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.
Cars Of A Lifetime: 1977 VW Type 2 Westfalia – Concrete In The Console, by Heath McClure