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Little Classics News: 10 March 2015

Today Sees 65 Years of the Volkswagen Transporter

Classic Volkswagen Transporter

Production of the first Volkswagen Transporter began 65 years ago and much loved classic is still going strong today. The first models were built in Wolfsburg before production started at a new facility in Hanover in 1956. This date also marks the beginning of a unique automotive love story: today, the entire model series has attained cult status. Whether hippy or tradesman.

It all began in 1947 with a pencil sketch: the Dutch car importer Ben Pon saw a simple flat-bed vehicle at the Volkswagen plant and, taking it as a basic idea, he sketched the outlines of a Transporter with Beetle DNA in his notebook.

Classic VW Transporter production line

Two years later, Volkswagen Plant Manager, Heinrich Nordhoff, presented four prototypes: two panel vans, a kombi and a small bus. Nordhoff promised that the Transporter would be as uncompromising and robust as the Beetle: ‘These vehicles won't be handled with kid gloves, rather they will be treated roughly.’

Designers used the engine and axles of the Beetle. Instead of a central tubular frame of the popular family car, the bus had a unitised body that was mounted on a ladder frame. The 1.1-litre engine produced 24 BHP at 3300 rpm. The bus could transport up to eight people and the two rear seat rows could be removed easily to free up load space for around 750 kg of payload.

Transporter production line

Alfred Haesner, Head of Technical Development of Volkswagen GmbH from 1948 to 1952, said: ‘Accordingly, this type of commercial delivery vehicle can be used for all branches of business, for rush deliveries and freight, e.g. as a small bus, a special-purpose vehicle, postal vehicle, ambulance or mobile station.’

Production began on 8 March 1950, in Hall 1 of the Volkswagen plant in Wolfsburg, and ten vehicles were manufactured per day.

Classic VW Transporters

By the end of 1950, 8001 Transporters had already been built. Demand was enormous, especially since its affordable price made it an attractive option to tradesmen and retail businesses. The unique vehicle quickly became an export hit as well. Volkswagen buses could simply transport anything and everything.

A Volkswagen bus with a camping box made its appearance in 1951 at the automobile exhibition in Berlin. The delivery van with a rear engine suddenly held the promise of an entirely different type of travel. For the first time, it travelled over the Alps. Later, it was driven to India when hippies discovered the classic for themselves.

Four years after its production launch, the 100,000th Volkswagen Transporter came off the assembly line in Wolfsburg in 1954. By this point, there were 30 different models of the vehicle. Daily production in Wolfsburg was at 80 vehicles but it couldn’t produce more because the plant was already filled to capacity with Beetle production. It became clear that the Transporter needed its own plant.

Construction work began in early March 1955 in Hannover-Stöcken, and the plant was built from the ground up in just one year. In March 1956, the first "Made in Stöcken" Transporters come off the assembly line. This was the beginning of a future symbol of the ‘economic wonder years’. Today, a total of 11 million T-series vehicles spanning five generations have been produced worldwide.


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