It’s come a long way in 63 years, but as of 2014 Volkswagen’s iconic camper van will have reached the end of the road.
Made in Brazil since September 1957, the Volkswagen Kombi (to give it its proper name) is claimed to be the longest continuously produced model in automotive history – the Mini began production in 1959, although the Volkswagen Beetle was built between 1938 and 2003, while the Brazilian Beetle (the “Fusca”) was in production between 1953 and 2006.
Changes in regulation mean than from 2014 all vehicles built in Brazil will need to have air bags and anti-lock braking systems, which is a step too far for the simple and down-to-earth Kombi.
Although production will cease in Brazil, there still should be plenty on the roads due to the sheer number produced during its lifetime – more than 10 million were produced since it was first introduced in Germany, with 1.5 million originating from Brazil.
The original was called the Type 2, following on from the VW Beetle which was known as the Type 1, while Kombi’ is an abbreviation of the German word Kombinationsfahrzeug’ which loosely translates to cargo passenger van.
To mark its final leg of production, Volkswagen will produce the Kombi Last Edition – a model limited to just 600 units and powered by a rear-mounted 77bhp EA111 1.4-litre engine.
Performance is.. probably not worth mentioning, but the speed freaks will be keen to know it can produce 79bhp if run on ethanol. Its four-speed manual transmission should provide a refreshing contrast to today’s 9-speed auto boxes.
The camper van joined the Transporter line-up in 1951, but it wasn’t until the 1960s when it was adopted by a free-spirited generation. It became a cult symbol of an alternative lifestyle and images of vans painted in crazy colours and psychedelic designs enthral to this day.
Like the Mini and VW Beetle, the Kombi has been at the centre of popular culture for decades, despite its deeply uncomfortable driving experience. Nevertheless it caught the attention of musicians, film makers, free loving hippies and advertisers as a vehicle with a unique sense of charm that could be ‘shared’ with up to 9 (or more) people.
Brilliantly simple, and scarily unsafe by today’s Euro NCAP standards, the Volkswagen Kombi may soon be gone, but will not be forgotten.
SEE ALSO: The VW Camper Blog for more classic retro ads and stories of Kombi heroics.
Volkswagen Camper Van Milestones
|1949:||The first ever Volkswagen Transporter van is launched at the Geneva Motor Show, with its distinctive smiling face.|
|1951:||The Volkswagen Transporter is developed into the Volkswagen camper van.|
|1960s:||The camper van is adopted by the hippie generation, becoming a cult symbol of an alternative lifestyle.|
|1967:||Second generation Transporter, known as the T2, does away with the classic, ‘splittie’ (split windscreen) design and introduces panoramic vision, gaining the nickname ‘Bay’.|
|1969:||A Volkswagen camper van becomes the ‘Mystery Machine’ in hit cartoon series ‘Scooby Doo’.|
|1979:||The T2 becomes the T3, boasting a more angular design|
|1990:||The Transporter turns 40 and the fourth generation, T4, Transporter is launched.|
|2003:||The fifth generation T5 Transporter launches and provides the basis for the latest Volkswagen California camper van.|
|2013:||Volkswagen California celebrates its 25th anniversary, with around 100,000 California camper vans rolling off the production line since the start of production.|