﹒Beautifully restored with age-appropriate modifications and accessories.
﹒Flawless paintwork with an immaculate interior
﹒Creative Engineering IRS kit with BRM alloy 15” wheels and new tyres
﹒Twin-port engine and 12V conversion
﹒Safari-windows and deluxe clock ﹒New Weber 34 pic twin carbs ﹒New vinyl non grey flooring
It would be appropriate to start off this auction by describing this 1966 13 windowed Volkswagen split screen van as iconic. Not just for its unique styling or its first appearance 70 years ago, but perhaps due to its innovative packaging and the way it revolutionised the way we transport people.
Its success really came in the late ‘50s, when exports to America gave Volkswagen a huge advantage over its homegrown competitors. Both the Beetle and its van sister were not only cleverly marketed in an innovative, self-deprecating fashion which also added to the personality of the vehicles, but it was also offered as an alternative to the huge wasteful and thirsty station station-wagons that American society has long been used to.
The charm goes deeper than the sales pitch though. It is an utterly unique driving experience. The large upright steering wheel that pivots the van from your eye-line is housed in an environment in which you can see all 4 corners. It was and still is quite unlike anything on the roads. Thanks to its practical packaging, it sold well due to the way it utilised the interior space. A Beetle could be characterised by its curves, the van is almost the total opposite, yet its length of around 14 feet gave it car-like abilities.
The charismatic sounding air-cooled engines were also well known for their reliability, with fewer parts than a traditional water-cooled engine, its relative simplicity offers a clue on why there’s less to go wrong. The distinctive sound of these engines, the romanticism of the brand connected with youth subcultures and the unmistakable styling are just a handful of reasons why they still resonate with buyers today.
Typically like many LHD VW vans in the UK, it is sourced via the States and has also been subject to a recent major UK restoration as the demand for these enduring vehicles surpasses all other people carrying vehicles. There is not much evidence of its previous life, although it does come with a Minnesota vehicle title with details of its last owner from the States, which if you fancy playing some detective work could be an interesting investigation over the winter months.
This 1966 example benefits from being one of the later split screen vans, as the bay-windowed version replaced it in 1967. The new van retained its rear-engine layout with some useful additions but lost the original design purity which continues to make the split-screen such a desirable commodity today.
The van was originally imported via Minnesota in the US in 2016. It is confirmed that its chassis number correlates with its 1966 build date thanks to a letter from the Historic Volkswagen Club, which is also confirmed by the DVLA. The van now is registered in the UK and has HM Revenue & Customs paperwork to confirm it has been cleared. The VW has an age-related plate and is essentially ready to roll. The owner has also confirmed that it will be issued with a new MOT when sold.
Let's step inside the van and perch ourselves at the steering wheel and look around. It is the excellent peripheral visibility you notice initially, but also the fittings such as the quarter light window and sliding side glass and hinged windscreen framed in impeccable chrome. The few controls directly below you are simple and elegant, with just a speedo, fuel gauge and a light to let you know if the indicators are still on. The ventilation and heating aspects are fully functional, the cooling air unit box above the front seats draws in the air from above the windscreen, however, the real joy comes from the new safari screen windows which are hinged from the top; such a lovely feature that you simply cannot resist to use them. The dials and controls are suitably appropriate for the vintage of the van, however, there is a sensible concession to modern practicality, a new washer bottle with an electric operation system has been fitted. A new speedo cable has also been installed.
The owner pointed out a couple of areas that will be finished by the time it is dispatched to its new owner, which were a couple of interior parts, namely the fitting of the sun visors and the rear corner panels. All of the seats have been reupholstered to a high standard and have had brand new door and side panels fitted. The headlining is also new and has the benefit of new seat belts too.
Some of the features that make the van are those original accessories, like the hinged front screen, but as we walk around the van, we notice the ‘jail bars’ that are fitted to the rear windows to protect the glass from luggage and the deluxe fitment of the clock on the passenger side. It all gives the van an element of individual authenticity.
First impressions go a long way, and upon presentation, you’ll have to agree this Split Screen van has an impact. Finished in its original Titian red over white paint, the well-chromed jewellery and faultlessly smooth metalwork and true panel gaps give a good indication of what is in store for the potential buyer.
The owner can supply a detailed phonebook of the restoration, which include an extensive overhaul of the bodywork. The glass is unhazed with no scratching complemented by all-round new door and window seals. As to be expected the underside is spotless and is worth muddying your knees for a look. As a formality rather than a necessity, we should report that the undercarriage, frame rails, jacking points, doors, valances, posts, gutters and as well as structural areas are absolutely rust free. All doors have functional handles and operate well, the doors themselves have no evidence of dropping or creaking.
The underside running gear is immaculate, and thoughts come into our head that there could be a danger with something so clean and 'out of the box', is that the new owner may simply wish to keep it as an investment and store it away. Not unlikely given the finish of this van but it really would be a shame not to enjoy it; it has been restored to be used as a leisure vehicle.
It is now powered by a subtly upgraded engine and running gear but retains the best elements of the original - not quite a restomod but the owner has sympathetically kept everything that makes these vans so desirable, with modifications that are acceptable to both VW fans and those looking to run a classic without the ancient technology.
The current owner understands these vehicles. They have a small collection of VW vans under their belts so know exactly what potential buyers look for. These vans are not known for their power, as many split-screen owners will testify, but this one has had the benefit of being fitted with an uprated and rebuilt 1600 twin port engine with new pushrods and tubes installed. This is finished off with a 1641cc barrel and piston kit which is a well-proven tried and tested upgrade. The coupling of the '70s AB VW 1300 4.375 final ratio gearbox offers a significant improvement over the original gearbox and certainly gives you a little more confidence in using it on a day by day basis. A new clutch has also been fitted. On top of that, it has been fitted with a new starter motor and alternator for peace of mind.
Another aspect of the split-screen scene is the stance of the vehicle. The owners have fitted a Creative Engineering early bay window IRS kit with early bay rear hubs and brakes. The front beam has been refurbished with Creative Engineering beam adjustors and rebuilt front spindles plus new track rod ends & new brakes. Additional confidence in its handling and ability to deal with modern road conditions is confirmed by the installation of new rear shock absorbers. To complete the look, it has been kitted out with BRM alloy 15” wheels with new tyres.
The electrics have also been completely overhauled, with the installation of a complete new wiring loom converting 6 volt to 12 volt with a new fuse box. The fuel tank has been flushed, cleaned and painted too.
Classic motoring is all about making memories. While this one has been given an acceptable engine upgrade which gives it a few extra useful bhp, the van is always happier lolling around on country lanes looking for picnic spots rather than racing along Motorways - it's just part of the VW's character. If you've got this far into this description, you'll understand how desirable good examples of the VW split screen vans are. Restoration pieces are unpredictable to budget for and it's a bit of a no-brainer that it's better to invest in one that has been meticulously restored with care and attention from someone who knows their way around a VW rather than something with an uncertain past. There are not many vehicles out there that command so much goodwill in other road users too, it makes it a useful weekend classic for the whole family that will generate smiles all round.
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