Volkwagen’s famous campervan celebrates 70 years since rolling off factory floor

They are not the fastest, or most comfortable ride – but few vehicles inspire as much love and devotion as the VW camper van.

The appeal of their offbeat motoring chic is huge. And, like great Hollywood stars, their classic style is always in fashion.

The first rolled out of a factory 70 years ago this month. Since then the iconic vans have launched millions on the open road.

Everyone from families on summer ­holidays to surfers heading for the coast and hippies hitting rock festivals have ­cherished their faithful VW.

They have featured in films such as Field of Dreams, What’s Up, Doc? and Little Miss Sunshine.


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Former Formula One world champ Jenson Button, 40, drives one, as does TV chef Jamie Oliver, 44, and The Greatest Showman star Hugh Jackman, 51.

Some celebs are such fans that they have used VW campers on their wedding day, including Vernon Kay, 45, and Tess Daly, 50, in 2003 and singer Ellie Goulding, 33, last year.

The spacious vehicle, a ­forerunner of the now common ­minibus, began life in the sketchbook of an importer called Ben Pon.

He visited the VW factory in Wolfsburg, Germany, with the ­intention of bringing Beetles to the Netherlands.

Engineers were so impressed by the ­modifications they ­decided to use them to design the next ­generation of the Type 1 Beetle, the Type 2 camper van.

The new model was unveiled at the 1949 Geneva Motor Show then went on sale in March 1950.


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It was initally available in two different models – the Transporter, a traditional cargo van, and the Kombi which had seats in the back. Early models sold for £668, equivalent to £23,062 in today’s money.

Such has been their huge popularity, a modern day camper will set you back £38,000.

The early model’s relative low cost were key to their attraction to the hippy ­generation of the late 60s and early 70s.

Young people who embraced the counter culture of the day, which included opposing the Vietnam War, ­took to the Type 2 because it was ­affordable, big enough to sleep in and ­recognisably not American.

The original Type 2 was never built to go fast – with a top speed of 76mph – but its lack of performance has not limited its appeal even to the most ardent petrol heads.

Ex-Top Gear presenter Richard Hammond, 50, is a proud owner.


Other famous fans include Trainspotting star Ewan McGregor, 48, and Desperate Housewife Teri Hatcher, 55.

The van inspired The Who hit Magic Bus and the band’s singer Roger Daltrey, 76, owns one.

While Jamie Oliver’s blue model, which appeared in his 2005 TV series Jamie’s Great Italian Escape, was driven by Top Gear’s The Stig as the terrified chef tried to rustle up a salad in the back.

Instagram even has a dedicated hashtag #vanlife, featuring old and new VWs converted into bohemian homes.

Since the creation of the camper there have been ten ­different versions – from the hippy van of the 60s to the modern ­transporter we know today.

But the quirkiest of models are often the bespoke modifications carried out by owners who convert their vans into unique spaces.

Creative Camper fans have turned their Type 2’s into coffee shops, cocktail bars, discos and even DJ booths.

After 70 years as the undisputed king of cool on the road, Volkswagen is showing no sign of giving up on the camper van.

In a nod to the flower power generation who made it famous, the German car giant has announced plans for the Volkswagen I.D. Buzz, an eco-friendly electric version of the model for 2022.

It will cost £50,000 and will be able to travel 370 miles on one charge.

The technology seems a far cry from the 1950s but it looks more like the first ever VW than any model has in years.

The original broke the mould and changed the face of motoring. Maybe the Buzz will do the biz again for VW.

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