Today, VW Kombis are fetching nearly as much as new luxury sedans. Picture: SUPPLIED
Today, VW Kombis are fetching nearly as much as new luxury sedans. Picture: SUPPLIED

The humble Volkswagen Kombi has always been a firm favourite in SA. Whether associated with family road trips, minibus taxis or the iconic Volksiebus song from the 1980s, they embody the spirit of fun and whimsy.

Today, VW Kombis are fetching nearly as much as new luxury sedans. Models listed on Gumtree are selling for between R500,000 and R950,000.

"The models from the 1950s, particularly those with the split-screen windows, are extremely valuable," says Gumtree head of autos Nunben Dixon. "They are also popular among restoration fanatics."

Interestingly enough, Kombi started off as an almost unrecognisable workhorse. In the 1940s, a visiting entrepreneur Ben Pon, from the Netherlands, spotted a flatbed truck called a Plattenwagen at the Wolfsburg factory in Germany. It was built from VW parts and was used to move parts around.

Pon had the idea of moving the cab forward and covering the flatbed, and the VW camper was born.

Known as the Volkswagen Type 2, Kombinationskraftwagen, VW Bus, Volksiebus or Kombi, they can still be found on the road today, from Latin America to Africa, Europe and the US, used as hearses, refrigerated vans, fire engines and, of course, taxis and campers.

Kombis have been made in various guises including fire engines. Picture: SUPPLIED
Kombis have been made in various guises including fire engines. Picture: SUPPLIED

The first models were designed with split windscreens to create a slight "vee" to improve their aerodynamics. 

While modern Kombis are some of the safest cars on the roads today, the vintage models have a few kicks: less-than-ideal aerodynamics, oversteering, a noisy engine and lack of crumple zone, aircon and power steering being some of them. The heaters also famously give off a whiff of petrol.

But none of that puts off their fan base, which includes Jack Nicholson, Jamie Oliver and Jerry Seinfeld.

If you have a vintage VW Kombi in your garage, you might own a gold mine.

Some of the models to look out for:

The Semaphore Split Window

The 1957-8 model came with pop-out indicators on the door posts known as semaphores. Coupled with the highly desirable split window, this pushes up the price of the Kombi, even as a restoration project.


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The Pick-up

It's not everyone's cup of tea, but there are aficionados who love the Kombi pick-up. It was meant to be a workhorse, after all, and it was particularly popular in the clothing trade because it easily accommodated garment rails. The side-loading doors had to be enlarged to accommodate the higher roof line.

Bay Window Transporters

Hugely popular in the late 1960s, this Kombi features a sliding side door and step, and a one-piece windshield. The indicators also move below the headlamps.

Other collectibles are in the 1975 VW Fleetline, which was only in production for one year and brought out as a budget alternative to the German models. The more rounded buses were phased out towards the 1980s and they remain the most popular with collectors.

The squarer Microbus, Caravelle and third-generation Transporters that followed have their own loyal fan bases, though, and it's well worth holding on to it until their values skyrockets.

- This article was paid for by Gumtree