VW Camper and Our 60-Year Affair With Volkswagen 'Bus' To End

Thursday, 12 Dec 2013 08:56 AM

By Clyde Hughes

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After more than 60 years of production that created a cult following among hippies and surfers, the Volkswagen Kombi van – or just 'bus' – will stop rolling from its only factory next week.

The German carmaker will close the remaining plant that makes the iconic "bus" in Brazil on Dec. 20, shuttering the doors of a sprawling facility where the vehicle was still mostly made by hand, Fox News Latino reported.

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The box-like van gained popularity in the United States during the 1960s and 1970s. It was first known as the Type 2 because it was the automaker's second vehicular creation after the Volkswagen Beetle.

"The van represents freedom," Damon Ristau, director of the documentary film "The Bus" about van fanatics, told the Daily Mail. "It has a magic and charm lacking in other vehicles. It’s about the open road, about bringing smiles to peoples' faces when they see an old VW van rolling along."

But safety regulations caused issues for the VW Kombi, and Germany ended the vehicle's production in Europe in 1979. Production in Brazil is ending because of air bag and other regulations there.

"It was one of the very first cars to be developed by the company," Franck Sowade, the production manager at the Sao Bernardo VW factory, said. "But to add the airbags, abs braking system and emissions modification that legislation now requires would be too expensive and time consuming."

Despite lacking those safety features, the van remained popular among those in Brazil and other countries.

"We still sell more than 2,000 units a month," Volkswagen's marketing manager Carlos Leite told the BBC News, adding that there is nothing comparable to the van on the road today.

Fox News Latino reported that the vehicle remained popular in Latin America and much of Africa because the design made it ideal for small-time vendors and business owners to haul goods. The Kombi has been used as a rolling food cart, a postal truck, a military transport vehicle and even as a modified hearse by customers.

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