Volkswagen T1 Camper Van History
Volkswagen T1 Camper Van featuring Smiths' Gauges
In 1950, German automobile manufacturer Volkswagen released the ‘Transporter’ or, as it is now known in the UK, the ‘Camper’. Little did they know that well over half a century later, this design of van was going to be lovingly driven on every continent on the globe.
The original ‘Transporter’ was given the factory designation ‘Type 2’ on the basis that it was the second model of car to be manufactured by Volkswagen after the Type 1 (Beetle). In the 1990s, the complete range of VW Transporters was further classified by Volkswagen with a series of ‘T’ numbers. The original 1950s VW Transporter was named the ‘T1’, although it is also commonly known as the ‘Splitscreen’ or ‘Splittie’ (due to the split windscreen) and the ‘Microbus’.
The unique and distinctive Split-Screen design only features on the Type 2 T1 model. The two separate windscreens create a ‘vee’ shape at the front of the vehicle and was introduced to improve the aerodynamics.
Early versions of the VW T1 featured a very large rear engine cover and, subsequently, they were often referred to as the ‘Barndoor’. The design was changed in 1955. In the 1990s, VW retrospectively named this early model as the T1a.
The VW T1 was produced in Europe and the USA between 1950 and 1957, with production continuing until 1975 in Brazil. The vehicle was spacious with an overall length of 4.28m, width of 1.72m and height of 1.94m. During the production period, four different engine sizes were used:
The VW T1 became hugely popular during the 1960s and is strongly associated with the Hippie movement. At the time, Hippies and other such groups were protesting against the establishment. The VW T1 was ideal as it had a low running and maintenance cost, whilst also providing a place to live. It was the total opposite of the popular gas guzzling large American cars of the time. Hippies would decorate their VW T1s, many becoming works of art, in a tradition that continues today. Music festivals and protest events were festooned with VW T1s and that association remains strong even in 2017.
Split Screen T1s are often seen as VW Patina Campers, covered in rust, but with a very special and unique character.
To support the ever-growing number of VW Camper enthusiasts and restorers, SMITHS developed a special VW range of gauges. These replacement gauges, based on the original designs, are manufactured in the UK and supplied all over the world. The latest Speedometers and Tachometers have the same styling, shape and colour as the original gauges, and are now available in a digital format. The Digital Tachometer is compatible with the original points ignition or upgraded electronic systems. Other gauges for the VW T1 include the Time Clock, Oil Pressure Gauge, Oil Temperature Gauge, and Voltmeter.
The VW Type 2 T1 continues to hold a special place in motoring history and is one of the most popular and unique vehicles of all-time.