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It’s the end of yet another era. The iconic Volkswagen Kombi, better known to some as the Volkswagen Bus is going out of production in Brazil after a 56-year production run. As with the original Beetle, VW is sending the Bus out in style, with the limited-edition Volkswagen Kombi Last Edition, which is designed to celebrate the legendary vehicle’s history.
Limited to just 600 units, the VW Kombi Last Edition comes nostalgia-filled with a two-tone blue and white paint job, whitewall tires, and matching white wheel caps. Other unique Kombi Last Edition exterior touches include a blue upper grille and headlight trim, as well as “’56 anos – Kombi Last Edition” decals on the side and rear of the Bus.
Inside, the Volkswagen Kombi Last Edition gets blue and white vinyl upholstery and trim, and matching blue curtains on the side and rear windows. Each Kombi Last Edition is then topped off with a number identification plaque mounted on the dash.
Unlike the air-cooled Kombis of yesteryear, the Volkswagen Bus is going out of production with a water-cooled 77-hp 1.4-liter I-4 in its rear engine bay, paired with a four-speed manual. As we reported late last year, the VW Kombi is ending production due to more stringent Brazilian crash test regulations.
Source: Volkswagen of Brazil
Is your internal clock all out of whack? Going on a camping trip could help reset it back to a more natural rhythm, according to a new study.
Researchers from the University of Colorado at Boulder found that going on a week-long camping trip seemed to synch the circadian clocks of eight people to sunrise and sunset.
Plus, the synching of biological clocks occurred even in people who were clearly early birds or night owls.
“When people are living in the modern world — living in these constructed environments — we have the opportunity to have a lot of differences among individuals. Some people are morning types and others like to stay up later,” study researcher Kenneth Wright, an integrative physiology professor at the university, said in a statement. “What we found is that natural light-dark cycles provide a strong signal that reduces the differences that we see among people — night owls and early birds — dramatically.”
The study, published in the journal Current Biology, involved eight people who wore wrist monitors for one week that recorded their light exposure, the timing of that exposure, and their activity throughout the day (so researchers could get an idea of their sleep habits). The participants also underwent lab monitoring so that researchers could measure their melatonin levels, which helped to clue them in to the timing of their circadian clocks (our bodies release melatonin naturally when they sense that it’s nighttime and it’s time to go to sleep).
Then, all the study participants went on a week-long camping trip in the Eagles Nest Wilderness in Colorado. During this time, they had no access whatsoever to electric light (including light from flashlights and personal technology devices); the only light they had was from the sun and campfires.
The study participants underwent the same wrist monitor and melatonin testing after their camping trip. Researchers found that their biological nighttimes — dictated by melatonin levels — started two hours later before going on the trip, compared with after. Plus, they found that before the trip, the study participants tended to wake up before their biological nighttimes were technically over.
After the camping trip, researchers found that the study participants’ internal clocks were much more synched to sunrise and sunset. Their biological nighttimes started around the time of sunset, and they also tended to wake up right before the biological nighttime ended.
Electric light has been fingered in the past for playing a role in impaired sleep. A perspective piece published earlier this year in the journal Nature suggested that the advent of electric light has affected our natural sleep cycles, and may contribute to the rise of sleep problems.
“Technology has effectively decoupled us from the natural 24-hour day to which our bodies evolved, driving us to go to bed later,” the author of the article, Harvard professor Charles A. Czeisler, M.D., Ph.D., wrote. “And we use caffeine in the morning to rise as early as we ever did, putting the squeeze on sleep.”
Copyright © 2013, Los Angeles Times
July 11, 2013, 5:00 a.m.
The call of the road, from County Cork to Katmandu, came to the tune-in, turn-on, drop-out generations from an internal combustion engine mounted at the rear of a rolling hotel room.
The Volkswagen camper van brought the idealistic and the adventurous to unexplored and little understood corners of the world, transforming world travel from an indulgence of affluent Ivy League graduates into journeys affordable for baby boomers in search of enlightenment and good karma.
In “The VW Camper Van: A Biography,” [c. 2013 Aurum Press Ltd.] British folklorist Mike Harding chronicles the history of the vehicle that put the “trip” into travel and lured millions out of their comfort zones to learn how the rest of the world lives.
Progeny of the Gypsy vardo, the pioneers’ covered wagons, the snake oil salesman’s steam-engine-drawn kiosk and the Airstream trailer, the camper van born of Adolf Hitler’s “People’s Car” and a British army major’s commitment to get the VW factory back up and running after World War II carried the curious to the far ends of the earth.
Harding cites the likes of John Muir, Henry David Thoreau, Ken Kesey and Jack Kerouac as inspiration for his biography and personifying of the vans that are usually named by their owners. Harding’s current ride is Molly, a 2001 Brazilian-made Type 2 Bay Window.
“I believe that the gentle but pervasive whiff of revolt and anarchy that I sense in the air along with the smell of camping gas and frying bacon at various Dubmeets and vanfests comes from the same spirit of rebellion and individualism that these writers celebrated,” Harding says of the humanity and nature-loving writers who came before him.
The lifelong nostalgia tour on which Harding takes readers begins with his first Vee Dub experience more than 50 years ago as a teenage traveling musician with the Manchester Rainmakers and moves on to friends’ months-long motorized treks to the Himalayas and Tierra del Fuego. The semiretired writer, who splits his time between the west of Ireland and the Yorkshire Dales, spoke with The Times about the camper van’s influence on how postwar generations see the world.
Q: Did the Volkswagen van change how young people toured the world?
Mike Harding: Yes. It was an accessible vehicle. The people I spoke to — and I didn’t get them all in the book — were mostly impoverished students and dropouts who clubbed together and bought one of these things and traveled to Marrakesh or Kabul. A lot of people who didn’t have rich parents to give them money to go to Switzerland for the summer were able to have this Ken Kesey or Jack Kerouac experience.
Q: Why did the camper van call so luringly to that sliver of the population that came of age in the ’60s and ’70s?
Harding: The original panel vans were fairly cheap to get hold of and convert into a caravan. It’s such a reliable vehicle, it didn’t cost much to run and if it did break down you could get it repaired anywhere in the world. And for the counterculture, it became a symbol of freedom, a symbol of anarchy, almost. It has also been quite popular with the surfer crowd, those who wanted to drop out of the rat race, the type who didn’t want to go back to working for The Man. It was also liked for functional reasons, that you could put your surfboard on the roof, even two or three, and you could sit at the ocean with the side doors open wide, looking out and ready straight on to catch the big ones.
Q: You mention in the book the cultural clash between the generation that embraced the camper van and vagabond travel as part of listening to a different beat and the coinciding segment of the postwar population that was more materialistic. Do you still see that divide in society today or did one side or the other prevail?
Harding: Unfortunately, we’ve gone back into the desolation of full-run capitalism, which is just destroying all that was simple and easy. After World War II, there was a feeling in the West that if you worked hard and educated your kids, that they would ultimately end up in a better social position than the parents. This country [Britain] was on its knees in 1945, yet it developed a free health system and other rights and protections. But it’s all being taken back in the name of capitalism. Consistently since 1945, there’s been a chipping away of the rights people managed to gather for themselves after the war.
Q: Don’t the Occupy movements we’ve seen in the past few years reflect a spirit similar to the Beat generation and the hippies of 40-50 years ago?
Harding: There’s a different edge to it now. We had the 1968 student riots in Paris and the sit-ins and the anti-nuclear stuff going on back then. They were specific issues being protested then. Now a whole mess of confusion has resulted from unbridled capitalism running riot for the last 30 years. We’re not really sure what direction this can take. The occupying events produce massive support but then get diffused, to some extent by Facebook and Twitter. We can shout all we want in postings, but I don’t think anything happens until people start smashing up cities. Only when the revolution starts getting close to the ruling classes and their safety zones does anything change. The same 1% is running the country now as in 1920.
Q: In the book, you follow a young man named Chris on a drive to Yugoslavia and the Mediterranean that cost a group of friends less than 100 pounds [$150] each for a four-week vacation. Was that part of the attraction, that the VW van exuded economy and efficiency that befit environmentally conscious wanderings?
Harding: This mode of transportation benefits travelers more than tourists, for the person who wants to go walking in the west of Ireland or climbing in the Himalayas. You have to make a distinction between the traveler and the tourist. A tourist wants to replicate what he has back home — the same food, a comfortable bed, to go out and see the sights but come back to the usual comforts. The traveler is more prepared to sleep on the floor, wait hours for a bus, eat local food and buy local clothes to wear on the road. Travelers took to the VW camper for those reasons.
Q: Restored VW camper vans are now all the rage among travelers into “retro” gear and experiences. How long can that last, given that cars don’t last forever, at least not in a state where they can be depended on to take you to Katmandu?
Harding: In this country, people are actually making panels and every other part you need for a VW to be like brand-new. It’s like the story of the knife — you replace the blade and then you replace the handle but it’s still the same knife. I talk in the book about the people who make their living driving around to camper jams and DubFests to sell their parts and services. And people keep discovering old VW vans hidden away in barns and garages.
Q: The book is a fun nostalgia tour, but is there a future for the VW camper van? Does Volkswagen still make them, and are they still affordable for budget-minded adventurers?
Harding: They’re still making them but they are very expensive, high-end touring camper vans now. Production has gone over to Brazil, but I think they’re coming to an end, too, which is very sad. There are stronger emissions control standards in the United States and Europe now and the engines can’t be modified to fit in. But they will be around for a while. People who have them tend to keep them around for 50 years. I just saw a Samba 23-window bus advertised in mint condition but for 99,000 pounds [$147,000]. All you could do with that is put it in the garage up on bricks and take it out for shows. I don’t see any point in that.
Posted on 15 July 2013.
Ice cool, as it turns out, judging by the waves, positive feedback, adulation and general interest our 2007 Danbury converted camper generated. Whether it was the history of these iconic vehicles that incidentally celebrate 64 years of continuous production in 2013, more on which later, cool blue hue, lowered stance, smart interior or sexy alloys isn’t clear. Everyone, young and old wanted to chat, touch, look inside or simply know more. This really was the classic car equivalent of getting a puppy; a people magnet with a very strong pull.
That when you think about it is a little odd, given that the VW Type 2 (T2) was originally an attempt to re-use the VW Type 1 (T1 or Beetle) platform in a more practical way, the brainchild of Dutch car importer Ben Pon in 1946. Three years later in 1949 the first split windscreen T2’s appeared and eight years after that in 1967 the first ‘Bay’ front window vehicles started to be produced. Something that continued in Germany until 1979 when production swapped to the squarer looking T3, Mexico until 1994 and amazingly Brazil until the end of this year (2013). Danbury and others will be forced to convert second hand vans after all of the new stock has been consumed. Another interesting point, all camper vans were and continue to be today converted Type 2 buses, albeit originally offered as new in partnership with specialists such as Devon and Westfalia, the latter often referred to as ‘Westies’.
The question remained, how does a converted utilitarian commercial vehicle dating back to shortly after the second world war win over the hearts of so many people and for so long? Well, being frank judging by our two days experience it can’t be about practicality, the inside is cosy at best, or comfort whilst on the move, it is after all quite noisy to pilot, and it certainly isn’t about decent cross-country pace because 55-60mph is as fast as you dare without running the risk of blowing the engine up. Worse still travelling above 60mph tests not only your nerve, but also the ancient and heavy powerless and somewhat vague steering as well as rudimentary suspension to the extreme as the T2 bounces and weaves its way along the highway. There are alternatives on the market that tackle all of those points in a much better way, but then they’re not the reason you and so many others like you want a T2 so badly. Because just like getting that puppy, buying a converted VW Type 2 Bus is much more a lifestyle choice.
I dwelled on the why all the time we had our van and the word that kept coming back even with a contemporary conversion like this 2007 Danbury was ‘simplicity’. These vehicles are like life stripped right back down to the bone. There is no fat, or waste, just an honest attempt to transport up to four people around with luggage, feed everyone and then accommodate them overnight. The additional two needing to be children really as the extra sleeping spaces involve hammocks or relatively thin flooring that make use of the elevated roof space. For two adults that same space can be used for the luggage previously stored in the boot and forced to move in order to make way for the bed, an arrangement that works perfectly well. So much so I challenge anyone to find a more romantic way to spend a weekend than tootling around in a T2 stopping only when you want to, which on the glorious weekend we had was to watch the sun go down whilst enjoying that naturally chilled bottle of beer.
If you’re interested in some other minor Camper Van blah-blah then be aware that the later Brazilian built T2’s moved away from the infamous air-cooled flat four engine to a more modern Polo water cooled in-line four unit around 2005-2006. That those same sourced vehicles may require protecting to prevent them rusting away whilst removed from their far drier climate. All will need a heater adding, our Danbury had a Webasto unit retro-fitted, and all will have been converted from left hand drive and so the sliding door on the side is to the right and not kerbside in the UK at least on the left. Other than that the newer vehicles should have a tidier and possibly more practical interior with a cleaner layout that includes essentials like a small fridge. This as opposed to an original not so cool, ‘cool’ cupboard one owner showed us on their ’74 Devon for instance.
Choosing one of these vehicles carefully is particularly important because much like a puppy or in classic car terms say a Morgan 3 Wheeler (M3W) it might not be for you. Puppy’s take up a lot of time and energy and M3W’s are difficult to get in and out of, offer no weather protection and are extremely noisy to drive. Camper Vans offer similar challenges, being tight on space inside, slow and noisy to travel in (motorways being most tricky given that foreign registered trucks are not restricted to 55mph) very expensive to buy new, or requiring a lot of time and energy as a second hand proposition. If you are in the market and haven’t experienced one previously our plea is to try before you buy because after all much like puppy dogs Camper Vans are not just for Christmas, they’re for life.
How does this car make you feel?
In one word: Hippy
As a favourite meal: BBQ chicken washed down with a bottle of beer nicely chilled on the journey down
Anything Else: Such simplicity in the complex world we live in today is still very refreshing
Key Ingredients: Simple and modest design, cutesy looks, universal appeal, cosy but comfortable bed, air cooled flat four engine (missing on final Brazilian built vans)
How does the new “old” camper stand up to a modern reviewers scrutiny?