The Full Monty
Classic Van & Pick Up|November 2017

Mike Neale encounters a VW Westfalia camper – a lovely example of one of the most desirable of the splitties.

AT the risk of being guilty of using a cliché, the VW Transporter Type 2 has become something of a 20th Century icon. The first generation of these, the split-screen model, was known as the T1 and built from 1949 until 1967, by which time, some 1.8 million had been produced (although the split-screen continued to be made until 1971 in Mexico and up to late-1975 in Brazil). The second generation bay window was the T2, built from 1967 to 1979, but also until 1995 in Mexico and  as recently as the end of 2013 in Brazil, albeit by then with water-cooled, fuel injected engines.

At launch, the split-screen Transporter had the 1,131cc, 25bhp, flat-four engine from the Beetle, which was uprated to 1,192cc with 30bhp in late-1953 in both vehicles. That improved the 0-60mph time of the Transporter to 75 seconds (no, that’s not a typo – 75 seconds was the time taken), which was actually 10mph above the maximum speed recommended by Volkswagen, so it was no ball of fire. In 1963, the 1,493cc, 42bhp engine from the VW Type 3 was offered as an option and such vans were rated at one-ton payload. This proved considerably more popular and the 1,200cc, 3/4-ton payload version was finally dropped in 1965. The 1500 models were fitted with a governor to restrict top speed to 65mph, although many owners removed these. Fortunately, better brakes were also fitted to the 1500.

So far so good, but before proceeding further, a brief explanation is in order to sort out exactly which model was which, as there is often some confusion. Volkswagen’s first vehicle, the Type 1, was, of course, the Beetle. The designation Type 2 was given to the forward-control commercial vehicles, the Transporter (or Bulli, as it was known in its native Germany), Kombi, Microbus and derivatives. The Type 2 came in two forms – the T1 split-screen and the T2 bay window. The Type 3 was the two-door notchback, hatchback and estate (also called the Volkswagen 1500 and 1600), which was made from 1961 to 1973.

From 1956 to 57, Volkswagen came up with a series of SO codes to designate different special model (Sonderausführungen – special construction, in English) vehicles, some of which were offered by Volkswagen, themselves, while others were available only from coachbuilders. So, for example, SO1 was a mobile shop model, SO2 was a high-roof mobile shop and so on.

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