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Vintage Images of People & Their Beloved Volkswagen Buses

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1969 VW Bus

1969 VW Bus

Sure, it looks like a giant loaf of bread, but the Volkswagen Bus, almost seventy years since it was first introduced, still remains one of the most beloved and recognizable vehicles ever to hit the road.

Like the VW Beetle, the engine is in the back.  So, the driver had an awesome view and plentiful room to store surfboards and camping equipment for the adventure ahead.  From 1950 until the late 1960s, the Volkswagen Bus acted as the original minivan – a roomier alternative to the station wagon.  Then, the counter-culture embraced it, and the microbus became forever linked with pot-smoking hippies, and beach bums.  When the 1980s rolled around, anything associated with the 70s was verboten, and the bus fell out of favor.

1971 Dormobile (UK)

1971 Dormobile (UK)

But let’s take a moment to truly appreciate this beautiful box.  It must have been quite a sight when it appeared in the 1950s – different in every way from the other vehicles it shared a road with.  It was cheap, had a tremendous amount of space, and was wonderfully sparse and simple.  You could make your orange rectangle be anything you wanted it to be – a family camper, a shag carpeted love machine, a business shuttle, a surfmobile… the possibilities were endless.

Unlike the Beetle, the VW bus was constantly being revised, remodeled and evolved into a variety of interesting styles.  There was the Samba-bus, with a ton of windows and a sky-roof, the “Westy” – a camping van with a pop up top for extra space, and the Caravelle which had deluxe comfy interiors.

So, let’s have a look at people and their VW buses, taken from old brochure and other promotional items.  Specifically, we’re looking at the second generation Type 2 VW – these are the “Breadwagons” built from 1967-1979.  Enjoy!

1968

1968

1976

From a 1976 brochure

1979

1979 – Let the neighbors have their shrinking station wagons – we’ve got a brilliant orange microbus!

1974

1974

1976

This 1976 brochure picture illustrates that you can literally grow a forest in your VW bus.  This poor girl will need to leave a trail of breadcrumbs just to find her way to the back seat.

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deluxe

1968 sales brochure

This picture from a 1968 sales brochure blew my mind.  I remember not worrying too much about seatbelts back then…. but I still can’t believe they are driving with a baby in a crib!

68standardbus1a

The standard 1968 Breadwagon.  Not exactly a chick magnet.

1971

1971

walkthru

walkthru2

camper2

1973 automatic at last

It’s 1973 and finally women can drive it, now that it has automatic transmission.

1968

1968

1972

1972

1977

1977

The Campmobile and Adventurewagon really did an excellent job of making this modest bus appear to be a ticket for adventure and living the dream.

1970 campmobile

1975

1975

1979

1979

1976 Campmobile

1976 Campmobile

1968 Campmobile

1968 Campmobile

1969

1969

1970

1970 sales promotion demonstrating the insane versatility of the simple bus; it can be anything from a hippie adventure-wagon to a posh business shuttle.

1971

1971

1978 German ad

1978 German ad

1980

1980

howdoesitfeeltoshowupinoneofthese

VW Bus and Beetle advertisements were great at being both self-deprecating and simultaneously hooking you onto their product.  This one is a great example:

“How does it feel to show up in one of these?  Odd. But nobody expects you to jump right into the social whirl with a Volkswagen Station Wagon.  It’s even OK to be a coward at first.  Buy it on a Tuesday and take a long trip with the family on Wednesday.  Don’t worry about summer or winter; the VW’s air-cooled engine can’t freeze up or boil over.  Don’t worry a bit about the size of your family, either.  The VW carries more than even the biggest anonymous wagons.  When you’re back home, the whole trick is to drive it a little later every day.  Once you’re sure of yourself at the A&P and the lumberyard, venture out at night.  Try an early movie.  Then a late dinner. Then shoot the works.  You’re free to invent your own method, of course, but this one usually works. The thing we don’t understand is why people feel better about driving a VW in broad daylight than they do at night.  You’d think it would be the other way around.”

1970

1970

1969

1969

1970 Adventurewagon

1970 Adventurewagon

1978

1978

1977

1977

1969

1969

1980-4

This 1980 brochure illustrating the VW Devon interior looks like it’s going to erupt into a porno any second.

1980

1980

1974

1974

1971

1971

1959

1959

1970

1970

As I said, seat-belts were rarely used in the 1970s.

carat1a

The 1980s have officially arrived.  The VW bus gets a face-lift and things are downhill from here.  But we’ll always have the memories.

  • njguy54

    When I was a kid I was obsessed with VW buses/campers. My cousins had a camper and I thought it was the coolest thing in the world; they drive it all over the country.

  • timdub70

    The Type 2 had cargo van and pickup variants, but imports of those ceased in the US due to the Chicken Tax passed in 1965. The Bus/Kombi/Type 2 had competition by 1960. Chevrolet put out the Corvair Type 95 Corvan, Greenbriar, and the Rampside pickup. In 1961 Ford put a van body on its Falcon and the E-Series van was born. The Chevy/GMC vans (Chevy IIs with van bodies) and the Dodge A-series van (Darts with van bodies) came later. I don’t know when Ford began making the Transit in Europe. The Transit replaced the E-Series last year.

  • R Lee

    I miss my 1964 split front van. drove from Alberta to San Francisco one Summer. Great road trip. never rushed. suddenly the water pump died on a Freeway outside Oakland just before rush Hour! Lucky, my cousin raced over to rescue us. Paid the price and limped back home later. Good times. remember no insulation in van froze a bit going thru Glacier Nat. park…..

    • Ellis Tomago

      Why would an air-cooled van need a water pump?

      • R Lee

        Thanks Ellis! (Dang memory!) Yes, No water pump for an Air cool engine of course!
        Oil pump.

  • eskyman

    My folks got the “new” 1300 bus in 1964, it was supposed to be more powerful than the 1200. But it came with a governor on the motor! So I heard my Dad cussing each time we’d get passed by an older 1200 VW bus going up a hill. Still, it was a great vehicle; took my family through about 45 different states, as we drove from CA to NY and back a different way. Wonderful vehicle- as long as: 1/ it wasn’t too hot (no A/C) and 2/ you’re not in a hurry. I’d buy one again in a flash, if I could find one in good shape!

  • God Bless America

    1976 VW Bus + 18 drinking age = Priceless Memories