1963 Volkswagen “23 Window” Bus Project!

We just recently saw how a 23-window VW Bus gave its life to become a predominant ornament in a hippie’s vision for cross-country transportation. Thankfully, not all of the world’s most expensive passenger vans have gone to the big mud pit in the sky, but the ones that remain are quite expensive. This example is a mostly complete, running Type 2 that the seller has listed here on The Samba classifieds for a pricey $66,500. It’s a West Coast example that is currently registered in Massachusetts and living in Gloucester.

It’s amazing what a current license plate can do for a vehicle that otherwise might look just as at home parked inside a barn. The body has seen some work, with fresh metal evidently welded in place along the lower rockers. The cab steps area still looks somewhat crunchy, and the driver’s door is rough. The seller notes that the original color was L289 Blue White over L380 Turquoise, and you can still see some blue paint poking through beneath the overdone combo of white over red. Wheels and tires appear to be new or close to it.

The seller notes that all glass is original and that the Bus has cargo doors on the right side. The interior is a seven-seater, with “…cargo floor mounting for a short middle.” Six pop-out windows are noted, and while the interior clearly needs full restoration, it’s great to see one with original, uncracked glass. The full gallery of photos, viewable here, show no headliner or panels of any kind. There’s lots of surface rust, too, and the canvas top is just a memory at this point; however, the seller does note that the top frame is functional.

Other highlights include an intact dash with factory clock. The Bus has lived in Texas for most of its life despite coming from the West Coast to its  Massachusetts abode, so it’s lived in mostly dry or fair-weather states. The fact that it passed the super stringent Massachusetts state inspection is a major checkmark in this Bus’ favor, but at the current asking price, it doesn’t leave much room for the next owner to turn a profit following the restoration – and let’s be honest, the 23-windows are mostly being bought for the investment potential.

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Comments

  1. Keith Keith

    66.5k? ShamWow! That’s around 3k per window batman!

    Like 16
  2. Howard A Member

    Years from now, this foolishness will go down as the blunder of the century. Nobody wanted them and most turned into the bus addition( which I thought was a cool idea for these) or a tool shed. When I think of a mid-5 figure vehicle, it better have some swoopy Italian name or snap you neck when you hit the gas 4 times. The comments are as comical as the price.

    Like 33
    • Grandpa Lou

      So your saying that all the hippies who did drugs and didn’t bath while tooling around in these became venture capitalists and now demand them? I guess that is one way to explain these prices but I am willing to bet it is people who were not even alive 50 years ago that now are bumping up the market. People in for a quick buck to do quick flips before the bubble explodes and the suddenly very rich who buy just because they can and they think it somehow must be “cool”. All of us who have ever actually driven one of these, or got behind one you couldn’t pass on a curvy hilly road knows better.

      Like 10
    • Grandpa Lou

      Dave, oh they dodged the draft alright, but none of them strike me as former hippies at Woodstock. More like having helpful Daddies with open wallets. Funny how people who never had to worry about sudden lead poisoning in a rice paddy are such war pushers now. I feel to be in an upper position in government, not only should you have been required to be in the military, but to have been in actual combat as well. Something to consider. John Kennedy understood that, and it cost him dearly late in 1963, but I digress.

      Like 2
    • Jesse Mortensen Jesse Mortensen Staff

      A few Sambas may wound up in the hands of a couple of hippies, but I highly doubt that was a common occurrence. You’re probably thinking about the prolific 11-window buses. This was the top of the line model. Please refer to my other comments below.

      Like 1
  3. JP

    Might as well give your money to Bernie Madoff – probably have a better chance of seeing a return on investment.

    Like 9
    • Joe Machado

      How much does rust go for now, especially very slow moving rust?
      Think they went faster sitting on top of another bus. Bet it went faster in third than fourth too.

      Like 5
    • Howard A Member

      Ha! I take it back, THAT was the blunder of the century. I found it highly ironic his name was “Madoff”, like made off with your money. I still say we didn’t hear the half of that. We can go ahead and laugh, but this person probably got this thing for $1,800 bucks ( or whatever) and they just might get their $60g’s, who’s stupid now? :)

      Like 5
  4. XMA0891

    One of my two automotive shudda-cudda-wuddas – In college in the late ’80’s there was one of these just sitting in a side yard that I walked by almost daily. I’d like to believe had I knocked on the door, I have gotten it for a relative pittance. It is still hard to fathom the prices these command 40 years later.

    Like 8
  5. Bob

    I don’t understand the appeal of these things. To ride as a front seat passenger in one of these, with nothing but a sheet of tinfoil between you and the road would cause any sane person to swear of them forever.

    Like 14
    • Marshall

      Actually that “Sheet of tinfoil” is tougher than it might appear. I rear ended in 1966 Ford in one of these, still probably going 10 to 20 miles an hour at moment of impact. The front end was damaged a bit. But I drove it home.

      Like 1
    • Superdessucke

      They want to go back. It’s as simple as that. But when they were no longer driving and pass away, who’s gonna buy it?

      • Roy L

        You can ask that question to all of us about our cars.

        Like 3
      • Superdessucke

        Yes, and you probably wouldn’t answer, hopefully anyway!

  6. Ken Wittick

    Bob: totally agree,my parents bought new 1966 vw camper.My dad could not understand why I wouldn’t drive it ( in NYC ) no less.

    Like 5
  7. Fred W

    Once the adoring fans of ANY collectible are out of the picture, look for values to plummet. Now happening to Model A’s and T’s, will be a few years before the hippies are gone.

    Like 8
    • JP

      Of course, old Dusies, Ferraris and Bugattis, etc. are still doing pretty well, so the fan/age thing might not be the only determinant…

      Like 5
    • triumph1954

      Fred W- I guess you haven’t been around this hobby very long. These have been pricey for at least 25-30 years and Model A’s and T’s haven’t been for at least 20 years.

  8. TimM

    We saw a school bus last week with the top half of one of these grafted to the roof!! Someone made the comment about the price being higher because of it!! This one looks like a ton of body work to get it right!! I however would no way spend that kind of money on a VW anything when I could buy a done car for half that price!!

    Like 6
  9. doug edwards

    I own a 64 VW bus (not this fancy Samba). The people who are really nuts over these vintage busses are mostly millenials or under 25 yrs old. With mint restoration this above mentioned bus could cross the auction block @ 200k. Hard to believe, but yes. I don’t see the market for this declining anytime soon.

    Like 3
    • Dave

      Heck, I’m looking around for a 1988 Caravan like the one we had. V6, rallye wheels, fake woodie sides. You drove all day and felt like you’d been on the couch watching TV all day. Don’t think you can describe the VW experience like that.

      Like 6
    • Marshall

      1964 was the model year of the bus my dad bought new. In 1966, we came out west to Washington from Ohio in it. I wrecked the front end of it in 1975 and dad sold it a year later. He never made me have to pay to get the front end fixed. It had about 100,000 miles on it, And the clock still worked (though it was always slow).

      Like 1
    • Superdessucke

      I don’t think Millennials are paying $66,000 for Rusty microbuses. By percentage, very few of them are into cars. Yes, you will be able to pick an example to show me I’m wrong but that’ll be just one example. I’m talking about the group as a whole.

      They don’t have the money or inclination. Or emotional attachment from driving down the road in one with some barefoot cutie protesting this and that as a naive young ‘un.

      If it makes anyone feel better to think that Millennials covet these that’s fine. But I wouldn’t buy it banking on that giving me a big ROI however.

  10. IkeyHeyman Member

    I knew somebody who got into a front end collision driving one of these, in Mexico of all places. He and his wife survived, but it took a long time for him to recover. That eliminated any interest I might have had to even drive one of these, let alone own one.

    Like 6
  11. Jrp

    This thing is junk. Put it on stilts and it would make a heck of a good deer blind.

    Like 5
  12. Jesse Mortensen Jesse Mortensen Staff

    It may be priced high but why so much negativity here?! Perhaps it’s our own fault for not explaining why the 23-window bus is so important. We have to remember that this was the top of the line model and there weren’t a ton made. I can’t find production numbers, but this isn’t a standard 11-window base model we are talking about here. This is a Deluxe sunroof model and it has all the features. Take a look at one in person, they are impressive! To make it easier to understand, think about Hemi-powered ‘Cudas, Shelby GT350s, e30 M3s, etc. This is a rare and special model that represents the best of the breed. The majority of us will never be able to afford one, but without holy grails, there would be nothing to dream about. There is a hierarchy in the car world the free market decides the values. Without that dynamic, collector cars wouldn’t be as much fun as they. There would be nothing to aspire to, nothing to work towards, and the whole barn finds concept wouldn’t exist. There wouldn’t be any Ferraris or Porches or Cobras to find in barns. Instead, we would all drive Ladas and we’d be a very sad lot indeed!

    Like 18
    • Jesse Mortensen Jesse Mortensen Staff

      @Steve R – We are aware of it and are working on a solution. Thanks.

      Like 3
    • JP

      And the solution is to ban all posts that dare to criticize any car for any reason? Or are we only speaking of comments relating to insanely inflated prices, like the recent ’58 Squire wagon for $65k? I’m not sure what’s “toxic” about such opinions, but I guess that’s for the moderator to determine.

      Btw, will racist posts still be tolerated? Just curious…

      Like 1
    • Jesse Mortensen Jesse Mortensen Staff

      I’m not talking about comments that criticize a car. We do delete all racist comments and will ban those who continue to post them.

    • JP

      That’s good to know, but since the ’87 Allante comment, and I’m sure you know which one I mean, is still up and visible, I thought I’d check to be sure…

    • Mountainwoodie

      Jese- I resemble that remark about driving Ladas… if a Fiat 128 counts! :)

      I’ve owned a 21 window bus in perfecto condition back in the day when they were sneered at by the very people people laying out 100 K at the auctions. So I just laugh when they pay that. Personally I really like them but I have rules about the relative monetary value of vehicles, especially of the ones I’ve owned. Its fun owning cars no one wants……..not so fun when they’ve become the object of insane price appreciation. Oh well the only way out is to outlive the runup in prices and catch ’em on the way down!

  13. Ikey Heyman Member

    On the other hand….I find BF’ers to be mostly independent thinkers with strong opinions – and many contributors can be appreciated for their years of experience, their commitment to the hobby and their impressive knowledge of the technical aspects of specific makes and models. The different perspectives is what makes the site interesting IMHO. Yeah, some guys get a little torqued up – so what, that’s because I think for the most part they have a passion for the hobby and hope there will always be an opportunity for those who are interested to participate regardless of the size of their wallet.

    Like 8
  14. Howard A Member

    In a blog like this, it gives us folks that wishfully should have hung on to at least one of these, and since we can hide behind the keyboard and not deal with the seller face to face, a place to complain . A small percentage of us will ever actually buy this stuff, but we’ve got a ton of stories. And who knows why someone pays 5 figures for these, maybe they were born in one. Be interesting to find out. In the meantime, let’s see what else in this craziness is coming up next.

    Like 4
  15. bobhess bobhess Member

    Somewhere in all this someone should remember that these rigs are part of our history. VW laid out a bunch of good cars that folks could afford for a long time. Our VW history is ’55 panel van, ’62 notchback (2), ’77 camper, ’84 Vanagan Camper, and a ’73 Thing. All good and dependable transportation and a bunch of fun.

    Like 4
  16. Jay E.

    Here is what I dont understand about the 65k. When I was in high school I aspired to work hard, go to Nam to fly helicopters, save my money and by a hotrod muscle machine. At no point did I EVER wish for a “23 window VW”. I had a 69 bus as a parts runner. It was a terrible car. Bent valves, cracked engines, slow, cold. Why anyone would WANT one today is totally beyond my comprehension. Muscle cars are totally within my comprehension so I can understand the appreciation they have. But VW’s are just lousy used cars regardless of condition or what someone is willing to pay, though I do agree if you have it you can spend it any way you wish. You have a great site here Jesse, with a lot of diverse posters and millions of views. Somehow you keep it clean and interesting and I applaud that.

    Like 10
    • Jesse Mortensen Jesse Mortensen Staff

      The guys who are into these may think your muscle cars are no good. It’s all relative to the experiences you’ve had.

      Like 12
      • Doug M. Member

        Agree fully! Also, there are many of us reading these that understand what is going on in the market (supply and demand, nostalgia, etc) and are just tired of trying to enter into these conversations with such die-hard negative comments floating around. I think we should all respect the opinions and tastes of others, and let them enjoy what they enjoy. I have not once complained about the prices of those Daytona finned cars with the over-extended noses… but they are not my thing.

        Like 5
      • jeff

        Thanks for these words Jesse!

        I love them both – they are just for totally different uses, but both give you their unique driving experiences.

        Like 2
      • WH

        I happen to love VW’s and muscle cars especially Mopars.
        Oh and I’m also into old pickups.

        Like 2
      • Superdessucke

        “It’s all relative to the experiences you’ve had.”

        And that, my friends, sums it up to an absolute tea on why these vehicles have the value they do!! Well said and I’ve said enough too. GLWTS. Enjoy it now.

        Like 1
  17. Kurt

    The one saving grace about these is that they are easy to work on, but like Porsches there are replica bodies available for about a third of this. That’s the way I would go if I wanted one,and put a Type 4 200 horse engine in it.

    Like 5
  18. stevee

    I kinda like the idea of fixing up the mechanicals to top drawer, do a nice interior + sounds and then low gloss clear coat the outside! Just tell people ‘cannot afford to do anything more’! It would draw as much or more attention, and preserve the fun factor….

    Like 4
    • stevee

      Think I would replace the drivers door and the canvas roof, paint the bumpers and put on new wiper blades…..

      Like 1
  19. Alfred

    Crazy money. I just don’t get it.

    Like 1
  20. Lance

    The only thing that I could possibly come up with as to why these vans are priced as high as they are is because it reminds the buyers of their lost youth. It really has nothing to do with the mechanical prowess of a 23 window bus. It has to do with what they feel they can relive. Now, their youth is gone and they have more money than time left so hey, lets get a hippie van and remember when we were young. Mechanically these things weren’t much but the people who buy them for 65K aren’t into turning wrenches anyway.

    Like 5
    • JP

      Hmmm… so the more common versions of these vans don’t remind them of their dearly departed youth?

      Like 1
    • jeff

      … because it reminds the buyers of their lost youth – are you talking about all the guys with grey hair and beer bellys who are restoring/driving the muscle cars of the sixties and seventies???

  21. Richard Nepon

    I bought my first bus in 1969, a 65 deluxe. By 74 I had swapped out the engine, trans and body. I had crossed the country north to south, east to west. Went to Woodstock. Picked up more hitchhikers than I can remember. I housed a pet white rat, gifted to me by one, in the undersea tool box. It got painted as an ecology bus in green and blue but morphed into a druggie van when ‘friends’ lettered it “mesqualine es donde esta” at a memorable party after which I drove up the NJ Turnpike getting stopped and frisked on a regular basis. By the time I cut it up for scrap metal (nothing matched the title) it had 215-15 tires, EMPI anti roll bars, a hopped up engine with headers and a 004 distributor plus an oil cooler behind the dog cage. It has air scoops on each side. The heater tone had been replaced with hollowed out Pepsi cans taped together. The front brakes had been crimped so only one cylinder worked. The driver floor plan was no longer in attendance and it was very cold in Massachusetts.
    Sure wish I still had it.

    Like 5
  22. MGSteve

    You guys are so predictable and dependable.

    Like 1
  23. Ron

    I don’t believe they will get $65k for this, by the time it is properly restored the buyer would be upside down, I would expect it to be worth $35-40k to a prospective restorer…

  24. David C

    Anyone who thinks that these are not a good investment hasn’t been paying attention. They are actually still gaining value. They have even started reproducing whole body shells for about 15k!

    Like 1
  25. Richard Gugenberger

    My dad bought a 65 23 window with sun roof and gas heater from one of his customers for $300 , the motor was in bushel baskets in the back . We bought replacement parts from JCWhittney and worked on it nights after work for several weeks ( I kinda remember a few beer s being consumed during this rebuild ) put the motor back together installed it and it fired up right off the bat , Kept it around for a spare vehicle , all of my sisters learned to drive stick on it , had it for about 5 years until it got hit by a drunk driver at 8am with my sister at the wheel and another riding shot gun ,they were all right but the van was toast !! always kinda wanted another one but the Ford Van that replaced the VW was faster and had better ride !

    Like 2
  26. Lance Nord

    It’s a fair price given the condition and the fact that a restored 23 window can fetch $200K+.

    Like 2
  27. Roy L

    Our diversity is our strength. I for one enjoy all classic cars and have no desire to bad mouth someone else’s car choices and others shouldn’t either.

    Like 3
  28. bobhess bobhess Member

    You don’t have to like every car in the world but variety does have it’s place. We used our VW campers to tow our race cars… which were not VWs.

    Like 3
  29. Eigil

    Boys, Jesse isn’t trying to boring here, he just haven’t watched nearly enough Russian dash-cam.. Ladas are lots of fun, after a full bottle of vodka.. this is evident.

    Like 1
  30. Philip Grover

    I grew up riding and learning to drive in these things in Massachusetts.. They are kinda cute, and do handle pretty well due to independent suspension, hold lots of stuff. Dad played kettle drums in an orchestra, needed to transport them regularly, and would not buy anything American.
    But I’m not so much feeling the nostalgia- I remember the slow acceleration, freezing cold in winter, barely able to keep the windshield clear of ice. Try driving with the ice scraper in your left hand while you shift and steer with your right hand.
    And one particular camping trip with teenage friends, where the girl I was with was driving home and just BARELY executed a pass on a two lane road in New Hampshire. We were all silent for a while after that.

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