A great little party trick is to ask people what the real name of the Volkswagen van is? After they stumble for a second, respond that it was simply called the Type 2. (The Type 1 was the popular Beetle.) The van was introduced in 1950 but had been worked on for several years by VW engineers looking to perfect the look and design.
The First Model
The first Type 2, which was also called the Transporter, contained a 1131 cc, 25 hp engine; split front windshield; large back door that hid the engine; and side doors that allowed people to enter the back of the vehicle. It could seat a half-dozen people easily and hold roughly 1,600 pounds of cargo (that included people). It was produced until 1967.
Volkswagen introduced a new model in 1968 that had a single front windshield, larger engine and more cargo area. It was produced until 1979 in Europe, but production in Mexico lasted until 1991. It was the last of the vans with the "classic" square look to it.
The Third Stage
Volkswagen introduced a third version of its van in 1979 that more resembled what modern minivans would look like. It was wider than the second Type 2, and for the first time, it featured an inclined front windshield instead of the iconic flat look. Its engine power grew continuously through the 1980s.
The Fourth Wall
In 1990, a fourth line was unveiled. Now known almost universally as the Transporter, the van bore little resemblance to the minibus of the 1950s and 1960s, yet it was a direct descendant. This new van was similar in style to other vans on the market and had all the accessories available on other Volkswagen products.
The T5 was launched in 2003 in a variety of styles, including a delivery van look, normal minivan, para transport, shuttle and police wagon style. It is more aerodynamic than its predecessors and has a more powerful engine.
While Type 2 or Transporter is the official name of the Volkswagen van, it has gone by numerous other monikers over the decades, including the "Bully," which is used by VW. Other names over the years have included the Splittie, the Combie and the "hippie bus."
The Volkswagen van is an icon of the American roadway. It gained popularity in the 1960s as the favorite transportation of hippies and young Americans looking for a way to see the world. In popular culture, the van in the television show "Scooby Doo" was often thought to be a VW because of its style, but the show's producers said that look was unintentional. Somewhat revolutionary in its design, VW vans became the forerunners of modern minivans. According to the company, Volkswagen has only made one kind of van since its inception, with new variants coming out about every dozen or so years.