The Volkswagen Transporter T1 might well be the best known minivan on the planet. Especially with the original Westfalia camping equipment they are widely sought after.
Allegedly the original Volkswagen Transporter was designed to an idea by Dutch Volkswagen importer Ben Pon. In 1947 he draws, so the story goes, the van that would be one of Volkswagens largest successes. Seating above the front axle, engine in the back and a generous loading bay. All of that in a cute little package. Numerous varieties of the successful concept are created and produced and it doesn’t take long before a Germany based soldier turns to caravan builder Westfalia with the question to transform his Transporter into a camper van. It’s the start of yet another lasting success story, the co-operation between Volkswagen and Westfalia.
From the early fifties on, Westfalia builds caravans and trailers soon followed by these tiny Volkswagen camper vans. At first they offer their Campingbox interior and in a later stage complete cars. The Campingbox exists of separate cupboards and elements that can easily be installed and removed again. Working horse during the week, camper van in the weekend, that’s a multivan for you. Early examples like the SO23 are succeeded by the star of this video, the SO34. In the Volkswagen scene, these are called the Flipseat models, because of the ingenious mechanism that flips the backrest of the front seat turning it into an integral part of the camping interior. It can even be blocked half way to turn it into a child’s bed, one of the specific characteristics of this model.
It is this exact model Tamara Lepelaar is looking for. As a college student she tours Europe by car and tent, soon discovering her unstoppable longing for a camper van. At one point she stumbles upon a very early barn door VW Transporter and falls hopelessly in love with the little van. Alas the object of her affection is though cheap to far gone to realistically do up on a students budget. Once she finishes school, she starts a new search for her dream van. In the USA this time, where in the end the so desired SO34 is tracked down. Again dreams shatter when the vendor retracts his offer at the last moment. Bummer. Than again, that very same night another SO34 appears online. In the UK this time. Contact is made, a flight booked and a sighting arranged. The one way ticket to England is a bit of a gamble, but a lucky one. On arrival this one appears to be the ideal van. It’s a solid base and surprisingly complete. With a bit of effort this could well be the van of her dreams.
Tamara isn’t the only one dreaming of a T1, the van is popular throughout the world. Many people cherish childhood memories to these buses and the younger generations just love the appeal of these cute little vans. Everybody wants one and you see them wherever you go. There are still quite a few around and sound examples are still being shipped over from the USA, where it has always been a best seller, back to mainland Europe.
On arrival in the Netherlands Tamara’s Flipseat is returned to its former glory. The bus is resprayed in an original two tone from the 1965 catalogue and Tamara reconditioned and tracked down many of the original details. Like all the small camping gear from the era that takes this bus right back in time. To the days where cosiness wasn’t a swear word. Enjoying the fifties and sixties atmosphere that oozes from the van, she now tours the country with her children next to her on the flipseat.