This family favourite is becoming increasingly sought after: we take a look at the Volkswagen Kombi Clipper and Kampmobile…
The segment-defining Volkswagen Type 2 was quite extensively revamped in 1968. Gone was the split windscreen and in its place came a single, curved pane, which gave rise to the monikers “Bay Window” and “Bread Loaf”. The swinging side doors were replaced with a hefty sliding unit and, to differentiate the new design from the original, it was designated a T2 (its predecessor would then become known as the Type 2 T1).
CAR’s first tests were the Kombi Clipper in June 1968 and the more leisure-oriented Kampmobile in October 1969. The Clipper name was eventually changed to the Microbus we’re all more familiar with; the 15-inch wheels were replaced with 14-inchers; and a significant mechanical update was the switch from crank-axle drive shafts to a trailing link with double constant-velocity joints. This meant a fixed wheel camber that improved stability in cornering.
These early Bay Windows still had the small, red rear lamps, with the front indicators mounted below the headlamps, hence its other nickname of “Low Light”. Although officially a 10-seater, because seatbelts were not compulsory back in those days, the Kombi would often be seen ferrying a couple more passengers.
With camping very popular in the sixties and seventies, you could also buy a Kampmobile derivative made by official VW contractor Westfalia-Werke in Germany. It was assembled in Uitenhage alongside the 10-seaters and its rear seat folded out to make a double bed, along with a small hammock that fitted in the driver’s cab and a stretcher which opened up under the flip-up fibreglass roof. There was no fridge; instead, an icebox sat behind the front passenger seat alongside a 30-litre water tank a sink. A side tent and gas cooker were optional. Storage compartments and a fold-up dinette table completed the package, along with curtains and louvered side windows for adjustable ventilation. All this added a reasonable 90 kg to the mass.
The flat-four, air-cooled 1,5-litre gave way to a 1,6-litre during 1968. This produced a barely adequate 36 kW for an absolute maximum speed of 101 km/h. In a future story, we’ll look at the further engine-capacity increases from 1,7 to 2,0 litres. Only one gearbox was offered – a four-speed manual – and the engine used a single Solex 30 PICT carburettor (later changed to a dual-port, twin carb).
Which one to get
The Kampmobile is rare and sought-after but any Kombi in good nick is valuable. Stock is declining and many are whisked off to the UK because we have the preferred right-hand-drive derivatives and less rust, too. Ten-seaters are much easier to find but prices are rising daily. Note that they are all underpowered, which is why the engine went up in stages, growing to 2,0 litres before the switch was made to water-cooling. For this reason, some owners replaced the engines with 2,5-litre Chevrolet units or 3,0-litre Ford V6s.
What to watch out for
Fuel consumption is not a strong point. With a top speed of barely 100 km/h, we cannot provide our normal index figure, although the graphs indicate about 17,0 L/100 km without adding on a factor to arrive at a fuel index. At 80 km/h, the consumption improves to 12,3 L/100 km. The engines aren’t difficult to remove and repair, but it pays to have an expert line-bore the horizontally split engine casings. Parts are relatively inexpensive.
Availability and prices
There are always some for sale and prices vary from R20 000 for vehicles requiring an extensive restoration, to upwards of R300 000 for examples in mint condition.
Apart from the bus, bakkies and vans were also available. We don’t have precise sales figures for Kombis of the time but, of the roughly 8 000 units VW sold annually, we do know that people-movers accounted for about 5 000 units, the vans about 2 000 and the bakkies the rest.
The reason many Kombis are such rust-buckets these days is because most of them spent decades parked outside in the elements. Keep them in a garage and you won’t have a problem. I can vouch for this because I owned a bay-window version for 30 years; it was garaged and suffered little rust.