The VW Beetle, although innovative for its time, wasn’t quite up to being a ‘work’ vehicle so VW set to developing a van based on the beloved classic. Incorporating many of the Beetle’s favourite features – engine at the rear and driver right at the front of the van, it even used the gear box and engine of the Beetle, making it very much an evolution. And so the Volkswagen Type 2 Splitscreen (also known as the T1) was born.
The T1, affectionately known as the ‘Splitscreen’ or ‘Splitty’ came into being in 1950. It was based on the drawings of Dutch businessman and Volkswagen importer Ben Pon who visited the VW factory looking to buy Beetles to import to the Netherlands. Whilst there Pon happened to see a parts mover based on the Type 1 chassis and stumbled across the idea of a van based on the popular Beetle model. Those early drawings formed the basis of the Transporter range of vans we have known and loved across the planet for the last 70 years.
Production of the T1 Transporter started in Wolfburg until 1956 at which point the demand for VWs innovative bus grew so much that Volkswagen moved the model to Hamburg to enable mass production.
The instantly recognisable split windscreen was introduced with the original T1s, and Volkswagen’s innovation continued throughout the production run. Later modifications included the VW air-cooled engine, improved wheels, more cargo space, rear barn doors and the size of the bay, evolving the T1 into an ever more useable and desirable van for work and play. Reaching a new height of innovation, sliding doors were added as an option in 1964.
It’s ability to carry more passengers than the car it was based on, and the fact it was roomy enough to live in, led to the T1 becoming a token of a more nomadic existence. Affectionately known as the Hippie Bus, the T1 we all know and love quickly became a cultural icon and firm feature in the flower power movement.
By the end of its production run in 1967 1.9 million T1s had been built and the model was retired to make way for the T2.
Follow the Trasnsporter’s journey through the decades or visit our Guides page for lots more info on converting your campervan.
Why are VW Transporters so popular as campervans and are there any advantages with other makes?
It’s a simple question but a hard one to answer and depends on many different factors