End of the road for Kombi

THEY were the preferred transport of hippies attending Nimbin's inaugural Aquarius Festival in 1973.

Thousands of surfers travelled in convoys along the North Coast in these, seeking the perfect wave.

Former Prime Minister Bob Hawke's daughter Rosslyn even lived in a yellow specimen at Nimbin - now at Nimbin Museum.

Sadly for some, December 31 will signal the end of an era for the iconic VW Transporter, aka Kombi van.

After 56 years in production and 10 million vans produced, Volkswagen recently announced it would stop making the transporter.

Now only produced in Brazil, Volkswagen has said it can't change production to comply with a law that requires all Brazilian vehicles to have anti-lock brakes and air bags from 2014.

Part of popular culture around the globe, millions have fond memories of the four-cylinder people mover.

"Travelling in a fried-out Kombi" even made it into the lyrics of the unofficial national anthem Down Under by Men at Work.

In 1974, when Bexhill's Ian McLeod spotted a Kombi camper for sale in a Lismore car yard, his fascination with Volkswagens began.

The self confessed "enthusiast" bought the camper and used it to take his young family on holidays for the next five years.

In 1979, the family had outgrown the camper, so Mr McLeod bought the white Kombi transporter he still has today.

In pristine condition for its age, the air-cooled "bus" has clocked up 322,000km and still has the original engine and gearbox.

"Over the years I have moved my daughter in and out of university accommodation, transported furniture, timber, people and towed a trailer," he said.

"You can have an eight-seater microbus and then in 10 minutes you can take all of the seats out of the back and you have a big space that's capable of taking up to a tonne, so it's very versatile."

Mr McLeod said he enjoyed the elevated driving position and loved the excellent vision when driving his Kombi.

"It's fun to drive, always attracts a bit of attention, and I've had people leave notes on the windscreen asking if I want to sell it."

Mr McLeod said he was not ready to part with his precious Kombi just yet and was saddened by the news production of the vehicle will end.

"It's a sad time because it's an iconic vehicle that is known right around the world."

Kombi facts

  • Hippies used to turn the VW badge into a peace symbol on the front of their Kombis.
  • Anti-war activists used their Kombis as a canvas to express their political/artistic views.
  • In German the word Kombi is short for Kombinationskraftwagen.
  • The official designation was the Type 2 - the Beetle was Type 1.
  • Around the world Kombis have been used as police vehicles, ambulances, by morgues, as army transport, and as food and ice cream vans.
  • Kombi nicknames include the bread loaf, splitty (for older models with split windscreens), the hippy bus,Vee Dub, and originally it was to be called a bully.

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