・Former TV film unit and early Type 2 club vehicle
・Older but exceptional restoration
・Genuine 61,000 miles from new original RHD UK bus
・Previously owned by famous inventor
Originally created as a tour bus for Alpine sightseers, the Volkswagen Samba was the most luxurious version of the early Microbus and was marketed as an early equivalent of today’s MPVs.
Based on the Type 2 van, the Samba went into production in 1951 and was offered as either a seven or eight-seater, with additional windows in the roof to improve vision and airiness.
Originally with 23 windows, later models had 21 following the removal of the rear quarter lights, and in VW parlance they’re referred to as the 23-window and 21-window respectively.
The Samba had bi-parting barn-style doors as opposed to the van’s sliding door, and could be ordered with a large fabric sunroof. Most were two-tone with a white or grey upper body, while a choice of 1200 or 1500cc engines were on offer.
Sambas were only offered in the early ‘Split Window’ era of the Type 2 – unofficially (and incorrectly) referred to in some circles as the Type 1 to distinguish it from ‘bay window’ models. The official Volkswagen Type 1 was actually the Beetle.
This example is extremely rare, being an original UK-spec 21-window Samba. It’s a genuine RHD van as opposed to a conversion and it has been restored to as close to original specification as possible, but that’s not all. It also has a truly fascinating history.
In total, DEL 346C has covered just over 61,000 miles and that odometer reading is genuine, as its entire history is known.
It began life as a film unit for Blenheim Location, a film crew hire company in London, who used it as a crew and filming vehicle, the roll-back roof being perfect for shooting action film from the top of. It was used by the company until 1973, when it was acquired by a chap called Don Stewart, who along with his then partner Jennifer Pedlar was one of the founding members of the Split Screen Van Club. 1965 Samba DEL 346C was the second vehicle to be added to the club register. He last used it in 1979, then parked it up in barn storage.
That, in itself, is fascinating enough, but its next owner (who discovered it ‘barn find’ style in the early 1990s) adds another fascinating chapter to the story. In 1995, the van was bought by Kane Kramer, a British inventor who is credited with inventing the first digital audio player and went on to become Chairman of the British Inventor’s Society.
Much as he loved the Samba, Kramer was far too busy inventing things – not least because the 1990s and early 2000s saw the dawn of popular digital audio and he was in huge demand, developing the Apple iPod among other things. He spent a lot of money having the Samba restored, but barely used it.
Fast forward to the late 2000s and it was bought by another owner, who sold it a few years later to the vendor, a well-known VW enthusiast who has owned and enjoyed it but is now ready to move it on.
There’s a fascinating pile of paperwork with the van, documenting much of its 56-year life. There are bills and paperwork relating to its restoration and more recent maintenance, as well as a stack of bills from the 2000s.
There’s also a UK V5C and a history certificate from Autohaus Wolfsburg documenting its date and details of manufacture.
But the most interesting part is the photo album that tracks its restoration – it begins with the van being recovered on a truck in the early 1990s (the Transit in question would now be considered a classic if it still survived!) and includes images of the VW where its ‘Blenheim Location’ livery is still visible.
There’s also a fascinating collection of old manuals and brochures included with the van.
Finished in VW Siegellackröt, which translates into English as ‘Sealing Wax Red’, the Microbus is in remarkable order for an older restoration, but then it was barely used by Kane Kramer after he paid to have it restored. It has had the floors repaired on both sides during the restoration but otherwise all of the metal is original – it was reportedly in excellent structural condition when found.
The condition today is terrific. It really is as good as it looks in the photos, with only a couple of very minor nicks and marks and one piece of tarnished brightwork – but nothing that really stands out.
The underside is remarkable. The sills and floors are solid, while the sump guard is astonishingly clean and shiny – the current owner having spent a lot of time detailing it.
Inside, the condition is as good as the outside, with all of the seats trimmed in smart grey cloth.
There are new rubber mats throughout and it’s all in fine order, while the sliding opening roof operates exactly as it should and is a wonderfully cool feature
Up front, the dash, steering wheel, gear lever and handbrake are painted to match the upper bodywork and are in terrific condition, while the integrated Blaupunkt radio is a thing of beauty.
At the rear, the bus features its original 1,500cc air-cooled engine, which has been cleaned up, painted and fully serviced but has never been rebuilt.
It sounds great in the noisy and uncouth way that air-cooled Volkswagens do – an unmistakable sound that anyone who grew up when Beetles and Buses were still a common sight will instantly recognise.
The owner reports that it is in great working order, having carried out much of the mechanical work on the bus himself.
Explaining the appeal of this fabulous Microbus isn’t hard. In the first instance, it’s a superb example of a very rare and sought-after derivative of the VW split-screen. But then there’s also its incredible history, the fact it’s an original RHD UK model and not an import, the connection to a famous inventor, the link to the formation of the split screen club and its amazing former life as a mobile film unit.
It’s a stunning thing with plenty of tales to tell and is now ready for the next chapter in that story.
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