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The Love of the VW Bus

Jun 13, 2008
The Chrysler minivan may have burst onto the market with more ferocity, but the VW bus is what really started the trend decades before this. The VW bus had a very minimal amount of horsepower, but they were so fun and reliable. They were the perfect automobile for anyone who wanted a good adventure, but was always working with a small budget. These buses spent years and years carting families around the country on road trips and became a landmark and defining feature of the sixties. During the sixties, many of the youth shunned mainstream automobiles in favor of the VW bus, a rolling political and cultural icon.

The VW bus was not unlike the Beetle that preceded it. The Volkswagen Beetle was the very first automobile that was manufactured under the Volkswagen label and the bus was quick to follow suit. The VW bus appealed to the basic American who was frugal with their money, but could also appreciate the solid construction of it. Buyers of this automobile also had the luxury of a superior level of fuel economy despite the fact a gallon of gasoline was pretty much the cheapest commodity around.

In Minden, Germany, Volkswagens homeland, the rationale behind the van was a different story. The idea of creating a cargo based carrier from existing Beetle running gear originated in 1947 with Ben Pon, a Dutch businessman and hopeful VW importer.

He saw the need for an inexpensive commercial vehicle and showed a rough sketch to the British authorities who, following the end of the Second World War, were in charge of VW manufacturing. Pon was inspired by the Plattenwagen, a very basic flat deck VW truck that was used to shuttle parts to different factory work stations. He saw it as the perfect truck to help Germany, Holland and the rest of the war ravaged European nations get back on their feet as all manner of commercial transportation was in great demand. By the year 1948, a full scale model of this concept was developed and the first prototype was underway. The very first model was shown at the Geneva Motor Show in Switzerland. This prototype was received very well among the people, but many upgrades were made over the years to the brakes, steering, shell of the car and the amount of cargo it was able to hold. The VW bus was not just a regular automobile; it was something that revolutionized future of vans, buses and minivans.
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