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Hagerty
Hagerty Employee

Two continents, a 1954 VW Kombi, and a life-changing 13,500-mile adventure

"I shall be telling this with a sigh, somewhere ages and ages hence: Two roads diverged in a wood, and I-I took the one less traveled by, and that has made all the difference."
https://www.hagerty.com/media/driving/marais-home-journey-vw-kombi-adventure/
33 REPLIES 33
Adam_Hurlburt
Pit Crew

What an adventure, and what a time to experience those places! I've wanted to take on something similar in my '65 split-window camper for years, but it sure won't be the same in 2021. The photos are just phenomenal. Can't get enough of these old VW adventure travelogues.
Mike56
New Driver

Oops, "....Volkswagen Type 1 Kombi"..... typo. You mean Type 2
Adam_Hurlburt
Pit Crew

Nope, Type 1 Kombi is correct. In this case Type 1 means first generation. We don't say this much in the US. But in Europe Splits are often referred to as T1, Bays as T2, Vanagons as T3.
Air_and_Water
Detailer

No, you're conflating "T1" with "Type 1". The T1, T2 etc. designations that go into the current water cooled vans didn't come along until much, much later.
In the days of air cooled VWs a Type I is a Beetle, Type II a Bus/Truck, Type III is a Squareback, Notchback, or Fastback (which made its debut in 1962) and a Type IV is a unibody vehicle with coil spring struts all around, but also in a Squareback and Fastback body style (which debuted in Europe in '68). It is completely unrelated to the Type 3 other than basic layout. It's actually more complicated than that, but those are the basics.
Adam_Hurlburt
Pit Crew

I'm aware of Type I Beetle, Type II Bus, etc. I just assumed the "T" in "T1," when used to designate a first gen Type II, also stood for "Type." Now I'm curious what the heck THAT "T" stands for!
LamboEd
Intermediate Driver

Now that was an adventure! WOW! I bet the roads in most of Africa are the same today! Why didn't they keep the Kombi? The could probably sell it for big $$$ at Mecum!
Rick2
Detailer

Great story. I have done a few "adventures" but nothing to compare to what they did. But they are right, if you want an adventure then just do it! What are you waiting for?
SuperDeLuxe
Detailer

What a world that used to be. To depend on your own intelligence and ability, and in no small part, the generosity of other intrepid travelers. We have lost everything and we don't even know it.
Adam_Hurlburt
Pit Crew

Get into an old VW Bus of mysterious provenance and drive it cross-country on two-lanes and you'll find that world still exists. Ask me how I know, haha.
brians356
Detailer

Seems like every other photo is of working on the bus. But, how would one make that trip using a plug-in EV? Hey?
Gary_Bechtold
Technician

Well you wouldn't or it would take an incredible long time to recharge with your solar and wind farm you would tow with you. :^)
dd1
Intermediate Driver

Wonderful story! I admire these incredibly intrepid travelers. Let's see...we MUST have our full size SUV with AWD...we MUST have our Smartphones...we MUST have our bottled water...we MUST have A/C and power steering...we MUST have our 10 credit cards...we MUST have this, we MUST have that--in order to travel 3 blocks from our homes, much less over two continents! Hey, they did pretty good without any of that stuff. Come to think of it, that generation fought and won one of the most horrific wars ever fought, defeating perhaps the most evil villain in recorded human history, all the while securing freedom and liberty for humanity. And rumor has it that they didn't have the Internet, Smartphones, Visa or Mastercard! Nah...that's impossible! How can you win a war without Verizon, Google or Evian Sparkling water? Just can't be done! Right?:)
chrlsful
Instructor

beginning the earth changes we now have, discriminating unto poverty'n death the 'others', going from the horse'n buggy to space'n the moon, etc, etc. Like every generation a full and amazing story (pluses & minuses)...
LouiseM
Pit Crew

One wonders if one could redo this trip with the same equipment.....
gfviperman
Detailer

Excellent!!!!
Finding that Kombi may be another adventure ...
SAG
Detailer

a 'bucket list' adventure.
unicom
New Driver

Brings back my own memories of a family road trip I experienced with my parents and younger brother in the summer of 1966. My father bought a T1 (split windshield) microbus that had been used to transport workers to and from the mill he worked in. He converted it into a basic camper van with a dining table that dropped down to make a bed, and little cubby holes to store camping gear and food. We made a round trip from the north east coast of Scotland to Poland, traveling through West Germany on the day of the England-Germany world cup final (that's how I remember it was 1966). East Germany was interesting. In the middle of the night, after taking a wrong turn and heading to Berlin instead of the Polish border, we were approached by some Russian soldiers at a rest stop. All they wanted was to "exchange" some watches for hard currency. Needless to say my parents complied as best they could. They didn't want to test if it was an offer they could refuse.

golfnut53083
Intermediate Driver

Really enjoyed the story. The love of travel has been a part of my family and friends as well. In 1974, at the tender age of 17, myself and 2 friends headed west to the 1974 World's Fair in Spokane, WA driving a 1964 Pontiac Tempest. We had many a wild tale that I am unable to share here, even though the statute of limitations would help! We even kept a diary, which we still bring out on occasion and enjoy it with a cold beverage.
rusgc
New Driver

Great story. The VW Kombis were amazing. 4 of us used to go on a canoe, camping trip every year from Cleveland Ohio to northern Ontario. We had a late 60's or early 70's Kombi that took 4 adults, camping/fishing gear, most of our food, 2 cedar canoes tied on the top. If I remember, 42 or 48 hp was motor size. We cruised at high way speeds with that l load, for 500-600 miles with little strain...slowed a little going up grades, but otherwise it did the job, and it was a comfortable ride. Amazing vehicle!
LouiseM
Pit Crew

Too true, I am amazed at what the car did. Louise
NCSco
New Driver

Come on movie industry, you have the script, make this happen.
chrlsful
Instructor

WoW !
5 ina vedub? all that way? I skipped it all (no time for a trip bio) after the rhino butting. But 4 mo seemed quick. My heart warmed by the 'men slept outside', asked the occasional ox team or 4WD for help up'n out. I did a trip around the outside/perimiter states of this big ol buetiful country (6.5K mi?) for 600$ (got the cash a when departing @ college graduation returned w/same amount) but it took 15 mo'n I stopped for the school yr for employment I'd found in Cali. Same age as most them BUT w a y different times and conditions (solo, 20 yrs later, usa. I did have a VT class mate dwn the east coast'n a cousin acc the southern states till break dwn in NV desert for 2 wk). Kids - what will they do nxt? Wish I had that stuff now !
topside
Detailer

Now THAT'S an epic adventure ! Thanks for sharing it !
Oliver
New Driver

What a great short story. We all have a certain adventurous spirit in us some act on it more than others. i own a 1971 vw baywindow weekender ( table and slide bed / no cabinets). Family and friends used to joke and try to to convince me take another more modern car on outings. Now 10 years latter i have to load up the Bus with all them because nobody wants to miss out on the experience it brings. Is it slow -yes, no a/c -yes, power steering- no, extra engine parts -yes, but most important, smiles and memories -YES. This article has inspired me to take a longer journey then i have ever done before. 13500 miles -no but a few weeks with a few that would dare to jump in- its in the works. Oliver - Long Island NY
LouiseM
Pit Crew

Love it Oliver, many happy miles and travels in your car. Louise
CanCruiser
New Driver

Amazing trip and story!
Reminds me very much of a series I used to read as a kid about a professional photographer "Marc Franval" who travelled through Africa with his family in a VW Combi and had all sorts of adventures and dangerous encounters.
Here's a poster from the magazine:
http://1.bp.blogspot.com/-I5aTmAkIAq4/Ut_uy2VsCOI/AAAAAAAABek/lF32faUZZd8/s1600/Marc+Franval+01.jpg
CanCruiser
New Driver

Sorry, Kombi to be correct..
hanjindozo
New Driver

My brother and I had a less epic trip in a '59 VW Panel on a trip to California from Washington in the mid-sixties. Some wires shorted out in Hollywood frying the generator and we made it back to Tacoma by paying for quick-charges with Dad's Texaco credit card. Couldn't run the headlights so we had to camp at dusk. I'd do it again.
Baldugly1
New Driver

This was the trip of a lifetime. One that I would have liked to watch the first British hosts of Top Gear: J Clarkson, R. Hammond, and J May make. I guess if you tried to make this trip today it might be easier as everything roads services etc has improved to some degree on the African Continent. The story did not mention doing any maintenance of the vehicle Oil changes valve adjustments tune ups that older VW's require. 14,000 miles is too much to run an old vw without doing nothing. That dent that the rhino made would have driven me crazy. I'm surprised when they got to Europe they did not have it fixed. I think this story would make one hell of an enjoyable movie. I would be first in line to watch it.
LouiseM
Pit Crew

The car got regularly serviced along the way, more often than not by the 3 men while the ladies were making supper/breakfast. It was fortunate that they knew what they were doing and could repair many things including broken clutch cable. It was a trip of a life time and ditto on the movie and/or a Top Gear episode to retrace the journey. Louise
02-orignal-ownr
Detailer

Holy cow (or cape buffalo, more appropriately)! I thought my two mid-1960s adventures--driving a 28 hp Renault 4CV from Austin, Texas to Mexico City and back, and driving a 16 hp Fiat Topolino from upstate New York to Ohio--at a maximum speed of 35 mph due to a terrible rod bearing knock--were epic trips, but in neither case did I encounter dirt roads, much less rhinos!
Gary_Bechtold
Technician

Now that is an adventure with real life thrills and danger. Not something many people would actively do today.
brb
Instructor

Great article. What an adventure.