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It's a van, it's a bus, it's a camper
September 25, 2013 5:55 AM   Subscribe

Effective 12/31, it will no longer be manufactured. I was more surprised to learn that the VW Bus was still being manufactured in 2013.
posted by COD (66 comments total) 11 users marked this as a favorite

 
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posted by gauche at 5:58 AM on September 25, 2013 [3 favorites]


I was also surprised, but my next thought was 'Alright, how do I get one?'
posted by Eyeveex at 6:07 AM on September 25, 2013 [3 favorites]


Pretty sure that you could never get a new one registered in the US.
posted by octothorpe at 6:08 AM on September 25, 2013


Safety regulations mandate that every vehicle in Brazil must have air bags and anti-lock braking systems starting in 2014, and the company says it cannot change production to meet the law.

The iconic counter-culture vehicle, done in by safety regulations. Take that hippies.
posted by three blind mice at 6:09 AM on September 25, 2013 [8 favorites]


It's a fantastic design - the only real problem with it is that it comes nowhere near meeting modern safety standards. I was entertaining buying an old crew-cab Kombi pickup as a hobby project, but I can't imagine taking my family out on public roads in one. Even motorcycle sidecars are designed for crash survivability these days.
posted by Slap*Happy at 6:12 AM on September 25, 2013


In Brazil it's known as the "Kombi," an abbreviation for the German "Kombinationsfahrzeug" that loosely translates as "cargo-passenger van."

I am reliably informed that you can find them along hippie trails in Australia, and that they are commonly fried-out.
posted by jquinby at 6:12 AM on September 25, 2013 [7 favorites]


VW still makes buses, BTW. The last generation of the Type 2 is T5, and looks like this.
posted by Harald74 at 6:14 AM on September 25, 2013


Does it still come with an 8-track standard?
posted by cjorgensen at 6:15 AM on September 25, 2013 [1 favorite]


No, I'm pretty sure, as with most modern vehicles, it's an iPod dock on wheels.
posted by Harald74 at 6:16 AM on September 25, 2013 [1 favorite]


VW still makes buses, BTW. The last generation of the Type 2 is T5, and looks like this.

Oh, god, it looks like a Chevy Astro someone sanded the edges off of. The Honda Odyssey and Ford Transit Connect are where it's currently at in Van Chic.
posted by Slap*Happy at 6:18 AM on September 25, 2013


The last one needs to come out already covered in the owner's crappy, flaking custom paint job.

...

VW still makes buses, BTW. The last generation of the Type 2 is T5, and looks like this.

Hunh. "The U.S. market does not receive the T5 Transporter range due to it being classed as a light truck, which thereby automatically includes a 25% extra tax (known as the chicken tax) on importation into the US."

I did not know about this chicken tax.
posted by Sticherbeast at 6:18 AM on September 25, 2013


Does it still come with an 8-track standard?

I wouldn't trust that kind of fancy new technology, I'm sticking with the tried & true.
posted by fairmettle at 6:23 AM on September 25, 2013 [2 favorites]


The story of the Chicken Tax is probably weirder than you're expecting.
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 6:24 AM on September 25, 2013 [11 favorites]


I was just going to post that same wikipedia article and can confirm that it was absolutely stranger than I was expecting.
posted by jquinby at 6:28 AM on September 25, 2013 [4 favorites]


I remember hearing about a company, I think it was Subaru, trying to dodge this chicken tax a long, long time ago by putting a rear facing seat in the cargo area and making it a not-truck.
posted by Slackermagee at 6:35 AM on September 25, 2013


Car & Driver published an article back in 2010 claiming that a new generation of Microbus (updated similar to the new Beetle) would hit production in 2014. There doesn't seem to be much followup, though, so the concept may have been back-burnered.
posted by DirtyOldTown at 6:36 AM on September 25, 2013


I drove a 1965 commercial VW bus for a number of years (mine was nowhere near this nice). It had been a florist delivery van in Hawaii and still had the Honolulu license plate holder on it. Never could find out how it wound up in Texas. It was one of the 6 volt systems so a good supply of ether was de rigueur for cold weather starting. With the slab-like profile and light weight any puff of wind would send you skittering towards the ditch or into oncoming traffic. Still, many good times in the old Blue Beast...
posted by jim in austin at 6:38 AM on September 25, 2013


which thereby automatically includes a 25% extra tax (known as the chicken tax) on importation into the US.

..,.one of the many US domestic auto industry protection taxes that has kept you lot from most of the better cars/vans/trucks and their progress until very recently. It's part of the tax bubble that caused US people to drive around in such desperately bad shitboxes through the 80's/90's/00's. For such a consumer driven society it still staggers me you lot put up with it.

The VW Caravelle (T4 and T5) are fantastic. Fast enough, comfortable enough and fuel efficient in a way that would rip up the US market if they were allowed here. I used to drive a few of them as part of my work a long time ago. Loved them.
posted by Brockles at 6:39 AM on September 25, 2013 [2 favorites]


They were really great for hauling shovels and rakes and implements of destruction.
posted by AlonzoMosleyFBI at 6:42 AM on September 25, 2013 [5 favorites]


The story of the Chicken Tax is probably weirder than you're expecting.

Indeed. Now I'm imagining all sorts of wild and creative possibilities for how MacGyver might have imported that new Citan he seems to be driving.
posted by RonButNotStupid at 6:44 AM on September 25, 2013


The iconic counter-culture vehicle, done in by safety regulations. Take that hippies.

It's a conspiracy, man! The oil companies got a grip on the government. They're feeding us a bunch of lies, man!
posted by pracowity at 6:47 AM on September 25, 2013 [1 favorite]


but my next thought was 'Alright, how do I get one?'

Yes. SOmeone buy me one so I can go around the country solving mysteries
posted by The Whelk at 6:49 AM on September 25, 2013 [1 favorite]


The last vw van I was in was in the combi that takes people between Pie de la Cuesta and Acapulco. The doors were removed and pegs put on the outsides for your feet and a bar near the roof to hang on for your dear life. It was the scariest, most phone transit experience I've had.
posted by birdherder at 6:55 AM on September 25, 2013


Westfalia is still kicking in Germany and making beautiful vehicles of various sizes. Airstream brought over a couple hundred 'Sprinter Westfalias' in 2004-2005 which rarely pop up on ebay. Really, the perfect family road-touring-camping vehicle.
posted by mandro at 6:58 AM on September 25, 2013 [3 favorites]


The iconic counter-culture vehicle, done in by safety regulations.

Well, seriously, given that the only thing between you and whatever you hit is your knees?

The Type 2 is definitely iconic, and definitely unsafe. Many people don't realize just how good car manufacturers have become at having the car crumple to absorb energy and save the occupants lives -- but you need *space* for that to work, and between the driver and the real world in a Type 2 is a steering wheel, a thin shell of metal, and some glass.

The story of the Chicken Tax is probably weirder than you're expecting.

I was wondering how the Ford Transit was showing up here. And, yeah, weirder than I was expecting.
posted by eriko at 7:01 AM on September 25, 2013 [1 favorite]


A guy I knew had just put a new motor in his the day before he drove it into the end of a guard rail. The bus had a dent in it all the way back to the seat. He was lucky to not lose his legs; if it had hit a foot to the left, he would have.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 7:02 AM on September 25, 2013


I learned to drive on a '71 bus. I was 19 and my parents forced me to learn. I hate cars; I still wish I hadn't given in. The gearbox was most of the way burnt-out so that in order to shift you had to trace out some arcane hex with the long bent spindle of a shifter. Yes, trying to get the bus into reverse in the parking lot of a local high school with my mother screaming at me was a formative experience.

My father went through a string of buses into the 1990s. He would only work with the air-cooled engines though. So, '72 was the limit I think. You could actually swap out the engine by yourself, with a dolly and a tire jack, but two people was helpful. Due to the size of the engine and shape of the thing, it didn't accelerate. I know it's supposed to be a deathtrap in an accident, but the vehicle weighs almost nothing, can't reasonably get over 60 mph, and gets up to speed like it's going on an interstellar journey... it didn't seem so bad to drive as a first car.
posted by ennui.bz at 7:04 AM on September 25, 2013 [2 favorites]


I have been in one of those things when it semi-rolled - we were up on two wheels only. It came back down as we rounded the curve.

If I had died in high school, the VW bus would almost certainly have been my coffin.
posted by thelonius at 7:04 AM on September 25, 2013 [1 favorite]


My first car was a '72 Transporter. My favorite car was my '84 Westy with all working amenities. I mean all: The stove, sink, fridge all functioned perfectly. Three beds. It and my hound of 14 years (who just left me this weekend) were the best traveling companions I ever had. I had to let it go after a run in with a fire hydrant peeled open the side in a way I couldn't afford to fix.
posted by sourwookie at 7:16 AM on September 25, 2013 [5 favorites]


Slackermagee: "I remember hearing about a company, I think it was Subaru, trying to dodge this chicken tax a long, long time ago by putting a rear facing seat in the cargo area and making it a not-truck."

Actually, a lot of them do this. Most imported pickups are shipped to the US in two pieces, and are bolted together when they're delivered. This way, the vehicles are taxed as "truck parts" instead of trucks.

For unibody vehicles such as vans, the restriction is a little more difficult, and Ford builds all of their vans as (really shitty) passenger vans, and ships them to a warehouse in Baltimore, where the rear seats are removed and shredded(!), and the rear windows are plated over.

I believe that the Sprinter Vans were built like the trucks, although I'm honestly not sure how that process worked (or how it's remotely efficient). Maybe that's why we don't "make" them here any more....

I'd be vaguely curious to know if anybody actually pays the tax.
posted by schmod at 7:17 AM on September 25, 2013


Sad to see them go.

I had a early-seventies VW bus when I was a youngin' living in NYC back in the 80's. Red with white top. It was a surprisingly excellent city vehicle: small turning radius, easy to park, and I was high up so I could scout for parking! (This was pre-SUV and mini-van, so I had a pretty much unobstructed view most of the time.) Of course, it was cold as shit in the winter. I had a kerosene heater in it, bolted to the floor. And driving across the Brooklyn and Manhattan bridges was close to terrifying if there was much wind. Still, very fond memories, and I have always longed after a camper version--like one of the rare diesel Vanagons, running on veggie oil.
posted by mondo dentro at 7:18 AM on September 25, 2013


My mom had drove a VW camper van for part of my childhood, which was essentially a VW bus with a pop-top and furniture. It was burnt orange with a tan colored roof.

I loved that van to death. Like the taupe-colored VW bug that my mother drove prior to the van, it looms in my childhood memory as an icon of the best times. I can still remember the scratchy plaid covering on the back seat made of avocado, cream and rust colored yarns. I can still imagine the woosh of cool air that would rush into the van whenever the top was popped. There was a single plug that we would use for our "portable" black and white TV so we could watch sitcoms during outings. I *loved* the idea of watching TV in a van.

We took it camping on a regular basis.

My mother and father would sleep on the back seat that folded down into a bed. My brother slept on a cot that was suspended over the front seats. I slept up a cot suspended all the way up in the pop-top. It was so high that my dad had to lift me up to climb in, but I could look directly into the storage space up there. It seemed so high, but it was probably only four feet off of the ground.

I somehow never rolled out; but my mother once slept in my place during one outing. But only once.

It was during one of our trips to Stone Mountain. We would watch the laser show, drape ourselves in glow necklaces, and then sleep in the van. This time, however, we took a handful of my cousins, all of us younger than 10. The kids slept in a big pile on the foldout bed, and my displaced mother took my spot. After a few hours the canvas gave way and she fell out through a rip down the middle and crashed to the floor. She was uninjured, but having no place to sleep she drove us all back home through the night. I remember trying to sleep while she drove, but all of us cousins shook and bumped one another with every bump in the road.

The next time we went camping there was a neat row of stitches binding my cot back together.

My parents sold the van after the pop-top broke. I had a hot-wheels version that was painted the same colors that I treasured like a talisman once the van was gone.
posted by Alison at 7:18 AM on September 25, 2013 [15 favorites]


Slackermcgee, here's what you're thinking of:

The chicken tax explains some pretty weird vehicles (often from Subaru for some reason). Note, for example, the Subaru Brat, which was changed from a light truck into a passenger vehicle by the rather bold-faced expedient of welding two rear-facing seats into the bed.
posted by Naberius at 7:19 AM on September 25, 2013


Yes. SOmeone buy me one so I can go around the country solving mysteries

Sorry, you're thinking of the 1963 Ford Econoline.
posted by Slap*Happy at 7:22 AM on September 25, 2013 [2 favorites]


Meh, I bet it will be reissued as a new, much more expensive car for selected rich fews, like the Beetle was.
posted by elpapacito at 7:44 AM on September 25, 2013


Last Edition Kombi from Volkswagen do Brasil.
posted by needled at 8:03 AM on September 25, 2013 [2 favorites]


And it doesn't look like it comes with an 8-track.
posted by needled at 8:12 AM on September 25, 2013


My first vehicle was a used 1962 VW delivery van. The transmission wasn't fully synchronized, there was no gas gauge, and no seatbelts or anything else even vaguely resembling a safety feature. The turn signal switch had to be held down continuously to make it work. Among the many mechanical adventures I had driving that thing I had the brakes suddenly fail (while headed down a hill that ended in the Niagara Gorge) and had a piston melt down and blew a hole in the block (still made last 1 km home, engine smoking like mad and running on two cylinders). It had a maximum speed of 90 km per hour. The gas auxiliary heater mounted behind the driver's seat scared the crap out of me. I don't think a single weekend went by without having to fix something on the damn thing. It got to the point where I could pull the engine and rebuild it in a weekend.

Man, I loved that van.
posted by fimbulvetr at 8:18 AM on September 25, 2013 [2 favorites]


I suspect the main reason we haven't seen this design, or the more squared-off vanagon which followed it in most of the world at the end of the 70s, is safety regulations: the cab-forward design where the driver sits essentially on top of the front wheels puts you in what is now considered the crumple zone. The Econoline linked above is also in this style, as were many others. If you don't mind being this squishy thing out in front of the strong part of the vehicle they are damn fun to drive.
posted by George_Spiggott at 8:22 AM on September 25, 2013


As to safety, I always drove keeping the description from "How to Keep Your Volkswagen Alive: A Manual of Step-by-Step Procedures for the Compleat Idiot" in mind. Basically, it says to drive your van imagining that you are an Aztec sacrifice strapped to the front of the van, because all that is between you and the road is a thin sheet of metal. (Not to mention the lorry-style horizontal steering wheel that would cut you in half).
posted by fimbulvetr at 8:26 AM on September 25, 2013 [2 favorites]


And it doesn't look like it comes with an 8-track.

No, but it certainly looks like it continues to offer up the driver's legs as a crumple zone in an accident.
posted by Dasein at 8:26 AM on September 25, 2013 [1 favorite]


I wouldn't trust that kind of fancy new technology, I'm sticking with the tried & true.

Oh you Young Persons with your newfangled gadgets! I require a string quartet to jog alongside my wheeled conveyances for the entertainment of myself and my companions. It is quite a lark!
posted by elizardbits at 8:31 AM on September 25, 2013


The chicken tax. I loved how Subaru got around it with the Brat by bolting seats in the bed, making it a "passenger vehicle" instead of a truck. Some years after the introduction of the Brat, I was having a lunch conversation about a current issue in Japan wherein there was a shortage of lawyers. I suggested that we export some lawyers with seats bolted to their backs so they could get in as passenger vehicles.
posted by plinth at 8:45 AM on September 25, 2013 [3 favorites]


Oh, man, I am so happy that this made it on to MetaFilter. I drive an '88 Westy, and have a love-hate (mostly love) relationship with that van. I traveled around in that van for about six months last year, and I feel more at home in that van than almost anywhere else I've lived. As a bleeding-heart liberal dirtbag, I believe that everyone should live out of a vehicle at least once by choice, but never out of necessity.

Since purchasing that van, it's received a new engine and transmission. The water-cooled Vanagons (boxy 1980s VW vans) will happily accept a Subaru boxer engine with a few modifications. I had a shop in Fort Collins do the swap for me, and I'm really happy with the results.

I replaced the transmission myself and was surprised at how easy it was. I enlisted the help of a guy who was visiting a friend's farm (where I was doing the work), and later found out that he had spent several years in jail for a murder he didn't commit.

I never really understood the appeal of the air-cooled VWs; they seem so prone to failure. For the past maybe six years or so, even the old-style VW vans that are made in Brazil have been water-cooled derivatives of the original design. They have big black plastic grilles on the front, that look a little goofy, weird, and cool all at once. Although I guess that change was made to meet emissions standards, not because of reliability problems.

Last summer I saw a brand-new T5 van in Crater Lake. They don't sell those here in the US, so I was pretty excited to see it. It had German plates and a German driver.

Regarding the chicken tax: I remember seeing the rear-facing jump seats in a Subaru Brat when I was a kid, and even then thinking that they looked totally unsafe. The seat belts were augmented by a pair of BMX-bike-grippy-handhold things that scared the crap out of me. Here's an interesting thread about a guy who was ticketed by the cops for allowing a passenger to ride in the jump seats.

Ronald Reagan owned a Subaru Brat, but didn't have the self-confidence to come out to the voting public as a Subaru driver.

Anyway, back to vans. They are really fun to drive around and camp in. Does anyone else on MetaFilter have a van? I live (in a house) on the south rim of Grand Canyon. Come on down to Arizona and we can have a van party.
posted by compartment at 9:02 AM on September 25, 2013 [1 favorite]


Years ago, a friend gave me his old 71 Westfalia (minus the sink/cabinet thingy) that had been sitting neglected in his side yard for 3-4 years with a blown engine: he had tried to tow a boat trailer at full speed on the highway in the Florida summer sun, and wasn't very careful about maintaining the engine's oil level. I had it towed to the local hippie-ish shade-tree repair shop where they cobbled together a rebuilt motor, checked all the drivetrain and suspension stuff, and put on 4 new tires, all for around $1200. Oh - and the key was busted off in the ignition, so they wired a "starter button" to be kept in the glove box. I had a key for the doors, so it was still somewhat secure, but...

After that my wife and I reupholstered all the seats and made matching window curtains. One thing I loved about that van was the louvered side windows that opened outward so you could have them open while camping without letting rain in, and they were fully screened to keep out bugs. I also replaced the crumbly canvas around the pop-top, and custom-fitted a new sheet of plywood and some cheap vinyl flooring to replace the rotted original floor (after I de-rusted the metal pan underneath and Bondo'd all the holes). It had the original sleeping slings that went in the roof and over the front seats, but I never used them so I never replaced them. Put in a decent stereo and a couple of shelf speakers, and away I went. It really was fun to drive, as long as you weren't in a hurry to get anywhere. But the seats were comfortable, and you had a great view as others have pointed out upthread, so let the tunes play and let the countryside roll (slowly) by!

After I'd had it for a couple years, including multiple 1000-odd mile round trips, the engine's main bearing seized up on the highway one night. Late at night, of course. (That's what I get for trusting hippie mechanics? Who knows.) I'd always been mechanically inclined and kept it tuned regularly, but that's when I really learned about air-cooled engine repair! I bought all the parts I needed, cleared off a workbench, set 3 different manuals out in front of me (Idiot's Guide, Haynes, and Bentley; what one lacked in detail or illustration for a given step, another made up for), and did the complete ground-up engine rebuild myself. While I was at it I added an oil filter and an external oil cooler, which I was glad I did because it made a big difference in how cool the engine ran. I also got larger air intakes and a free-flow exhaust, resulting in a noticeable - and badly-needed - boost in power. Needless to say I was pretty damn proud of myself.

One night I was driving home on the highway after a late-night gig (totally sober) when a cop pulled me over. I had no idea why; there's no way I could have been speeding! He said he stopped me because I had been weaving a bit and he suspected DUI. I laughed, waggled the steering wheel a bit (with no resulting turning of the front wheels), he laughed, said "Have a good evening, sir", and we each went on our merry way.

I kept that van for quite a few years. It went to many bluegrass festivals and many campouts and other adventures. Eventually, however, I got tired of the constant maintenance issues. It was something like 25 years old, after all; I kept it going on a shoestring with a lot of ingenuity and fiddling, but what it really needed was to sink some serious money into refurbishing/restoring. By that point I didn't have either the money or the patience, so I sold it and got a Saab. I still miss it sometimes, though, "death trap" or not...I rationalized that I was sitting high enough that whatever I hit would probably end up going underneath me instead...
posted by Greg_Ace at 9:27 AM on September 25, 2013 [2 favorites]


I had a 1979 Westfalia (very similar to this, including avacado/white coloring) for a couple of years in the 1990s. It was great for camping (you could sleep 6 adults in the van if you used the hammock, as long as nobody needed to get up for a bathroom break! - although we never had more than two adults and two children) and was one of the most efficient uses of interior space I have ever encountered.

It was nice to drive, as long as it wasn't hot (did a 1,000 mile trip during an August heatwave... yecch!) or cold or windy. One of the strangest aspects of riding in the van was that the canvas portion of the camper top would "breathe" at highway speeds (inflate, deflate, repeat), making the van seem a little possessed.

Saw the results of a head-on collision once... how that style of vehicle crumples is very sobering....
posted by 1367 at 9:31 AM on September 25, 2013


"In Brazil it's known as the "Kombi," an abbreviation for the German "Kombinationsfahrzeug" that loosely translates as "cargo-passenger van.""

Yeah, that's... a pretty loose translation. It means "combination vehicle".
posted by Joakim Ziegler at 10:02 AM on September 25, 2013 [2 favorites]


Brazil has often been a bit of alternative universe for VWs. In the seventies they produced two really neat looking sporty cars, the Ghia TC and the SP that were never sold outside of South America.
posted by octothorpe at 10:12 AM on September 25, 2013


the Ghia TC and the SP

BringATrailer on Metafilter! Aaaagghhh! No! No! Please! (I'm kidding; the BaT commenters just drive me nuts). I have the Hot Wheels version of the VW SP - it looks really cool as a toy.
posted by Slothrop at 10:52 AM on September 25, 2013


The Ford Transit Connect is, at least for the US, the rightful successor to the old Bus. People are doing terrific DIY camper conversions, the form factor is right, and it's a nice sturdy vehicle. I'll be getting one myself right around the time you can find a nicely kept five year-old example to buy used.

I'd previously expected the Honda Element to become the spiritual successor to the Bus, but people just seemed to roll their eyes and pass it by, alas. Too bad—it was right on the money.
posted by sonascope at 11:06 AM on September 25, 2013 [2 favorites]


Goin Down the Road Feeling Bad

.
posted by vozworth at 11:24 AM on September 25, 2013


I drove a '63 from Mass. along the southern/western perimeter of the US all the way to Vancouver BC. It came with and 8 track and 3 tapes. Sly and The Family Stone greatest hits, Alice Cooper's School's Out and John Mayhal Jazz/Blues Experience..I knew nothin' about music and just played those over and over...
posted by judson at 11:35 AM on September 25, 2013


BringATrailer on Metafilter! Aaaagghhh! No! No! Please!

Oh, I love BaT but read it in my newsreader so don't read the comments often.
posted by octothorpe at 11:49 AM on September 25, 2013


In '75 I bought a great looking but non-running red/white '65 bus for pocket change.
Lucky me, the points (remember points?) had simply been installed wrong on the distributor...I set them correctly and zing it started right up. Many happy college adventures later I sold it for a Yamaha RD350...another iconic vehicle of the times.

Anyway, that bus was the best deal I've ever heard of.
posted by artdrectr at 1:12 PM on September 25, 2013 [1 favorite]


My parents bought one right after I was born in 1962.

My Dad drove it across country from Pittsburgh to California. We explored the state of Calfornia in it. We camped in it. It broke down approximately 7000 times.

My Dad went to Berkeley in '66, and every summer we'd pile in and drive it back to Pittsburgh. In '68 on the way back to school, we went through Chicago during the Democratic convention and he thought it would be a good idea to cover up the "Peace and Freedom" bumperstickers, so he got some from some town Centennial and we covered them up.

We drove to Sacramento to meet Cesar Chavez and the folks marching from Delano.

The van was iconic and we did all the iconic things in it.

Ours was red.

I'd previously expected the Honda Element to become the spiritual successor to the Bus.

Which is why I was drawn to it and bought it for Husbunny to drive. You're 100% right on that.

I have a friend with two little girls and he bought a VW and he restored it and converted it into a camper. He's living the dream!
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 1:12 PM on September 25, 2013 [1 favorite]


In '75 I bought a great looking but non-running red/white '65 bus for pocket change.

You can buy a similar one now for only $49,000!
posted by octothorpe at 1:36 PM on September 25, 2013


Yeah, the prices of used pre-'74 buses (and bugs, for that matter) in even barely-decent condition have been going steadily upward for years and years now. It's kind of crazy.
posted by Greg_Ace at 1:57 PM on September 25, 2013


Quite a few ended up in Bangkok, converted into street bars. Very cheery.
posted by TWinbrook8 at 2:50 PM on September 25, 2013


The gearbox was most of the way burnt-out so that in order to shift you had to trace out some arcane hex with the long bent spindle of a shifter. Yes, trying to get the bus into reverse in the parking lot of a local high school with my mother screaming at me was a formative experience.

That gott-verdammt shifter! You had to push straight down on the lever, then shove it hard over to the left, then pull straight back on it and if you didn't have the muscle memory exact you'd be left with the stick spinning loosely all around between the two seats. It usually took several minutes to get it back into place.Turns out there's a bushing in the front end of the vehicle that breaks/falls out and causes this, and, as this was before the internet, none of the local parts/repair places that did air cooled ever knew where to get one. I had a length of 3/8" rubber fuel line I would grease up, shove in there, and replace monthly as that's about how long it would work for before wearing out. The best thing to do was look for parking where you could pull straight out and pretend there wasn't a reverse on it.

I rebuilt the engine in the living room of a house full of 90's era hippies, myself included. Everyone helped poke around in the thing. Had the timing 180 degrees off and when we put it back in it blew fire out the dual webers, and had us scratching our heads for about a half an hour. The front seats were from some dude's toyota and to mount them I lag-bolted them into a piece of plywood and lag bolted the other side to the fenders.

We took it to an artist friend's place with several milk crates full of spray paint, he painted Bob Marley on the side of it, someone else did some kaleidescope things on the other panels, and i put an eyeball with wings on the driver's side door. It looked horrendous, but for some reason I never once got pulled over and searched with that paint job. Cops pointed and laughed on several occasions though.

Later the head dropped a valve seat and I left it parked roadside in front of a buddies house for a while until it came up missing. We all thought the county had towed it, turns out somebody had stolen it. I found out a couple of years later when yet another party called me, claiming to have bought it and wondering where the title was. Told them they could keep it for parts but forget about driving it around.

This was about 15 years ago, I still have them ask me if I want to renew the registration on the VW everytime I go in on tag/tax day to get my current car's sticker.
posted by mcrandello at 2:57 PM on September 25, 2013 [2 favorites]


Anyone remember the turtle top versions? I remember standing in a brand new one in a VW dealership back in the '70s when I was a kid.
posted by InsertNiftyNameHere at 3:46 PM on September 25, 2013


I've been trying to talk my wife into letting me buy a Beetle or Karmann Ghia to fix up for months now. I think if I knew where to find one for a good deal, she'd probably let me keep sleeping inside the house if I bought it.

This thread is not helping me curb my desire to own an old VW.
posted by epilnivek at 4:03 PM on September 25, 2013


Ronald Reagan owned a Subaru Brat

I like to imagine that he still does.
posted by MrBadExample at 5:26 PM on September 25, 2013 [1 favorite]


You can buy a similar one now for only $49,000!

To be fair, that's a 21-window Safari in original paint. Similar examples were going for 20 grand and up when I was in highschool during the reign of Bush I. It's the most desirable and rare of the microbus models, only earlier examples of the same in similar condition would demand more.
posted by Slap*Happy at 6:06 PM on September 25, 2013


Finally, somewhere that will properly appreciate this picture.
posted by restless_nomad at 7:11 PM on September 25, 2013 [2 favorites]


restless_nomad: "Finally, somewhere that will properly appreciate this picture."

Very nice! (Even if there is no turtle top version in the pic.)
posted by InsertNiftyNameHere at 9:17 PM on September 25, 2013


Pure slobonium.
posted by sonascope at 5:20 AM on September 26, 2013


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