Estimate: £19,500 - £22,500
The cult of the VW Type 2 is undeniable and all-pervading in the classic car scene. If you’ve never owned or driven one, you almost certainly know someone who does or has, and given how many of these versatile vehicles were produced over the decades, the survivors cover a broad spectrum of tastes and approaches – as well as levels of quality.
The Type 2 (which can be variously known as the Kombi, Transporter, Microbus and assorted other names) was introduced in 1950, ultimately spawning a comprehensive array of variants: campervans, panel vans, ambulances, pickup trucks, high-tops, fire engines, all sorts. The early split-screen models were replaced in 1967 by the significantly reworked ‘bay window’ Kombi, which stayed in production until 1979 in Europe and the US. The nickname speaks for itself – the broad window at the front offers an unparalleled view of the scenery. And while it is true that many collectors are pursuing split-screen examples, it’s the bay window that represents the desirable meat in the VW camper sandwich. Available over the years with rear-mounted and air-cooled boxer engines of various displacements, the format was unmistakably VW.
Enthusiasts have always taken the platform in countless directions, from rat-look to concours resto, race-support replica to period ambulance spec and all sorts of others. At the heart of it all, whatever the approach, the simple truth is that the Type 2 is an icon: cleverly designed, attractively styled, well-engineered for impeccable reliability – and, best of all, it’s the sort of vehicle that’s not just a means of transport. With wanderlust and adventure baked into the formula, it’s something that will become one of the family.
This left-hand-drive panel van, a 1971 example, was imported to the UK from its original home in Arizona, meaning that it hasn’t suffered the vagaries of European winters and road salt. The van features a rare layout in that it’s a twin sliding-door model, meaning that you could open both sides and leap through if you so desired. (Although maybe you shouldn’t if you’ve got the removable dining table mounted there...) The current owner, an employee of marque specialist Just Kampers, has owned the van for four years; before that it was used as a company demonstrator at shows and events, Just Kampers having imported it specifically for this purpose in the knowledge that a dry-state example would be helpfully solid.
When he took delivery in 2016, the interior was empty, so the campervan refit you see here is entirely his own custom creation, built from scratch. Helpfully this Type 2 is now officially registered as a campervan (something not always easy to achieve owing to regulation changes), and the appointments are outstanding: the owner has fitted a rock ‘n’ roll bed, a rear bench with seatbelts, removable dining table, storage cabinets, and three-pin sockets powered by an external electrical hookup. He also reworked the cabin to feature Porsche seats and an upgraded audio system. The exterior was all in excellent condition, so having removed the Just Kampers livery, he opted to fit the bespoke Porsche vinyl signwriting you see here, to act as a talking point and help it to stand out in the Type 2 crowd.
The van is tax and MOT exempt, and comes with a sheaf of history and two keys. The low mileage cannot be verified, but the overall condition is very much in keeping with a van that has been cherished and pampered.
The exterior of this Type 2 van really is outstanding, with every panel being impressively straight and true, and sporting even panel gaps. The white paint is almost completely flawless, save for a few very, very minor touched-in chips, plus a tiny bit of peel on the offside from where the old vinyl graphics were removed. The current Porsche graphics are professionally made and expertly fitted, but would be easy to remove if the buyer so wished. The garage signwriting on the doors is a reference to the van’s roots in Arizona, with the year referencing the year in which the van was built.
There’s a little corrosion to one of the leaf trays on the rear bumper, but this is a very easily replaced part. Aside from that, there’s no rot to worry about – the body panels are all honest, and the underside of the van is remarkably tidy. You’ll also note from the photographs that the external electrical hookup is mounted beneath the van, and this is all in correct working order.
The interior of this panel van is, quite simply, fabulous. From the outside, you mightn’t expect it to be so extraordinarily well appointed as it’s a panel van rather than a multi-window camper, but sliding back the side doors reveals a full modern interior refit. There’s a rock ‘n’ roll bed from renowned air-cooled VW specialist Rusty Lee, trimmed to match the recovered Porsche ‘tombstone’ seats which are fitted up front. Lifting up the rear bench seat (which is fitted with lap belts) reveals a storage area in which you’ll find the dining table, which is a solid oak item that bolts into a Sequoia fitting in the floor.
The rear of the van has been fully soundproofed, insulated and panelled, with an oak-effect floor, MDF cupboards with solid oak tops, and a buddy seat. The interior of the body is brush-painted rather than sprayed, but this does nothing to detract from the overall effect. The three-pin electrical sockets make it a thoroughly practical proposition for camping. (The owner highlights that while there’s no fridge or cooker fitted, the idea is to use a cooler and cook outside when camping.)
Up front, the cab features a leather-trimmed steering wheel, full carpeting, and a modern retro-style radio with four speakers. Everything is complete, and in excellent condition. At the top of the rear window is fitted a subtle LED third brake light – a useful but unobtrusive modern safety element.
The engine is a beautifully presented 1776cc flat-four. It’s running twin Weber carbs, which have recently been balanced correctly, and the engine has also recently had an oil change. These motors are notoriously reliable when properly looked after, as this one has been, and the spec ensures that this will have the grunt to keep up with the modern traffic. With no choke on the carbs it can splutter a little when cold, but this is all just air-cooled VW character! The new quiet-pack exhaust system means that it’s sonorous rather than boisterous, and doesn’t drone at cruising speeds.
The gearbox is a ‘Freeway Flyer’ – an upgrade chosen for superior motorway cruising as it allows for lower rpm at comparable speeds over the stock unit. This is all in perfect working order.
There are no problems or concerns with the way the van operates in terms of steering, brakes or suspension – everything is correct and working well, with the owner highlighting no issues that would need attention here. The wheels are in perfect condition, fitted with new Kumho tyres.
Buying a Type 2 van is a life-changing thing. This isn’t just a case of picking up an old car as a curio, this is a means to embark upon adventures and start writing interesting new chapters of your own life story.
What’s particularly alluring about this bay-window Type 2 is that it could happily fulfil a number of functions separately or, indeed, at once. With the mechanicals all being tip-top and shipshape, it could easily be pressed into daily use as an offbeat commuter. Given the presence of the rear bench and seatbelts, and the fact that it’s officially recognised as a camper rather than a panel van, this could make a beautifully cunning alternative to an SUV as an everyday family wagon. Its comprehensive suite of interior upgrades mean that it could serve as a high-days-and-holidays camping vehicle. Or, given the impeccable overall finish, it could successfully live out its days as a show car. Why not pick and choose and mix-and-match from all of the above? The van would be happy to tick every one of those boxes.
The reassurances with this van are all inherent within the details. The fact that it’s a genuine Arizona example means that it’s as solid as you could wish for. The further fact that it was specifically chosen for import by a Type 2 specialist who then used it extensively as a promo vehicle speaks for itself. The engine spec is fruity without being raucous, so it’ll be fun to drive without being highly strung. And the quality campervan conversion means that it’d be so easy to simply throw in a toothbrush and a camping stove and see where fate takes you. It’s not just a van, it’s a passport to a world of adventure.