For an entire generation the VW camper van was the ultimate symbol of freedom, the utility vehicle that would allow them to drive off into the sun in search of new thrills and experiences.
For some it was a dream which eschewed material possessions in favour of spiritual enlightenment, for others it was a cheap and cheerful way of going on a family holiday around the country or across to the continent.
So it is not without some irony that a particularly rare example of the German designed camper van was sold at auction, on Saturday, for the not insignificant price of £67,5000 to an anonymous UK buyer.
The Volkswagen Type 2 Samba Microbus was never officially imported to Britain and, as a result, the SGP 62 sold at auction in Warwickshire is thought to be only example of its type in the country.
The right hand drive camper van was built at the original VW factory in Wolfsburg in 1955, before finding its way to what was then Britain’s original VW dealership – Colborne Garages, run by John Colborne-Barber, in Ripley, Surrey – from where it was sold on.
By a stroke of fortune – at least for all VW enthusiasts – the SGP 62 appeares to have been kept in storage in the West country for 30 years, where it remained in good condition before being discovered in 1992. It has since being lovingly restored to the original specifications, with a new ‘Devon’ interior modelled on its original 1950s period design.
Nick Whale, of Silverstone auctions, which sold the SGP 62, said: “This is a beautiful and rare samba- Microbus, and it is historically important in terms of VW’s legacy in the UK. These vehicles are hugely popular.”
Peter Colborne-Barber, 71, who took over his father’s dealership until he sold it in 2001, remembers the enthusiasm with which his father greeted new models such as the SGP 62.
“This particular model had front opening windows, which were traditionally made for warmer climes, so goodness knows how it ended up in Britain,” he said. “It’s a lovely example of a VW camper van and looks even better following its restoration.”
It was Mr Colborne-Barber Snr who set up the first dealership in Britain to specialising in VW cars when, in 1949, he bought one of the first VW Beetles to be manufactured in Germany under the reconstruction programme supervised by the Allied forces at the end of the war.
The 1947 Beetle had been brought across by former Army officer George LaHaye who part exchanged it with Mr Colborne-Barber Snr for a Wolseley 6/80.
Mr Colborne-Barber Snr’s son bought the car back into family ownership in the 1980s when, by chance, its then owner drove it onto his garage forecourt for repairs.
It then remained at the family dealership even after it changed owners, as a historic memento of VW’s origins in Britain.
“My father loved that car,” said Mr Colborne-Barber Jnr. “They were robust and reliable and could take you to Scotland without any problems. He knew straight away they would be popular with the British motoring public. And they obviously still are.”