Written by independent automotive journalist Jonathan Sierakowski
There’s nothing that quite defines the exuberance of cruising on the vast open American roads like the Volkswagen Microbus. Economical and capable of carrying up to nine passengers, the iconic bus conjures imagery of young, wild and free spirits of the 1960s traveling the California coast scouting the next surf spot, chasing the Grateful Dead cross-country or driving Florida’s A1A South to Key West.
The rare and desirable 21-window version like the one to be offered at No Reserve during the 2018 Barrett-Jackson Palm Beach Auction (Lot #665.1) is better known as the Samba. It was the perfect conveyance for a group of friends, with ample provisions, to journey to places near and far. The Volkswagen designers included two pivot front doors, a sliding side door and pop-out windshields. It allowed for an extremely versatile environment whether on the road or parked at the next campsite, and its ample window glass and sliding canvas sunroof ensured the occupants were never out of touch with the surrounding landscape or the sky above.
The gorgeous Samba offered at Palm Beach is chassis #256069287, and it perfectly embodies all of the qualities that made these vehicles so iconic. When first manufactured, these buses were typically painted in warm two-tone colors; this example uses the original factory shade of Pearl White for the upper half, with Velvet Green on the lower portion. The two shades are divided by a long decorative line that begins as a widow’s peak below the oversize VW badge on the front, then widens and travels down the body sides before wrapping around the rear.
Master craftsman Tony Mason executed the restoration, and notes that up to five applications of base coat were used on the wonderfully refurbished body panels, with up to three coats of clear on top to preserve it for years to come. The underside is also finished with Velvet Green enamel covered with Chip Guard. The interior is just as lovely and inviting, with the Pearl White finish on the dash and exposed sheet metal, and beige cloth with tan bolsters covering the seats.
During the restoration all of the door and window seals were renewed, as were all of the engine gaskets. A new wiring harness was installed, where practical fasteners were replaced with stainless steel and installed to ensure long life, and a new stainless-steel exhaust system was fitted.
A few concessions were made to modern style and performance: The body was lowered 2.5 inches and the electrical system was upgraded to 12 volts. Additionally, the original 1585cc motor was replaced with an upgraded 1776cc unit equipped with dual Weber IDF 44mm carburetors, mated to a fully rebuilt 4-speed manual transaxle with 3.88 final drive ratio. The complete package is therefore extremely well-suited for driving in local traffic or comfortable cruising at higher speed. The VW Samba is an iconic blast from the past. It is a must-have for a collection lacking representation from the 1960s, or for a new enthusiast wishing to immerse in some nostalgia by taking some friends on a flower-powered trek across a swath of the United States.
For up-to-date information on this vehicle, click HERE.