Business, Economics and Jobs

Say a final farewell to the VW minibus — the vehicle that defined the 60s


An 2005 air-cooled VW Kombi sits next to a 2006 water-cooled version of the popular VW minibus. Both models were made in Brazil — the last place production of the vehicles continued. The model will be discontinued at year-end.


JasonVogel/Wikimedia Commons

It's the end of an era.

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Granted, I don't think I've actually seen a Volkswagen Bus in decades, but it's still a shame to find out that the the iconic boxy vehicle, known in Brazil as the Kombi, is wrapping up production.

In the US and Europe, the Kombi is synonymous with 1960s hippie culture. But in Brazil, the Kombi has been for decades a modern-day workhorse, serving as ambulance, school bus, hearse and street and hot dog stall. It's been produced in Brazil — mostly by hand — since 1957, about seven years after it first rolled off the assembly lines in Germany.

It had the same noisy, air-cooled engine until 2005, when it was updated. There have been other modifications to the vehicle's size and performance over the years. But as Franck Sowade, production manager at the Sao Bernardo VW factory told the BBC, modern-day regulations have finally gotten the better of the beloved Kombi. 

"It was one of the very first cars to be developed by the company. But to add the airbags, ABS braking and emissions modifications now required would be a big change in the whole product, and it would be too expensive and time consuming."

Around ten million of the vans have been built worldwide. Over the years, Brazil became the only country still producing the van, known officially as the Kombinationsfahrzeug. From 1970, Brazil exported the Kombi to several other countries such as Argentina, Mexico, Chile and even Nigeria.

It was loud, clunky to drive, and had absolutely awful heat in the winter. But it will be missed.