Peace, Love, and Volkswagen
The Volkswagen brand has certainly undergone many changes in its image over the years. Beginning infamously as a product of Hitler and the Nazis, the practical, affordable German vehicles became an unlikely fixture of the American counterculture during the 1960s and 70s.
This hippie image has clung to particular Volkswagen vehicles over the years- most notably the beloved Volkswagen microbus. What was it about this pre-cursor to the minivan that so appealed (and continues to appeal) to droves of free-spirited longhairs?
The VW Microbus: A Chilled-Out Lounge on Wheels
The Volkswagen microbus, known at the time as the “Type 2,” was popular for several reasons. The big ones include the bus’s interior roominess, unique aesthetic, practical versatility, straightforward mechanics, and undeniable charisma.
As far as space went, these vehicles were basically a mobile chill-spot, with the spacious rear area able to be decked out with cushy rugs, lava lamps, and light furniture with room to spare for a guitar or two. This communal vibe made the microbus perfect for cruising across the country from one hazy musical happening to another.
Despite the generous interior room, the bus managed to be small enough to stay easily maneuverable in cities. This was thanks in part to its short nose, which Volkswagen accomplished by moving the engine to the rear. Additionally, interior vibes stayed pleasant thanks to a uniquely smooth ride quality for the time due to an advanced suspension system.
The Volkswagen microbus was one of the few vehicles that somehow managed to be both cute and cool at the same time. The pleasant, benign look appealed to anti-war flower children, while it also looked un-American and unique enough to represent a break with the conformity of their straight-laced parents. The vehicle gave off a simple, wholesome aura that lent itself well to a youthful endless summer.
To round out the appeal, the VW microbus was cheap and practical. It was durable, and the straightforward mechanics meant anyone with a few tools on hand could take a crack at repairing it, while parts could be swapped out with those from other Volkswagen models. And not only could you ride comfortably in the microbus: you could actually live in it.
And let’s not forget, it could be painted. The Volkswagen microbus’s flat angles lent themselves well to canvases of expansive psychedelic design on all sides.
An Enduring Legacy
All these factors help explain why the Volkswagen microbus is still a ubiquitous feature at music festivals and summer surf spots, even though these days they’re so much harder to get your hands on. Here’s hoping Volkswagen follows through on the I.D. BUZZ and helps bring forth another era of on-the-road adventures.