A vintage Camper for the holidays?  - Trends-Trends on PC

A vintage Camper for the holidays? – Trends-Trends on PC

75 years ago the idea of ​​the VW Combi was born, scribbled on a diary page. Very quickly, the model was available in a “camping-car” version. Always popular, it delights lovers of getaways. A Brussels company is offering to rent a collector’s item for the holidays.

Are you looking for an original holiday or weekend formula? And why not opt ​​for a vintage motorhome… This is an opportunity to experience the holidays at a different pace. To escape by the side roads, taking the time and immersing yourself in the past. But if there are many modern motorhome rental companies, it is much more difficult to rent old models. The Brussels company Kombi-Legend offers this rare possibility. And she does it with good old VW Camper Combis, the stars of the genre, born with the stroke of a pen in the spring of 1947.

Are you looking for an original holiday or weekend formula? And why not opt ​​for a vintage motorhome… This is an opportunity to experience the holidays at a different pace. To escape by the side roads, taking the time and immersing yourself in the past. But if there are many modern motorhome rental companies, it is much more difficult to rent older models. The Brussels company Kombi-Legend offers this rare possibility. And it does it with good old VW Camper Combis, the stars of the genre, born with the stroke of a pen in the spring of 1947. At the time, Ben Pon, who was Volkswagen’s importer in the Netherlands, returns to the motherhouse in Wolfsburg. In the factory, he notices a flatbed vehicle built to facilitate the transport of heavy parts on the assembly lines. Pon starts from this idea to draw on a sheet of his diary the main lines of a utility vehicle of a new kind, with an engine in the back and a body-shaped structure. A simple and practical vehicle, offering an impressive loading surface. The director of Volkswagen is seduced by the project and, two years later, prototypes are built. The production of the series model started on March 8, 1950. The vehicle used the engine (1.1 liter of 25 hp!) from the Beetle, but with reinforced running gear and, instead of the central tubular chassis, the “bus” received a self-supporting body mounted on a ladder frame. Ben Pon, who wanted to create a simple utility vehicle, unknowingly drew the lines of a machine that was to become legendary. The success continues today with the seventh generation of the model! The production of the first VW Bus therefore started in 1950. And already in 1951, a Volkswagen bus with a “Camping Box” was unveiled at the Berlin Auto Show. This kit, supplied by the German equipment manufacturer Westfalia, consists of a sofa bed, a folding table, a wardrobe, curtains and a stove. The utility then turns into a leisure vehicle. As early as 1957, Volkswagen incorporated the VW “Camper” (as it was now called) into its own range. But the construction is still entrusted to Westfalia. It must be admitted that when it was launched, the Camper was not an immediate success. Only a few years after the end of the Second World War, the time was not yet for recreation but for reconstruction and economic recovery. However, this motorhome was expensive. At the 6,000 German marks of the basic Transporter (i.e. 120,000 Belgian francs or around 25,000 euros today including inflation), it was still necessary to pay around 1,000 marks for the conversion. It was not until the 1960s that demand exploded. At the beginning of the decade, Volkswagen was producing barely 10 Camper per day, but up to 70 in 1967, when the first generation (T1) of the Combi was retired. It was in the summer of 67 that the second generation of the Combi (T2) was presented. The model is longer, its windows are larger, its windshield is now in one piece, while its side door becomes sliding and its chassis is refined. This T2 will obviously be entitled to its Camper version. This one will be a real hit in the USA. From 1968, an average of 100 Campers were produced every day and a quarter of them crossed the Atlantic on large cargo ships from the port of Emden in northwestern Germany. The Westfalia workshops are then running at full capacity and employ more than a thousand people. The Americans even perfected an original holiday technique: they took a flight to Europe, bought a VW Camper which they received directly from the factory and criss-crossed the four corners of the Old Continent on board. At the end of their trip, they send the vehicle by boat to the United States and pick it up on their return. From 1966 to 1970, Camper exports quadrupled to nearly 20,000 units per year, nearly 95% of which was for America alone. Westfalia then produced up to 125 Transporter conversions per day. Depending on its interior layout, the Camper was available in multiple versions, named after major European cities. The “Helsinki” becomes fashionable with its angled table at the back. From 1976, the “Berlin” version was launched, with a swiveling front passenger seat. Very ingenious, its interior layout is still relevant on today’s VW motorhome, called “California”. It is precisely a T2 “Berlin” version that the Kombi-Legend company rents. This model in perfect condition dates from 1977 and lived its youth in the United States, before returning to its continent of origin. Sliding the side door is like opening the corridors of time. The upholstery is entirely original, with its green and yellow “plaid” pattern. There is also that little smell typical of furniture that has survived the seasons. Every little space is skilfully exploited. Cupboards are dug in the four corners of the machine. In a jiffy, you flip the front right seat and unfold the table to transform the cabin into a cozy dinette. We simmer a small dish on the gas stove, while a sink with electric water supply and waste water collection container allows you to do the dishes. To stand on board, simply raise the roof. The maneuver is carried out easily, via an articulated arm which does not require too much elbow grease. And when night comes, we draw the curtains, we unfold the roof bed and we transform the back seat into a berth. Four people can then spend the night. And in the early morning, after a coffee and croissant, we break camp in an instant. And then there is the pleasure of driving… Like all T2s, this example is of course equipped with a rear engine. In this case a large 2-liter 4-cylinder 70 hp. This block awakens in the characteristic crackle of Boxer architecture (flat cylinders opposed two by two, as in a Beetle, a 2CV or a… Porsche 911!). Recently refurbished, the engine pushes here with astonishing vigor. The turbine of its air-cooled sound also whistles happily. No coast scares this Camper, which can also hold an average of 100 km / h on the highway, or even point to 130 if necessary. But the goal here is rather to take it easy. Especially since the sparkling engine still drinks about 13 l/100 km of super 98… The general noise on board and the absence of air conditioning do not encourage too long trips either… At the wheel , it should also be borne in mind that a 45-year-old car does not brake like a current model. You have to anticipate and get involved a minimum in driving. This is also part of the charm released by such a machine. And if the direction is not assisted, it turns out to be quite light, since this VW does not carry an engine on the nose. To be sure not to leave customers struggling or panicking, Philippe Jacques, the boss of Kombi-Legend, provides a little training anyway. He takes the time to explain how to handle the furniture and interior accessories, but also takes a good 15-minute walk with customers. And the experience is rarely off-putting. According to Philippe Jacques, tenants often have trouble giving him the key to his Camper. After their stay, most are conquered and many rush on the internet to hunt for classified ads for similar models… In good condition, these are however rare or very expensive. “A fine copy of the T2 Westfalia today costs between 30,000 and 35,000 euros. Beware of versions from Brazil: the interior is sometimes attractive but it is rarely original and the chassis are often eaten away by corrosion”, warns Philippe Jacques. The condition of the chassis is precisely a point to watch out for when buying a VW Bus. And beware: given the rising rating of this little bus, scams are legion…

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