‘There are certain motor vehicles that immediately conjure stereotypical visions of their owners. When it comes to the classic Volkswagen bus, when you drove past one back in the day you expected to hear Grateful Dead tunes blaring from the speakers. The driver had to be a flower child of some kind, and a peculiar smoky scent was likely to be present.
Of course, in reality many different types of people have owned Volkswagen buses over the years, but there is some truth to the stereotype because, after all, it is known as the “hippie bus.”
Here in the United States the vehicle has always been referred to as a Volkswagen bus, but its official name is the Kombi, which is one of a number of different Volkswagen Type 2 vehicles. The vehicle was first introduced for the 1950 model year, and it remained in production in one form or another for a very long time.
The engine that powered the 1950 Volkswagen bus was the same engine that they used for the Volkswagen Beetle. It was a four-cylinder, 1311 cubic inch air-cooled engine. If you have ever driven a Volkswagen bus, you know that they have many strengths, but power is not one of them. This initial engine was rated at 24 hp.
There is nothing like being able to sleep comfortably in your vehicle when you are young and on the go without a lot of money for motels. This is one of the reasons it is so closely identified with the bohemian/hippie culture. You could hit the road and go on tour with your favorite band, a bunch of friends in tow, even if you did not have a lot of money.
The vehicle was also perfect for people who liked to camp and otherwise enjoy nature. The “place-to-crash on wheels” was part of the appeal, and the engine, though admittedly lacking in power, was energy-efficient. Because of the fuel efficiency you could go a long way on a little bit of money. (During the 1967 Summer of Love gasoline cost around $.33 per gallon.)
The Volkswagen bus was made in Germany originally, but production moved to Brazil in 1957, and it remained in production there for 56 years. At the end of 2013 Volkswagen discontinued production of the iconic bus, but there are still relics out there for sale if you want to make a counterculture statement when you are out on the road.