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Forward Control Comparo: America vs Germany

Rampside vs Transporter

After all the great thoughts and comments we received about the recent comparison we did of a Fiat and a Saab, we thought we would attempt another comparo. This time, we are going to look at some rather unique trucks, one from America and the other from Germany. Just because our trucks of interest come from different continents, doesn’t mean they are all that different.  The German is a 1970 VW Transporter Pickup and it can be found on craigslist. The American is a 1962 Chevrolet Covair Rampside and it can be found on eBay. Thanks goes to Ben S for the tip about the VW!

1970 VW Truck

We are sure there are those of you who would say, “But there’s 8 years difference between these trucks”. Sure there is an age gap between them, but remember this is a Volkswagen we are talking about here. They didn’t change the Type 2 this is based on much from 1950 to 1979. Now that that’s been addressed, let’s take a look at these intriguing trucks.

Corvair Motor

Typically it’s difficult to compare an American and a German engine, it’s like comparing apples and oranges, but this is one of those cases where it’s more like comparing apple strudel and apple pie. Both trucks are powered by air-cooled boxer engines mounted in the back. There are some differences in power plants though. The VW is powered by a meager boxer 4 that while tried and true, is weak on power. The Corvair’s boxer 6 puts out nearly twice as much power as the VW.

1970 VW Pickup

Now for the most important comparison for any van turned truck. How functional are either of these vehicles as a truck. Each offers its own take on the classic truck design. The engine location for both caused some unique design problems and both companies addressed the issue in their own way. For VW, it meant creating a flatbed with hinged side panels. When you needed to load heavier items, you simply unlatched the side and slid your item onto the bed.

Corvair bed

Chevrolet decided they would take a different approach. Instead of creating a flatbed with wasted space between the cab and the motor, they only raised the back of the bed above the engine. To make for easy loading and unloading, they inserted a drop down ramp on the passenger’s side.

1970 VW Transporter

While we wouldn’t want to get in an accident in any forward control vehicle, we think we would enjoy owning either of these. The Corvair has more power and is a bit more unique, but is also rarer. The Transporter is going to be easier to find parts for and cheaper to own. From a condition stand point, the Corvair looks to be in better condition and runs. We know which one we would buy, but which one would you rather have for quick trips to the hardware store?


  1. Caseyd

    I’m a VW guy but I’ve owned Corvairs too. I’m with you the Chevy would be a cool and rare truck.
    I could haul my VW parts around in it.

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  2. Brian

    Although I love old trucks and I love old VWs and Corvairs, neither of these trucks ever appealed to me that much, however the van versions always did. The closest thing I have driven to either of these was a VW Microbus of about 1969 vintage. I only remember that cornering at speeds above 5 mph were scarey, the thought of a head on collision was terrifying, and trying to park was annoying (no hood out front; so I’d pull into a parking space,get out and discover I was at least 5 feet from the curb to the front bumper!). I’m not saying I don’t enjoy seeing them, especially heading down the road, just don’t desire to own either – but more power to ‘thems that do!

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  3. scottski

    Two great ideas.

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  4. Fred

    The Transporter is without a doubt the most underpowered vehicle ever built. Some fond memories of traveling with free spirited kids in one in the 70’s though. I’ve owned several Corvair cars, never a van or truck, but it’s safe to say the Rampside is zippier than the VW. Just don’t turn on the heater (for those not aware, GM chose not to bear the expense of heat exchangers as VW did, putting nothing between the passengers and carbon monoxide but a few gaskets). Knowing that, in 1974 I went to a junkyard and pulled a gasoline heater out of a ’61 Monza to install in mine. I sat in the parking lot at school, 20 degrees outside, toasty warm inside with the engine off.

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  5. Horse Radish

    I don’t get this line in 4 sale adds:
    “I am moving out of state and need to sell both my two VeeDubbs.”

    If he’s moving in the continental US that VW transporter would be perfect,
    If he’s moving to Hawaii or most other places he would get more money than in AR.
    Especially, with both cars having new engines, unless…..he’s figured out what he’s not telling you…..

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  6. paul

    Well I’m another one in the Corvair group & we have a couple of these in our club, they are cool if you can get past being a crash dummy, me I’ll just look , the same way I LOOK at motorcycles. I did however back in the day drive a forward control Dodge 150 van & it was fun to drive, but that was long before smart phones & people actually paid attention driving, we did that in those days because in those days, we had something called brake fade, so we had to start thinking about stopping well before we actually did stop.

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  7. SoCal Car Guy

    Now it’s called brain fade and drivers don’t think… I’d take the Corvair, and take my chances.

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  8. David G

    Definitely the Corvair for me, not least because i’ve always loved funky orphans in general. But the extra HP & torque, the manual trans, and that nifty swing-down ramp cinch it, if not the fact that this one appears to be a very unadulterated & rust-free Corvair considering that many of them are not. And you get quad headlights to boot!

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  9. jim s

    i would take the VW because i know more about them. however i would not ever drive it ( or the corvair ). to many miles in old F/C’s and bus/vans to ever go back there again. thanks

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  10. Edsel Mike

    I would take the American Corvair over a VW anytime.

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  11. Rhys

    Rampside is the choice here – even despite the two vehicles being different generations (fair comparison would be with a splitty)

    Restored & owned both. Both awesome. VW was a bit more sophisticated.

    Still have the Rampside. (and always will)

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  12. Tom S.

    Forward control pickup? Go Dodge or go home, IMO.

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  13. Jim-Bob

    I have been in VW Buses before as my dad used to own them in the 70’s and 80’s, but have never been in a Corvair van/truck thing before. Since the VW is way more popular and easy to get parts for, I would have to go with the Corvair Rampside. My vehicles usually tend to be oddballs, orphans and also-rans rather than me-too choices, so I simply can’t own something as conventional and normal as a VW Type 2. Better yet, make mine a UAZ 3303- the USSR’s finest 4×4 forward control stake bed truck (and why yes! It is still in production! http://www.uaz.ru/eng/models/commercial/ ). At least then I will KNOW that none of my neighbors are driving the same thing as me!

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    • Don Andreina

      That UAZ looks weird in glossy new paint.

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      • Jim-Bob

        It’s such an anachronism though that I find it cool. If it were me, I’d have to have one in that Warsaw Pact olive green that all the commie things seem to have been painted. It’s still an available color and is shown in the Russian language section of the website. I’d also really dig a UAZ 469. It’s the second generation Soviet Jeep and I think they were sold recently in Canada. I don’t think it would ever sell well in the US as most American consumers seem obsessed with the latest gadgets and safety systems that a 40 year old Soviet design would lack.

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  14. Don Andreina

    I’m a big fan of forward control. That Jeep you had a while back was a nice surprise to me. Even the beloved Multipla is FC. The VW reminds me of a teacher at school who had an orange crewcab. He kept a solid stick wrapped in thick tape called ‘Bertha’ on display in class. My vote to the Corvair; for me its a real exotic.

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  15. rancho bella

    I’m a furrin’ car guy but the rampside Corvair……..for me it’s a no brainer.

    With a pair of Wayfarers, a baseball hat (turned up brim) and rolled up cuffed blue jeans….. it would be my own cool scene.

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  16. Eddie Marion

    I had a VW that was actually shortened by 3 1/2 feet. It was a ball to drive! Not useful, but fun. It was a tank as far as reliability though. But given a choice if both were readily available, I’d take the Chevy. Cooler looks and a good sound from the 6 with the right mufflers. Lol!

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  17. Joe T

    The VW didn’t really have wasted space between the cab and the engine under the bed floor. There was a storage area that was accessed through the door on the side for loading things that needed to be kept out of the weather. The VW was also available in double-cab 3-door model that could seat 6 in a pinch. That being said, I prefer the VW but I would take either if I had the chance.

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  18. Ulli

    in my opinion it is the best to one of each – like I do.
    Any of these unique trucks has its on spirit and is fun to drive.
    As a German I am closer to the Type 2 bus but as a Corvair driver I had to one one of these funny little US trucks along with my 66 Corsa, my 65 Cpupe and my 61 Sedan. Both are eye catchers and not more unsafe than any other vehicle of this area.
    Air cooled greeting from South Germany

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  19. Gene

    I had a Corvair pickup 1961 model, but it was a solid side bed. I heard later after I sold it that it was not the normal style. Wish now that I still had it. When I got rid of it, Corvair parts were hard to find.

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  20. Alan

    Make mine the rampside. I owned a Corvan as the first vehicle ever titled in my name. It had a broken clutch shaft that I replaced, only to find out that it also had a bad transmission. The PO had run it into a pole on the passenger side, but the dent was not so deep that it could not be pulled out, had not affected the windshield or floor. Sold it for a little more than I had in it… Before my parents found out!

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  21. mike S

    The rampside all the way. but I am swayed. I own one already, I own a 62 that I picked up last year. needs body work, but I plan on using it was a truck. I also own a Corvair station wagon.

    the truck is perfect to haul things around, got to haul a snow blower the other day and getting to use it as a actual work vehicle was great. I also haul a large mobility scooter and drive right up the ramp into the bed.

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