From the ruins of the Third Reich in Germany emerged one of the most instantly recognisable vehicles of the second half of the 20th century: the Volkswagen Transporter. With origins often attributed to a sketch produced by the flamboyant Dutchman Ben Pon, the reality is that the Transporter was the result of plans developed for Heinz Nordhoff, the highly individualistic Director General of Volkswagen from 1948 until 1968.
Launched in 1949, the Transporter was designed to provide the company with a second model to run alongside the equally recognisable Beetle as a means of generating income. It was 'designed for town and country, short and long distances, autobahns and field tracks, goods and passengers, retails and industry' and as such was to prove readily adaptable to a whole range of forms, including the camper van.
Manufactured for almost 20 years in Germany and until 1975 in Brazil, the first generation Transporter achieved peak production in its homeland in 1964 when more than 187,000 were built. In all, almost two million were built in Germany and a further 450,000 at Volkswagen factories elsewhere- a staggering total for what started out as a purely utilitarian vehicle.
Richard Copping, an acknowledged expert on the history of Volkswagen and the Transporter in particular, explores the history of the first generation model from its post-war origins through to the end of an era when production ceased in the mid-1970s.