Me & My Car: ’67 VW bus immaculately restored

Me & My Car: ’67 VW bus immaculately restored

David Krumboltz/for Bay Area News Group

Mike Crawford, of Concord, appears with his 1967 Volkswagen van.

When you see an older Volkswagen bus or van, many people think of the hippies of the 1960s, as it was a popular vehicle for the counterculture crowd.

There were different names for this vehicle: Microbus, Splitscreen, Splittie, but the VW company called it Type 2. As you may guess, Type 1 was the Beetle or Bug. The van had a split windshield for better aerodynamics, thus the names. About five years after the end of World War II, VW’s first vans were built using an 1100-cc air-cooled, flat-four-cylinder “boxer” engine mounted in the rear of the vehicle that produced 24 horsepower. The bus was pretty much unchanged during the 17-year run from 1950 to 1967 except for minor improvements. Gradually the horsepower was increased from 30 to 54 in 1967 with slightly larger engines.

There were a lot of different uses found for this VW vehicle. They were used as hearses, ambulances, police vans, fire trucks and campers. There was even a flatbed truck. All in all, VW produced about 356,000 of this model in various forms with America being their largest export market.

But in the early 1960s, the sale of VW pickups and commercial vehicles to the U.S. market was greatly reduced as a result of the “chicken tax.” There was a “chicken war” going on between the United States, France and West Germany. Those two European countries had placed a tariff on U.S. chickens, and diplomatic channels failed to settle the dispute. Two months later, when LBJ became president, he put a 25 percent tax on things like potato starch, brandy and light trucks. At least as late as 2015, the “chicken tax” remained and affected light trucks manufactured in all countries.

Mike and Kathy Crawford have a 1967 VW Splittie with 13 windows. The buses came with a different number of windows. The base bus was an 11-window model, but also available was a 13-window, a 15-window, a 21-window and a 23-window model. The 21- and 23-window models, called the Samba, had eight panoramic windows in the roof and offered a soft sunroof. The price range was $2,150 to $2,665 ($15,459 to $19,161 in today’s dollars).

“We got it 2007, and she was pretty beat-up, kind of a rust bucket. We found it in Martinez parked in a field. Somebody owned it and wanted good, good money for it in its poor condition. I had to pay $5,000 cash for the rust bucket and I probably have well over $30,000 into it now,” Mike said.

Was he looking for a VW bus, I wondered.

“Oh, it’s my wife,” he said showing a little frustration. “She wanted one. She had one and she’s from that generation.”

Not surprisingly, it goes back to her hippie days. I’m beginning to see the labor and management factions in this Concord couple’s acquisition. It was Kathy who wanted and found this VW bus. Mike showed me some pictures of the vehicle when acquired and he did not exaggerate that it was a rust bucket.

“We went from there,” he said, “she orchestrated a lot of the parts finding, interiors and color schemes of Velvet Green and Pearl White, which were the original colors. She insisted we keep it originally stock.

“She kept me in check with some of the things because we were spending a lot of money.”

Mike thinks the vehicle is worth about $40,000 but an expert in the field said he could probably get about $80,000 for it. However, it has not been officially appraised. It’s an academic situation anyway, as Mike doesn’t believe that Kathy would ever part with her bus.

Mike has worked on many cars in the past, but this is his first complete restoration. He said once they had purchased the VW, he sort of became a fanatic about doing the job right. Except for the upholstery, he did everything and did it at home, in his double garage including the fantastic paint job inside and out. Everything is meticulous, there are no flaws, scratches or dings. The interior was beautifully done by Armand’s Auto Upholstery in Walnut Creek.

Mike and Kathy are not big into car shows, but they did enter their VW bus in one show and won first prize in 2013. Neither of the Crawfords drive their prize vehicle very much. To them, it is a work of art, like a painting or sculpture, and they enjoy owning and viewing it. But Mike has another good reason he and Kathy don’t drive it much. With only one very thin sheet of metal separating the driver and front passenger from the vehicle directly in front, it’s difficult to think of a vehicle offering less protection if there were a collision. Well, maybe a skateboard.

How the Volkswagen Kombi became a family heirloom

The last five years has seen one of the enduring icons of sixties personal freedom appreciate ...
The last five years has seen one of the enduring icons of sixties personal freedom appreciate in value so quickly that many owners may not know the value of their car could soon eclipse the value of their home. Last Saturday, January 21, 2017, a 21-window Volkswagen Samba sold for $302,500, indicating that the trend is further accelerating.

Collector cars that appreciate in value are normally associated with aristocratic marques such as Ferrari, Mercedes-Benz and Porsche, not the proletarian brands personified by Volkswagen, the “people’s car.

The auction marketplace is a reflection of sentiment of the population though, and the same post-war baby-boom that reshaped society during the 1960s has now come of age and controls the vast majority of the world’s wealth.

The society-changing force generated by the youth of the sixties is now becoming evident on the auction block, and the last five years has seen one of the enduring icons of sixties personal freedom begin to soar in value across the globe. The van pictured below best captures the way we all saw the Volkswagen’s Samba van in its time. It was the boomers’ freedom machine, pitch-hitting as a mobile bedroom and lounge room too.

The post-war baby boom now controls the world’s investment capital, and the alternative culture that was championed by this age group is no doubt at least partially responsible for the rise of cars, sports and entertainment memorabilia as legitimate alternative asset classes.

This trend was highlighted yet again when a 1967 Volkswagen 21-window Deluxe Samba (below) sold for $143,000 to set a new record for the model at the Scottsdale round of collector car auctions just outside Phoenix, Arizona. Just to emphasize how hot the market has become, the record lasted just 24 hours before another 21-window Deluxe Bus took the outright world record with a sale of $302,500, more than doubling the 21-window record of just 24 hours prior. The 1965 21-window Samba is pictured above.

Perhaps the most remarkable aspect of the sale was that, although the US$302,500 price is a world record for the 21-window Deluxe Samba Bus produced from 1964 to 1967, the previous model 23-window Deluxe Samba Bus has always been considered even more valuable.

Above is a sampling of record-setting Volkswagen 23-window Deluxe Sambas. The American record price for a Volkswagen Type 2 (Kombi) of any model at auction was held by the vehicle at top left prior to this week. It’s a 1963 model 23-window Deluxe Samba sold by Barrett-Jackson in 2011 for $217,800. Top right is the former European and World T2 record holder, a 1955 model Deluxe Samba that sold for €190,000 ($236,639) at Auctionata in Germany in November, 2014. At bottom left is the Australian record holder, a 1960 Deluxe Samba (in right hand drive configuration) that was sold for AUD$202,000 (US$157,690) in February, 2015. At bottom right is the British record holder, a 1960 Samba Deluxe that sold for £91,100 ($143,347) at Bonhams’ Goodwood Festival of Speed sale in August, 2015.

Quite clearly, people power is flexing its muscles once more, and although the prices of rare 21- and 23-window Deluxe Samba vans are the most visible sign of the boomers exercising their preferences, the rising water mark has seen the value of all Volkswagen Kombi vans grow likewise over the last few years.

Paying $200,000 plus for a collectible car isn’t nearly as perception-challenging if the badge on the grill reads Bugatti or Bentley, but the Volkswagen T2 is now moving into that category, too.

That is, it is appreciating in value at the same time as it is still being used by mobile street vendors around the world for selling coffee, fruit, veggies and alcohol. Indeed, many of those vendors may not even be aware that their trusty workhorse may soon eclipse the price of their home.

A prime example of just how much the market for T2 variants has been influenced by the banner-carrying 23-window Deluxe Samba is the crew-cab Kombi above ,which spent most of its life as a tradesman’s workhorse but is currently advertised for $100,000 in Germany.

The following T2 Volkswagens are the most valuable to have been sold at auction to date. To track this global phenomenon, we’ve converted any non-American sales into American dollars at the prevailing exchange rate on the day of the sale.

$123,200 | 1967 Volkswagen 21-window Deluxe Samba

Barrett-Jackson Auction Description

$126,500 | 1963 Volkswagen 23-window Deluxe Samba

Barrett-Jackson Auction Description

$126,500 | 1964 Volkswagen 21-window Deluxe Samba

Barrett-Jackson Auction Description

$126,500 | 1967 Volkswagen 21-window Deluxe Samba

Gooding & Co Auction Description

$128,700 | 1963 Volkswagen 23-window Deluxe Samba

Barrett-Jackson Auction Description

$129,719 (£85,500) | 1964 VW 21-window Deluxe Samba

Bonhams Auction Description

$140,250 | 1962 Volkswagen 23-window Deluxe Samba

Gooding & Co Auction Description

$143,000 | 1967 Volkswagen 21-window Deluxe Samba

Barrett-Jackson Auction Description

$143,347 (£91,100) | 1960 VW 23-window Deluxe Samba

Bonhams Auction Description

$148,500 | 1961 Volkswagen 23-window Deluxe Samba

Barrett-Jackson Auction Description

$157,690 (AUD$202,000) | 1960 VW 23-window Deluxe Samba

Shannons Auction Description

$217,800 | 1963 Volkswagen 23-window Deluxe Samba

Barrett-Jackson Auction Description

$236,639 (€190,000) | 1955 VW 23-window Deluxe Samba

Auctionata Auction Description

$302,500 – 1965 Volkswagen 21-window Deluxe Samba

Barrett-Jackson Auction Description

Personal Reflections on the Kombi marketplace

I always figured that at some point in the distant future, one or two of the motorcycles I have owned would be worth a lot of money and that I would one day regret selling them. In my misspent youth, I used an identical vehicle to the $100,000 crew-cab Kombi pictured at the beginning of this article to transport my racing motorcycles. I bought it for an insignificant amount of money and when my adrenalin habit finally allowed me to buy a V8 utility vehicle for transporting the bikes, I sold the Kombi for chump change without a second thought. If I’d kept and restored it, it would now be worth more than any other motorized transport I have ever owned. Go figure!

I learned to drive in a 1961 Volkswagen Beetle with 250,000 miles on the clock and I’ve subsequently owned several Kombis – I am a fan of both models. I’ve watched their star rise at auction, and after doing the rounds of the global auction and classic car show marketplace over the last few years, I believe that if you are in the market for a T1 or T2 Volkswagen, Germany’s annual Techno-Classica show is the place where you can pick up a well-restored classic Volkswagen at the most reasonable price.

That’s a pic from last year’s Techno-Classica above and again below. The show this year runs from April 5 to 9, 2017 and if you are serious about procuring a vintage T1 or T2 Volkswagen, the Essen show is in the heart of the motherland and the epicenter of knowledge and expertise for the marque. Our Techno-Classica show report from last year will give you an idea of just how remarkable this gargantuan classic car show is.

One of the more interesting vehicles that didn’t make our Techno-Classica report was the above Volkswagen flatbed T2, along with one of the prototypes of the racing car that came from the same family – the Formula Vee. It was for sale on the show floor for €295,000, though it also came with the racing car and had been authenticated as one of the original transporters that hauled around the Formula Vee cars in the infancy of the series that gave the world drivers such as Niki Lauda, Emerson Fittipaldi and Keke Rosberg. It’s a lot of money but there aren’t a lot of T2 Volkswagens with any kind of provenance. Unlike the Bugattis, Bentleys and Duesenbergs that were purchased new by movie stars, captains of industry and royalty, the provenance of most Volkswagens constitutes a who’s who of unacclaimed people.

That might indeed be the secret to their popularity.

Why Volkswagen keeps making microbus throwbacks it never intends to sell

Volkswagen unveiled another new microbus concept in Detroit — a total blast from the past that probably won’t have much of a future.


The I.D. Buzz is an all-electric, fully autonomous vehicle meant to harken back to Volkswagen’s glory days of peace signs, bellbottoms, and flower power. If the company actually builds it, the Buzz wouldn’t be the fastest electric vehicle out there, with a top speed of only 99 miles per hour. Nor would it be the most powerful or longest ranging EV, with a 200-kilowatt electric motor and a charging range of only 270 miles.

What it does have, though, is an ability to make a direct appeal to two important demographic groups: nostalgic baby boomers who want to relive Woodstock and retro-obsessed millennials who are addicted to technology. It’s a brilliant marketing strategy, but the question remains: will Volkswagen ever build this thing?

Volkswagen claims the microbus could make it into production by 2025, but that seems overly optimistic. The German automaker released a different minivan concept last year, the BUDD-e. And neither of these cars appear to have much basis in reality. But that doesn’t make them any less fun to obsess over, especially with futuristic features like mood lighting, retractable steering wheels, and driver seats that can swivel 180 degrees.

Another sweet add-on is Volkswagen’s ID pass, a cloud-based user profile that stores specific settings for both drivers and passengers. That means every time you get in, the car will automatically adjust everything to your liking: seat position, air conditioning, music. You name it.

While the exterior of the I.D. Buzz is playful and inviting, the interior leaves something to be desired. The swivel seats are cool, but the controls are totally bizarre and not entirely intuitive. The foot pedals feature dopey “play” and “pause” symbols, and the dash is almost entirely non-existent. The center console is a bit too much like those arm rests on airplanes that hide foldable tray tables. And there are so many USB ports in this thing it borders on overkill.

But it’s important not to let all these cool concepts distract from Volkswagen’s larger problems with its ongoing diesel emissions scandal. The company has a history of using genius marketing strategies to distract from unsavory business practices or toxic affiliations. Lest we forget, VW was the vehicle of choice for both Adolf Hitler and Charles Manson. Just saying.

“The microbus design inspiration is absolutely a blatant feel good effort,” said Sam Abuelsamid, senior analyst at Navigant Research, “but I think there is a place for minivans in the future mobility ecosystem.”

Certainly, VW’s entire electrification strategy is partly driven by a desire to move past the diesel emissions scandal in which the company finds itself currently embroiled. Just before the Detroit Auto Show kicked off, a senior executive at the company was arrested by the FBI on conspiracy to defraud customers in the US. And just today, VW announced a preliminary $4.3 billion settlement with the US government. The carmaker says it will continue to work with law enforcement as the investigation into the cheating scandal plays out.

The I.D. Buzz isn’t the only concept built on top of VW’s custom-built Modularer Elektrifizierungsbaukasten, aka Modular Electric Drive kit. At the Paris Auto Show last year, VW unveiled its new all-electric, fully autonomous concept car, all-electric, autonomous the I.D., a sleek silver-and-blue vehicle meant to harken back to the iconic Beetle and Golf.

Volkswagen will always have a place in America’s cultural identity. Vehicles like the Bug and the microbus are icons, and it’s really cool to see the company continue to play around with these classic models as it looks further into the future.


This modular camper van is one for the dogs (and their owners)

At camp with Dogscamper


Dogscamper is the latest camper van brand from Martin Hemp, whose work also includes the versatile Volkswagen and Mercedes van creations of Terra Camper, and the delightfully retro VW Flow Camper. The cornerstone of Dogscamper’s design is what it calls the Vari-Modular System, a series of grid walls that mount to the floor rails inside the van, allowing the owner to create kennels of different sizes and layouts as needed.

The Dogscamper's ramp helps dogs get in and out of the van

The system is designed to save on weight and bulk when compared to a permanent dog room or portable crate, while offering a more comfortable, adjustable space for one or more dogs to relax in during the ride and at camp. The Vari-Modular dog area closes securely and keeps dogs safely in place during the ride. Interior and exterior doors can be opened up at camp, allowing dogs to roam in and out of the vehicle and retire for a nap when desired.

Some quality bonding time in the Dogscamper

The dog area mounts neatly below the folding bed, so that humans also have a comfortable place to spend the night. The pop-up roof offers a second bed, providing sleeping space for four people.

Other helpful features for dog owners include a ramp that lets Fido or Fifi board and deboard through the liftgate with ease, a dog food/accessory case that hangs on the back next to the spare tire, and a wall mount/hook system that provides a place to hang up leashes, as well as other items, like coats and lanterns.

Beyond its dog-friendly features, the Dogscamper is a smartly laid out camper van that relies on Terra Camper’s expertise in modular furniture design. It features an indoor/outdoor driver-side kitchen area with removable camping stove and slide-out refrigerator. The fridge can be accessed from inside or out thanks to a pull-out that rides right through the sliding side door. The sink includes a sprayer hose to double as an outdoor shower, another feature that promises to be quite handy for dog owners.

The Dogscamper's sink doubles as a spray cleaner for the dog

The kitchen equipment is secured to the floor rails, allowing it to be easily removed, and the van can then ride as an open cargo van or as a passenger van with seating for up to six, making it a truly versatile work and play horse. Owners can also add other removable modules, such as a toilet. The modules feature an aluminum and composite construction for a combination of light weight and durability.

Dogscamper offers its conversions for both the Volkswagen T6 Kombi and the Mercedes-Benz Vito Tourer. Volkswagen versions can be ordered in short- or long-wheel base and front-wheel or 4Motion all-wheel drive with engines ranging between 101 and 177 hp. The Vito version comes on the long-wheelbase model only and can be configured in front-, rear- or all-wheel drive with engines between 87 and 188 hp.

Dogscamper doesn’t have a price list on its website, but a number of German motorhome publications list the starting price as €49,900 (US$52,000).

North Americans aren’t out of luck with this camper van, the way they often are with cool European-designed vans. California-based Terra Camper North America just launched its Mercedes Metris (American market Vito) camper vans and is offering the Dogscamper as an optional equipment upgrade on the Tecamp model. The Dogscamper package starts at US$1,799 for the front and rear walls, each with a door, the ramp, and a bumper pad to prevent the ramp from scratching up the bumper. Additional kennel walls are available optionally.

The Dogscamper is available in Europe on the Mercedes Vito (pictured) and VW T6 and in...

The Tecamp conversion with pop-up roof with bed, folding cabin bed, floor rail mounting system, indoor/outdoor kitchen, two removable seats, and accompanying cabinetry and equipment starts at $35,900. That price is for the conversion only and doesn’t include the price of the base Metris Passenger Van, so you’ll be up around $70,000 for the entire Dogscamper, possibly well over that figure if you start darkening option boxes.

Most motorhomes aren’t nearly as pet-friendly as the Dogscamper, but there are a few other man-dog camper designs out there. One of our favorite motorhomes of 2016, the NOAH Cross City Capsule, showed what a compact Japanese-designed canine-friendly camper van looks like. And if you’d like to try out a dog-friendly motorhome without committing to buying it, Germany’s 4pfoten-Mobile (4paws Mobile) rents one with a dedicated dog compartment with padded floor, anti-dribble water bowl, camera system to keep an eye on the dog during the journey, dedicated exit/entry with non-slip ramp and other dog-friendly features, not to mention plenty of amenities for the humans, too.

Gibsons releases official VW Campervan puzzle



Gibsons has released a brand new addition to its Iconic Brands Collection, in the form of The Official VW Campervan Jigsaw.

Packaged in a mini tin replica of the classic 1960s RHD campervan, the 500 piece puzzle is a montage of the quirky campers that were a common sight during the ’50s,’ 60s and ’70s.

The puzzle features images of the iconic ‘split screen’ campervan and another with a crazy flower power pattern, with the tin offering an ideal way to store small items.

The VW Campervan jigsaw puzzle joins other branded classics from Gibsons including Marmite, The Great British Bake Off and Pringles

A VW Camper For The Child Who Has Everything

How much do you think this would set you back?  £800, £1500, £5,000…read on to find out the price.

Bun Van is a bed and room reinvented by CIRCU as the iconic VW camper, ideal for the little hippy adventurer in your life!

The whole bus is a hand made reproduction, with the exterior of this piece made in fibreglass with the use of chrome-plated parts and palisander wood veneers throughout give the Bun Van bed a true retro feel.  And in addition to storage compartments hidden throughout, you’ll also find a flatscreen TV, a mini bar, a sofa and of course a bed inside.

Parents will recognize the inspirations for this piece, one of the most remarkable vehicles ever produced and at the same time, one of the most iconic and magical symbols of fun and freedom!    Few other vehicles have the ability to turn heads and conjure a spirit of freedom, adventure and open roads.

Kids will also recognize another inspiration, one of the most well know characters of the Disney movie “Cars”, Fillmore, the 1960’s hippie bus. This bed is perfect to bring some fun and imagination to rooms!

Measuring 400 x 185 x 220 cm, the Bun Van bed adds a statement to your kids’ living space with impressive artwork and sophisticated furnishings.  A true and genuine piece of art, the bed pays homage to the hippie lifestyle and motoring heritage.

So how much?

Over £30,000 –  you do need to have everything…












VW transporter specialist drives forward expansion plans

Image result for leighton vans rotherham

Leighton Vans, a VW transporter customisation specialist, has bought an 11,800 sq ft company headquarters and showroom in Rotherham as part of expansion plans.

Sheffield law firm Wake Smith advised on the six-figure sum purchase of the former Bradken manufacturing unit at Dodds Close on behalf of Leighton Vans’ owner, enabling the company to double its workforce and triple its sales and production space.

A £1m funding package from NatWest and Lombard Finance helped Leighton Vans finance the new premises.

The automotive business, which has become a hit with the outdoor and lifestyle community nationwide, is the brainchild of Mike Leighton who spotted a gap in the market four years ago.

“Not only do we sell, rent and lease VW transporters but we create unique, high specification vans which can be colour coded, body styled, upgraded and modified to what our client requires,” said Leighton. “We really wanted to find premises that suited our business needs, and allowed for growth.”

Paul Gibbon, director at Wake Smith’s commercial property division, added: “The business model established by Mike works extremely well and he has developed a strong customer base across the country, tapping into the popularity of outdoor sports and people wanting to enjoy the countryside.”

Leighton Vans, a spin off from Leighton’s former used car business, supports professional mountain bikers including Sheffield’s Steve Peat, Scotland’s trial cyclist Danny Macaskill and World Cup circuit rider Brendan Fairclough.

NatWest relationship manager Aaron Carter said: “Leighton Vans is a dynamic and ambitious business. It has been really rewarding to work with the management team to progress their growth plans, which are helping to create new jobs locally.”

Rebecca Schofield, partner at Knight Frank, which marketed Dodds Close, added: “This industrial warehouse unit is in an established location and ideal for Leighton Vans’ expansion needs.

“It will allow them to have a much improved base with office, showroom, customer area and workshop – all under one roof.”

Knaus gets biblical with its latest VW camper van


The Volkswagen Transporter and modern derivatives may get most of the camper van love, but another VW van platform makes for an even roomier camper. The new second-generation Crafter will launch next month, but the first camper vans based on the latest VW have already started arriving, at least in show van form. The Saint & Sinner design study from Germany’s Knaus Tabbert combines retro flair with modern amenities, showing what the new Crafter could look like all decked out for road trips and camping holidays.

With the dawn of its latest generation, the Crafter no longer rides as a Mercedes Sprinter-based build by Daimler. Rather, VW is now doing its own manufacturing at a new plant in Poland. And Knaus makes its Crafter concept every bit as distinctly Volkswagen as the van itself.



Just as Volkswagen did when it introduced the sixth-gen Transporter in 2015, Knaus brushes its van with a heritage-inspired red-and-white paint split inspired by the classic Transporter T1. The exterior teases its dichotomous “saint and sinner” nature with angel/devil badging.

A striking, two-tone exterior is great for trade show floors, but out on the road, it’ll be all about the interior. And though the Crafter Saint & Sinner is just a show-floor concept for now, Knaus doesn’t skimp on camping comfort.


The interior takes care of campers’ needs with a central open bathroom with toilet, a kitchen with dual-burner stove and 90-L refrigerator, and a transverse, 4.7-ft-wide (1.44-m-wide) rear double bed. The expandable dual-seat bench in front of the bathroom combines with the extendable table and swivel driver and front passenger seats to create a dining area for four.

The interior has a “wicked-good” personality thanks to the deep red and black throughout and prominent angel/devil logos. There’s no pop-up roof, but the Crafter’s 8.5-ft (2.58-m) roof height isn’t exactly begging for an upward expansion.

An e-Crafter camper van would make a fun concept, but this one is based on the front-wheel-drive Crafter 35 powered by a 140-hp diesel four-cylinder.

The Saint & Sinner debuted as a design study last month at CMT Stuttgart, but it was also “a glimpse into the not-so-distant future of Knaus Tabbert GmbH, which will offer the modern Crafter in additional extension and model versions.” We reckon we’ll be seeing a real Knaus Crafter camper van in the near future – perhaps later this year at the Düsseldorf Caravan Salon.

The VW Crafter Saint & Sinner is just a concept for now, but Knaus is offering...

In the meantime, Knaus is offering the colorful, angelically devilish Saint & Sinner conversion for the popular Fiat Ducato (pictured above) in two different floor plans. The van wears the same red-and-white paint and has an even more prominent “saint/sinner” tattoo on its side. Features and options include leather upholstery, a red, black and white interior, interior LED lighting, fixed and open bathroom options, and available front and rear lifting beds. Deliveries will begin in summer.


Italians help VW campers get back their va-va-voom



Florence (Italy) (AFP) – How many enthusiasts does it take to restore a fleet of rust-riddled Volkswagen camper vans? Ask the Italians.

At the back of a hanger in the heart of Florence, two VW fans have dedicated their lives to restoring these iconic vans from the Swinging Sixties, importing them from South America before fixing them up and selling them on.


Some are over 50 years old, but once they are patched up by Mauro Altamore and his mechanic Giacomo Nucci, they are expected to chug on for another half a century at least.

“With good maintenance, these vans are indestructible. We have to overhaul a good part of the mechanics, but keep the original engines,” Nucci told AFP as he showed off a van that looked like it had rolled off an assembly line, despite its age.

From Ferrari to Fiat, Italy is a car crazy country, but Nucci firmly believes there is nothing better than a VW camper.

He’s been sprucing up these classic vans for collectors for over seven years and these days boasts an increasing number of businesses and advertising companies among his customers.

Fashion companies ask for “made to measure” vans for photo shoots or catalogues, he says pointing to a row of shiny red, blue and cream coloured vans, as well as one with a slogan stamped on the side.


Their distinctive VW hood emblems — which enjoyed a period of fame as rapper pendants thanks to the Beastie Boys — glint as new.

– A childhood passion –

Customers can be picky: one purist wants the rust on the bodywork kept, even down to craters that look like bullet holes. Another wants the original motor replaced with a Porsche engine.

Altamore, who came up with the idea for restoring the vans, says clients come not just from Italy but from all over Europe.

Inside the company’s office are dozens of ceramic models of the “Peace and Love” campers he has collected down the years.

His passion started in childhood when he used to collect models of the iconic Volkswagen Beetle, whose rear engine and axles were later used in production of the camper vans.

When he was 18, he set his heart on buying one but his father refused to pay for it, denouncing the little car as a petrol guzzler.

So he got a camper instead and can now no longer remember how many of the old clappers he has bought and restored.

About a decade ago, while in Brazil working in the clothing import and export business, Altamore decided to switch his business focus to vans instead, fondly remembering his first client: “a famous biscuit manufacturer”.

He eventually dedicated himself full time to the van business with Nucci’s help.


Restoration takes around six months and costs between 10,000 to 50,000 euros ($10,600 to $53,000), largely because picking up parts, which are out of production, is not always easy.

But these vehicles, which remain hugely popular, can often command prices which are much higher, with a 1955 model going under the hammer in Germany for around 200,000 euros ($235,000) in November 2014.

Manufactured in Germany until 1979, and in Brazil until 2013, the classic campers continue to fascinate people well beyond the “free love” hippy generation and have become a symbol of freedom.

“You turn the key and off you go,” Altamore says with a grin.

“The windshield opening says it all: it was like riding a motorbike. You would set off, stop where you want, you could even sleep inside.

“I reckon more than a few children have been born inside… and many have been conceived!”

Dear Volkswagen: Stop Showing Microbus Concepts Unless You Intend To Build One

Another year, another VW Microbus concept – this time it's an EV called the I.D. Buzz and is claimed to run for as much as 270 miles on a charge. (Photo: Volkswagen)

Another year, another VW Microbus concept – this time it’s an EV called the I.D. Buzz and is claimed to run for as much as 270 miles on a charge. (Photo: Volkswagen)

It seems like whenever Volkswagen is going through a rough patch and/or has little in the way of genuinely compelling hardware to reveal (while admirable, we don’t find the new stretched Tiguan that premiered last week at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit to be particularly groundbreaking) they taunt brand loyalists with yet another latter-day “Microbus” concept.

VW has teased auto show-goers with latter-day iterations of its iconic Type 2 Transporter van as concept models for well over a decade, with the hype becoming so compelling at one point that Mattel even built Barbie her own version of a 2002 auto show styling exercise that at the time seemed headed to production (it had a working horn!).

An all-electric reincarnation was unveiled at last year’s Consumer Electronics Show, affectionately called the BUDD-e, that – unsuccessfully to our eyes – channeled the classic Microbus look through current VW styling protocols. Otherwise, it was the usual distant-future project based on vaporware and unobtainium, with a claimed operating range of up to 373 miles on a charge.

(Photo: Volkswagen)

(Photo: Volkswagen)

This year VW rolled out yet another modern Microbus concept at the Detroit show that’s likewise both forward and backward looking. Saddled with the unfortunate hipster moniker I.D. Buzz, it’s an electrified people-mover that promises both standard and autonomous driving modes. At least this time around it does a nice job of capturing the classic rendition’s iconic look, particularly at the front- and rear-ends, and wraps it around three rows of configurable seats with a full range of high-tech amenities.

Battery range for the latest Type 2 concept is claimed to be a somewhat more realistic, though still far-reaching, 270 miles – by comparison, the just-introduced Chevrolet Bolt EV can go for an estimated 238 miles on a charge, while the Tesla Model S tops out at a 265-mile maximum with its available 90 kWh battery. The automaker says a 369-horsepower electric powertrain will enable the vehicle to reach 60 mph in about five seconds – which is impressive for any minivan with the the essential aerodynamics of a brick – though with a tepid top speed of just 99 mph.

As usual, VW brass is being coy as to on whether or not a reincarnated Microbus, electrified or otherwise, will ever roll off a global assembly line. Automotive News suggests that if the new Bus would be built it wouldn’t be until at least 2022; it’s prospects are favorable as the concept is said to be a favorite of VW brand chief Herbert Diess. Still, that leaves Barbie’s short-lived version as the only Microbus on sale in the U.S. since 1979.

At a time when Volkswagen is left battered and bloody from its continuing “Dieselgate” woes – to the extent executives are being advised to steer clear of the U.S. for fear of being arrested over the emissions cheating scandal – taking a step back to revisit its cherished past while looking forward to next-generation technology is clearly a welcome move. We expect a rendition of the classic Microbus would be a big seller among nostalgic Baby Boomers looking to recapture a piece of their lost youth, as well as younger buyers seeking the exaggerated allure of a bygone age. Look at the success Dodge is having – especially among enthusiasts of a certain age – with its throwback Charger and Challenger Hellcat muscle car models.

Sure America is hooked on SUVs again, with the coming three-row VW Atlas likely being the right vehicle for the times, but yet another boxy people-mover isn’t likely to bring traffic into showrooms as would a thoroughly modern, yet instantly recognizable modern-day Microbus, electric powered or not. Let’s just not wait until those who remember the van most fondly are no longer in a position to own something that big, or even still be able to drive for that matter.

In the meantime, a mint-in-box version of Barbie’s 2002 Microbus can be found selling on eBay for $160 and up, with well-used models going for as little as $20.