VW Camper T1 53 Photos Zoom

65 years of the VW Bulli - from the T1 to the T6: Cult vehicle reaches retirement age

The Bulli - the cult vehicle of hippies, the workhorse of labourers, the ideal car for leisure. The universal genius is now celebrating its 65th birthday. We present the highlights from the T1 to the T6.

In 1950 the first Bulli was produced, based on the VW Beetle

The VW Camper is a unique success story, and is now celebrating its 65th birthday. It all begins with the T1 in 1950. The economic upturn required new logistical optimisations. And VW wanted to be involved. The great idea for the Bulli ultimately belonged to Ben Pon, the Dutch general importer for Volkswagen. According to legend, with just a few strokes of a pencil, he drafted the original shape of theVW Transporter in his notebook.

Because the new Transporter was to be as affordable as it was robust, in order to prove itself in the harsh everyday conditions of the post-war period, for the Transporter the VW developers relied on the simple technology of the best-selling Beetle. The biggest difference was the self-supporting bodywork of the new Camper. The nameing is actually simple, but always causes confusion: the Beetle is Type 1, the Transporter is consequentially Type 2. The first Bulli is thus a VW Type 2, but is shortened to T1 - with "T" for "Transporter" and "1" for the first generation.

The Bulli quickly experienced success - it was cheap, reliable and offers plenty of space. The partitioned windscreen and the small rear lights were characteristic of the T1. Initially it could only be purchased in grey and blue and had no rear bumper. From 1960 onwards, there were actual indicator lights instead of moving direction indicators. Of particular interest within the modern used vehicle market is the Samba, the windowed Camper. In good condition, it currently commands a high price - six-figure fees are no longer an exception.

Just a little more modern: the T2

In 1967 the T2 replaced the first Bulli. With the new semi-trailing arm rear axle there was a clear push forward in terms of drive safety. Larger windows and a full length front windscreen were the clear defining external features. The wide range of models now contained vans, estate cars, twin-cabins, platforms, minivans and a small minivan with an extended wheelbase. The T@ was produced until 1979, and there were the T2a, T2b, T2c (only in Brazil) and the so-called "hermaphrodite model", which was only produced from 1971 until 1972.

The box-like Bulli T3 finally included a water cooling system

The thrid generation of the Bulli conquered hearts from 1979 onwards, however, still as a Type 2, as the name "T3" is a protected trademark of the Deutsche Post. The T3 was the first Bulli that did not descend directly from the Beetle, although it too remained bound to the rear-engine principle, which was already antiquated in its day. However, it was the last Volkswagen with the engine installed to the rear. In contrast, to the front there was a more modern suspension system with triangular suspension arms and helical springs.

In the T3 the developers once again got everything they could out of the rear-engine layout. No other Bulli is play so active a role in the drive as the VW T3. In 1985 suitable engines finally arrived. Finally with a water cooling system. The range of engines was extended considerably – the top-of-the-range model was the WBX with 110 HP. A small number of T3s with Porsche drive systems were even produced. Some porsche developers were pained to drive their equipment through the region with feeble Transporters. Without further ado, they installed a 228 HP six-cylinder boxer engine from the Porsche 911 Carrera in the T3.

A huge range of versions and potential uses

While the first two Bullis were extremely popular with adventurers, globetrotters and campers, the T3 was bang on the mark: it fulfilled the requirements of the emerging fun and leisure society: room for the family and leisure equipment, a good overview and range of models, ranging from ex works mobile homes to luxuriously equipped versions such as the Carat, Atlantic, California, Magnum, Bluestar and Whitestar or Multivan. Added to this the powerful engines that got you quickly to your destination. Those who wanted could even order an all-wheel drive version. Ever since the T3 was introduced, the Syncro has been a permanent feature within the range.

Paradigm shift with the VW T4

In 1989 the long overdue fourth generation of the VW Bulli was released. The competitors at Mercedes (MB100), Ford (Transit), Mitsubishi (L300) and Nissan (Vanette) were now scraping off considerable market share - and were much more modern vehicles. VW now finally said goodbye to the rear-engine concept - and with the T4 introduced a modern Transporter in keeping with the times.

Effectiveimmediately, all Transporters produced by VW featured a front engine and a practical (on account of being level) loading floor. In addition to this there was much more interior and storage space, as well as all-round single-wheel suspension. A high-end version with a VR6engine and 201 HP ensured a sporty drive. Only the engine range still gave rise to criticism - which VW only dispelled in 1995 with the introduction of the TDI drive systems. The new 2.5-litre diesels, in the turbo-charged versions, produced 101 and 149 HP, had low consumption and delivered car-like drive performance.

The modern-day great-great -grandchild of the Bulli had become a luxury vehicle

The T4 was so good that VW carried over the vast majority of the technical basics when introducing the next model. Visually the T5 certainly appeared more modern, but the most notable change was that its side panel had been pressed from a piece of steel sheeting - thus doing away with the rust-prone body seam. Other than this, very little had been changed from a technical perspective. In place of timing belts, the 2.5-litre diesel now received a VW spur-gear cascade mechanism and the controversial pump/injector technology.

Much more had happened inside the interior: here the T5 offered equipment that could hold its own against mid-size saloons. All creature comforts could be ordered. The facelift that year was in keeping with the design appearance of the rest of the VW family.

The change in price over the 65 years is remarkable: the top-of-the-range T1 model, the Samba, cost 6,995 Marks back in the day. The entry level prices for the T5 begin at around 30,000 Euros. The top-of-the-range model, the Multivan Business, has thus also put some distance between itself and the price of the T1 - it can be had for around 85,000 Euros, and if you choose the large diesel engine, you're talking more than 93,000 Euros. With a few items from the extensive list of extras, you will quickly exCee’d the 100,000-Euro mark.

T6 focuses on infotainment and assistance systems

In the anniversary year, VW wants to introduce the sixth generation of the Bulli at the IAA in Frankfurt. However, anyone hoping for an entirely new design will be disappointed. For VW continues to rely on the - visually only slightly altered - old model as a basis on which to work. Of course there will be slight changes in detail, which are to make the chassis more comfortable and increase suspension comfort, however, the more profound changes are to be found in the interior and the technology used.

As such, VW has announced that the infotainment equipment is to be of the highest level, and likewise, numerous assistance systems and improved passenger compartment insulation are to be expected. The Euro 6 engine are to be equipped with a Start-Stop function as standard, thus reducing the fuel consumption by up to 15 %. The range is to run from the 84 HP base self-igniter to the biturbo diesel with 227 HP. Petrol engines will certainly play a secondary role, however VW will continue to offer TSI four-ylinder engines with power ratings ranging from 148 to 217 HP.





12 May 2015
5 4 3 2 1 5 5 1
  • All Sections
  • Car Reviews
  • Comparison Tests
  • Road Tests
  • News
  • Supertests
In cooperation with