AFTER a journey of almost 63 years, the end of the road is finally in sight for one of the motoring world’s all-time classic vehicles, the Volkswagen Camper.
The old VW, beloved of hippies, surfers and travelling types from Cornwall to California, is finally to cease production at the end of next year.
Formally known as the Kombi or VW T2, it is nowadays produced only in Brazil – but new safety legislation coming into force there on 1st January 2014 will spell the end.
To comply with the rules, the Kombi would have to incorporate ABS and two airbags – and the manufacturers say converting it would not be a viable proposition.
The vehicle was launched as a nine-seater back in 1950 and 251 examples are still churned out every day at the Volkswagen factory at Anchieta in Sao Paolo.
It entered production as a panel van before assuming its better-known identity as the Camper. Over the years it has become a truly iconic vehicle.
It was closely associated with the ‘flower power’ generation of the 1960s and its performance fitted well with the laid-back image of those days – its 24hp 1.1-litre air-cooled rear engine hardly jerked you back in the seat.
A 1.5-litre engine arrived in 1963 but it still only produced a modest 54hp. Progress was never more than leisurely, especially when it was loaded up with children, hangers-on and sundry items of baggage.
The Kombi has appeared in numerous guises over the years, including vans, ambulances and pick-ups, and there have been countless Camper derivatives. Today they are frequently to be seen congregating at summer music festivals (apparently), often lovingly restored.
The classic T2 ceased production in Europe in 1979 when it was replaced with the squared-off T3, a less distinctive rear-engined job but one that has also generated its own dedicated following.
Now Volkswagen’s Brazil development boss Egon Feichter says it would be far too costly to re-engineer the Kombi to comply with the forthcoming regulations, although it does conform to South American emission regulations.
It is built in two versions – a nine- or 12-seater bus or panel van – and there’s a factory option of a rear window demister. There’s also a UK cottage industry still importing and converting the Brazilian-built T2s.
A lot of people will be sad to see the end of the VW Camper but so many have been cherished and restored by enthusiasts the world over that you can be sure that in another 63 years, there’ll still be decorated Campers to be seen, wheezing up hills on their slow journeys to Newquay or San Francisco.