It was back on March 8th 1950 that the very first Volkswagen Transporter was crafted and production has continued ever since, with many different types of Volkswagen van models being sold by the German company over those years, making the Volkswagen Transporter the world’s longest-lasting production run for a commercial vehicle. It is estimated that over 13 million vans have been sold over these more than seven decades, while many old Volkswagen van models have been picked up by collectors over the years too.
If studying the history of VW old models, it’s important to note that the Volkswagen Transporter has had many different names over time. It has been referred as a bus or microbus, while many have simply called them old Volkswagen vans. There have been more commercial names too, such as Bulli or Kombi.
Here, in this guide to 60’s Volkswagen van and 70’s Volkswagen van models, you can see which were the most popular types for drivers and which VW van old models have become the most sought-after by collectors.
Volkswagen van models: What are the different types of VW vans?
There are seven different generations of Volkswagen van models, with the first one being released in 1950 and the most recent one being announced by the German car manufacturer in 2021. The rough dates for each of these generations are as so:
- T1: 1950 to 1967
- T2: 1967 to 1979
- T3: 1979 to 1992
- T4: 1990 to 2003
- T5: 2003 to 2015
- T6: 2015 to 2021
- T7: 2021 to present
Within these different generations, there has been great variety in size and style and appreciation for these vans. In this guide, we’ll focus on the Volkswagen vans old models from 60’s and 70’s, because these are the old Volkswagen vans that are best loved by car enthusiasts and collectors alike.
How the Volkswagen T1 Samba became the VW hippie van
No discussion of old Volkswagen van models is complete without a mention of the Volkswagen T1 Samba, one of the very first buses launched by the company. It’s still not fully known why it was given that name, and one theory is that it’s the acronym of the German term ‘Sonnendach-Ausführung mit besonderem Armaturenbrett’, meaning ‘Sunroof Version with Special Dashboard’.
Also sometimes called the as the Sunroof Deluxe, the Volkswagen T1 Samba was first launched in 1951, but it became a symbol of the Swinging 60’s and 70’s as second-hand buses were snapped up on the cheap and taken across the USA and beyond. It wasn’t until 1962 that the one millionth VW van was sold, so it was really in that decade, with the rise of the 60’s Volkswagen van, that this camper van became so iconic.
For this reason, many consider the Volkswagen T1 Samba to be the most emblematic model of the legendary VW bus. It was known for having 23 windows and a fabric sunroof, making it perfect for driving and also the perfect camper van for staying in. The Samba also had an unmistakeable two-tone paint, although many decided to customise their own Samba 60’s Volkswagen van by painting it with their own colours.
When people ask ‘What is a VW hippie van?’, the answer is usually the Volkswagen T1 Samba. Depending on each person’s memories or vision of the 60’s and 70’s, they may have different kinds of old Volkswagen van models in mind, but the Samba is the one that most think of when picturing what came to be known as VW hippie vans. That’s even true with younger people, thanks to the vehicle’s prominence in That 70’s Show.
Collecting VW old models: What is the rarest Volkswagen van?
For the reasons outlined above, one of the most sought-after and rarest old Volkswagen vans is the Volkswagen T1 Samba. There were actually only just over 100,000 Deluxe Samba camper vans produced at the time and, given how many years have passed since the last unit of this 50’s and 60’s Volkswagen van rolled off the production line, they’re extremely hard to find. In fact, a Samba 1965 Deluxe Bus once sold for $302,500 at auction, highlighting just how rare and desired the Volkswagen T1 Samba is.
Because this vehicle is so beloved and has become known as the ultimate VW hippie van over time, build-up models of the Volkswagen T1 Samba are also in high demand, especially high-quality versions with all the intricate details of the original vehicle.
Therefore, the old Volkswagen van models are very much being kept alive today thanks to the style, sentiments and memories that those camper vans continue to evoke. The Volkswagen T1 Samba may have been produced in the 50’s and 60’s, then becoming the ultimate 60’s Volkswagen van or 70’s Volkswagen van on the second-hand market, but its legacy lives on well into the 21st century, even as the German manufacturer continues to work on the T7 generation of new VW buses.