In the beginning there was the Beetle. And she was good.
The love-bug child of Adolph Hitler and Ferdinand Porsche, she was the Fuhrer’s dream for a cheap, simple and mass produced people mover across his new network of Autobahns. Whilst conceived and hatched in the 30’s it wasn’t until after WW2 that Volkswagen’s Beetle took flight to become the world’s longest running, most-manufactured car, of a single design platform, of all time (over 21 million at last count). Amongst the Volkswagen folk, she was known as the Type 1.
With her air cooled rear engine, 4 passenger capacity, two door functionality and aerodynamic looks spreading like wild fire across Western Europe’s evolving road networks it was only a matter of time until the Type 1 flowered into the more versatile Type 2.
In 1950 Volkswagen’s Type 2 Microbus was born. Today, amongst aficionados, she’s more reverently referred to as the Splittie due to her Splitscreen wind screen and although she was founded as the Volkswagen Type 2 bus, she has become known as the T1 due to her being the first generation of a long line of VW buses (T1,T2,T25,T3, T4 etc).
Production of the split screen VW bus ran until 1967 and produced a wide range of permutations of the VW Type 2 design platform. The panel van and double door panel van, the Kombi, the Carravelle, the High Roof Panel Van, Flat bed pick up truck, crew cab pick up truck, Westfalia, Adventurewagen and Semi-camping van are but a few that come to mind.
Alongside many of these factory variants sprang up 3rd party conversions. All over the world people were being touched by VW fire engines, refrigerated vans, hearses, ambulances, police vans, livestock trucks, ice cream wagons and camper vans. In the most distant corners of the planet you can still find the legendary reliability and functionality of VWs ubiquitous design bringing advantage to some of the world’s most disadvantaged.
Today it’s possible to cruise around Europe in a German designed, Brazilian built, English modified, Italian styled VW van that is tricked out with Japanese technology, Chinese fittings and bespoke appliances and furniture scoured from whatever part of this world you so choose.
It’s a testament to Adolf and Ferdinand’s potency that their design for automobiles far exceeded their aspirations for the Fatherland and that whilst they may have lost the war they certainly built, and still build, automobiles that stand the test of time.
Who knows, maybe somewhere out there in the Universe are a couple of long dead, moustachioed German dudes cruising in an early model Splittie scratching their heads at how they could be so smart as to design a wagon so enduring and yet so dumb as to think they could rule the world. Go figure…
[This post was written for Base Campers by Richard Bradley]