End Of The Trail For The VW Bus
Volkswagen is finally pulling the plug on its Type 2, aka the Bus or the Microbus or in South America, the Kombi — news that pretty much demands the use of word like “iconic,” “venerable,” “workhorse,” and, for those who’ve owned one, “freezing-ass underpowered deathtrap goddamnit I’m never getting up this hill piece of shit.” But there’s no denying they’ve got character, and you can work on them yourself.
Introduced in 1950 and now being built only in Brazil, the Type 2 has only been available with a water-cooled engine since 2006 — hence that funny-looking radiator on the lower two pics. The air-cooled versions most of us Americans associate with the VW Bus were just too dirty for evolving Brazilian air pollution standards. And it is the heavy hand of gummint regulation that’s finally killing off the Bus altogether: Starting January 1, all vehicles made in Brazil must have airbags and antilock brakes, which VW decided would be too difficult and expensive to reengineer.
The last Type 2 will roll off the line in Sao Paulo in December. To close out the production run, the final 600 Kombis will be built in a “Last Edition” with whitewall tires, curtains on the windows, and a high-tech Mp3 radio with a USB port. It will sell for 85,000 Real, or about $38,500, which kind of takes some of the “affordable simple vehicle for The People” gloss off the thing.
Oh, the Thing. Now THERE was a beast…
And that’s the thing about old cars in general and old VWs in particular: of course they’re not sensible or efficient or safe or reliable. Even the cheapest blandmobile coming off the assembly line today is safer, more reliable, and probably even handles better than the rattletrap beasts some of us still yearn for. There’s no logical argument to be made in their favor. Which is what makes them fun.