The VW bus was a truly revolutionary vehicle, of the kind that appear very rarely. Its utility, economy and space efficiency put it in a class of its own, which is why it rightfully became so iconic—and valuable. It’s impact in the US should not be understated; it sold quite well during the second half of the 50s, either as a compact van (Transporter) or the “Kombi/Station Wagon” people hauler.
In 1961, the VW bus finally got some serious competition from Ford and Chevrolet, not wanting to cede this growing niche to VW. A box on wheels is in many ways the ultimate car, and someday in the future when we ride in autonomous shuttles, they will invariably be boxes on wheels too. In 1961, there wasn’t yet a consensus as to what these rolling boxes should be called. Car Life called them “station buses”. Today, they’re obviously vans.
CL points out that station wagons were the hot new thing some years back, but then they tended to be more utilitarian. By the end of the ’50s, they had lost some of that quality, being based on cars that had gotten so low and long. In that environment, the VW was a breath of fresh air. They called it “Station Wagon”. The Greenbrier was dubbed “Sports Wagon”. And the Econoline was called “Station Bus”. CL decided to use that name.
The three had distinct characters; the VW was the most economical, the Greenbrier, with Powerglide and plush suspension had the greatest comfort, and the Econoline was the quickest (in relative terms).
The driving experience, in addition to being on the slow side, was of course very different, sitting up so high and right up front. They were very maneuverable, with their short wheelbases and short overall lengths; the Econoline was 3.5′ shorter than a full size Ford station wagon. Yet cargo space was of course “fantastic”.
And they can carry up to 9 adults in relative comfort, with upright benches.
The VW was of course the least powerful, with its 40 hp 1192 cc four out back (the 1500 would come along within a year or so). The excellent 4-speed transmission and low gearing make the most of its inherently limited power-to-weight ratio. It might be surprising, but the VW tied the 80 hp Greenbrier in the 1/4 mile run, both coming in at about 25 seconds. The Greenbrier was doing 55 mph at the end, compared to the VW’s 49 mph.
As to the 0-60 run, the VW never got there, with a top speed of 59 mph. Yes, these 36 and 40 hp buses were slow; one had to be patient. But they eventually got one there, and it seems Americans weren’t in such a hurry back then, because its limitations in this regard weren’t exactly red flags. And the top speed can be maintained for hours on end without harm. “Long uphill grades, however, can become a bit annoying, although the VW is as nimble as a chamois on twisty mountain routes”.
The heating system was deemed “virtually ineffectual” due to the long travel through uninsulated ducts from way back there to way up front. But the fresh air system, with its overhead intake, was deemed excellent. The VW’s ground clearance was the best (9.5″) making it ideal for off-road travel. And the brakes were more than up to the task. And the steering was the quickest and easiest of the three.
It was the new seating arrangement, with two individual seats in front with an aisle between them that cam ein for high praise, allowing movement between front and rear areas.
Fuel economy was the best of the three too, with a range of 18-22 mpg.
The Greenbrier had a lot of attractive qualities, starting with its styling. It was a bit lower than the other two, and looked a bit less utilitarian, with some flair. Combined with the nimble handling, it almost lived up to its “Sports Wagon” name. What let it down was the lack of power. Its 80 hp air cooled boxer six teamed with the optional 2-speed Powerglide just didn’t cut it. It was appreciated in busy stop and go traffic, but the engine was either lugging or revving, without much effect. CL recommended the 4-speed manual that was just becoming available on the Greenbrier. Mileage was a modest 17 mpg; still significantly better than most big full-size V8 wagons.
Its conventional IFS and rear swing-axle IRS contributed to a ride that was softer, but still with good handling. Steering was slower than the VW’s, but light and pleasant.
The Greenbrier’s interior came in for good marks; the front bench allowed three-across seating. And the second row bench can be mounted either facing forward or rearward.
The Ford Econoline was curiously called both “the most radical of the 3, yet the most conventional in design” and “suffers a little in convenience and sporty appearance.” With its engine housed between the front seats, a solid beam front axle and RWD, the Econoline’s packaging had pros and cons; one of the ovious pors being a flat floor all the way to the back.
The 85 hp 144 cubic inch teamed with the three-speed manual (automatic not available) made it the fastest to the three, but that’s not saying much, with a 0-60 time of 25.8 seconds. The transmission had a non-syncro first gear, and the gap between 2nd and 3rd was unpleasantly large. CL notes: “However, the long gap between 2nd and top ratios could mean you’re not going to pass the VW going up that long grade, while the Greenbrier, with torque converter at work, might pass them all.” There’s more to real life driving than a 0-60 time. A good 4-speed transmission in a low-powered vehicle is not to be undervalued. As is a torque converter.
The interior of the Econoline was starker than the others “and resembles more a converted van than a station wagon.” Doh! That’s exactly what it is!
The Econoline’s ride was harsher than the others, and the front-heaviness caused some undesirable jouncing. CL was not fond of the engine inches away: “we kept getting a piston-in-the-ribs feeling“. But there’s an upside: “tune up adjustments could be carried out while underway.” While driving? Even I didn’t try that in my Dodge A100.
CL says: “This engine location also makes “swapping” easier, something the power fiend will find almost impossible with either the VW or the Greenbrier.” Really? As in engine swapping? There’s nothing easier and quicker than popping a VW engine in or out; in ten minutes, for those with some experience. And dropping a Corvair engine has to be vastly easier than lifting out an engine out of the Econoline’s front compartment. Or am I missing something? Swapping in high performance parts, perhaps? Still mighty easy on the VW. Whatever.
The Econoline was also the noisiest of the three; the rear engine Greenbrier’s engine was hardly audible.
In conclusion, CL recommends trying them all to see which one suits you best. Which would suit you best?
Related CC reading:
Curbside Classic: 1965 VW Deluxe Micro Bus “Samba” – Tinnibus
Curbside Classic: 1963 Corvair Greenbrier – We Don’t Want A Better VW Bus
Curbside Classic: 1961-1967 Ford Econoline – The Leader Of The Pack
I was a kid in the 60’s, and the VW seemed the coolest to me. It still does. I don’t recall ever seeing (or at least noticing) a Greenbriar, and the Ford looked like a business vehicle. As the 60’s wore on, VW buses adorned with Peter Max-style graphics and stick-on flowers sealed the deal for me.
Today, I’d love to have an old VW bus, but it would have to be a 1500.
I mentioned the Greenbrier in my COAL series describing the distinct difference of sitting on the front wheels in the Chevrolet van verses sitting just ahead of the rear axle in a 1978 280Z.
(The following is from a BaT comment I posted a while back on a Greenbrier auction).
—— Start of BaT Comment ——-
In the early 1960s my father and I used a new 1961 Greenbrier owned by the manager of the store where we (I as a summer college student) worked in Manhattan to go back and forth to Rockville Centre Long Island, a distance of about 25 to 30 miles.
Early Corvans/Corvairs would occasionally toss off fan belts because of a too-heavy engine fan. The fan was driven by the engine’s single belt which turned 90 degrees across the generator and tension pulley as it traveled from the crankshaft pulley. This issue was resolved by Chevrolet through the use of a lighter magnesium fan in later models.
In those days we could change the fan belt in a minute or two, at night, with no flashlight, feeling by hand the necessary pulleys. We carried lots of spare belts and left the insulated engine cover on but unfastened to facilitate fan belt replacements.
One night the accelerator cable broke on the LIE (Long Island Expressway) resulting in just an idling engine. Sliding off the engine cover, we looped my belt (or a short line – can’t recall that detail) to the raised portion of the rod connecting the two carburetors and sitting in the third row and watching my father’s hand signals (it was noisy with the engine cover off) I pulled the line for power and let it slide back for idle.
We got home with no additional issues.
Thank goodness it had the Powerglide; shifting would have been problematic.
I loved driving the Greenbrier. Sitting literally on the front wheels offered a unique experience in handling corners. One had to go a bit past the normal point of turning in order to be properly positioned to make the turn.
More room than a VW type 2 and probably not as costly to buy in this overheated Type 2 market.
—– End of BaT Comment —–
Sadly I have never had the pleasure of driving a Type 2 VW or an early Econoline, but whenever I see a Greenbrier I enjoy fond memories of the things my late father and did together to keep many old cars and one old wooden boat running.
The photo of the green and white Greenbrier in this post is exactly like the one we drove back then.
One of my vehicles is a 1996 Ford Econoline high top conversion van with the 351 W engine. I bought it in 2004 for $7000. Right now it has about 520,000 miles on it and it’s still running strong. It’s one of the best vehicles that I have ever owned. I plan to keep it for 2 more years and then I will start looking for another high top conversion van.
Nice post. I lived these vehicles and my views are from a kid’s perspective. It was great to read a contemporary comparison fron 1961.
That said, I wouldn’t want any of them. Slow, crude and tinny. Nope.
I have never had the chance to drive any of these early vans, but each sounds like a great experience (at least for a little while).
It appears that all of the things that made the Ford the runaway winner for commercial use made it less satisfying as a suburban family wagon.
I doubt that any of these vans was really great for family use in cold northern climates. Even with a great heater (as was probably the case with the Econoline) all of the un-insulated metal and glass probably made that back row seat less comfortable than an igloo.
The optional gas-fired heaters in both the VW and Greenbrier provided a blast of instant heat that the Econoline could only dream about.
wow – I never heard of those. I assumed they were engineered to keep fumes/CO out of the cabin. . .
Yes; they were just a miniature furnace, with a heat exchanger and an exhaust to the outside. It sat in the trunk on the sedans. It was the only heater in the Corvair in its first year (1960), and optional after that. They were quite common in VWs in the northern countries.
Gas and diesel heaters like this are still very popular in vans nowadays. They’re small, they can tap into the main fuel tank, and the Chinese clones are very cheap.
Very cheap Chinese gasoline heater is not a phrase that sets my mind at ease.
CDH, as on “Chinese Diesel Heater” is a common three-letter-acronym in the #vanlife world. People with gasoline vans use them, as they are fully self contained and have their own fuel tank. But gasoline versions are starting to become more common too, so that a common fuel can be shared with the vehicle. Our van has a GGH, German Gasoline Heater, but some of the CDH’es have a good track record.
We had one in our “71 fastback”. Still the car was an “icebox” , could at least not be a riding /driving icicle.
The electrical drain with the heater going was “massive”.
I have a diesel version of this kind of heater in my bus conversion/motorhome. I’ll swear by it for safe, comfortable heating
Those gasoline heaters were based on aircraft heaters, where CO would be particularly deadly. Well made and safe.
>It appears that all of the things that made the Ford the runaway winner for commercial use made it less satisfying as a suburban family wagon.
History repeated itself with the Chevy Astro vs the Chrysler minivans in the ’80s and 90s.
And I forgot: the 62/38 F/R weight distribution of the Econoline made it very less than ideal for the snow belt, unlike the VW and Corvair, which had 60% of their weight over the drive wheels.
Yes, having owned both a Dodge A100 and VW bus, snow traction was night and day.
Having grown up with a ’66 Econoline panel van (my father’s work truck) and traveled many a mile in it — I’ll savor this post! 🙂
I also want to mention that John Dorsey, long-time proprietor of Soundscape (a seminal audio store in Baltimore, MD) had a lovely Greenbrier when I frequented the store in the 1970s into early 1980s. He also had a 1960s era Magnavox console vacuum tube hifi in his home, despite the expensive and esoteric brands of the day he was selling. An interesting character, he.
I’ll definitely take the Greenbrier; it’s easy enough to swap in a more powerful Corvair engine if need be, plus I like its styling. I agree with Paul that swapping engines in the VW or Corvair would be far easier than hoisting it out of the Econoline. The first time I dropped my Corvair’s driveline out of the car, it took two hours. There is an order of operations I forget every time I have to do it, but it’s been out of the car probably four times, and it takes about two hours every time. Literally, I use a floor jack and a piece of plywood.
Everything I’ve read claims that the VW is even easier regarding drivetrain removal, although that would be my last choice in vans. For some reason, the Bus has never interested me.
Just for fun, here’s an ad I have on the wall right now.
Remember a “dry cleaner” in town having a brown ((gold lettering)) one these. Was still rolling around in “1974-75ish”.
I had to drop the powertrain twice on my ’63 Corvair. All I had was two scissors jacks, to lower the body after taking the wheels off, then I dropped the powertrain onto a big timber I found in that garage, then I raised the body and then slid the powertain on its timber out the back.
VW’s are super easy and quick. Just disconnect the throttle cable, fuel line and heater duct felx connectors, put a jack under the engine, undo the four bolts attaching it to the transaxle, slide it back a few inches and drop it down.
On my ‘67 Westfalia I always remove the rear bumper. Then the engine just slides straight back level and out. All you need is a floor jack with wheels. So easy!
I was thinking of the Beetle, which I did a couple of times. But yes, the Bus was even easier. Perhaps the easiest car eve to change an engine?
’67 bug. It has spade connectors for the generator. I’d time engine removal at less than ten minutes with a lift.
Buses had the rear valance panel that needed to be removed: add a few minutes.
Actually the beetle’s engine was more difficult. You pretty much needed a car lift and a floor jack. The engine was fiddly to drop out…you had to achieve a certain drop angle and the removal tolerances were very tight because of the curved body. You had to be careful not to scratch things. The bus rear valance was only 4 bolts, pull out the bottom rubber seal and pulled straight out. You did not have to remove the bumper, but I do to pull the engine easier. Yes, doing it this way it is one of the easiest engines in the world to remove.
Single port Bug, about ten minutes with a lift. Ghais, buses, and Type 3’s took longer. I actually did it thousands of times as a teenager working at an indie VW shop. The shop made most of its revenue on unit repair and half of my job was yanking the old engines out and putting the rebuilt engines back in.
It’s amazing how much of a game-changer it would be for van sales when FWD finally came on the scene. Say what you will about Iacocca, but his 1984 Chrysler T-115 minivan was automotive gold.
In short, the FWD configuration allowed the height of the van to be lowered to the point that it was acceptable for anyone to not only be able to drive, but easily fit into a standard-sized garage. It was ‘just right’ and, for years, there were wait lists for them and they effectively killed the domestic station wagon.
The increase in performance over these glacierally slow, early vans didn’t hurt, either.
My best friend’s dad was a TV repairman and bought a new Econoline van in the very ‘60’s. It didn’t have back seats but he would clean it out and put a loveseat in the back for out of town trips. My friend was an only child so his parents took me with them on family trips. His dad went to a carpet store and traded TV work for a carpet remnant that covered the back floor along with a thick pad. We would play on the back floor on trips. When we turned 15 in 1970, he would drive while Mom and Dad relaxed in the back. We always planned a road trip to California from Texas. It never happened due to summer jobs but it was fun to imagine our great adventure. His dad put almost 200,000 miles on that van.
Back in the sixties, I owned two of these three.
Both–the ’59 VW and the ’61 Econoline–were pickup versions not vans. Despite their low power and speed, I drove both of them from coast to coast without incident (the Econoline twice, the VW once). Those western vistas are something to behold from behind an Econoline windshield!
Later, I owned a ’66 Dodge A-100, a ’70 Econoline cargo, a 68 Chevrolet, (which, right now, I can’t remember the model name, but built just like the original Econoline), a ’96 Aerostar cargo (which I still have) and a ’22 Transit Connect cargo, my current ride.
There is nothing like a van to satisfy everything you want, including motel room, all in one neat box!
As much as I like the Econoline, it snows too much where I live to make it work well. The Corvair would probably work best, it would handle the Mt. Baker highway best. Interesting to note the VW wears 15 inch rims… and seems to have the best brakes.
Still saw early and mid-60s era VW buses in mid-to-late 70s Southern Ontario. Greenbrier’s were long gone, if they ever had much presence here.
The VW bus looked more like a ’50s aircraft fuselage, than any Detroit iron. As the Big Three touted their cars did, in their marketing. My dad bought a new early 60s VW Bus, to haul his growing family. All I heard were positive stories, from those earlier times, as he drove it year-round in then frigid and snowy Sudbury, and North Bay, Ontario.
Yes V dubs are slow mine was and it had a 1600 twin port, versatile though and apart from the awful German electrics fairly easy to repair though being Germany assembled made some parts hard to get they differ from Australian built vans,
Ive never driven an Econoline or Grenbriar we simply didnt have any we Got Thames 800s from Ford UK with 4 banger Consul 1700 engine, the new Transit was a revelation when it first appeared pity about the V4.
O did drive several CA Bedfords and owned one, that was GM UKs effort for vans replaced in 68 by the bigger better laid out CF model also shame about the engines in both, but vans have always been slow they are geared to carry a load in town not sprint down a motorway and always feature a gutless engine, though there were options in later years dealer installed or backyard.
I guess it is debatable whether Volkswagen (& Ben Pon) “invented” the compact van, but theirs was the introduction of the concept to the US in the mid 50s. No matter which of these 3 – or the later Dodge and more conventional Chevy Van – you prefer, the entire concept was brilliant and a game-changer.
Highly debatable, actually. And that includes Ben Pon’s 1947 idea and drawing.
Pre-WW2: there was Citroën in France and the 1937 Opel Blitz 1.5-23 COE prototype, see below (230 cm wheelbase, which would become the standard).
The Opel-VW link: Heinrich Nordhoff. Working for Opel in the thirties and early forties and for VW from November 7, 1947 onwards.
Here’s the Citroën TUB (Traction Utilitairé de type B), also dating back to 1937.
Back in the early ’60’s my Dad was looking for a late model used car to take on a trip to Mexico. He found a two year old Greenbrier passenger van. As Kids my brother and I liked all the windows and the small table that was set between the rear facing second seat and the third row seat. For the trip my Dad removed the table and turned the second seat to face forward. It was my Dad and Mom with my infant little brother and my older brother and myself ( second and third graders ).
The van threw the fanbelt a couple of times. My Dad finally replaced it with the specific Chevy part and we didn’t have any problems after that. Our destination was Guadalajara and then on to Mexico City and Mazatlan.
My baby brother got really sick so we had a lay over in San Diego. My Mom decided to return home with my brother via Greyhound. . We continued on, and my Mom got a two week vacation from us!
The Corvair had a real problem climbing the mountains that ring Mexico City, with the automatic, it couldn’t maintain a decent speed on the curvy road. I’ll never forget all the air horn blasts we received before a loaded big rig or bus went screaming past us! Those truck drivers were extremely aggressive. I’m sure that there were some white knuckle moments for my Dad, but we were still at the wonderful age where we had complete confidence in our Dad’s abilities and just enjoyed the adventure.
It was a rare opportunity to travel and spend some time alone with our Dad, and the trip is fondly remembered. Once we were home, my Dad swore off under powered cars and traded the Corvair for a new ’64 Pontiac Tempest wagon w 326/auto. He always had a V8 powered wagon throughout the rest of his lifetime.
As regards “swapping” perhaps they meant if you wanted to swap for something with more power. At the time presumably there wasn’t another flat four beyond a Porsche 356 engine to swap into the VW (which also weren’t just laying around or affordable) and the Corvair/1961 limited what was available there at the time, but the more conventional Ford might offer more varied option possibilities? It did infer that it would be if more power was the goal rather than just swapping one for another as in at engine rebuild time.
They mentioned location which is how I choose to interpret it. I think is a justifiable claim from a layman’s perspective, rear engine with a transaxle is unconventional therefore “seems” more intimidating if you haven’t done it before compared to the garden variety longitudinal rear drive layout of the econoline most people are familiar with, where swaps in cars were then well documented. The funny thing is with the VW and I presume greenbrier removing the engine is easier than it looks, and the econoline is harder than it looks.
Honestly I think the prospect of engine swapping is kind of silly for the magazine to even bring up in the first place. In 1961 what engine was someone looking to swap into the Econoline Van in a low effort manner? The small block Ford that’s the most direct fit for it wasn’t out for another year, and anything else like a Chevy small block require some fabrication to make work
Indeed, imagine a magazine touting the ease to change an engine in one of today’s vehicles. Seems like the first thing that would enter a potential customer’s mind is “why the hell would I need to change the engine?”. Things sure have changed (and some not necessarily for the better).
To that end, I wonder what the most serviceable vehicle ever built might have been? Frankly, this wouldn’t include reliable vehicles, either. Toyota has an enviable reputation for longevity but when a major component does let go, it’s not exactly easy to repair or replace. Years ago, a mechanic once told me that the issue was one of components not being individual parts but sub-systems that were most definitely not easily accessible. IOW, it took a lot of disassembly to get to a part that needed to be replaced.
Regardless, would something like that hoary old beacon of the DDR, the Trabant, qualify? Easily one of the most craptacular cars ever built, but weren’t they truly a duct tape and bailing wire repair kind of vehicle?
And in the US, wasn’t the Chevette somewhat similar? Yeah, things often broke on those, too, but I seem to recall that it was possible to keep them running, simply because they were so basic in their construction.
A recent CC about the International Scout brings to mind how some of the parts of those old, independent pickups (like the taillights) seem to have been sourced from Tractor Supply.
One could debate that extensively. FWIW, it’s hard to imagine anything easier to access and simpler to maintain than my ’66 F100 six. Everything on the engine is hugely accessible; one can literally stand in the engine compartment next to the engine with feet on the pavement, there’s so much room.
And although it’s not really tall, there’s enough ground clearance to readily reach anything underneath while on a creeper. It’s simple, primitive, and everything is accessible and readily replaceable. And there’s a huge availability of parts. The last part is important.
I’d considered the basic, early sixties Falcon six, and it may have been the reason the author (erroneously) singled out the Econoline without mentioning the Greenbrier or VW’s much more maintenance-conducive engine configuration.
While the slant-six/Torqueflite A-body gets all the accolades as being the most bullet-proof car of all time, really, any early sixties compact with a six cylinder engine that lived its entire life in a 3-season climate (i.e., no road salt) could seemingly be able to live forever, thanks to the aforementioned easy-access and parts availability, at least for the Big 3 products.
But even a Rambler or Studebaker Lark doesn’t seem like they would be all that difficult to keep running forever, either.
My first licensed car was a ’61 Greenbrier 80hp/PG. Fine for a 16-year-old. Crappy heater. Five years later I had a ’67 window van that I put a 1600 dual port in. Fine around town but way too low geared for the highway. The Greenbrier was absolutely comfortable driving on 65mph speed limit highways. That speed was impossible for a split window Type 2 with its reduction gear axle.
Yes, the VW reduction gears really slowed you down. No top speed records with this car. These vans were designed for hauling heavy loads…if an elephant could fit inside you could haul it. The chassis was unitized and very strong. I put on nearly 200,000 miles and no twists in this body. Helped it never was involved in an accident! You were never in a hurry with these…because you couldn’t be lol. Still own this bus today. Nicely restored to factory now. Love it!
Actually, when the 1500 engine was introduced in 1963, the total final drive ratio was changed from 5.73 to 5.50. That allowed a top speed of up to 65 mph. I drove one of these quite a bit when I was young, and if it was in proper tune, it would roll along at 65 on the level.
…up to 65mph is the operative phrase. Most four lane or larger highways in the 60s had a 65mph limit. I had little problem driving them in my ’71 Westphalia with its higher gearing and factory dual port. But doing so in my ’67 bus with a swapped-in DP had the engine topped out and screaming. The Greenbrier would comfortably run 65 mph all day long.
I swapped a ’67 95hp/PG into that ’71 Westie and it did flatten out the hills a bit, surprising Vanagon drivers on the interstates, but hills were a problem for all three power trains.
I once got picked up hitchhiking on I-80 in Iowa by a guy in a split window double cab pickup. It rolled along right at 65, and I was impressed at how quiet it was. That’s because the engine was not effectively in the passenger compartment. I’ve had a thing for the Dokka ever since.
Me too. There’s a third gen pickup running around my city. It would make a fine weekend warrior/Home Depot runner.
Below the carburetor mounted between it and the intake pipe was a factory installed governor. It prevented the driver from over revving the engine. Many people took them out to get higher speeds in each gear. I also did that back in the day. Higher top speeds were then achievable at the risk of overrevving. Mine is back on and it is interesting how it works and feels. As you approach it’s set limit, the engine actually bogs down. It will not let you go any faster.
A governor? I’ve never heard of a stock VW engine with such a thing. Could you please show us a picture of it?
Yes Paul, only the split window with reduction gear rear end had these. Starting with the Bay window buses it was eliminated. Lots of people took these out and tossed them. I kept everything all these years. It’s the large silver housing mounted downstream of the carb in the middle of the photo. It has a butterfly valve directly in the intake pipe and senses the air flow and volume and closes off the intake to prevent overrevving. No other VW engine had this. Hopefully the photo loads here.
There’s a good thread on Samba about it/them with multiple pictures of different versions and a video showing it in operation. Apparently some early Bay Window buses did have them too.
So these were an option, and not an all that common one. They were not standard. They require a different intake manifold. I’ve worked on several split window buses, and they did not have these. I suspect they were intended primarily for commercial/fleet use.
It’s a pretty clever device, as it’s not a governor in the usual sense (rpm based); it just cuts airflow at a certain cfm. Same thing as putting on a smaller carb, but this doesn’t cut the power when accelerating, only at the top end.
Hmmm…l thought these were standard all through the model range. My ‘67 Westfalia came from the factory this way. I’m gonna do some more research. Paul, you may be correct.
Wow ~ it’s been a long time since I saw a governor, ever in the parts piles I like to dig through .
Beginning with the 1972 model year when they began fitting the TYP IV engines they switched to a RPM sensitive rotor in the distributor, another engine protection device that was routinely discarded at the first oil change due to Customer complaints .
” No other VW engine had this. ”
Actually William, VW air cooled industrial engines had this governor too .
A little more research shows that these were fitted as an option up to 1964. After that they were a standard issue and also used on the early bay window buses until the type 4 engine was introduced. And yes Nate, also used on industrial engines. Wow… I certainly didn’t expect such a little known part on a bus would stir so much conversation. Thanks to all that have remembered this thing. Has been fun!
Weird. I had a bone stock ’71 that didn’t have a governor. Back in the 70s I worked on hundreds of split window and pre-’72 bay windows and never saw a single one with a governor. It must have been a fleet option.
I’m one of those Die Hard VW Nutters .
How die hard ? yesterday I put a 1960’s vintage Japanese made photography thermometer into the driver’s side defroster vent of my junker 1959 Bug then went for a drive .
I was well pleased to see 108* F air (mouse farts) coming out the vent, I know most hate VW heaters and this is the early bad one that used waste engine cooling air to heat the passenger cabin, strictly 1930’s technology but it works and works fairly well in spite of the thin oil mist coating the windows get .
As far as your governor, I’d think it to be mostly used on the Commercial models, panel trucks and pickups but who knows .
I don’t have a VW Typ II parts book, one of those should have the various ‘M codes’ for options like 12 volts, Ambulance equipments on and on….
When I was a kid the VW’s and Fords were common enough they didn’t merit a second glance, though I think more of the Fords were commercial vans rather than passenger wagons like many VW’s. But the Greenbrier always seemed special, especially as they were often seen in brighter colors than the other two. And then, poof! … they were gone. The Fords soldiered on for a while, and then the VW’s had their renaissance.
Dad compared a Greenbriar and a VW in 63. The Greenbriar couldn’t pull the steep hills that the VW could. We would pack all 9 of us and our camping gear in the ‘bus’ (with a roof rack to boot) and off to the Sierra Nevada mountains we would trundle.
I bought a 64 Greenbriar with a manual transmission when I was in college in ’78. Loved the passenger windows that rollled down like a regular car. Engine mounts had more or less failed so getting going in first gear was an experience.
Looking at the tech specs, I didn’t expect the Corvair to be the heaviest of the bunch, but what is most striking is that its “test” weight was almost 1000 lbs more than the VW. What’s also curious is that both the Corvair and Econoline had test weights about 500 lbs more than curb weight, while the VW had a test weight only about 300 lbs more than curb. I wonder why the drastic difference in additional weight over curb weight, AND what difference did that extra couple hundred pounds make?
I can’t explain the discrepancy either. The additional weight for their “test weight” was normally two persons and some test equipment. I’m not sure if they actually weighed the cars first for the “curb weight” or used the manufacturer’s numbers. I’ve also seen typos.
Yes, the Greenbrier was a bit porky, which clearly didn’t help in its performance.
The curb weight they list is actually 80 lb lighter than the factory curb weight for a Greenbrier with Powerglide, which according to the Chevrolet specs was either 3,130 or 3,160 lb with a full tank of gas. That would not include the third seat (which was optional) or custom interior.
So, I’d expect the as-equipped curb weight to be closer to 3,200 lb, at which point the difference between curb weight and test weight would be about the same as the other two vans.
(The Corvanatics website (https://www.corvair.org/chapters/corvanatics/index.php) has factory specs, price lists, and a bunch of other information on the FC95s.)
that aqua greenbrier would probably take the cake for my choice of any classic car— stylish, practical, fun to drive and interesting to look at.
I’m surprised no one mentioned the Ford Econoline “Club Van” ~ they had usually two tone paints and bright outside body trims and a full interior .
I had no problems driving VW Typ II’s but in an Econoline I often managed to hit the right rear wheel on the curb when turning right .
I’d forgotten about the Greenbriar’s roll down windows, that must have been nice .
I don’t recall ever riding in nor driving a Greenbriar .
I have happy memories of all six of us screaming brats in pop’s new 1954 VW Kombi, traffic certainly was slower back then .
VW vans were slow, I never much minded but I don’t own nor want one anymore .
I’d love to try driving a Greenbriar .
Was it available yet? The test van was a ’61, which had a Custom trim option that may not have been as fancy as the Club Wagon version added later.
RE : Econoline Club Vans ;
Good question, I think my first ride in one was in 1964, it was in fair condition but being used as a school bus in the Boston Metropolitan area so had a zillion hard miles on it already .
I don’t remember any rust but the cardboard interior panels were thrashed .
I remember it was very noisy, not just us kids yelling and screaming .
You failed to mention the Ford Econoline Pickup. My first car was a 1964 Ford Econoline Pickup with the Ford 170 short stroke engine. No heater, no radio, just a basic Econoline pickup. It was perfect for a teen driver. It had 40,000 miles on it when i got it and the bed was rusted out which I fixed with a sheet of 1 1/4″ door dunnage plywood. Bomb proof. After years of youthful benign abuse and neglect the engine died, at 110,000 miles. I put in a new engine and drove it for several more years then I sold it. Learned a lot about auto repairs with that truck. I’ve always regretted selling it.