Australia saw its first Volkswagen Type 2 ‘Transporter’ models in the mid-1950s. Despite the proximity of World War 2 and their German origins, ‘Dak Dak’vans quickly gained popularity with fleet buyers and especially the Postmaster-General’s Department – back then responsible for postal services and telephones – which bought thousands of them.
Bodystyles available here included the seven-seat Microbus, delivery van, drop-side utility and dual-cab utility. The original engine was the same 1147cc as in the Beetle and produced 36bhp (27kW). Top speed was 95-100km/h but when wound up with a bit of a downhill run a Kombi could make it to 110.
Major change came in 1967 with replacement of the ‘split window’ Kombi with a physically larger and more powerful ‘bay window’ version.
In addition to their larger, single piece windscreen and more capacious body, these Type 2s sat on a wider track and could carry up to nine passengers or 1.2 tonnes in cargo. Early versions used 1.6-litre engines but as the 1970s rolled by, engine capacity expanded until finally reaching 2.0 litres.
By 1978 a 1970cm3 version of the horizontally-opposed engine was producing 51kW of power and came with the option of three-speed automatic transmission.
Top speed increased from the raucous 112km/h recorded by a 1.6-litre Microbus in 1971 to a far more civilized 130km/h. Acceleration also improved – 70-100km/h in 1980 taking 10.6 seconds.
Fuel consumption is determined by driving technique and conditions – a fully-laden ‘bus being pushed along at 100km/h into a headwind will chew fuel like a V8 but a 1.8-litre driven for economy can achieve better than 10L/100km.
Gen. 2 Kombis took a more serious view of safety with heavier cabin framing creating a ‘safety cell’ to protect occupants – those up front anyway – in the event of side or frontal impacts.
New bumpers from 1973 provided additional protection and were introduced in conjunction with relocation of the indicators to a more visible spot high on the front panel. The seats improved but the ‘wheel in the lap’ steering position wasn’t negotiable.
As Japanese models began to dominate the delivery end of the van market, Kombis became more focused on family or corporate transport duties. They also found fame as the basis for self-contained campers and many survive as viable ‘weekenders’.
Wider wheels with radials helped with steering response and disc brakes were welcomed, especially by owners who filled the space in the back with lots of gear.
Kombi variants from the pre-1980s maintain strong resale values and are among the cheapest vehicles in the market to maintain. Today and following the lead of split-window versions, the money being sought for 1968-82 versions has increased alarmingly and a basic van might cost $30,000. At the opposite end of the market some fully-restored camper conversions have been seen in the vicinity of $60,000.
EXCELLENT $35,000 (Note: exceptional cars will demand more)
SMART BUYER’S TROUBLESHOOTING
1967 - 1982
Rust attacks floors and peripheral areas such as the wheel arch lips, window surrounds and below the cabin doors. The sliding side door needs to be checked for smooth movement and secure operation of the locking catch. Crash bars bolted to the front chassis rails warrant examination to confirm the mountings are secure and that a previous impact hasn’t bent the rails themselves. Roof damage to Kombis can go un-noticed during pre-purchase inspections, so take a look from a balcony or remember your ladder. Camper conversions raise some specific problems including leaks from the ‘pop top’ roof panel and gas fittings that may need specialist inspection.
Oil and exhaust system leaks are endemic with older VW motors but can usually wait for the engine to be rebuilt or replaced. Engine swaps to later, larger engines are an easy alternative. Fuel leaks are more serious and any sign or smell of fuel in the engine bay needs careful investigation as fire is a significant killer of older Kombis. Transaxles are extremely durable although the gear-shift is notchy by nature. Difficulty selecting first or reverse gears at a standstill usually indicates clutch wear. Driveshaft joints for 1970s models cost around $100 each.
Type 2 steering needs to be sharp with minimal free play at the wheel rim. Excessive slack indicates steering box wear. A Volks-Box that rocks and rolls is a candidate for imminent front suspension repairs. Replacement parts are freely available and inexpensive – late 1970s ball joints at around $50 each and shock absorbers from $70. Disc braked models should stop in a straight line without locking the rear wheels. Those that don’t could have a problem with brake proportioning or worn rear shoes.
Post-1967 Kombis switched from 6 volt to 12 volt electrics but headlight performance can still be appalling. Higher wattage or extra lights need to be installed by a professional. Kombi interiors are relatively inexpensive to renovate but in a bus there are a lot of seats to retrim and panels to replace. Trim panels in the rear area that get damaged by unsecured cargo can be hard to find in good condition and while new sets are available they cost $1400-1800. Fiddly items such as the glovebox liner ($80) and air-vents for around $30 each are still available.
NUMBER BUILT (1967-82) approx. 2.2 million
BODY TYPE: steel, integrated body/chassis, van, single or dual-cab utility, passenger bus
ENGINE: 1584, 1679, 1795, 1973cc horizontally opposed four-cylinder with overhead valves, single or twin downdraft carburettors or fuel-injection
POWER & TORQUE: 51kW @ 4200rpm, 143Nm@ 2800rpm (2.0-litre carburettor)
PERFORMANCE: 0-100km/h 22 seconds, 0-400 metres 21.7 seconds (2.0-litre carburettor)
TRANSMISSION: four-speed manual, three-speed automatic
SUSPENSION: Independent with torsion bars, trailing arms and telescopic shock absorbers (f) Independent with jointed shaft, trailing arms, torsion bars and telescopic shock absorbers (r)
BRAKES: disc or drum (f) drum (r) some with power assistance
TYRES: 185/SR14 radial