The Beetle's big brother might not have sold in the massive numbers the Beetle did, but that hasn't hurt the Type 2's desirability or value today. The Type 2, or Bus, Microbus, whatever you want to call it, has rocketed in desirability and the more windows the bus has, the better. This Type 2 Samba van is a 23-window. That makes our ambitiously priced Find of the Week (at US$260,000) one of the most sought-after vans of all.
While Chrysler might not agree, this might be the first minivan. The Type 2 was launched in 1949, and the 2 in the name means that this is VW's second model. The Type 1 Beetle was the first.
The idea for the Type 2 came from a Dutch VW importer who saw an improvised parts mover at the factory and thought that VW could do better using the Beetle floor plan. He was wrong about using the Beetle chassis, but the idea moved forward. The first models were the passenger-ready Kombi and the panel van Commercial. The Microbus came to the lineup the next year with a Deluxe Microbus the year after. The van was one of the first forward control vehicles, along with the Citroen H, that put the driver on top of the wheels. The design would carry over to many domestic and imported vans by the 1960s.
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The Type 2 was sold in many combinations. As a panel van without windows, a double-door panel with cargo doors on both sides, with a raised roof, with removable rear seats, as a flatbed pickup, crew cab pickup, Westfalia converted camper van (the ones with the pop-up roof and a stove), and this one. The Samba. Also knows as the Sunroof Deluxe, this was the luxury model. It had more windows, designed to improve sightseeing for passengers in the back. It also had a massive fabric sunroof that opened up nearly the entire roof.
The vans were economical thanks to their Beetle-based roots and small four-cylinder engines. They were embraced by the counterculture or hippie movement. Showing up in song lyrics and on album covers throughout the 1960s. If you think about cars at Woodstock, you're probably picturing a Type 2. It's an iconic shape and an iconic van.
When it comes to the Type 2, the number of windows is a huge part of collectability. Like having a numbers matching big block in a muscle car, more is better. The basic Kombi was an 11-window. The Deluxe got 15 panels. But the Samba ruled the roost. 23 windows with a split windshield and eight skylight panels in the roof. In 1964, the rear door was widened and two rear panes went away. So the rarest bus was the 23-window Samba, built from 1951 to 1963.
Our Find of the Week is one of those 23-window Samba vans. It originally came from Arizona, but was restored before the current owner bought it. He's a collector, so he wanted the best bus he could find. And this was it.
The US$260,000 price might seem high, but these vans have been climbing since the early 2000s. The right bus can bring in big dollars. Like this one. Having 21-windows instead of 23 can cut the value of these vehicles in half, so authenticity is important. The seller claims that it has been verified and authenticated by Volkswagen's own museum in Germany.
Despite the immaculate restoration, this van gets driven. Not quickly, though, the seller says it has a 1,200 cc air-cooled flat-four that makes just 58 hp. But like all good things, nostalgia takes time.
If you're looking for a classic, air-cooled van, this might be the best one you'll find. And it's for sale in North York, Ontario.