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Farewell to the Kombi Bus, Our Old Friend

Score one for time.

Volkswagen will officially stop producing their iconic vans on December 20. Originally named the Type 2 (the Type 1 was, of course, the Beetle), it’s now called the Kombi, short for “combination vehicle.” Although they haven’t been made in Germany since 1979, Brazil still produces and sells 2,000 units a month. All that will end next Friday when VW’s auto workers—the Kombis are still made by hand, not robots—put the final touches on the last of the people’s vans.

All told, 10 million Type 2s have been made since 1950, 1.5 million of those in Brazil. They’re easy to drive, easy to fix, cheap to repair, can haul lots of stuff or people, and aren’t weighed down by all the modern touches that enlarge the 21st century’s vehicles.

And therein lies the reason for the Type 2’s end. New cars in Brazil have to include safety features like airbags, anti-lock brakes and emissions controls. These features would make the Type 2 too expensive to make, says Volkswagen.

The Type 2 started as a doodle on a sheet of paper by Volkswagen’s first salesman outside of Germany, a Dutchman named Ben Pon. Pon ran his father’s automotive business along with his brother, Wijnand, and in 1947 received the first Volkswagen Beetles for non-German sale. Impressed, he travelled to the company’s Wolfsburg plant later that year, and made a sketch of a longer, submarine-like version of the vehicle.

The last 1,200 units of that vehicle will feature classic 1960’s styling and a special powder blue color. And as for demand? They’ve already sold out.

Farewell to the Kombi Bus, Our Old Friend was last modified: January 1st, 2015 by Leith VW Raleigh


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