of all, it could throb along to get us from A to B in a day, instead of from A to the farther side of A in two.
Sure, the T1 is an ornament to society, but it is not adornment to one.
(Well you DID ask).
My pride and joy is my pearl white 1967 Westfalia camper that has been in the family since december ‘67. My parents bought it from a couple that brought it over from europe and it only had 9,700 miles on the clock. I just finished a true to factory restoration. I had enough foresight to save all the original bits and pieces including the entire unblemished camper interior after all these years.
Back in 1968 our neighbors brought back from europe a ‘68 Bay window Westfalia. I will never forget the first ride in that one. It was like riding on a cloud! You could feel the front end floating up and down, especially from 1st to second gear. I fell in love with that ride!
The T2s were curious in that respect. There’s been an assortment of cars over the years that were pitched up. Most of them were figurative tail draggers. The T2 in contrast was not low in the back, but distinctly high in the front. And rode accordingly even though you were sitting on top of the front axle. But ok as long as the shocks were decent. An up and down, up and down, but slow and comfy, not harsh and bouncy.
Yes, the ride difference between a split window and the bay window was immense! That’s why I so fondly remember the first ride in the bay window. Not harsh at all but a controlled soft up and down ride. It really stuck in my memory banks!
We have a 1979 VW Transporter T2. Ours has passenger seats. Our insurance company is saying this is a commercial vehicle, not a passenger vehicle, and therefore will only cover liability without comp and collision. Does anyone have details on this vehicle being a passenger vehicle?
Well, maybe it comes down to how yours was born. They came in many different configurations and for sure they were sold as passenger vehicles. Plenty of sales brochures to back that! You may be looking for another insurance company if they can’t be convinced.