Celebrating 70 Years Of The Volkswagen Transporter

Celebrating 70 Years of the Volkswagen Transporter

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First Transporter launched at the Commercial Motor Show at Earl’s Court, London in 1954. A cumulative total of 13 million examples of the iconic model sold over six generations. From 786 UK sales in 1954 to 17,521 in 2023 – enduringly popular with British business. The new Transporter will be revealed at the IAA in…

Celebrating 70 Years Of The Volkswagen Transporter

First Transporter launched at the Commercial Motor Show at Earl’s Court, London in 1954. A cumulative total of 13 million examples of the iconic model sold over six generations. From 786 UK sales in 1954 to 17,521 in 2023 – enduringly popular with British business. The new Transporter will be revealed at the IAA in Munich in September this year.

Milton Keynes, UK, 10 July 2024 – The Volkswagen Transporter celebrates its 70th birthday this year, marking the platinum anniversary of its UK debut.

The Transporter, affectionately known as the Bulli, Kombi, VW bus, or microbus, first captured the world’s attention at the Commercial Motor Show at Earl’s Court, London in 1954. Since then, it has achieved remarkable success, with over 13 million units sold across six generations.

Over the decades, the Transporter has become a beloved vehicle for globetrotters, a reliable partner for businesses, and a staple for families. From its modest beginnings with 786 UK sales in 1954, it has grown exponentially, reaching 17,521 sales in 2023.

The future looks bright for this iconic vehicle. The latest iteration, the T6.1, launched in 2019, features a new dashboard, enhanced connectivity, and a modernized design with updated headlights and grille.

To honor this milestone, Volkswagen Commercial Vehicles has compiled a comprehensive guide to the Transporter’s illustrious history:

T1: 1950 to 1967
The T1 began as a hand-built panel van prototype in 1949, evolving into a rear-engine panel van, passenger van, and eight-seat vehicle. Borrowing its engine and gearbox from the Volkswagen Beetle, it offered a maximum payload of 750kg. The iconic “Samba” model, featuring all-round windows and a folding sunroof, was unveiled in 1951, followed by a pick-up version in 1952. Production moved from Wolfsburg to Hanover in 1956, with some models also built in Brazil. By 1967, approximately 1.9 million T1s had been sold, distinguished by their “splittie” windscreen.

T2: 1967 to 1979
Building on the cultural icon status of the T1, the T2 introduced a new front end, air intake grille, and standard sliding door. The pop-up roof camper version became a favorite among travelers. In 1972, Volkswagen introduced a zero-emission electric version. By the end of its production run, 2.14 million T2s had been built in Hanover, with continued production in Sao Paulo until 2013.

T3: 1979 to 1992
The T3 ushered the Transporter into the modern era with a wider body, increased passenger and cargo space, and improved safety. A flat engine, available in diesel, contributed to its spaciousness, while a new chassis offered car-like handling. Innovations introduced in 1985 included catalytic converters, turbochargers, and all-wheel drive. Popular models such as the California and Caravelle emerged during this period, with 1.3 million T3s produced in Hanover.

T4: 1990 to 2003
Marking a technical revolution, the T4 featured a front-engine and front-wheel drive layout for the first time. This generation saw a new design, longer front end, improved suspension, and a variety of engine choices. The Transporter was also available in two wheelbases. Following a mid-model refresh in 1996, the T4 was phased out in 2003 after selling 1.9 million units, including variants like the panel van, kombi, double cab, and California.

T5: 2003 to 2015
The T5 represented an evolution in design, emphasizing the driver’s workspace and offering a range of petrol and diesel engines along with an all-wheel drive system. The California model was built in Hanover for the first time, while the Caravelle and Multivan continued to be popular. Limited-edition models also emerged, contributing to the 1.65 million T5s produced.

T6 / T6.1: 2015 to Present
Modern T6 models are characterized by new engines, intelligent driver assistance systems, updated infotainment, and a redesigned front end. The two-tone paint scheme pays homage to the original model. In 2019, the T6.1 introduced a digital dashboard, advanced technology, and connectivity updates, along with efficient, clean turbodiesels.

The New Transporter: Available in 2025
The new Transporter will be unveiled at the IAA in Munich later this year, with market availability set for early 2025. This latest version promises a significantly larger load compartment and a standard digital cockpit, designed to meet the demands of modern commercial vehicles.

The British Connection
The Transporter’s UK journey began long before its commercial success. Major Ivan Hirst, a senior British army officer, played a crucial role in revitalizing the Volkswagen factory post-war. He envisioned a load-carrying vehicle based on the classic Beetle platform, leading to the creation of the Plattenwagen flat-bed truck. This concept inspired Dutch importer Ben Pon, who proposed a more developed panel van version, paving the way for the iconic Transporter.

For more details on Volkswagen Commercial Vehicles’ award-winning range of products and services, or to find your nearest Van Centre, please visit Volkswagen Vans.


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