Nvidia to power gesture controls and self-driving tech in VW’s electric Kombi

https://newatlas.com/nvidia-autonomous-vw-kombi-uber/52873/

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...

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.

Interior of Volkswagen's forthcoming I.D. Buzz van, which will feature Nvidia tech to power its autonomous...

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.”

Source: Volkswagen, Nvidia

When did vintage buses get so expensive??

https://www.motor1.com/features/226251/vintage-vw-microbuses-get-expensive/

 

While you were buying $30 holiday gifts last month, a Volkswagen Bus sold for more than a new Porsche 911 Turbo S.

Last month, RM Sotheby’s sold a 1960 Volkswagen 23-Window Microbus for $207,200. That’s not a typo – this vintage VW was hammered home during the Icons auction held December 6 in New York with a selling price more in line with modern Italian supercars.

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.

Other VW Microbus features:

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.”

1960 VW 23-Window Microbus
1960 VW 23-Window Microbus
1960 VW 23-Window Microbus
1960 VW 23-Window Microbus

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.

1960 VW 23-Window Microbus
1960 VW 23-Window Microbus

“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.

Source: RM Sotheby’s, Adam Hurlburt

Photos courtesy of RM Sotheby’s

1960 Volkwagen Deluxe 23-Window Microbus

The incredible story of how one British officer turned Volkswagen from dilapidated Nazi car company into Europe’s biggest motor firm

https://www.thesun.co.uk/news/5268086/british-officer-ivan-hirst-volkswagen-nazi-car-company/

In 1945, major Ivan Hirst convinced the British Army to rebuild the bomb-battered VW factory in Wolfsburg and by the following year the plant was producing 1,000 cars every month

EUROPE’s biggest car giant Volkswagen is a byword for reliability and strength – however its dark past has more than a few bumps in the road.

After being started by Adolf Hitler in 1937 as a scheme to give ordinary Germans an affordable family car, VW quickly became part of the Nazi war machine.

 Major Ivan Hirst, pictured right, at the factory in Wolfsburg in 1946. The British officer helped to rescue and transform the company

Rex Features
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Major Ivan Hirst, pictured right, at the factory in Wolfsburg in 1946. The British officer helped to rescue and transform the company

But out of the ashes of war, British army major Ivan Hirst rescued the plant from being dismantled and helped transform the company into what is now the world’s second biggest car maker behind Toyota.

When was Volkswagen set up by the Nazis?

Created by the Nazi trades union organisation in 1937, the company was named Volkswagenwerk GmbH in 1938 and had a factory built in the city of KdF-Stadt, now Wolfsburg.

Hitler demanded that Germany’s “people’s car” should carry two adults and three children and would cost no more than a motorcycle.

Designed by Ferdinand Porsche, the car had an air-cooled rear engine and was encased in a “beetle-style” shape – a design which eventually became synonymous with the swinging sixties.

 Adolf Hitler admires a model of the Volkswagen car along with the designer Ferdinand Porsche, left, pictured with his arm out stretched

Hulton Archive – Getty
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Adolf Hitler admires a model of the Volkswagen car along with the designer Ferdinand Porsche, left, pictured with his arm out stretched
 Foundation stone for the Volkswagen factory on Adolf Hitler's 50th birthday

Getty – Contributor
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Foundation stone for the Volkswagen factory on Adolf Hitler’s 50th birthday
 A Russian slave labourer pictured in 1942 at the Volkswagen plant

Volkswagen
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A Russian slave labourer pictured in 1942 at the Volkswagen plant

Despite over 300,000 Germans signing up to a scheme in which they could buy the car through monthly savings, very few vehicles are actually produced before the outbreak of World War II.

During the conflict, the firm became a supplier for the Nazi army using 15,000 slave labourers shipped in from concentration camps.

How was the Volkswagen transformed following WWII?

After the bomb-battered factory came under the control of the British military in May 1945, the plant was set to be dismantled with parts being sold for war reparations.

But, the firm was rescued by 29-year-old Major Ivan Hirst, who had a background in watch and clock manufacturing, who convinced his superiors of the potential of the factory and the beetle’s unique design.

 The bombed out factory after the war. However, much of the machinery was stored in outer buildings and was not damaged

Rex Features
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The bombed out factory after the war. However, much of the machinery was stored in outer buildings and was not damaged
 An early picture of the factory after it was rebuilt by the British army

Hulton Archive – Getty
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An early picture of the factory after it was rebuilt by the British army
 Workers on the production line at the Volkswagen factory at Wolfsburg in 1949

Getty – Contributor
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Workers on the production line at the Volkswagen factory at Wolfsburg in 1949
 The first Beetles made in the newly established West Germany in 1945

Getty – Contributor
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The first Beetles made in the newly established West Germany in 1945

And while the plant itself had been heavily damaged, and looted by US and Russian soldiers, much of the machinery remained intact in numerous outbuildings.

Along with partner Colonel Charles Radclyffe, Hirst rebranded the company as Volkswagen.

The British Army placed an order in September 1945 for more than 20,000 green Type 1 Beetles to assist with the running of post-war Germany.

And by 1946, VW was producing 1,000 cars per month.

The Beetle has since become a classic and one of the biggest selling cars ever with more than 20million produced.

Who was major Ivan Hirst?

Hirst was born to a family of watch and clock manufacturers in Saddleworth, Yorkshire in 1916.

After attending Hulme Grammar School in Oldham, he studied optical engineering at the University of Manchester before setting up his own optical repair firm.

While at uni he was a member of the Officers’ Training Corps contingent and eventually became a lieutenant in the Territorial Army in 1937.

After joining the war effort in 1939, Hirst became a Mechanical Engineering Officer in 1941 and eventually joined the Royal Electrical and Mechanical Engineers.

After the D-Day landing, he was in charge of tank repairs for the British Army in Belgium.

The Goodwood Test: Volkswagen Transporter California Ocean

https://www.goodwood.com/grrc/road/the-goodwood-test/2018/1/the-goodwood-test-volkswagen-california-ocean/

The Goodwood Test: Volkswagen California Ocean

VW’s California XXL, an amazing camper van that needs to come to the US

https://arstechnica.com/cars/2017/09/vws-california-xxl-an-amazing-camper-van-that-needs-to-come-to-the-us/

I was alerted to this rather awesome-looking Volkswagen California XXL camper van by our policy editor and chief Ars van aficionado David Kravets. Based on the VW Crafter, this is a 21st-century descendent of the iconic VW bus (aka the Bulli/Camper/Kombi/Transporter/Type 2). It’s also perhaps the ultimate expression of car camping, short of one of those Russian things that are a spinoff of the armored personnel carrier.

Under the hood is a Euro 6-compliant TDI engine, pneumatic suspension, and a Haldex all-wheel drive system, but that’s pretty boring compared to the rest of this tricked-out ride. For one thing, the rear section has been stretched to provide room for a proper-sized bed, big enough for two adults to sleep comfortably.

In addition to the big bed upstairs, there’s another sleeping area at the back for smaller humans, and both areas feature heating and cooling (presumably just like the seats). Oh, and did I mention the van uses underfloor heating for all-year appeal?

And when they’re awake, the California XXL is tall enough inside to stand up, with 7.2 feet (2.2m) of head room, beneath a massive panoramic roof for watching the skies. But wait, there’s more. Putting a small kitchen in a VW camper is old news, as people have done that since the 1960s, but this one includes two gas burners that retract down into the aluminum work surface at the push of a button, not one but two fridges, and an integrated espresso machine.

Perhaps more impressive than the kitchen, this one also features a pull-out wet room that includes a toilet and shower—complete with rainfall shower head. When not in use, the wet room compacts down behind a door. And for those times when the great outdoors gets a little boring (or clouds make star watching impossible) there’s a built-in LCD projector that you can control (along with just about everything else on this ultimate tourer) via a mobile app.

“That is by far the sweetest VW I’ve ever seen,” Eurovanophile David Kravets told me on Ars Slack this morning. Sadly for David and anyone else in the US who thinks this thing would be ideal for driving vacations, VW has no plans to bring any of its commercial line of vehicles here to the US, despite a Facebook petition with more than 5,500 followers.

Volkswagen adds feature-packed ‘Edition’ model to award-winning Transporter range

 

Volkswagen adds feature-packed ‘Edition’ model to award-winning Transporter range

The multi-award-winning sixth-generation Volkswagen Transporter has already set new standards for comfort, style and safety features. But now customers can take their ownership and driving experience to a new level with the introduction of an Edition model.

Available to order now, the new Transporter Edition model is the most comprehensively equipped model in the range and features a design package that is guaranteed to make it stand out from the crowd. Based on the already generous specification of the existing Highline model, the new Edition features 17” Cascavel black diamond surfaced alloy wheels on 150 PS models, and 18” Springfield black alloy wheels on 204 PS models. Other design additions include high-gloss black roof and mirror housings, unique Edition decals and blacked-out LED tail lights.

Inside, the Transporter Edition gains Volkswagen’s feature-packed Discover Media Navigation system with App-Connect, while driver aids include front and rear parking sensors with rear-view camera, LED headlights and power latching on the nearside sliding door. Panel van models are fitted with a tailgate without window, while kombi models feature a tailgate with window. Customers can choose from a palette of five colours; Candy White, Grape Yellow, Cherry Red, and Indium Grey or Onyx White (at additional cost).

Naturally, all Edition models combine all the features and qualities that make the Transporter range the best all-rounder in its sector, including standard Front Assist and City Emergency Braking systems. All models have a substantial payload and the same well-shaped, easily accessible load area as other models in the range. Volumes range from 3.5m3 for the kombi, to 5.8m3 for the panel van version. Edition models are available in short wheelbase, low roof form only.

Both panel van and kombi versions can be specified with either a 2.0-litre TDI 150 PS or a 2.0-litre TDI 204 PS engine. Both are equipped with a six-speed manual transmission as standard and are available with a seven-speed DSG gearbox as an option.

Despite its comprehensive specification, the new Edition represents exceptional value for money. Transporter Edition panel van prices start at £28,990 (RRP basic ex VAT), while kombi prices start from £30,620. Order books are open now, with the first deliveries expected in November.

For more details on Volkswagen Commercial Vehicles’ award-winning range of products and services, or to find your nearest Van Centre, please visit www.volkswagen-vans.co.uk.

Transporter Edition prices


Transporter Edition technical data


Transporter Edition weight data


*Automotive World is not responsible for the content of this news release.

Happy camper VW Caravelle makes perfect travelling companion

http://www.mirror.co.uk/lifestyle/motoring/car-reviews/happy-camper-vw-caravelle-makes-11168134

The Caravelle is the modern version of the iconic vehicle, beloved by surfers, hippies and generations of holidaying families

A family camping trip to France was on the cards, and not ones to travel light, myself, my wife and two boys needed as much space a possible.

It was not exactly glamping but we had a huge tent, fridge, inflatable sofa, cooker grill, scooters and even carpet to fit in.

So that made the latest generation six Volkswagen Caravelle the obvious choice to for the road trip.

As someone who toured around the Scottish Highlands as a child in a 1970s VW camper van the idea of taking the Caravelle had an added nostalgic appeal.

The Caravelle is the modern version of the iconic vehicle, beloved by surfers, hippies and generations of holidaying families.

For our two weeks in Dordogne we had a sedate dark Starlight Blue metallic short wheelbase Caravelle. If we didn’t have the tent there is sleep pack optional extra which turns the rear bench into a double bed.

Or for full family fun the California has a hinged pop up fabric roof with another bed, and is kitted out with cooking facilities and a kitchen sink.

A culinary basin seemed to be one of the few things we didn’t seem to be bringing with us.

VW Caravelle with huge rear hatch and sliding doors makes loading simple
The second row of seats are two airline type seats with a table in between

One of the strongest features of the Caravelle is the way the seven-seater can be easily reconfigured to suit your needs.

Standard setup has two individual armchairs as a second row and a three seater bench on the third row, along with a fold up table. The whole system is on rails running the length of the floor so they can all be moved forward and backwards. The individual rear seats can also be spun round to face the rear bench.

There is also the option of taking out all the seating and table turning it into a fully-fledged van.

As we just had our two boys Leo, seven, and Monty, five, out came the two individual chairs and table. It took less than 15 minutes but due to their weight it is a two-person job.

We then pushed the rear bench forward leaving them with plenty of leg room, and fitted their child seats into the ISOFIX points. With the rear-sliding doors and elevated seating position, buckling them up each trip was made considerably easier than a conventional car.

With the two middle row of seats removed the rear bench was able to slide forward – hugely increasing load space
Even without using a possible 4,000 litres of space we easily fitted everything in

This left us with a cavernous rear loading space which made packing more of a chuck-and-forget exercise that the usual Tetris experiment.

With the destination set for Portsmouth ferry port on the standard 5” touchscreen via the upgraded Discover Media Navigation System Plus (£1,410) , which also adds Apple Carplay, we were good to go.

Cavernous VW Caravelle swallows the 7-seater competition for breakfast

The Caravelle comes with the option of two petrol engines, 2.0 litre but with 150PS or 204PS and two similar capacity diesels with similar PS power but more torque.

Our car was the lower power petrol engine with the seven-speed DGG gearbox.

Once on the move we realised how much room there is up front, there was space for a cool box to go between the driver and passenger seats. Plus high and low level glove boxes, a centre dash top cubby hole and dual door pockets on each side. In addition to cupholders there are holders for two-litre drinks bottles.

On arrival a the ferry port for our rendezvous with the 8.15am Brittany Ferries boat to Caen it was evident that we were in good company. We were parked up with more than a dozen identical vehicles plus several older VW Campers.

Old meets new as our VW parks behind one of the iconic early models

For a holiday in western France the eight-hour boat trip takes a large chunk out of the distance of driving from Calais.

We went to the cinema, the restaurant and there was even a TV in our four-berth ensuite cabin.

On board Britanny Ferries boat from Portsmouth to Caen

If you are a fan of the high up driving position of SUVs, they are nothing compared to the Caravelle. The driver’s seat is perched higher than any Range Rover and with the upright panoramic screen and windows all around viability is excellent.

Which is a good thing as with a vehicle which is 197cm tall and almost 5m long, you need to take note of height restrictions and any sharp left or right turns.

The huge glassed areas were also perfect for taking in the sweeping French dual carriageways as we ate up the miles of flat countryside in Normandy and the Loire.

With the twin armrests for driver and passenger and softly sprung suspension the Caravelle is happy cruising along at the French motorway speed limit of 80mph. With a top speed of 112mph and a 0-60mph time of 12 seconds it shows its foundations are built on a commercial platform rather than a MPV’s car specification.

Overtaking is not a issue though, but it helps to knock the seven-speed DSG gearbox into S for sport on some occasions.

With an overnight stop at a guest house alongside the historic Le Mans race circuit we had 200 miles left to reach our campsite in the Dordogne.

If it has the underpinnings of a Light Commercial Vehicle you would not tell it from the cabin, which has the materials and fit and finish familiar to any VW car owner.

It comes in three trim levels SE, Executive and Generation Six. Standard in the base model like ours was DAB, a five-inch touchscreen infotainment system, fabric upholstery, USB Connection, 17” wheels and body coloured bumpers and mirrors.

Middle of the road VW goes off road with Touareg

Options you may want to add that are not included are parking sensors, automatic lights, heated seats, sat nav and cruise control.

Some of these are included if you spec the higher trim levels or can be added individually.

As we went deeper into the Perigord Noir region on more challenging winding roads our pace slowed somewhat.

The engine is up to the job of hauling around the weight, but the suspension reminds you off it commercial roots. On the twisty stuff it is no SUV, despite coil springs and independent rear suspension it cannot be driven hard through the beds without a fair bit of wallow.

But a we set up camp with all the extra kit we could carry that was soon forgotten.

Caravelle parked up at the campsite

Plus with a fortnight to explore with an unloaded vehicle the kids enjoyed the novelty of the extra space and it helped keep arguments to a minimum.

During our trip we covered 1,400 miles and averaged just under 30mpg, which seems fair for a fully-loaded 3-tonne vehicle.

The huge of 4,000-litres of load space makes packing for a holiday a liberating and carefree experience.

The nature of the ride and performance suit the relaxed summer holiday ethos, if you are in the mood to channel your inner Cliff Richards.

Buying a Caravelle is a lifestyle choice, amazing on the school run and high days and holidays, but less in a supermarket car park or small city streets.

Caravelle SE SWB 2.0 TDI

Basic price inc vat £41,941 (£47,905 as tested)

Engine – 2.0 litre petrol four-cylinder

Gearbox – 7 speed DSG automatic

Top speed – 112mph

0-62mph – 13 seconds

CO2 emissions (g/km) 158

Power – 150 PS

Fuel consumption (official combined mpg) – 46.3

Vehicle weight – 3,000kg

Dimensions – 490cm L, 229cm W and 197cm H.

Brittany Ferries operates the longer routes from Portsmouth, Poole and Plymouth direct to Brittany and Normandy saving miles of unnecessary and costly driving. Travel overnight by luxury cruise-ferry in the comfort of your own cabin with en-suite facilities or be whisked across the channel in as little as 3 hours. We travelled from Portsmouth to St Malo, and returned from Caen to Portsmouth. Cross Channel fares start from £79 each way for a car+2, and from £109 with a motorhome. Book online at www.brittanyferries.com or call 0330 159 7000.

The VW camper van that has become entrepreneur’s travelling coffee shop

http://www.nottinghampost.com/news/local-news/local-businesswoman-selling-top-quality-444664

Jennifer Walker of the Split Screen Coffee Company pictured inside her 1965 VW campervan.

Jennifer Walker always enjoyed spending her summers camping – so much so that she decided to start a business out of a vintage Volkswagen camper van.

The 41-year old now travels around the country selling high-quality coffee and homemade cakes from her mobile catering vehicle under the brand Split Screen Coffee.

Her popular coffee and cakes have landed her with a small business of the year nomination at this year’s Nottingham Post Women in Business Awards.

Mrs Walker, of Ruddington, said: “I was originally a teacher and wanted a change of career.

“We’d always had a camper van and I originally wanted to start a travelling pub out of the van but realised it would be too difficult.

“I looked online to try and find a van, and found one. The van was originally known as ‘Split Screen Bakery’ so we kept the name and decided to sell local coffee and homemade cakes.”

She bought the van two years ago and refurbished it to be a travelling coffee shop, and started trading soon after at the Great Notts Show in 2015, where the business proved to be a huge hit.

Mrs Walker sells camper-cinos from her van, as well as homemade cakes.
Mrs Walker sells camper-cinos from her van, as well as homemade cakes. (Image: Joseph Raynor)

“As soon as people saw us at the show, they came over and loved it.

“We use the best quality coffee, as there are plenty of travelling coffee vans across Nottingham, but often the quality isn’t the best. We try to sell the best possible.”

The business pitches up at various different food and drink shows and festivals around the UK, as well as taking private bookings for weddings, parties and events.

Earlier this month, it was one of three Nottinghamshire companies included in a list of the top 100 small businesses in the UK as part of the Small Business Saturday campaign.

It will be featured on one of the days leading up to the annual celebration on Saturday, December 2, as part of the “Small Biz 100” list, led by American Express in conjunction with the Federation of Small Businesses and Enterprise Nation.

“One of my favourite events is working at the University of Nottingham open days,” said Mrs Walker. “The students and particularly the parents love it.

“They are really interested in the city and what it’s like and are always asking us questions.

“It’s a great opportunity to showcase Nottingham and the importance of local coffee and local businesses.”
Reflecting on her nomination in the awards, she said: “I am thrilled to be nominated. It’s brilliant to keep the money local and also to be chosen as one of the top 100 small businesses in the UK is incredible.

 

Super-sized Volkswagen California XXL campervan revealed in Frankfurt

http://www.autoexpress.co.uk/volkswagen/crafter/100900/super-sized-volkswagen-california-xxl-campervan-revealed-in-Frankfurt

VW reveals biggest-ever California campervan concept, based on Crafter van

Volkswagen has super-sized its California campervan by producing the California XXL, a holiday wagon based on the award-winning Crafter van. It was originally revealed at the Dusseldorf Caravan Salon at the end of August, but it’s also taking up space on VW’s stand at the Frankfurt Motor Show.

The California XXL takes inspiration from the original Bulli camper, although at nearly six-metres long and close to three metres tall, it dwarfs its 1960s ancestor, and is far bigger than the standard California, which is based on the smaller T6 Transporter van. The XXL is based on the medium wheelbase Crafter, but the raised roof means it’s easy to stand upright inside, while there’s room for a double bed in the back. Another alcove above the cab makes room for kids to sleep and play, while a full panoramic glass roof creates a bright and airy interior.

But there’s far more to the California XXL than just room for a big bed or two. It has under-floor heating, the bed can be heated and cooled, there’s a retractable wet room-style shower, chemical toilet, full kitchen with hob, sink and fridges, plus a living and dining area. Much of the technology on board can be controlled via a special tablet controller or even a dedicated California XXL App. This includes controls for the ambient lighting (seven modes), music and opening and closing of the panoramic roof.

Under the skin, the California XXL features the 2.0 TDI 177PS version of the Crafter’s diesel engine, while it also gets 4MOTION 4WD and pneumatic suspension that can be raised or lowered to put the XXL level on a campsite without the need of wedging the wheels into place.

On the outside, the two-tone white and brown paint is a nod to the original Bulli, while twin reversing cameras at different heights boost the driver’s view of his surroundings. The Crafter’s suite of cutting-edge safety tech is also present, with adaptive cruise control, lane keeping and blind spot assist all included. The XXL also has room for picnic chairs located in storage on the outside of the van, while a large Weber barbecue grill can also be fitted in the external storage.

 

Second Samba ever built is found – and it’s not pretty…

Second-built Samba discovered in a field, to undergo restoration

Had it not been for an ID plate that had remained with the bus – and a Volkswagen enthusiast with an eye for rare Wolfsburg tin – then a rare 1951 VW Microbus Deluxe left sitting in a German field for more than 50 years might well have become so much scrapyard fodder. Instead, it’s now destined for a 10-year restoration.

According to that ID plate, which current owner Florian Kalff of Bonn, Germany, ran by Volkswagen’s archives before buying the dual pickup loads’ worth of rusted metal, the 23-window Microbus – aka “Samba” – not only dates to 1951, the first year of production, it also dates to one of the first days of production. Reportedly, the Volkswagen archives only list one earlier chassis number for a Samba, which has since gone missing.

Introduced in April 1951 at the Frankfurt Motor Show, the Microbus Deluxe featured windows up and down its length, including at each rear corner, along with windows cut into the sides of the roof and a sunroof that exposed all six rear passengers to the sky. More chrome trim adorned the Samba than any other Microbus (“a magpie’s nest of brightwork,” as author Richard Copping put it in his “VW Bus: Forty Years of Splitties, Bays, and Wedges“), and it featured a full-width dashboard that lesser Microbuses didn’t. Its superior visibility made it a favorite of sightseeing companies, and its deluxe trim bumped the pricetag a good 40 percent.

Kalff’s Samba has a rather murky history. Records show that it went to Fleischhauer – a dealer in Köln – as a demonstrator, and the lack of a TÜV sticker on the license plate suggests it came off the road sometime before 1961. How or why it ended up in a field in the Eifel mountains of Germany remains a mystery. Kalff, a Volkswagen restoration parts dealer, has a theory, however. As he told Bonn’s General-Anzeiger, Sambas built before August 1960 made do with the Beetle’s 24.5-hp engine and thus became obsolete when Volkswagen introduced the 34-hp engine and synchronized transmission in the Microbus; it wasn’t uncommon for owners of the older Sambas to abandon their wagons.

The Samba had laid in the field for so long, the field’s previous owner claimed not to have known of its existence. Only when the new owner of the field began to clear it did the Samba – well, enough of it to identify it as a Samba, anyway – resurface. The new owner happened to know a customer of Kalff’s, and Kalff claims to have bought the Samba’s remains, which included the drivetrain, the aforementioned ID plate, and even one of the plexiglass rear corner windows, for a four-figure sum.

Kalff has since carted the remains to his shop about 30 miles away and started planning the Samba’s restoration, which he said will require at least 10 years and another six figures; a British coachbuilder has been conscripted to replicate the missing parts of the body and incorporate as much of the existing body as possible. The result of the restoration, he told the General-Anzeiger, should document the Samba’s history rather than sparkle and shine.

Progress on the restoration will be posted to Kalff’s website.