IT was the vehicle of choice for everyone from hippies and surfers to Shaggy and Scooby Doo but, after 63 years, time has finally caught up with the Volkswagen Kombi.
The German manufacturers have stopped making the van in its last stronghold of Brazil after new regulations meant it was no longer practical.
But for the many thousands of fans around the world, who spend huge amounts of time and money caring lovingly for their quirky vehicles, the Volkswagen Kombi is a timeless classic that will never die.
CRAIG MCQUEEN speaks to two Scottish owners about their love affair with the curvy minivan.
STEPHEN’S love affair with the Volkswagen Kombi remains undiminished, despite him selling his most recent one to fund a business venture and his previous one catching fire while he drove it.
“I liked the classic design of it,” he said. “I remember seeing them when I was about 10 and thinking how great it would be to own one or to go on holiday in one.
“So it was a longing from my childhood and the design element fascinated me. I also enjoyed the height of it and the vision it gave you.
“Then there’s the adaptability of it, as it turns into your accommodation at night. They draw a crowd as well. People always come and speak to you when you’re in one.”
The 50-year-old’s most recent van was a 1973 Australian-made model called Myrtle.
“It had a 2000cc engine and was in beautiful condition, and I kitted out all the interior,” said Stephen, from Glasgow.
“I’d bought it for about £10,500 and I sold it for about £15,500, so they hold their value. When I was selling it, I had a woman who came to see it in a new Brazilian Kombi. But she was desperate to get hold of an old classic like mine as, at all the owners’ festivals she went to, people would turn their nose up at her for driving a power-steered modern one.
“So there is a bit of snobbery within the fraternity. But in 40 years, those newer ones will be like the classic ones just now.
“People are restoring them like crazy and there are now lots of spare parts available that you couldn’t get 10 years ago.
“That’s something else that a lot of owners can be very snobby about.
“You end up with a bit of light competition between owners to see if they can spot an unoriginal part on someone else’s van.”
Stephen’s first van was a German-built model called Pepperpot but his second van didn’t survive long enough to get a name.
“She set on fire when I was driving along Edinburgh Road,” he said.
“Stephen Purdon, who plays Shellsuit Bob in River City, was in it, too, as I was running a youth theatre he was involved in and I was driving some of the cast home. All of a sudden we smelt burning. It was like an alien invasion as the whole dashboard went blank and then started flashing before this fire appeared in the engine at the back.
“Within 10 minutes, the fire brigade were there putting it out. So they do require a lot of love and attention but, that incident aside, I’ve been very lucky.
“I’ve always looked after them and, when I’ve bought them, I’ve always taken the right people with me to help me.”
Stephen’s love for the vehicles also helped provide the inspiration for his business venture, the website Reunitems.com, which aims to help people trace old or lost possessions.
He said: “Before I bought Myrtle, I was desperate to find Pepperpot and I was wondering how to do it, thinking I’d need to do some sort of name search or registration search. That’s where the idea for the website came from. Reunitems is a site you can search for things you’ve lost by name, by product or by registration.
“And there’s a timeline, so you can search for things you’ve lost yesterday, like a wallet or a jacket, you can search for retro antiques and collectibles, and you can search for family history things that would have a name attached.
“So I’m still hoping that one day Pepperpot might turn up again.”
CHRIS remembers his parents owning Volkswagen Kombis when he was a young boy.
So when he had a family of his own, the father-of-two from Strathblane, Stirlingshire, decided to get one himself.
He said: “I did a bit of research and looked at a few vans down south before picking one up in Warwick from a guy who imported them from the US.
“It’s a 1975 Westphalia bay-windowed, left-hand drive orange van with the dormer roof and it spent most of its life in Los Angeles.”
Chris spent £6500 on the van, called Bertha, and has owned it for about 10 years.
He said: “I’ve not had a lot of mechanical trouble and I’ve driven all over Scotland with it.
“I’m involved in the traditional music scene and I do a bit of hillwalking with my pals as well, so I’m away with it maybe three or four times each year. The only problem is that it does 19 miles to the gallon, so if you want to drive it to somewhere like Brighton, it’d cost you a fortune.
“And I can’t fill it right to the brim as the petrol would spill out when I’m going round corners, so I get about 120 miles between stops for petrol if I’m lucky.
“Having a left-hand drive van is good in the sense that you’re looking straight down on to the kerb. But your biggest problem is that your poor passenger to the right of you is as nervous as hell as you can start drifting too far to the right.
“So it does take a bit of getting used to. When I let my other half and a couple of pals have a go at it they said ‘no way’. A lot of people also rip the interiors out and bring it up to date and you can go to companies spending thousands to get that done.
“But the units I’ve got are all original. I’ve got the sink and cooker and the mid-70s Formica.
“It needs a bit of a brush-up but I’ve decided to leave it the way it is.”
Chris says that the van is a regular conversation starter thanks to its quirkiness.
He said: “We were at a campsite recently and, when you go to places like that, you get the caravan club types coming out of the woodwork saying they had one just like it in the 70s.
“They want to have a look inside, so you put on the kettle and start swapping stories. It creates a common bond between people that you just don’t get with other vehicles.
“It’s because of the character they have. I’m 47 now and it takes me back to the 70s.
“There’s nothing better than taking the van up to Glen Etive, popping the roof up and staying there for a couple of days. It gives you a sense of freedom and really it’s an extension of your character, so it’s great to have.
“And given that the vans are no longer being produced, it’s nice to help keep them alive.”