Volkswagen finally kill the T2

I’ll be honest, it brought a lump to my throat when I heard the news that the original VW Camper van is to have production halted.  Many people are unaware that you could still buy these from South America. Well, yes you can and I’ve seen them, they ain’t bad buses at all.

Also known as the VW Kombi or T2, this legendary vehicle will be no more. But thousands of old and new examples remain in what has to be the success story of Volkswagen’s business career (Beetle owners may put up a fight about this though…).

So why stop production of the T2?

When Europe decided that the original Kombi was no longer worthy, production moved to Brazil. They have been banging out these beauties since early 1979 and even purists say they are not far off the originals. They currently manage builds of more than 200 a day which means they are far from unwanted.

The unfortunate truth is that it’s South America’s newest safety legislation that has done the most to halt production and VW say it’s too costly to re-engineer this venerable platform. Damn shame.

I would like to bet that someone could do these safety adaptations in a third-party workshop and still make it a bargain buy. Apparently, amongst other modifications, there is a need for twin airbags and ABS.

They are currently to be made available from production until the end of 2013. Currently, here in the UK, you can get one for a shade under £25,000 ($37,000 US) which is for the 9 seater. There’s also a 12 seater option.

Yes they are basic but they are also iconic and you should even consider buying one just to shrinkwrap (although using it is MUCH better). You’ll get 50 percent more in 10 years for it, no problem, and you’ll be doing your bit for history. Now where did I put that chequebook?





Cheap Volkswagen camper van

What can we say about this most venerable of all campers that hasn’t been said already? Reliability is about as good as it gets for any van as some of these engines are good for 200,000 miles without major rebuilds.

With about as much ‘street-cred’ as you can get in a camper, high residual value, an abundance of spare parts and rock solid build quality they remain an excellent choice.



Build your own motorcaravan, motorhome or camper

Building your own motorhome or motorcaravan used to be the preserve of specialist coachbuilding companies. Well, surprisingly people are doing this more and more as DIY projects. The availability of good tools and bespoke fitments means that DIY motorcaravans and campers are a distinct possibility now.

With the help of a good book you can source parts, get ideas and generally inspire yourself to create your own, unique van with the minimum of problems.

Here’s a few decent books, for the price of a few beers!

Fiat Ducato motorhome

Hugely popular because of their incredible value, the Fiat Ducato motorhome is a well built and reliable option for the entry to mid range motorcaravan market.

In 2009 this was voted “Which motorcaravan best base vehicle”.  No surprise then that 2 out of every 3 motorhomes sold in the UK are built on this robust chassis.  There’s nearly half a million at time of writing that are registered in Europe!

CamperAuctions Fact:

The commercial Fiat Ducato is sold as the Citroën Jumper and the Peugeot Boxer and the motorhome is used as a base in Australia for  A’van, Jayco, Horizon, Paradise, Suncamper, Sunliner, Trakka, and the venerable Winnebago motorhomes.

At auction, these vehicles provide a safe bet as parts are plentiful and the reliability is good

VW type 2 T2

In 1968 we saw the first T2 camper. This broke from the earlier van by having a single windscreen, not a “Splittie” as before.

This one piece window led to the term “Bay window” being coined. Wish I had a pound for each person I’ve explained that to…..
A funnier although less endearing term is “Breadloaf” because the whole van resembles one of Kingsmill’s finest.

Nicer nicknames include Bulli (German for “Ox”) and Kombi. For this article I researched what Rugbrod meant as this is used by Danish owners. The answer? Well it’s Danish for a loaf of bread……

This model improved on load carrying, driveability and power with their 1.6 litre 48HP motor. Transmission and suspension is greatly improved over the older T1 with a half shaft axle instead of the previous swing axle giving better handling all round.

We saw the T2b in 1971 and this model’s production run carried on in Germany before finally moving to Brazil in 1996. I believe that there was also production of this van in Mexico for a few years before 1996.
Better brakes, stronger wheels, bigger bumpers, brighter lights and auto boxes were introduced on this model and a much more modern and powerful 2 litre lump was available in 1976.

The T2c came out in 1991 with a higher roofline and an optional front mounted 1.4 litre engine from the VW Golf. (Aaaarghh! Water cooled!!). They did keep the air cooled option though.

CamperAuctions verdict:

If you are considering a T2 then it may well be a sound choice. The T1 is lovely and more collectable but you can live with a T2. We’d say go with the aircooled T2 for authenticity and that classic engine note. The safety and comfort advantages it brings will make it a usable classic as opposed to a shrink-wrapped investment.  The T2’s legendary durability means you’ll have years of fun with it.

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Winnebago auctions

Winnebago was founded in 1958 and with the first production machine rolling out in 1966, the company has become synonymous with luxurious motorhomes. I had my first one about 15 years ago. It was a 70’s “Minnie Winnie” (which some purists might argue wasn’t a real one) but I thought it was great and it did several thousand miles in my ownership. If you can afford one, my advice is to go for it. You won’t look back and resale values are very, very good! Here are a few currently available at auction:

Old VW Camper magazines and back issues

Old magazines are always nice to read, especially when they contain campers. In my collection I have hundreds of reference articles which really give you a feel for what the camper was all about way back in the day, some which I even authored.

Notably good quality articles can be found in Practical Classics and Volks World

The only places left where you can pick up these magazines are at autojumbles, car boot sales, garage sales and by auction. I can’t bring the former to you but I’ve done my best to collect the best magazines for sale at auction which contain stuff on the vw camper.

Despite their relatively cheap price, I think the magazines bring incredible amounts of pleasure and truly offer a ‘snapshot’ of time.

Volkswagen T1 – the beginning…..

The venerable T1.  So what is the history of this van that started it all?

Nicknamed the “Splittie”, “Bulli” or “Microbus” this van was to be a revolution just like its then stablemate the early Beetle.  It had an enviable production run from 1950 right up to 1967.  The “Splittie” name comes from its distinctive split front windscreen.  “Bulli” is German for Ox and this is widely rumoured to be the name VW strongly considered before luckily dropping it in favour of the blander “T1”.

Using the VW 1131cc air cooled engine from the ultra-reliable Beetle for the first 3 years of production and then later on a 1192cc air cooled unit, it showed a natural progression and people were quick to jump on board the “people’s camper”  (please don’t make reference to that expression by the way, it’s one I made up and I’d hate it to be used anywhere!).

For the first 6 years it was built in Wolfsburg, Germany and production was quite slow to start with (about 10 a day!).  In 1956 production moved to a brand new factory in Hanover which had about 4,500 employees.  Production reached somewhere around 250 vehicles per day before VW shut it all down and transferred to Brazil.  This happened in 1967 and Brazilian models are sometimes unofficially known as “T1.5”.

Cruelly nicknamed the “Barndoor”, campers made until 1955 had a huge cover over the engine.  Officially these were called the T1A.  The T1B models don’t have this beast of a cover and look nicer if you are a design purist.  The barndoor models are very sought after so some people incorrectly call post 1955 models by this name to inflate their prices.

T1C models started in 1963 and have a wider door at the rear.  Importantly, they also increased the cargo capacity from 750kg to a (metric) ton and dropped in a better 1.5 litre engine.

The T1 has a huge VW logo at the front, one that even a Beastie Boy might think twice about wearing round his neck…..

Production stopped in late 1967 in Germany but carried on in Brazil right up to the mid seventies.  The quality of these vans is often considered to be lower than the German-built variants by many people.  They can command high prices though and I have noticed the trend over recent years to refer to these buses by the number of windows they have.  A customer of mine has a “23 window Samba” which is valued higher than I paid for my last house…..

If you’re looking at one of these T1 vans, they can carry up to 8 people but the engines can be relatively underpowered.  Handling and fuel consumption are pretty poor too but at the end of the day, that’s not what you’re buying into with one of these classics.

Rarely do these come up at auction but when they do they fetch astronomical prices. I owned one back in 1993 and, while it was a superb example, it was hard to live with compared to modern variants. When I sold it, it was a genuinely sad day, but the money went to buy a better camper that only lost out on character. It was way more capable everywhere else.