In 1947, a Dutch importer named Ben Pon was working at a Volkswagen factory in Wolfsburg, Germany. While he was there, he took note of the motorized trolleys (made from stripped down Beetle chassis) that were being used to transport parts around the factory. This innovative design caught both his eye and imagination, so he started to sketch. The end result? A drawing of a Beetle-based van.
A year later, on 1st January 1948, Heinz Heinrich Nordhoff was appointed Managing Director of the Wolfsburg Volkswagen plant. This move brought great change to Volkwagen. In his first year, Nordhoff doubled car production. And within 13 years, annual production at Volkwagen had exceeded a million vehicles. It’s no surprise then, that when Nordhoff caught a glimpse of Ben Pon’s sketch his interest was instantly piqued. So much so, in fact, that he took on the idea and in November 1949 the first vehicle (known as the T1) made its debut at the Geneva Motor Show.
Introducing The VW Transporter
Following its success at the Motor Show, the T1 Transporter went into production very swiftly. From 8th March 1950, the Wolfsburg factory began producing these vehicles at a rate of 10 vehicles per day. The simplicity of the T1’s design allowed Volkswagen to create a whole range of body combinations and execute these simply. So, when production began there were already two different models available; a commercial transporter and the Kombi, which was fitted with two side windows and removable back seats.
Initially, the T1s were built in the factory at Wolfsburg. But, due to their popularity, production was moved to Hanover in around 1956. The T1 was no stranger to conversion as more body combinations were conceived and put into action. These include the Panel Van, Microbus, Samba, Kombi, Ambulance, Pick-Up and Double Cab! Changes also happened to the exterior as well as the interior. Most notably, the option to add sliding doors to the T1 was added from 1964.
Evolution in Action
Quite clearly, the T1 was a roaring success. And, of course, Volkswagen was keen to continue in this way. So, in 1967 the T2 Transporter was unveiled.
This new iteration of the VW Transporter flaunted a few key differences that set it apart from its predecessor. The biggest was the disappearance of the split windshield, which had gained the T1 the affectionate nicknames of ‘Splitscreen’ or ‘Splitty’.
Nearly 13 years after the release of the T2, the T3 made its entrance in 1979. A bigger, heavier imagining of the original, it was noticeably boxier and bought with it a range of technologically advanced features – including power steering and air conditioning! This version of the iconic VW was known by many names worldwide such as the Transporter/Caravelle, Microbus and Vanagon.
Volkswagen In The 90s & The Millennium
Production of the T3 Transporter continued until 1990 in Germany, and in the same year, it was succeeded by the Volkswagen T4. The first transporter to feature a water-cooled engine, this fourth-gen imagining of the T1 was hugely successful with production lasting for 13 years! It also could be customized with a range of options including a high top roof, sliding doors and a permanent 4WD system.
Then, in the new Millennium (2002, in fact) the T5 was launched. This new van fully embraced everything the Transporter could conceivably be. The production line saw a vast array of variants in the T5 including short-wheelbase and long-wheelbase options alongside a plethora of configurations too. It even enjoyed a minor facelift throughout its lifetime with cosmetic changes being made to the vehicle and an engine upgrade.
Transporters In The Present Day
The T6 is the most recent variation of the Transporter. Released in 2015 it is the sixth-generation of this vehicle to be produced. And it’s no surprise that it’s the most slick and modern of its family.
In 2019, the new Volkswagen T6.1 made its debut. An improved and updated version of the T6, it not only enjoyed a facelift on the interior but inside, too. To get the full lowdown on this newest vehicle, click here.
VW Transporter Campervan Conversions
Even in its infancy, the VW Transporter was well suited to campervan conversions. For example, the Volkswagen Westfalia camper was a conversion available for both the T2 and T3 variants which were in production for well over 5 decades! These conversions featured a range of interior options including foldout seating, sinks, water storage and curtains.
The Westfalia campervan conversion became the blueprint on which many campervan conversions are based today. For example, the Denby Balmoral conversion, which is suitable for T5 and T6 Transporters, features many similarities – with a few upgrades of course!
VW Campervans From Denby
Here at Denby Campervans, we eat, sleep and breathe campervans and campervan conversions. Our team dedicate all of their time and energy to making stunning bespoke campervan conversions that allow individuals and families to live their best van life through the seasons.
To see what types of campervans we’ve got available in our showroom, take a look at the VW Campervans we have for sale currently here. Alternatively, check out our full range of campervan conversion options here.