Global Economics

Thousands Gather to Salute the VW Bus


A three-day festival in Germany celebrating the vehicle's 60th anniversary features 5,000 of the Volkswagen minibuses on display

It has been the preferred vehicle for postal workers, policemen, camping enthusiasts and, of course, members of the "Flower Power" generation. Over the weekend, 60,000 people came to Hanover for a three-day festival saluting 60 years of the vehicle that revolutionized the world.

The festivities kicked off on Friday with a parade of 150 historical mini-buses through Hanover's city center. In total, over 5,000 examples of the vehicle from all five "generations" convened from 21 countries for the event. Of the 11,000 owners who attended, the one to travel the farthest was a man who came 2,800 kilometers (1,740) from Russia.

Saturday saw thousands gather on the festival grounds visiting over 30 stands and making the rounds to admire the vehicle in all its permutations. That evening saw 44,000 gather for a performance by the British rock band, The Who.

The vehicle's original name was the T2, short for Type 2. Type 1 was Volkswagen's so-called "Beetle." In 1947, Dutch auto importer Ben Pon visited a VW production facility in Wolfsburg and saw Beetle chasses being used to transport heavier objects. His sketches for a bus prototype would come to life three years later when the first buses rolled off the production line: they had 25 horsepower, could reach a top speed of 100 kilometers (62 miles) per hour and cost 5,850 deutsche marks.

The German name for the bus was "Bulli," short for "Bus und Lieferwagen" (bus and delivery vehicle). Other names include the "Transporter" and "Kombi," short for Kombinationskraftwagen, or "combined-use vehicle."

While the van-like version of the vehicle is perhaps best-known, numerous versions have existed. The first camping version appeared in 1951. The vehicle has sold over 10 million models and has been a favorite of the police, military, post office and countless others, whether with a flatbed or enclosed back.

In the 1960s and '70s, the bus was very popular with the hippies in particular because it was fuel-efficient, robust and offered enough room to sleep comfortably inside. Unfortunately, the minivans and SUVs it would later inspire don't share its gas savings.

The buses have been produced in Hanover since 1956. VW's commercial vehicle production plants there are the city's largest employer, with 15,000 workers.

Provided by Spiegel Online—Read the latest from Europe's largest newsmagazine

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