Barn door, rat rod, VW, type II, kombi, ambulance. Today's Nice Price or Crack Pipe Volkswagen Bus may be a lot of things, and it's up to you to decide if deal is one of them.
A lot of you were French Pressed to scrape together much love for yesterday's 1991 Peugeot 405 Mi16, a fact borne out in its 70% Crack Pipe loss. Exclusive it may have been, but with so many great contemporary competitors from which to choose, parts availability and general rough condition played significant roles in the Pug's fate.
The patina of age may have been to that 405's detriment, but in the case of today's 1951 Barndoor VW Kombi it's an affectation that probably has been carefully cultured for its appeal.
When related to the VW Type II, the term Barndoor refers to an engine lid that is roughly twice the height of that of a standard bus. It's typically applied to all early Type II, from the ‘49 prototype to the those built up to March, 1955. All were built at VW's Hanover plant, and the change in engine lid took place shortly before production was moved to Wolfsburg in ‘56.
This 1951 Kombi is a Barndoor, but it is also claimed to possibly be the world's oldest Type II ambulance. That's a head-scratcher as typically, while technically being barndoors the ambulances had cut-down engine lids and a lower rear shelf, as well as a windowless rear door that folded down rather than up. Early Type II ambulances also had left-side cargo doors, a repositioned gas tank and spare tire, cabinetry inside and numerous other identifiers. That all means this ain't a VW ambulance. The seller claims this ‘51 bus was sent to Miesen Ambulance in Bonn for conversion, and then on to duty in sunny Portugal. The Miesen connectionmay lend veracity to the claim it's the oldest Type II ambulance in the world, however one might need to append ‘conversion' to make it remotely plausible.
Right now the only thing that makes this Kombi look like an ambulance is the little red-cross light perched like a nurse's cap on the leading edge of its roof. The rest of the body is covered in an angry patina of age and use that makes it look - if it were an emergency vehicle - like it's the ambulance for perhaps Silent Hill. Orange over white and with a healthy dose of surface rust and panel deformations, it looks like an old shoe, or something Jessie James might have shat out after discovering Sandra Bullock's divorce conditions.
It is a Splittie and rocks some cool traficators just aft of the doors that still appear to work. The floor inside has been replaced and a lot of the mechanical systems - drive train, steering, suspension, have been upgraded to more modern (i.e. post ‘55) pieces. Front brakes are out of a Porsche 944 while the rear drums have been enlarged an attempt to keep up. Power is still VW flat four, but the original 25-horse 1,131-cc engine has been replaced with a 2,110-cc boxer, fed by a Solex 34 pict 3 single barrel carburettor. The installation looks reasonably clean but not anal, and raises the question where does one find hot pink Zip ties? Power? Who knows? This bus is more about appearance than the Autobahn, but at least it's reassuring to assume it can move under its own power. When it does move, it rolls on a set of shiny Porsche Fuchs which stand in sharp contrast to the bus' otherwise rat roddiness.
The short driver's compartment (how scary is the fact that the headlights intrude on the space) features some old - kick-out windscreens, near-vertical three-spoke wheel, flat bench, and some new - big-ass gauges and an oh-shit grab bar made out of gas pipe. It's a mix that is not without its charm.
So this an ambulance that's lacking pretty much everything that would have made it an ambulance. It also carries a style that appeals to a somewhat narrow - and typically tattooed - demographic. But what the hell, it's a 10-window Splittie Barndoor and that's got to be worth something. The seller is hoping someone will think it's worth something around $55,000. Do you think it's worth anywhere near that? Or, is this a Barndoor that should stay down on the farm?
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