There’s been a lot of talk about people taking a ‘staycation’ rather than going abroad for their holidays. Put off by the increased hassle of ever-tougher airport security checks, would-be holiday makers could be forgiven for not wanting to make a trip abroad.
Besides which, there’s plenty to see in the UK, and while many might be familiar with the Costa Blanca or Costa del Sol, know nothing about the UK, and all it has to offer. After all, Chancellor George Osborne has made great play of his UK camper van holiday, so its popularity extends to the great and the good.
It’s surprising more classic enthusiasts don’t consider a classic camper van for a great way of seeing more of this country. There’s the opportunity of getting to different places, not being tied to one hotel or self-catering location, and being able to pack more into a week.
The classic camper movement might be dominated by Volkswagens, but there are many more models out there that are worth looking at – and possibly considerably cheaper too. While it’s not uncommon to see VW Type One ‘splitties’ busting the £20,000 mark and later Type Two ‘bay windows’ easily commanding £10,000 to £15,000, a Mark One or Mark Two Ford Transit won’t be anywhere near that, and Bedford CFs trail behind Transit prices.
Then there are the more unusual – a 1970s Fiat 850T camper is small, but it’s highly rare and that bodywork can suffer from terminal rot – hence the reason so few have survived. Luckily VW models are very well supported which makes ownership easier, although not necessarily cheaper, but when it comes tod riving a Mk1 and Mk2 Transit probably drives better while the Bedford CF trumps the Ford when it comes to performance and car-like all-round capabilities.
For one-upmanship in the classic camper stakes something American takes some beating, especially for fixtures, equipment and ‘furniture’, although fuel economy might not be quite so easy to stomach.
But for ease of use, good spares support but a great practical quirkiness, the Citroen C15 Romahome is one of the best all-rounders, and it’s old enough to be considered classic. With a well-fitted camper body, the C15 is relatively pokey too, and no matter how hard it’s driven, won’t deliver less than 40 to the gallon. It’s as near to a car as driving a classic camper can be, and it’s not too expensive – yet – although increasing interest will soon put paid to those pleasingly affordable prices.
The latest Westfalia expansion on the VW T6 first reminds a lot of the VW California series, which came out as the first modern Campervan variant with a retro-coloured bicolor scheme. Nevertheless, the homage to the Sixties was even more consistent with the Kepler sixty than on the bus from Volkswagen: The latest sixty comes not only outside, but also inside with red-white elements, colors the WestfaliaHier goes to matching products Amazon.de! Quite appetizingly referred to as “Candy and Rotkirsche”.
The interior of the Kepler sixty shines red and white.
But with the colors it only starts: in Chrome, there are either shiny stickers with the “Sixty” logo or shiny slats that remind of the ventilation slots of the older vehicles. Elements such as the door handles or indicators shine Chromefarben, as are the rims in chrome and white and give the modern vehicle a certain vintage feeling. The design continues with the furniture forms: here, curved edges and lines that are entirely in the vintage look dominate. Just like the white-red leather seat cushions, this will certainly make the hearts of rockabilly fans beat faster.
The layout of the vehicle is based on the Westfalia Kepler 6, which was presented in the model year 2018 with a long wheelbase. Just like the sister model six, the Kepler has sixty 5.30 meters in length. In addition, it has a continuous sleeping bench in the stern instead of two single seats, which can be folded to sleep and are anchored on two notes in the vehicle. So a total of four people can travel with the sixty.
On the way, a kitchenette and a built-in cooler will supply the crew. A table with a shiny white surface and a cherry-red edge can be attached to the kitchenette and lowered. Clothes and luggage are included in the side cabinet with Chromefarbenen slats.
The roof is also red and is shown in the front with rounded edges. The bed itself is from Flori. In winter, a Webasto diesel heater provides warmth. The engine of the Westfalia Kepler sixty brings 150 hp with
LOS ANGELES, California — In case you weren’t aware (we’re guessing most of you aren’t since it’s no longer sold here) the Volkswagen T6 is the sixth generation of VW’s long-running Transporter van series. It’s a vehicle whose lineage can be traced back to that of the Type 2—otherwise known as the world-famous Microbus. We recently had a go in a version of the T6 called the California, in Southern California of all places (clever, VW, clever).
The primary reason Volkswagen shipped a group of brand-spanking new T6 camper vans to the Golden State was to celebrate the 30th anniversary of the California model. Given that it was taking place in SoCal, VW thought it would be fun to let a bunch of us Americans loose with them for a couple of days. We would quickly come to curse them for letting the rest of the world have them and not us.
We got a go in an Ocean trim level, the highest spec model in the T6 California hierarchy, save a plethora of special editions. It included a stove, cabinets, drawers, power outlets, lighting, and yes, even a kitchen sink.
Our particular T6 California was a German-market specification vehicle powered by a version of VW’s long-serving 2.0-liter turbo four driving all 4Motion wheels via a seven-speed dual-clutch transmission. The engine delivers 201 horsepower and 258 lb-ft of torque, potent enough to haul the near-6,000 pound van to 62 mph in a tick less than 10 seconds.
From the pickup location at LAX we slogged our way through some classic L.A. traffic to Venice Beach to meet up with Martin Squires, a surfer who runs a surf school out of his classic VW Microbuses. Driving a T6 in this area attracted more looks than a supercar. Windows down, an excited onlooker shouted: “Hey when are they bringing those here?!” Preaching to the choir, bud.
After snapping some shots of Squires’ classics alongside our most up-to-date Transporters, we join the traffic once more for a coastal drive to Malibu, stopping first at a Vintage Grocers store alongside the freeway, where we pick up some coffee and refreshments to stash in the on-board fridge. On the way back to the van, a pair of local boys—already stoked out of their minds to get a glimpse of our T6 Ocean-liner—almost have a stroke when we give them a tour. These campers are an extrovert’s dream.
During the final stretch of the first day’s drive, we work our way up the coast to a camping spot in Carpenteria, just south of Santa Barbara. From the ocean-adjacent site on a hillside, our hosts give us a walkthrough of our homes for the night.
After showing us around the kitchen, we learn about some of the other cool kit equipped on our California Ocean campers. The California’s signature pop-up top tent feature is electronically operated from the control unit over the driver and front passenger seats. Once the tent is up, the upper level can be raised and lowered to allow adults to stand on the bottom floor. The rear seats flip down to make a second bed.
There’s a folding table inside the van, and the front two seats swivel around to allow four people to sit around the surface. Other hidden furniture includes folding chairs stashed in compartments in the rear hatch, and a camping table stowed inside the sliding door. Hidden among the door frames are shades that allow for complete privacy. The driver and passenger windows don’t get hidden shades, but Volkswagen includes cloth window covers that stick to the steel door frames to conceal the forward cabin.
Once the feature walkthrough is complete (our VW hosts also point out the 30-gallon tank for onboard water storage, waste water receptacle, and gas tank to heat the stove), our crew enjoys a seafood dinner and a warm campfire. We use the foldout chairs from our vans and chat until it’s time to retreat to our vans. Once inside, we use the full suite of LED lighting and the onboard heater while enjoying some music using the Android Auto and Apple CarPlay compatible infotainment system.
I personally bunk on the upper-level bed, which has a wooden slat support underneath. The thick cloth walls of the tent are wind resistant and ventilated, which kept me warm and protected for the duration of the night. The following morning we have breakfast at the camp and then break down the camper’s setup in preparation for the day’s journey.
Our next leg is a quick jaunt to Ojai, a free-spirited town inland from Santa Barbara. Along the way, we hustle the Californias along some of the area’s winding roads. For what amounts to a rolling bed and breakfast, the T6 handled the twists and turns remarkably well. Thanks in part to its optional adaptive chassis control system we tackled several aggressive corners with something actually approaching confidence.
The T6’s steering proved direct and very tactile, its powertrain accelerates smoothly, and the steering wheel-mounted paddle shifters work great for picking the right gear on inclines or declines.
After a hearty vegetarian meal for lunch, we take in some local color with a visit to Poco Farm. The fields and orchards are located in the town, and farmer Grace Malloy explains how her operation varies drastically from most other farms in the U.S. because of its small size and sustainability practices.
Following a final photo shoot in Ojai, we head out to the Songdog ranch in Maricopa for another night of camping. It turns out to be a breathtaking drive, not just for its sweeping vistas but also because it cuts through land torched by California’s recent devastating wildfires. The scorched trees, homes, and road signs along the way serve as a reminder of the ferocity of nature and how it can impact our lives, as well as the importance of getting out there and experiencing the things the world has to offer.
Our camp is in the high desert and the wind rips through our campsite, causing the tiny windmill on the roof of the adobe-walled ranch to spin feverishly. We set up the exterior-mounted awning, another feature that serves as one of the biggest points of contrast between the T6 California and Volkswagen’s other Transporter variants.
A crank, cleverly stowed in one of the drawers hidden under the passenger seats, is used to unwind the canopy. The weather-resistant tarp is supported by two folding braces and a pair of legs that swing out from the outside edge and the fully extended setup holds fast in the face of the whipping winds.
Our dinner is a barbeque, enjoyable partially because of the irony of Germans grilling excellent hamburgers for Americans but also because the protein-heavy meal is a welcome contrast to our meatless lunch. We hide from the gusts in the cabin as Christian, our host from VW, regales us with stories of the previous year’s Nordic adventure.
The next day we pack up the camper and hit the road back to Los Angeles without stopping. The round trip was close to 350 miles total, and the T6 California did it all on one tank of gas. On the way back, we tested out some of the vehicle’s new school tech, including its start/stop feature, lane-keeping assist, forward collision detection, and adaptive cruise control systems.
All of them generally performed as well as similar systems we’ve sampled from other automakers. Forward collision did intervene one time and although we thought the application unnecessary, given that it never occurred again it seemed to be on the less-intense side of the sensitivity spectrum. The adaptive cruise feature proved welcome during a stretch of the infamously boring Interstate 5, easily maintaining speed and following distance.
While it certainly seems to us like a no brainer for Volkswagen to bring the T6, especially in California form, to the U.S., there are several hurdles, chief among them price. Our California Ocean vans were optioned up to somewhere in the neighborhood of a whopping $110,000 (converted from Euros to dollars by Volkswagen). That said, several, less expensive variants could probably be had in the mid $40k range if brought here, but you wouldn’t be getting the kitchen sink.
Further making the case for VW to bring the T6 to the States was that we were stopped by everyone from beach bums to the finer folk of Malibu during our journey. They peppered us with questions, wondered aloud where they could get one. It proved an eye-opening experience that reinforced just how much the Volkswagen van has been seared into the national consciousness—at least out here on the left coast. Volkswagen gave the California a proper 30th anniversary bash, and now we’re more eager than ever to see the German camper make a return. Thanks a lot for whetting our appetite, Volkswagen.
2018 Volkswagen T6 Transporter California Ocean Specifications
The Volkswagen Camper. It’s got to rank up near the top of the most iconic cars ever, hasn’t it? Second only to the Beetle in terms of instantly recognisable VWs, most people’s minds will instantly go to the original – the Type 2 Microbus. But Volkswagen’s keen to remind potential buyers that the California has evolved – and so it invited us for a celebratory road trip around the American state from which it takes its name.
The California name was first used on campers built by famed camping brand Westfalia. Never officially applied to a Type 2 or bay window camper, it first appeared on a T3 camper in 1988.
Westfalia built another on the front-engined T4 platform, then VW itself took over production in 2003. The T5 California was the first to be officially built by Volkswagen in its own specialist facility – just down the road from where the vans themselves are made.
For 2018, the California is based on the latest T6 Transporter, and benefits from all the latest advancements – a car-like cab, retro styling details, and class-leading refinement, driving manners and safety kit.
After a 10-hour flight, we landed at LAX and took ownership of ‘our’ California. While the majority of Californias sold worldwide are diesels, to bring a fleet of Volkswagen oil-burners to the US would be a PR disaster – so our vans were 2.0-litre TSI petrol models, with four-wheel drive and DSG automatic gearboxes.
Powertrain aside, we were glad to be assigned a van in bright red – though sadly not the two-tone retro vibe of some T6 models – with stunning dished chrome wheels. Ours were ‘Ocean’ models, which gain a fully-fitted kitchen unit alongside a sliding rear bench. Cheaper ‘Beach’ models do without cooking facilities, but still retain a pop-up camper roof and space to sleep four.
After a brief tour courtesy of VW’s international press team, we fired up the air-conditioning as protection against the fierce California heat and set off to our first destination – Martin.
Picture ‘surfer dude’ and the chances are you’re visualising Martin. Every day, he parks his fleet of Type 2s on the Venice Beach seafront and offers surfing lessons and board rental to anyone who’s been drawn in by his colourful garage. He’s been here for eight years, and built himself up from living in one of the vans to owning several of them – and retiring every night to a real house.
“The VW van is the icon. It’s the star of TV and film and I think that’s why it’s endured so much,” he told us. “It’s what’s helped my business grow. If you’d told me back then, when I was living in the van and peeing in bottles, that one day I’d own so many, I’d’ve said you were crazy.”
And would Martin indulge in the latest T6 California if VW sold it in the US? “Of course,” he said. “I’d give my left nut to own one of those.”
After departing the beach, we headed to our overnight stop – driving down the iconic Pacific Coast Highway as we did. The T6 California really is remarkably car-like to drive, though a diesel engine would no doubt suit it better. The smooth-shifting DSG, ample power reserves and incredible refinement all made for a painless journey, leaving us plenty of time to admire the scenery.
And as we took in the coastline, the locals took in our vans. Stopping at traffic lights we had no shortage of admiring glances, with drivers often winding down their windows to enquire about the California. “Is that an import?” they asked. “You can’t call it a California if you don’t sell it here. Tell VW that. We want to buy this van.”
Our first overnight stop, with a stunning view of the coast, gave us an opportunity to test the California’s camping features. Building this van from the ground up has allowed VW to use every inch of space within this van, and it’s packed with features. Once you’ve raised the electric pop-top from the neatly integrated control panel and slid the front seats round to face the comfortable rear bench, you can wind out the built-in awning and get comfortable.
A pair of sturdy camping chairs stow away in the tailgate, and a freestanding table sits just inside the sliding door. As for the side kitchen unit, it hides a two-burner gas hob, a sink with running water, a top-loading fridge and bags of storage. Though you’d be hard-pressed to live in here permanently, it’s ideal for a weekend away.
When it comes to sleeping, you’ve got two beds to choose from. The first is ‘downstairs’ in the main cab – it’s a traditional campervan ‘rock’n’roll’ bed, and is easily made up with a few pulls of a lever.
Upstairs is definitely the captain’s quarters, though. The bed inside the rising roof is larger than the one downstairs, sits on a slatted bed base, and offers the best views out courtesy of three zip-up windows.
Though both beds are quite firm, you can quite easily grab a good night’s sleep – though a lack of ventilation at the rear of the van made our first evening uncomfortably hot.
The next day we headed away from the coast and into California’s twisting mountain roads, giving us a good opportunity to evaluate the VW on something other than a smooth freeway. Unsurprisingly, it’s no sports car, but once again it’s the refinement that blew us away. Most third-party built campervans creak, rattle and shiver over all but the smoothest surfaces. The California, built to VW’s exacting specifications in its own factory, is dead silent.
Of course, UK buyers are more likely to spec one of the diesel engines, and we found ourselves wishing that our California was similarly equipped. Though the 2.0-litre TSI petrol is a great engine when fitted to a Golf GTI, it’s simply not suited to lugging around two-plus-tonnes of motorhome. It lacks low-end torque, forcing you to explore the rev range to make any meaningful progress.
The trip computer made for some very depressing reading too – over several hundred miles, we averaged less than 16mpg. That would definitely be tough to stomach on UK shores.
After a night in the California desert, we headed back to Los Angeles – at rush hour – to see how the vans coped in the cut-and-thrust of city traffic. Perhaps unsurprisingly, the excellent DSG auto and decent amount of power kept us ticking over nicely – and despite the big kitchen unit, visibility is still great.
We waved goodbye to ‘our’ California with a pang of regret. Though it was of course pleasant in the 25-degree heat and endless sunshine of the Pacific coast, we’ve no doubt that it would be equally at home on a muddy campsite in Cornwall, with a pan of soup on the hob and a pack of beer in the fridge.
For us, there were only two sticking points. The first is fuel economy – easily remedied in the UK by speccing a diesel engine. The second is purchase price, which is less easy to overcome. Though a basic ‘Beach’ model can be had from around £46,000, the ‘Ocean’ – the true campervan – comes in at more than £56,000, and creative application of the spec sheet can see that rise over £60,000 and beyond. That could pay for quite a few family holidays.
But if you can afford it, if hotels, camping or caravanning doesn’t suit you and if the freedom of a California suits – then you won’t be disappointed.
Special edition of VW’s iconic camper van limited to 80 units; prices start from £52,985
This is the Volkswagen California Edition – a limited-run version of the brand’s iconic camper van. Just 80 examples will come to the UK, adding styling and equipment upgrades to both Beach and Ocean models.
The Edition features a gloss black roof and door mirrors, exclusive decals and 17-inch alloy wheels with black inlays. The front passenger windows are fitted with heat-insulating glass, while the rear windows and tail-lamps are tinted. There are five exterior paint colours to choose from: Candy White, Cherry Red, Grape Yellow, Indium Grey and Oryx White.
Equipment upgrades include LED headlights, front fog lights with a cornering function, and the firm’s Discover Navigation infotainment system. The six-inch touchscreen comes with a reversing camera and smartphone integration through Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. A multifunction leather steering wheel, soft-touch dashboard and three-zone climate control are also included.
Both Beach and Ocean models are powered by VW’s 2.0-litre TDI diesel engine – the former gets the 148bhp version, while the latter gets the more powerful 201bhp unit – and both are equipped with a seven-speed DSG automatic gearbox. In addition to the more powerful engine, the Ocean adds an interior fitted with kitchen cupboards and a bed extension, plus a water connection for an outdoor shower.
The Beach Edition is priced from £52,985, and the Ocean Edition costs £65,879. Both models are available to order now with first deliveries due by the end of May.
But it wasn’t actually the Microbus doing the “running” part, just like a 1985 Toyota Van Wagon made the old chopper go. This sideways 1976 Microbus shell, made by LeMons shitbox series legend Speedycop and named the “Trippy Tippy Hippy Van,” is mounted on a 1988 Volkswagen Rabbit and powered by a 1.8-liter GTI engine. Speedycop said the engine makes about 120 horsepower and will go from 0 to 60 in about eight seconds. Its speed caps off at around 100 mph.
Transporter Syncros are as desirable as T3s get. They can also go where no other VW camper would dare. Seeing one in America is a rare treat.
YouTubeClassic Car Club Manhattan
Volkswagen’s boxy Transporter Syncros were built in limited numbers for the European market from 1985 to 1992. Each came equipped with a four-wheel drive system added by Steyr-Daimler-Puch, the same people who brought you the Mercedes G-Wagen and the Fiat Panda 4×4. Only a handful have made it over to America.
Introduced for 1986, T3 Syncros featured rectangular headlamps, a tachometer, new fabric choices, a more effective air conditioner and a five-speed gearbox, with first being a crawl gear.
A Syncro at the 2017 VW Meet at the Hungaroring
The camper van the Classic Car Club Manhattan just bought from Tampa is powered by a 1.6-liter turbodiesel, producing 69 horsepower on a cold day. That means it will need 27 hours to cover 1200 miles, but that’s okay. It’s well-equipped, full of spare parts, and ready for all sorts of zombie apocalypse. Because yes, fuel economy will be a factor.
The new VW Crafter has been finding its place in the camper van market, in production campers like the Knaus Boxdrive to wild concepts like Volkswagen’s own California XXL. But there’s no better indication that Volkswagen’s latest full-size van has officially arrived on the camper van scene than a new package from Westfalia, the shop whose name will be forever intertwined with VW camper vans and buses. Westfalia turns the new Crafter into a smart, versatile camper with extendable bed, flexible storage and all the amenities you need to spend some time in nature.
While the second-generation Crafter that underpins the 2018 Sven Hedin is one of the latest vans on the market, the Sven Hedin itself isn’t a new model. In fact, Westfalia has been building it since the 1970s, first on the VW LT, the Crafter’s predecessor, and later on other vans like the Mercedes Sprinter. The new Sven Hedin capitalizes on the Crafter’s impressive suite of driver-assistance technologies while fitting a bedroom, kitchen, indoor bathroom, dining area and plenty of storage inside.
The Crafter is large enough to inspire converters to add a full bathroom, unlike smaller campers in which the closest thing to a bathroom is a storage compartment for a portable toilet. However, it’s not quite large enough to accommodate the bathroom and all the other fixins without a little extra strategy on laying out the interior.
In their respective Crafter campers, Volkswagen and Knaus address bathroom spacing with expandable bathroom compartments that extend out over the kitchen/hall floor space. Each uses a different system, but the idea is the same: grow the bathroom interior while in use, retract it back to free up space when not in use.
While Westfalia places its bathroom in the same place, amidships across from the kitchen, it uses a simpler, smaller fixed layout. A swivel toilet and corner sink help to save space inside the small wet bath, and wall-integrated cubbies hold soap, shampoo and other hygiene staples. A door provides privacy. The Sven Hedin’s bath compartment definitely looks more claustrophobic than the aforementioned expandable baths, but it does beat the other alternative – no indoor bathroom at all.
Westfalia also has its own ideas on how to best provide a comfortable sleeping experience without eating up too much interior floor space. Volkswagen actually extends out the bodywork on its California XXL concept, and Knaus cuts out a central chunk of its bed to add floor space. Both beds are longitudinally mounted, but Westfalia opts to swing the bed into transverse position. In order to provide the full 6.6 feet (2 m) of length that it wants for sleepers, an optional electrically extendable foot panel is added that pushes out the side of the van inside a fiberglass pop-out. This module is insulated, so it presumably keeps all 10 piggies nice and warm (or cool). When the bed’s not in use, the pop-out retracts flush with the van side, maintaining the standard van width and aerodynamics on the road.
The bed is also raised up, creating an empty cargo space below that can be used to load gear or luggage. The rear half of the bed can fold out of the way, too, making room for taller cargo. On the other side of the bed, the step that helps campers climb up doubles as a storage compartment for shoes or slippers.
The kitchen area plays host to the familiar camper van mix of dual-burner stove, sink, countertop and storage drawers. An innovative feature here is a specially designed dual-drawer refrigerator system that offers 70 liters of cold storage, replacing the more common stand-up refrigerator to save space. A high-mounted cabinet over the top of the dinette stores dishes and other serving ware.
The dining/lounge area features a two-seat bench, swivel driver cab seats and a retractable table top in between. This particular dinette does not convert into a bed, meaning that the Sven Hedin sleeps only two people (unless, we suppose, someone doesn’t mind sleeping sitting up in a seat or on the floor).
The Sven Hedin includes a 100 L fresh water tank, 84 L waste water tank and a 4.8-kW hot water heater that heats the interior and also delivers hot water at the tap. A 92 Ah AGM battery powers onboard equipment like the touch-operated LED lighting.
The base Sven Hedin relies on Volkswagen’s 101-hp 2.0-liter TDI engine and six-speed manual to power the front wheels. Westfalia does not list a 4Motion option, but it does offer the eight-speed automatic transmission and larger engine options up to a 174-hp TDI.
Standard vehicle equipment includes a radio with TFT display and Bluetooth, a remote-controlled locking system, an engine start-stop system with brake recuperation, and various assistive technologies like crosswind assistance and brake assist. Available options include heated front seats, added driver-assistance features like lane keeping and ParkPilot, and an infotainment/nav system with 8-in touchscreen.
Westfalia presented the Sven Hedin at the Düsseldorf Caravan Salon and gave it a UK premiere at last week’s Motorhome & Caravan Show. The camper van starts at €59,990/£59,100 (approx. US$70K based on euro conversion) when equipped with the 101-hp engine and six-speed manual. Options like the extendable bed with pop-out, second AGM battery and outdoor shower are available at extra cost. For more pricing details, you can check out the price lists on Westfalia’s downloads page.
The way things are going, Nvidia stands to play a pretty big role in the future of self-driving cars. Its AI chips are already the driving force behind autonomous systems for Tesla, Audi and Toyota, and today it has added a couple more transportation powerhouses to its clientele, in the form of Volkswagen and Uber.
Interior of Volkswagen’s forthcoming I.D. Buzz van, which will feature Nvidia tech to power its autonomous systems
Volkswagen finally gave the go-ahead on the electrified Kombi van back in August, with plans to begin selling a modified production version in 2022. Dubbed the I.D. Buzz, it will start with level three self-driving capabilities, but the German automaker is hoping to achieve full autonomy by 2025.
At the heart of that, it was announced today at CES, will be Nvidia’s DRIVE IX Technology. The company bills this as not just self-driving hardware and software that relies on data from internal and external sensors to navigate through traffic, but as a kind of artificially intelligent co-pilot.
This means using deep learning networks to track the head movements of the driver to detect distractions and have conversations with them using speech recognition and lip-reading. It will also allow for owners to unlock the vehicle through facial recognition and control in-car settings with their gestures. Nvidia says these kinds of capabilities will be improved through software updates over time.
“In just a few years, every new vehicle should have AI assistants for voice, gesture and facial recognition as well as augmented reality,” says Nvidia founder and CEO Jensen Huang. “Working with Volkswagen, we are creating a new generation of cars that are safer, more enjoyable to ride in than anything that has come before, and accessible to everyone.”
Also signing on to make use of Nvidia’s AI systems is Uber, which plans to place it at the center of its self-driving car and truck fleets. Uber has been making steady progress on its autonomous vehicle aspirations, with its Otto self-driving big rig delivering 50,000 cans of Budweiser in 2016 and Volvo recently agreeing to sell it 24,000 XC90 premium SUVs. These Volvos will be purpose-built to accommodate Uber’s own self-driving tech sometime between 2019 and 2021, with the XC90s used in the company’s trials so far already incorporating more basic Nvidia processors.
“Developing safe, reliable autonomous vehicles requires sophisticated AI software and a high-performance GPU computing engine in the vehicle,” says Eric Meyhofer, head of Uber Advanced Technologies Group. “NVIDIA is a key technology provider to Uber as we bring scalable self-driving cars and trucks to market.”
Being armchair observers in the world of classic autos, we know these old buses have a storied history and are supported by a seriously devoted following. We also know they’ve been steadily creeping up in value for some time now. The thing is, these aren’t quite on the radar for many auto buffs, so we suspect there are many people like us wondering when – and how – a first-generation Volkswagen Type 2 Microbus ascended into the realm of six-figure collectible cars.
To find out, we dialed up a couple experts on the matter – one from the auction world and one from the enthusiast realm – so we may better understand the bonkers phenomenon that is the vintage VW hippie bus.
“A 23-window Volkswagen is as iconic as a 1965 Mustang Convertible, or a Mercedes Gullwing,” said Gord Duff, global head of auctions for RM Sotheby’s in an interview with Motor1.com. “It’s one of those things that relates to any age, and to any level of collector. It appeals to someone that only ever wanted a 23-window bus, or to the type of collector that has Ferraris, vintage American cars; a wide range classic, iconic vehicles.”
Or course, there’s more to a $207,200 sale price than just an iconic status. Duff explained that a perfect storm of features, restoration quality, and venue played into the sale of this 1960 Microbus. He also noted that color combination makes a big difference, saying that the right shades can add as much as 20 percent to the value. On the flip side, he said having the same van with 21 windows can drop the value by half. That’s still $100,000, which isn’t exactly cheap.
Now that we better understand the why, let’s take a look at when. For that, Duff points to the pre-financial crash world of 2007-2008 as the take-off point, which is roughly the same timeframe identified by VW guru Adam Hurlburt. Aside from being a proper motoring fanatic and journalist, Hurlburt actually lives the VW bus lifestyle with his own first-generation ride – a 1965 Riviera camper.
“Split-window price hikes began in the early 2000s,” he explained. “Before then then you could nab a clean 23-window for $10,000 or less. In the 1990s you could buy one off a street corner for as low as $500. Boomer nostalgia really drove prices up, much like it did with muscle car values.”
Since then, several vintage busses have eclipsed the $200,000 mark at auctions. In 2011, Barrett-Jackson sold a restored 1963 23-window for $217,800. Just last year, a 1965 21-window bus actually topped $300,000 at Barrett-Jackson, though with a tweaked engine, custom interior, and 17-inch wheels, it wasn’t entirely stock.
Will the prices go up from here? Trends are suggesting the top-dollar buses are stable, but that doesn’t mean other models might not inch up. Hurlburt bought his 1965 Riveria for $5,000 back in 2010 and feels he could get at least $22,000 for it now, but both Hurlburt and Duff say the first-generation 23-window models are where the really big money will likely stay.
Who knew that one of the biggest symbols of the 1960s would become such a high-dollar collectible? For now, anyway.