Volkswagen Camper & Beetle Guide – A History of VW Bay Window & Split Screen Camper Vans & Beetles


Camper Van / Bus

The Split Screen Bus

Split screen buses were first produced in 1949 and continued on for the next 18 years. They were known unimaginably as the Type 2. The first Type 2 was called the Bulli and came in 2 models the Kombi and Panel van. The Microbus was introduced a year later in 1950. Splitties, Type 2, or Split Screen Volkwagen buses came in many guises; barndoor, panel van, kombi,minibus, standard, deluxe, barn door, ambulance, fire van, single cab pickup and double cab pickup, Samba, with various options due to their age such as walk-through, double door, semaphore and safari to name but a few. However it is the Samba model that is the most desirable of all.

The VW Bay Window Camper Van

The VW Bay Window Camper van, still known as a Type 2, was first produced in 1967 and continued being produced in 1979. It was much improved on the split screen, offering a slightly larger body so could carry larger loads, larger and more powerful engines up to a 2 litre model towards the end of production, better electrics, a more refined and comfortable ride. However for many the bay window lacks the original design of the Splittie. It is really the Bay Window bus that really accelerated the use of these unique vans as a mobile home or camper van. These vans were converted by various firms, such as Westfalia (also known as a Westy, Danbury, Devon, Dormobile and Viking. These firms offered different interior configurations for sleeping, cooking and storage as well as differing elevating roof types. These ranged from small staight up vertical pop top roofs to front hinged, rear hinged and side hinged roofs, sleeping between 2 to 7 people!

Volkswagen Beetle / Bug

The Volkswagen Beetle (known unimaginatively as the Type 1 was produced as an economic and robust little car for the people. Ferdinand Porsche was instructed to build a car that was capable of transporting two adults and three children at a speed of 100 km/h. The VW Beetle started production in 1938, finishing a massive 65 years later in 2003. It was designed to be mechanically simple, economical to maintain and robust, with as little to go wrong as possible. This has probably underpins why so many Beetles are still on the road, and why it has its reputation for reliability and sturdiness. Production continued in Mexico until the New Beetle was introduced.

Karmann Ghia

The Karmann Ghia started production in 1955, the results of Volkswagen, Karmann a German coachbuilding company, and Ghia, an Italian design company. It was marketed by Volkswagen as a 2%2B2 coupe and convertible and was built using the running gear of the VW Beetle. Although the Karmann Ghia had the looks of a sports car, it never had the power or speed. The Karmann Ghia in both coupe and convertible forms is still a very sought-after car and is very desirable. In 1961, VW introduced the Type 34 Karmann Ghia (or Razor Edge Ghia), based on its new Type 3 platform. It featured the new 1500 cc engine and the result was the fastest, most luxurious, and most expensive Volkswagen at the time.