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Volkswagen Transporter

Volkswagen TransporterWithout doubt the Transporter is the
  classic Volkswagen of the moment —
  surpassing even the Beetle in popularity.
  Volkswagen enthusiast Jonathan Harvey
  explores the rise of this phenomenon in
  his book,
Volkswagen Transporter, now
  available in hardback...”

THE UPSURGE IN POPULARITY of the Volkswagen Transporter in its various guises is in no small part due to the rare combination of longevity and versatility that has endeared it to millions of owners around the world since its introduction in 1950.

Author Jonathan Harvey writes in a lively, authoritative style; documenting the history of the Transporter through its first three incarnations between 1950 and 1990. A year-by-year evaluation of each generation is detailed in the following chapters of Volkswagen Transporter, with terrific colour photographs that reflect many different styles and an explanation of how to identify specific models.

Nostalgia and the determination to make use of any available leisure time has added to today's interest in VW Transporters — especially in Camper guise, which will be forever associated with the 'flower power' era of the late Sixties and early Seventies when no self-respecting hippy would have been seen at pop festivals without a brightly-coloured ride. Dove Blue was the most popular base colour for the pre-March 1955 vehicles, followed by Pearl Grey.

Original promotional literature and advertisements are included in Volkswagen Transporter and give a sense of period to the subject matter. One advertisement has a Transporter driver leaning out to look down at a Beetle with the witty caption: "Some Volkswagen owners look down on other Volkswagen owners".

The seeds of the Transporter were sown in January 1930 with Ferdinand Porsche's 'People's Car' at the birth of Volkswagen and there are photographs in the book of the early Plattenwagen that utilised the chassis of the Kübelwagen which had Beetle running gear.

One of the most interesting chapters is Chapter 6: Special Models. Both the Double Cab Pick-up, launched in November 1958, and the High Roof Delivery van that became available in the Autumn of 1961 for the '62 model year, started life as Special Order models produced by authorised manufacturers. Check out the photographs of ambulances and fire brigade vehicles from the 1950s — by the early 60s it was possible to order from well over 100 special models. Hot Dogs, anybody?

The first-generation Transporters were known as 'Splitties' due to their split-pane windscreen; the second-generation vehicles were nicknamed 'Bays' due to their panoramic windscreen; and the slab-sided, flat-fronted, third-generation model is = understandably = commonly called the 'Wedge'.

The pre-March 1955 Microbus had interesting two tone paintwork and the interior fittings were superior to that of the Kombi. The Microbus Deluxe was the most costly version of the first-generation Transporter but had more superior fittings and trim.

The Volkswagen Camper is an icon in its own right; and the author cites some of the many Transporter conversions that have been produced by various companies over the years — with names like Karisma and Multicar. Kits were even available for you to fit yourself. Jonathan also provides a fascinating insight into the countless specialist vehicles produced by Volkswagen in response to customer demand.

Armed with the necessary knowledge, facts and figures, prospective owners are then led by Volkswagen Transporter through the process of buying a Transporter, including choosing the right model, where to buy, what to look for, potential pitfalls and the relative values of different models. There are also chapters on caring for your vehicle and getting the most out of it and finally there is a guide to clubs, traders and Transporter shows.

Despite a well-earned reputation for strength and reliability, Transporters require a degree of routine maintenance to keep them in good running order, and the author offers a useful overview of the main points requiring periodic attention. While on a practical level, he also describes some of the engine upgrades available to those owners requiring more power.

Although grossly underpowered for today's traffic conditions (just 25bhp available for the earliest vehicles), there are alternatives and a late 1600 Bay will take a beefier Type 4-style power unit — unless you are a purist or wanting to retain originality for entering a concours event.

Volkswagen Transporter looks at other popular modifications, from elevating roofs to lowered suspension and custom paint jobs. Containing enough helpful and interesting information to satisfy the most ardent fan of any of the numerous variations, Volkswagen Transporter offers a glimpse of life after the first three generations. The Camper, in particular, has always been an attention-grabber has enjoyed its fair share of coverage. Jonathan Harvey's finely-documented study of the Transporter will be well-received and treasured as a reliable reference book.

One of the Haynes Enthusiast Guide Books series, Volkswagen Transporter by Jonathan Harvey is out now in hardback at an RRP of £19.99. ISBN: 978 1 84425 406 4.

The book's editor Derek Smith works in the Books Division at Haynes Publishing. He lives in Somerset and is himself a Volkswagen Camper owner and enthusiast.