What do hippies, surfers, up-and-coming rock bands and cross-country road trippers all have in common? Often, it's their choice of vehicle: a VW Camper Van. In the nearly 70 years since its inception in the 1950s, the reliable and roomy vehicle has become a pop culture icon with a devoted cult following. One of these enthusiasts is Mike Harding, author of The VW Camper Van: A Biography. Part history, part memoir, the book is sure to delight the most diehard of devotees—and fully entertain those who are merely curious.
In this guest blog post, Harding writes about his love affair with Molly—his orange 2001 Type 2 Transporter—their adventures together and some interesting tidbits he learned while writing The VW Camper Van:
Like Toad in The Wind in the Willows, I have always been fascinated by the open road, the road that goes ever on and leads away from the world of work and taxes. And, to me, the VW Camper Van, with it’s blush of hippie-dom, looked like a magical key to that place of adventure and freedom.
But I had a family and lots of commitments and although I did travel the world—from trekking in the high Himalayas to lone Buddhist temples, crossing the Hindu Kush and singing for my supper in the mining camps of the Australian deserts—I never made that final leap and bought myself a Camper.
Until one November day filled with dark, Wuthering Heights weather, when I followed an ad in a VW mag and bought Molly in the back streets of a Northern England industrial town.
Since then Molly and I have traveled Britain, staying in forests and by the seashore and visiting lonely moorland pubs and friendly village folk festivals. With my banjo on the back seat and her little fridge full of food and wine, we trundle along the backroads shouting “Poop poop!” to the world.
Here are some little known facts about the VW Camper Van:
• The early VW vans featured the filler cap for the fuel tank in the lockable engine compartment because of the rampant cases of fuel theft from vehicles in postwar Europe.
• If it weren't for an Englishman from Northern England—Major Ivan Hirst—there would be no VW Beetle or Camper Van. (You'll have to read the book to find out why!)
• President Johnson’s “Chicken Tax,” which effectively stopped the import of VWs into the U.S. in the late '60s, has still not been repealed.
• VW vans have been used for everything from funeral hearses to camping vans, from fire engines to mobile chintzy English tea rooms complete with fragile china cups and fairy cakes.
• Sadly, the production of VW Camper Vans came to an end this year.
Thanks, Mike! What do you think, readers? Are you curious about The VW Camper Van? Be sure to check out our other Nostalgia Week guest posts.
[All photos from The VW Camper Van, used with permission.]