What The Hell Is This Not-Quite-A-VW Bus Thing?

Illustration for article titled What The Hell Is This Not-Quite-A-VW Bus Thing?
Screenshot: Old internet wherever, nobody really knows

I feel like this happens to me all the time. I’ll see some weird car thing on this massive global database of weird car things and it’ll stay in my head, balancing on the tip of my brain like the forgotten name of the person at a party you’re currently talking to. This particular one is familiar and baffling all at once. It looks, at a glance, like an early Volkswagen Type 2 Microbus. But it isn’t. And I really want to know just what the hell it is.


Okay, so first off, let’s establish what I think it isn’t and that’s anything officially made by Volkswagen. Yes, the wheels, hubcaps, the stance all feels VW, and I think it’s possible it’s built on some manner of VW chassis, but I just can’t see enough to be sure.

I thought maybe it was some sort of VW Type 2 prototype, but it’s definitely not, as those prototypes from around 1949 looked like this:

Screenshot: Volkswagen Heritage

Definitely similar, but clearly not the same. I’m pretty sure that bodywork is not Volkswagen, just designed to look Volkswagen.

The headlights are the same kind VW used, but oriented the wrong way for a Type 2. Also, as I covered before, a number of other companies were using these Hella/Bosch units, including DKW, which was also a German brand, and that background definitely looks European, but DKW’s minivans looked totally different:

Screenshot: DKW

On top of that, DKW made front engine/FWD vehicles, and this still looks rear-engine, rear-drive. Who else made rear/rear vans in this era?

I got excited when I remembered the Palten, a VW Type 2 bus/van knockoff vehicle with a diesel V-twin at the rear, but, sadly, those Paltens just didn’t look like that picture.

Screenshot: Volkswagen Heritage/Samba/Jason Torchinsky

There’s something about the dramatic vee shape of that mystery bus’ windshield that feels so damn familiar. Ugh. What is it?


This thing has to be European—the background, the semapahore indicators. I bet it’s from about 1952 to 1955 or so, somewhere in there.

Screenshot: Wikimedia Commons

Maybe Eastern Bloc? It doesn’t look like any of the Soviet vans like the UAZ, and I thought maybe it could be a Polish Nysa, like a N59, but, no, it’s not that.

What the hell is this thing? I’m hoping one of you car-savants out there can help me, help save me from this brain ache. I feel like when I hear it, I’ll be all duh, of course!


I tried a reverse image search and came up with nothing, too, by the way. I don’t even remember where I first saw this image, though I’m pretty sure I’ve encountered it more than once.

It doesn’t seem to be a Fiat or Renault or Borgward or Steyr or Tatra or IFA or a bunch of other bad guesses.


Maybe it’s just a one-off someone in Bucharest built just to drive me crazy 65 years later or something. If so, way to go, jerko.

If not, well, I’m hoping one of you brainiacs may be able to help. That windshield area. That’s key. Even just knowing that would help!



Senior Editor, Jalopnik • Running: 1973 VW Beetle, 2006 Scion xB, 1990 Nissan Pao, 1991 Yugo GV Plus, 2020 Changli EV • Not-so-running: 1977 Dodge Tioga RV (also, buy my book!: https://rb.gy/udnqhh)


Jacob Burnette

It’s got the old Magirus-Deutz logo on the side. There is evidence of them working on VW Transporters but not a whole lot of it seems properly documented. Might need to search more using some German language to get results.