It was a special vehicle that Ben Pon senior outlined in his agenda exactly seventy years ago, on April 23 1947. The Amersfoort-based trader and founder of the Dutch Volkswagen importer provided a practical delivery van based on Beetle technology, with a strongly rounded body, the rear engine and the cab above the front axle. With the sketch, Ben Pon laid the foundation for the VW Transporter, of which - now six generations further - more than twelve million of them have been sold worldwide.
The success story of the VW Transporter - also affectionately called 'Bulli' in Germany - starts on April 23. During a visit to the Volkswagen factory (to discuss the import of the Volkswagen Beetle) the eye of Ben Pon (1947 - 1904) fell on the 'Plattenwagen', a simple transport trolley with beetle technology. Pon sees opportunities for sale immediately. As a businessman, he knew that there was a great need for this type of company car in Europe.
No approval for Plattenwagen
However, the 'Plattenwagen' was not approved for use on public roads. This is because the driver was completely at the back of the car, just above the engine. Pon comes up with a solution. During his next visit to the Volkswagen factory, he outlined it in his agenda. He moves the control of the Plattenwagen to the front and creates a closed loading space in the rear.
Sketch basis for development VW Transporter
Based on his sketch - which is now part of the Rijksmuseum collection in Amsterdam - Volkswagen is developing the first VW Transporter between 1947 and 1949. In the last year, four prototypes are shown to the public: two delivery vans, a person variant and a Kombi. The VW Transporter comes on the market in 1950 as Typ 2 (the beetle is the Typ 1).
From entrepreneur to hippie
Production of the VW Transporter started modestly with ten vans a day. However, the demand was huge. Because the van cost no more than 5.125 guilders (2.330 euros), even small entrepreneurs could afford one. 8.000 were already built in the first year and an extra factory was even needed in 1955. From the first VW Transporter generation (T1) to 1967 1,8 million were built. The 'Bulli' became the symbol of European reconstruction and the German 'Wirtschaftswunder'. The T1 owes its popularity partly to the multitude of versions in which it was available. Ranging from a closed van and eight-person bus to the camper that was closed in the hearts by the hippies and gained cult status.
Nice to know about the Volkswagen T1
- The Dutch prices of the T1 started at 5.125 guilder (2.330 euro).
- Of the four original prototypes from 1949, one was immediately put into use by the Cologne colognemanufacturer 4711.
- The nickname 'Bulli' has its origins in the dual nature of the T1. It is a combination of Bu (s) and Li (eferwagen), with an extra 'l' for readability.
- Originally, the T1 was only available in blue from the factory. Deviating color requirements were fulfilled locally by the Volkswagen dealer.
- In the Netherlands, the VW Transporter T1 quickly became a fixed value for the Dutch State Company of Postal Services, Telegraphy and Telephony (PTT).
- The T1 is powered by an 1.131 cc engine (24 hp at 3.300 rpm) and can carry eight people or 750 kilograms of cargo.
- The original sketch by Ben Pon belongs to the Rijksmuseum collection.
You can watch a video about the T1 here to look at.