1969 US Westfalia Camper with an East German History

30 08 2016

 

Here is another beautiful van from the Berlin Bus Festival 2016. It is an early bay window (or T2a) Westfalia campervan from 1969. I learnt a bit about its history when I had a chat with the owner, a friendly elderly gentleman. The bus was originally built for the US market and also exported to the US. From the paper work he found in the bus, he thinks it was brought to Germany in 1972 by a student from the US who used it to tour Europe. It probably broke down in East Germany – I guess not necessarily a standard tourist destination for an American tourist in the seventies, as you had to apply for visas etc. to get behind the iron curtain. The bus then stayed in East Germany, changed hands three times in the seventies or early 80ies until in 1982 the current owner bought it in East Berlin. He said it was quite run down at that time and needed a lot of repair, which was hard work, with very limited access to spare parts from West Germany. Seven years later the wall came down, and another 27 years later he still owns the bus and proudly keeps it running. What an amazing history!

A couple of interesting details: A sticker in the driver’s door indicates the bus was once maintained by Herb’s Garage in Newark, Delaware, southwest of Philadelphia. The label on the electricity inlet is in English (and expects 110 V instead of 240V) and the speedometer is in MPH instead of km/h, but interestingly the reminder on the steering wheel attachment, below the speedo, is in German (“Fahren nur mit verriegelter Schiebetür” / “Drive only when sliding door is locked”). The original middlewave/MW radio is still in its place in the dashboard. A more useful FM radio is installed below the dashboard. Stick-on headrest for the driver – I actually remember those from a Lada when we were visiting friends in East Germany in the 1980ies! The back indicators looked unusual. Turns out they are made in GDR (label “DDR Ruhla”) and in fact are the front indicators of a late model Trabant, the prototypical East German car. The additional rear fog and reverse lights may also be of East German origin, then.

 

 





Awesome 1969 Early Bay Westfalia Camper

21 03 2015

Spotted this truly beautiful Early Bay Camper at last year’s Berlin Bus Festival. It is from 1969. The Westfalia badge quotes the “Year of Manufacturer” as 1970 which will then be the year of conversion. The color is probably light grey (I345). The van lived most of its life in California and was re-imported and then restored in Germany only recently. Speedo with “MPH” instead of “Km/h” and “Emergency” on the hazard light pull switch and yellow and red reflectors on the sides of the van as details for the US-American market. Beautiful original wooden campervan interior. Interesting exhaust pipe construction to funnel the exhaust fumes of the gas fridge out through the ceiling. 1600 ccm B5 engine with 47 horse power. Looks a bit unusual that the spare tire is in the rear and reduces the bed space. Would have expected it to be at the front of the car. But hey, might be original as well.
The bus is now the pride of a fleet of about 3 kombis of “Old Berlin Bulli”, a new VW bus rental company in Berlin. They offer kombis with chauffeur service for city tours, weddings and film sets. Some more technical details on this campervan (“Mr. Alvah”) here on their web site. The slightly bumpy company name probably stems from Volkswagen’s strategy to come after you if you use “Bulli” in your company name. In Germany “Bulli” is the well-known and very positive nick name for the VW kombi. Volkswagen purchased the rights to this name only in 2007 and since then enforces that only VW is allowed to use it. As I understand, you have to add something like “Old” or “Classic” to your Bulli-related company name to get the official approval of VW. This seems what these guys have done as there is a little “Officially licensed by Volkswagen” note on the footer of all their web sites. Anyway, nice to see some kombi/bulli lovers have found a way to make a living of the kombi. And cool that they keep this beautiful bus in good shape and on the road!

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