On The Bus: 1970 VW Kombi Transporter

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We have featured any number of seemingly over-priced and over-rusted old Volkswagen buses over the years. The early ones have seen prices literally go crazy over the past few years. Personally, I don’t get it, and I lived through and enjoyed the original days of the “hippie bus” craze.

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At least in my experience, while they were incredibly practical, inexpensive to operate and easy to maintain, they were also dangerously slow in both acceleration and maximum speed, handled terribly, and worst, were prone to acting like giant sails in strong winds.

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Since Transporter buses were extremely light, wind could move them across lanes on highways pretty easily. I was a passenger in one of these on the Bay Bridge going from San Francisco to Berkeley. A strong wind took us across two lanes of traffic and we were just incredibly lucky that it was at night, and that there were no cars in the lanes next to us. That was not a thrill, and pretty much cured me of any desire I had to ever own one of these VW Kombis for myself.

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And of course, with almost no structure in front of the front seats, if you happened to hit anything head on, you were much more likely to be injured or killed than if driving just about any other vehicle.

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This 1970 Transporter (also called a Kombi station wagon) for sale here on craigslist in Trumbull, Connecticut appears to be in much better condition than many (though not all) of the other similar VW buses that have appeared here over the years. The seller says his bus is “all original, runs, shifts thru gear, no brakes need to go thru….Solid body, floor and rear area. Minimal rust, only surface rust. All jack points and frame solid.”

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This bus also comes with some extra parts and a modest $4100 asking price. At least from the pictures, it appears to have solid floors, a far better than average interior, and an engine that must have been rebuilt or at least kept very clean over the past several years. Mileage on the bus is said to be a very modest 93,000 miles, which could be true based on the condition of this Vee Dub. The older Connecticut license plate suggests it has been off the road for some time as well.

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On the other hand, the rust shown here appears, at least to me, to be much more than superficial, and there is pretty clear evidence this bus has had some amateur body work done to it in the past. Given that it’s now more than 45 years old and seems to have been in Connecticut for some time, it’s impossible for it *not* to have rust issues. But for $4,100, this seems like a good deal, especially if the floors and frame do turn out to be solid.

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I’ll be very interested to hear what our readers have to say about this old bus. NADA says the low retail for one of these is now about $7,400 – so is this one a good deal or not?

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Comments

  1. hhaleblian

    $7400 for this or a 90’s 300zx….hmmmm lemme think about that for about a nanosecond. For those wondering, the listing wouldn’t be the one on top.

    • David Wilk Member

      NADA is $7400 but this one is listed at $4100. That may not make it a better deal than any number of other cars, of course, but it doesn’t sound like crazy money either.

  2. Alan Brase

    Yeah, they are pretty slow. The 15-1600’s are tolerable, with top speed about 68mph listed. But when you drive one you always wish for just a bit more!
    Yes, they are very susceptible to cross winds, but that is very much reduced when the properly rated tires and inflation. And many buyers/ owners are very ignorant of how to select the correct tires. Tire sellers, too. Since 1970 or so those specs are listed on the vehicle. I cannot overstate how much difference this makes.
    With the suspension these have, they are much more sensitive even to inflation pressures. Yet, they work so great when everything is right.
    This car? $2000 with title, $1200 without.
    Al

    • David Wilk Member

      Just FYI in Connecticut cars over 25 years old don’t have titles and are sold with Bill of Sale, so the lack of title is not an issue here.

  3. Anastos

    I remember years ago when people were literally giving these things away…

  4. Alan Brase

    Years ago, people were giving everything away.
    I agree, they kinda outstripped my expectations. But so did a lot of things.356 and early 911 Porsches for sure, who knew? MANY KNEW THEY WERE VERY nice cars. Who buys something for investment? Just buy because you like it.
    I don’t live in Connecticut. Nor do any of the out of country buyers who are bidding these up.
    This is a pretty nice 1970 bus, with a 1971 motor, good for about 57 hp. Rustier than advertised, but much nicer than the one in my garage.
    All cars had titles when they were new. Somebody just lazy here. Lack of a title causes a great deal of trouble in my state.
    Al

    • Jeff Lavery Jeff Staff

      Alan, it’s not really laziness. My DMV in RI simply will not, won’t, refuses, etc. to issue a new title for vehicles over 10 years old. My ’80 BMW 320 project came without a title and the state could care less (and the seller had no clue where it was, as he never intended to sell it and didn’t spend a lot of time looking for it).

      I just went through this selling a car and it seems people in other states just refuse to believe this is the way it’s done elsewhere. For all of the bureaucracy of the northeast, they really could give a rat’s ass about titles.

  5. Spence

    It’s pure insanity how much these have increased in value. The safari windows I can get, along with the fully customized offerings. Still kicking myself for not buying a 74′ Westy in near meant for $3500 in 94′. Of course, I have had near 30 vehicles so history says I would most likely no longer own it.

    • Chebby

      Agree on the insanity. They haven’t increased in value, only in price. Not quite the same thing.

  6. Jay E.

    Lets not forget about a valve job every 35-40K miles. Oh, and a brick to put on the gas pedal for those long straight stretches. My foot would fall asleep from pressing it to the floor for extended periods.

    • Alan Brase

      The later 1500-1600’s were a little better on engine top end durability. I’ve had them go 90-100k miles, then the thrust bearing was moving in the crankcase. You want a good motor, put a Subaru EJ22 in it. 135hp on the weakest Subie 2.2 engine will have you never needing more hp.
      When new in the 50’s early 60’s, I think (German) factory rebuilt motors were about $200-250. Labor, about an hour. American engines were more durable, but nothing like today.
      I agree about the brick, though I think a properly sized stick or even 2×4 would be better.
      But really, why drive it down the freeway? The narrow blue highway is the best place for it.
      WRT the Safari windshields: The ONLY reason you really need them is because the poor vent system of early buses. 1950-55 had NO ventilation, DUH.
      By 1968 and curved windshields, the air flow was better, though heating was a little weak for the northern climates.
      American vehicles were always better in that area, probably because most automotive engineers lived in Michigan.
      Al

  7. Doug M. (West Coast)

    I have always liked these. A neighbor lady has had one for 25 years. I always wanted to buy it. Last month she decided to sell it to me. It’s a really ugly color, but very clean and original (except for the paint). I paid a little more than what this white one is listed, but to my surprise, found that it came with an origianl VW Tent,(its a Westfalia equipped model). I have already camped out in it with the grandkids, and its a blast! It is just fun, even if slow.

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  8. LD

    CT just doesn’t deal with Old titles. I want an old truck with Kentucky title, when I went to motor vehicles they issued a registration and no title. I have the old title in the previous owners name but no title in my own name

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