History of the Volkswagen bus
The Volkswagen Bus - also called Type 2 - is the second model which was produced by postwar Volkswagen. After the Second World War there was a large demand for commercial vehicles, Volkswagen soon developed itself as the leader in this segment. Under the name, Type 2 they brought 5 variations on the market, from the T1 to T5. The name Type 2 is, in contrary to what sometimes is thought, not synonymous for a T2 bus. During the fifties the Type 2 had no competition. Of course many car manufactures around the world constructed a commercial vehicle, because many retailers were simply dependent on their van, with the introduction of the Volkswagen Bus it was the start of a new era.
Ben Pon's first sketches of the van in 1947
The original idea for the T1 van or Volkswagen Type 2 came from the Dutch Volkswagen importer Ben Pon, who drew the first sketches of the van in 1947. At first the aerodynamics of the prototypes were not good but heavy optimization took place in the wind tunnel of the Technical University of Braunschweig. The wind tunnel work paid off, as the Type 2 was aerodynamically superior to the Beetle despite its slab-sided shape. Three years later, under the direction of Volkswagen's new CEO Heinz Nordhoff, the first production model left the factory at Wolfsburg.
From the debut of "The Transporter" in 1950 to the cessation of production of the second model in 1979, the Volkswagen Bus was a huge worldwide success, the sales figures rose against everyone's wildest expectations. The popularity of the VW Bus is matched only by the enthusiasm shown for the Beetle. There are many reasons cited for this overwhelming success. It was spacious, reliable, durable and well finished, Volkswagen had a worldwide network of dealers, so in the rare case something broke down, it could be properly repaired. But all these aspects had the competitors of Volkswagen to.
One of the many arguments made by lots of Volkswagen enthusiasts is the advantage of an air-cooled engine. Others say that this Volkswagen model was the first MPV (Multi Purpose Vehicle) on the market and which poorly imitated by automobile manufacturers from Stuttgart and Turin. The Volkswagen bus is the one and only true MPV a "copy of it" you don't want to drive.
Besides these interesting arguments there is only one factor that has ensured that the Volkswagen Type 2 became the most popular minivan of all time. That's because the characteristics and appearance of a cozy, happy, smiling car, something the competitors at that time could not match. The same feeling of friendship we also experience with the Volkswagen Beetle. It was an almost impossible task to design such a friendly looking commercial vehicle, but it was managed by the engineers of Volkswagen, partly because the high demand for a commercial vehicle of limited size.
An intriguing aspect is that Volkswagen historians disagree on what could be the official name of the VW Bus. Nobody doubts the factory designation Type 2, because this was just the secondary vehicle, the Beetle got the code Type 1. On this site we will use the name Transporter or Bus because those are most used, though each country has its own pet name for this beautiful car. In Germany it is called 'Bulli' in Denmark 'Rugbrød' in America and England 'Transporter' and in the Netherlands 'Spijltje' or 'Clipper'. Why not? Such a car may have pet names.
The premise of this website is not to discuss the right term or to determine, but to highlight the technical specifications of the VW Bus. The gentlemen at Volkswagen designed an outstanding coach and it was the first of its kind that hit such a wide audience, like the Fiat 500 in Italy, the 2CV in France and the Mini in England. This "Car for the People" contributed particular in the sixties to the great social changes. During the flowering of the hippie-era, the VW bus was adopted as a symbol of freedom and peace, and that Volkswagen used a facet of the launch of another MPV. It is easy to trace where the contemporary designers got their inspiration from.
The Volkswagen Bus was the first minivan, invented by the same logical minds that brought the Volkswagen Beetle to the world. In fact, the Volkswagen Bus was for years really a big, boxy body on a Beetle chassis. The primitive 'shoe box on wheels' is a concept that will be used far into the 21st century. The VW Bus is slow, noisy and thirsty, but these drawbacks do not outweigh its excellent quality, durability and character as other brands you'll find only in less degree. Therefore, VW buses driving everywhere around the world. As a fan of all air cooled Volkswagens, I hereby thank all those who honor their old vehicle.