Super 23-Window Samba Stash!

Super Samba Stash

While over at TheSamba promoting our new Sunken Samba t-shirt, I spotted this huge stash of 21 and 23-window Sambas! I’m not really into VW buses, but this sight took my breath away. These well-lite people haulers bring big money today and this guy has a ton of them. There are at least five tucked away in this garage and there are many more scattered around outside. Don’t plan on scoring a bargain project here though. This guy only sells them after he’s restored them and each bus sells for around six figures. Boy, I think I may have went into the wrong profession!

Outside Sambas

Checkout the Samba school bus! I hope they’re able to preserve the paint job on that one. It would be fun to learn if it really served as a kid hauler at some point. Having those big skylights to look out of sure would have made the daily journey to the school house more fun. Obviously, a lot of people have fun in one of these when they were younger because they are worth a lot more than you’d assume a slow and simple bus to be. How about you – do you have memories of basking under the sunlight in one of these?


  1. Van

    The guy down the streat cut the VW on the front to make a peace sign, it was painted like a US flag.
    Last time I drove a beetle it was so slow you could safely read a book on the way to work.
    I would assume these are slow too.
    I do think this would be great for sightseeing.
    Driving through the mountains or over the Brooklyn Bridge to find this huge apple I’ve heard about.

    • RayT Member

      Yes, they are slow. As in: VERY slow. As in: “snails scoot past you” slow.

      I love ’em. For a leisurely ride, there’s nothing nicer than riding along with all those windows letting light in. It may take all day to get where you’re going, but that means you only use them when you have all day to get there.

      When I was in college, a used-car lot near me had one that looked showroom fresh. I thought the $750 they wanted was way out of line, so didn’t buy it. I have regretted that ever since. (Same place had a pristine BN2 Healey I could have bought for the same price. I should have spent $1500 there, and would never have had to buy another car.)

      What turns a lot of people off about classic cars is that they are not as fast, comfortable and reliable as modern cars. I have always found that part of their charm. Now that Sambas have climbed so far out of my price range, I can only envy those who have them. If, that is, they drive and enjoy them instead of merely collecting them.

      • Albert

        I put a 2161 stroker motor in my 21 window bus… Easily cruise at 85MPH

      • sir mike

        I agree with you…my 2 old MK2 Cortina’s…even with modified motors…are slow compared with more modern cars.But the motor is in front to back and the drive goes out the rear…the way God intended….and people ask why don’t I do away with the 13” tire/wheel setup and go to 15” or bigger with new sticky tyres…..I tell them because they are meant to slide on the limit…..then you get the blank stares..they just don’t get it…

      • Dave Wright

        Your 2161 stroker is another 30,000 motor……..they don’t cool in a bus. They make a great sound while dropping a valve!!!!!

  2. Van

    I can’t stand, it so.
    Put a 930 turbo setup under it.
    Now check out the mountains.
    I need no stinking mirrors.

    • Julles

      I knew you guys would hate this.
      I’m not convinced you wouldn’t put more miles on a Porsche powered Samba.
      Pedal to the floor slowly merging into traffic with the original engine, unable to pass anything.
      A turbo monster that you have to be careful not to drive to fast.
      thinking, thinking, thinking, think I want the turbo 6.
      Just need Jake and Elwood, The Blues Brothers, blasting from the speakers.

  3. JohnD

    A lot of these have primer indicating bodywork around the openings for the “extra” small windows on top .. . Just saying .. . . Sort of reminds me of auctions where I see 10 ’70 Chevelles . . . and none with small blocks, or even 396s . . . but all with LS6s . . . . Makes me wonder. . .

    • KO

      There is often rust repair needed along the bottom of the vertical windows, especially the windshields, as well as the skylight windows. Seller seems pretty honest to me, in the ad even describes one bus as a “clone 23 window walkthrough- if anyone is interested in a sunroof for under 100k”. That means it’s not factory correct but will look it, so the price is cheaper. I don’t see where the seller is being dishonest.

  4. Chas

    Unfortunately, once again the comments are not supported by any actual real world experience. If the Bug that you rode in was that slow, it must have had something wrong with it.
    Sure, there were tiny little engines in the Beetle, originally a 30 hp, then 36 hp, and later 40 hp, but those little Bugs were certainly capable of traveling at decent speeds, as were the Samba micro-buses as well.
    I have owned many of them over the years and currently still own a 1957 and 1966 bug and a 1967 bus, and they are all capable of 70 mph or more. They will keep up on highways, but are much happier on the back roads, as they trend to slow down on long steep grades whcih often require a downshift. Certainly not slow enough to read a book!
    I would love to have this many 23 window buses!

    • Dave Wright

      There in lies the problem. I bought my first airplane with profits from replacing bus engines at 30k miles. They will do 70 for a while…….a little while. They never fit well on American highways. In town they are great or if you limit speed and power settings with your right foot they are ok. Otherwise they self destruct. The beetles were better, less mass to move but you could still feel the difference with more passengers.

    • Alan Brase

      UHHH. A 36 hp bus will not go 70. The 1500 single port, as used in 1963-68, was about 48-50hp. A 36 was good for 50-55mph. The song “I cant drive 55” applies here.

      • Chas

        Exactly. My 1967 has the later 1500 engine and will do 70, but just barely.

  5. KO

    Never dealt with the seller/restorer of these buses. There’s a 7 page feedback thread on thesamba for him. Seems like a pretty good guy.

    • Alan Brase

      Yes, Jeff is a stand up guy. Recently moved from South Dakota to Oregon (?). He sells used parts and reproduces some as well.

  6. redwagon


    me thinks he has more money in non-running, non-restored 21 and 23 window vw buses than i do in my retirement account.

  7. angliagt

    Driving one of these is like you’re racing –
    but no one around you is aware of it.
    These were cool,when they were $500.

  8. Rocco Member

    Mike Wolfe of Antique Archaeology(American Pickers) loves these vans. He bought one with the side missing. Maybe someone in the know should contact him.

  9. Chebby

    You guys featured that very school bus not long ago:

    • Jesse Mortensen Jesse Staff

      Good eye Chebby!

  10. Milt Sylwester

    The speed problem is easily resolved by swapping the VW engine with a Subaru engine. There is a company in Tacoma, Washington which specializes in “engine-swapped” vans, and probably many other companies on Google. Granted, not for the purist VW van types, but sure makes an otherwise slow van go like a bat out of hell.

    • Dave Wright

      That doesn’t sound easy or cheep…….is that the conversion that they have to reverse the rotation of the engine? Off course, I have seen every kind of conversion into these vans to improve them, corvairs, Chevy V8’s, Porsche 911’s, the water cooled conversions were popular because it gave them a good heater. It was much simpler to just buy a Chevy or Dodge……no modifications needed.

      • Albert

        A 2161 stroker motor is just like the 1600 motor you wouldn’t know the difference side-by-side until you started it up and drove it… The only difference we did was pulled out the old rear reduction boxes and put in a freeway flyer transmission which is simply your standard transmission for a bug or Vw thing with taller gears in the fourth gear. I ran a set up for years I’ve never had any problems doesn’t run hot… It’s a perfect set up… The difference in the front suspension was we pulled out the old stock beam and we put in a new or beam that is adjustable and 2 inches narrowed and has dropped spindals..Keeps me planted on the ground and ride smooth as a Cadillac… And I could run 100 miles an hour if I wanted to although I choose not to.. It’s not a $30,000 motor if you know how to build motors yourself you can buy a Longblock set to your specifications an add dual carburetors and additional Oil cooler which is not expensive currently.. I have $65,000 into my bus however the motor was about 15,000. If you check the Internet there are plenty of places in California selling stock and aftermarket upgrades that take these old buses and bugs to a whole new level

      • Dave Wright

        I know VW hotrod motors well…….was building them in the early 70’s in Riverside Ca one of the Meccas of VW hotrods. They have very poor longevity and are expensive to build correctly. You are a bright guy to adjust the gear ratios for your use. Most of the old guys would put a hotrod engine in a beetle and only get better acceleration but the speeds didn’t change much. I drove a 62 Karman notchback (Porsche) with a normal engine. Guys would come up next to me on the highway and want to race. I would usually just drop a gear and run away from them. I know they had twice my horsepower and I would not drag race them but they were useless on the highway. Even open air rail buggy’s with overbuilt VW engines had trouble cooling. It was difficult to convince customers that they needed a huge oil cooler and extra capacity after some engine builder said they didn’t need it. Bought lots of buggy so with rods hanging out the side of blocks cheep from discussed owners. That is when the “Pinto Beans” conversions became popular using a Pinto water cooled 4 cyl. I liked the 1600 version built with British racing mods, that was a tough engine, even the stock 411 engine had cooling problems in a bus, that is when VW built there first water cooled conversion engines for them, Horsepower makes heat and it has to have someplace to go.

      • Bill McCoskey Bill McCoskey Member

        The best conversion for these is a simple one: the Tatra T-603 engines will bolt up to the VW trans case, the clutch is the same too, even the input shaft! Then you have a 2.5 liter air-cooled V8 back there. On the bug you would not be able to close the engine cover, and the bus would need the back cargo shelf raised up a few inches.

        As a Tatra T-603 owner, I’m seriously looking at bringing over a spare engine or 2. Anyone interested?

      • Dave Wright

        That sounds great, but Bill…….what is a Tatra engine worth these days……40,000? The cars have become very expensive. I saw one in a museum for sale outside Stutgart last fall…….he wanted 125,000 euros for it.

      • Alan Brase

        Wow. I kinda knew a bit about them. Are spares available? How much, landed in USA? How many horsepower? I’m guessing not a lot, about 140 hp?

      • Dave Wright

        Tatras are very cool. A young Ferdnand Porsche started his engineering career with a them. Many people say they were the first Porsche and were heavily plagerized for his post war cars they are not like a VW, but a high end car that was expensive to build. Some were used as military staff cars. Jay Leno has one too…….there is a good article about it at his garrage site.

  11. Crazydave

    There is a Latin name for these: “Go-us Slow-us Up hill-us”

  12. Woodie Man

    Ask me if I rue the day I sold my ’67 21 window bus with a complete Westphalia interior (that I took from a wrecked bus) in 1983 for 6k and that was very good money!. Of course it was a never restored original excellent condition bus named appropriately, Furthur.

    That they bring absolutely unbelievable money is a piece with the folks that “have” and never had a bus back n the day. Still have a complete set of roof windows wrapped in newspaper in my garage. Waiting until THEY hit 100 K!

    Heres the Westphalia going away to the crusher , stripped of course of every usable part

  13. Little_Cars Alexander Member

    I have a small color snapshot from a Brownie camera of my sister being picked up for summer camp in a yellow VW window van. I don’t believe it had all the windows. Taken around 1961-63.

  14. Prowler

    A friend of mine had a vw bus just out of high school
    He actually kept a brick on the floor…anytime he would go on the highway he slid that brick on to the gas pedal….kind of a crude cruise control…62 mph…that is until we came to a hill….not enough bricks

  15. Alan Brase

    I have a 58 23 window. When last driven in 1970, the engine had already been exchanged by the dealer. I seriously doubt there is a single 36hp bus in the world with 100k miles on an unoverhauled engine.
    The dream of driving an old 1950-79 VW bus at modern freeway speeds for 50k miles or more is just that, a dream. A built up large displacement type 1 engine will still have that Achilles heel that most have- that thrust main bearing held poorly in a soft magnesium case. Either you get a race case or a completely different engine.
    VW do Mexico did it with a water cooled inline 4 in the 1990’s. Or a Subaru today. but to do a nice, integrated job is not cheap. You’d need to spend over $20k to make it as good as a $2000 mini van.It must be a labor of love.
    Or just learn to slow down and drive 50-60mph. Drive your 911 after you finish your slow trip.
    The early bus is an amazing vehicle. It will nearly follow a mountain goat. Or, take 8 passengers, or be your extended home on the blue highways. To make it a freeway flyer is a fool’s errand.

  16. Chuck Foster Chuck F

    I ran across a bay window with a Buick 3.8 V6 in it at Tyndall AFB, I thought the spare tire cover was strange looking, oh yeah, it’s a radiator.

  17. Chuck Foster Chuck F

    The owner said he was planning on moving the radiator to the rear somehow.

  18. Alan Brase

    Radiators work very well in front, if you can stand the look. They can be well positioned underneath between the frame rails, with a scoop also.
    So, it this for sale? perhaps start its own thread?

  19. Van

    I go back to my original comment.
    Porsche 6cyl, turbo optional.

    • Alan Brase

      Have you ever DRIVEN one of these at 70mph? (I have. Perhaps 100k miles)
      Porsche 911 engines are not exactly thick on the ground and not exactly what you need to propel a mini van in modern traffic. Plan on spending $5000 to $25,000 for a good 911 motor.
      Putting a 911 or 930 Turbo engine in, you will also need the transmission, to get the strength and the ratios, and EVERYTHING ELSE under the skin to make it a 100+ mph car.
      Oh, you can make a bus into a Nurburgring 911 turbo eating monster. There is pretty good documentation out there of something called “Race Taxi” and it is really something. The guy has I would guess more than $100k in the conversion. (Look it up online. It is a hoot!)
      There is another with a blown Chevy V8 in the back seat. It might be great for a few days at Bonneville. (If the salt ever gets drivable again!)
      BUT, it is no longer a VW bus, but rather a racing car that looks like a VW bus.
      You are not going to load you family up in this thing and take a vacation, or go on a great wanderlust trip, sleeping in the back. You are not going to drive it on ridge roads and skinny trails.
      I’ll say it again. there are only 2 PRACTICAL routes to take:
      1. A very mildly improved VW flat 4, maybe 75-80hp
      2. A water cooled 4, either VW inline, gas or diesel, or Subaru 2.2-2.5. these will get you anywhere from 100-150 hp. And that is way more than enough. At those hp numbers you need to upgrade brakes, suspension and tires.

  20. Chas

    Or simply keep it bone stock original, and drive it at reasonable speeds and have a blast on local roads, and forget the highways, which are no fun anyway!
    These things were not made to go fast, and are most pleasant at 45 to 60 mph.

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