VW T2: The special charm of the Last Edition Bulli


The special charm of the Last Edition Bulli

VW T2: The special charm of the Last Edition Bulli-edition

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All manual work: one of the last Bullis leaves production after a thorough inspection in the Brazilian VW plant.

Source: VW

VW T2: The special charm of the Last Edition Bulli-charm

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32 hours of work, then one copy was ready.

Source: VW

VW T2: The special charm of the Last Edition Bulli-bulli

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In the end, another 1200 models were refined into a “Last Edition”.

Source: VW

VW T2: The special charm of the Last Edition Bulli-charm

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In the final inspection, all functions are checked again …

Source: VW

VW T2: The special charm of the Last Edition Bulli-bulli

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… and repaired minor bumps in the body with a hammer.

Source: VW

VW T2: The special charm of the Last Edition Bulli-bulli

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Modern classic: a Brazilian VW T2 bus from 2013

Source: VW

VW T2: The special charm of the Last Edition Bulli-charm

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However, it no longer has the original boxer engine, but a water-cooled 1.4-liter four-cylinder petrol engine.

Source: VW

VW T2: The special charm of the Last Edition Bulli-edition

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Author Roland Lowisch sits at the wheel like one always sat in a Bulli: upright.

Source: VW

VW T2: The special charm of the Last Edition Bulli-special

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The cockpit hasn’t changed much in 46 years either.

Source: VW

The world-famous VW bus was built for almost 46 years, most recently only in Brazil. Now the iconic "station wagon" is being pushed to the elderly – because it does not meet modern safety requirements.

R.ums, the door is closed. The first man on the line takes care of the rough stuff. When a new VW bus comes out of production, he opens the passenger door, stands on his right leg, pushes his left knee down against the inside of the door, reaches up with his hands and bends it with a skillful swing and a certain amount of force . Then he slams the sash into the lock and uses his hands to check whether the metal sheets are flush.

The rustic quality check is carried out at the VW plant in Anchieta near São Paulo – everything by hand, as in 1968 in the Hanover factory, when the first of a total of over two million copies of the T2 were delivered. In Brazil he received his grace, so to speak, but now the last of its kind, the VW Bus T2c, is over. The car, the basic design of which is still based on the VW Beetle, no longer meets the safety requirements.

In Brazil, too, ABS and airbags will be compulsory for new cars from 2014, and VW has "tried everything, but no airbag needs to be installed due to the front structure," says Jochen Funk, VW Head of Marketing and Sales in Brazil. In the meantime, Finance Minister Guido Mantega promised an exemption, but nothing came of it. The national transport authority Contran decided that the requirements for new vehicles will come into force without exception.

Water cooling instead of air cooling

The Bulli was also produced in South Africa and Mexico, and from 2005 it was available with a water-cooled 1.4-liter four-cylinder gasoline engine and 78 hp instead of the original air-cooled 1.6-liter boxer with 58 hp. The last version got a little decorative, black radiator grille – otherwise almost everything remained original.

The older the Bulli got, the more distinctive it became – precisely because it barely changed. From 1976 to the end of 2013 around 1.12 million T2 models with the addition of 1.5 (because it was a mix of T1 and T2) and T2c (because of the further development of the T2b, which was built in Germany until 1979) left the Factory buildings near São Paulo.

Kombi – that’s the name of the T2 in Brazil

The "station wagon", as the model is officially called in Brazil, has become an integral part of the street scene. It masters the 80 percent of the still unpaved roads in Brazil brilliantly and is often used in the crowded megacities because trucks are not allowed to drive there between 6 a.m. and 10 p.m..

Craftsmen, small businesses and construction companies in particular swear by the German bestseller. At a price of 47,500 real for the one tonne transporter (the equivalent of around 14,800 euros) or the nine-seat bus (52,000 real, 16,200 euros) there is practically no alternative: "A T4 or T5 would no longer be affordable for many," says VW man Funk.

The Bulli promised good business

The group built and sold an average of 26,000 copies a year in Brazil – good business to this day. The station wagon has a regular place in the top ten of the Brazilian registration statistics, in 2012 it was ranked sixth. At the end of production, 145 cars a day left the production lines. A total of 750 employees worked on the station wagon in two shifts – and that is to be taken literally: no robot ruined the image of the beautiful old automobile construction.

The paint (99 percent white) was applied with conventional spray guns, the panes pressed into their sockets by hand, the cable harnesses pulled through the sheet metal with muscle power, the bodies moved from one position to the other on pulleys.

32 hours of manual labor

The men from quality control not only straightened the front doors, but also knocked any unevenness out of the sheet metal with a hammer and screw, readjusted the sliding doors and cleared the water drains of all kinds of blockages. A T2c was finished in 32 working hours.

João Gonzales de Oliveira almost wears tears when he thinks that there will be no more old Bullis as new cars in the future: “I worked on the old lady for 34 years, all my working life,” he sums up. He doesn’t want to say more about it. Like other workers, he is offered another job in the plant, but that doesn’t seem to make him happy.

Hardly admissible in Germany

So it is no great consolation that VW launched a “Last Edition” for the funeral service: At first only 600 units were planned, but due to the great demand there are now 1200 units that have left the line as normal Bullis to an external one Suppliers were brought and officially numbered with curtains, two-tone paint, CD radio and celebratory patterns on the seat cushions returned. At 85,000 real (26,500 euros), this Bulli is purely a collector’s item.

VW joins the funeral choir. The last number 1200 rolls into the VW classic car workshop in Hanover, number 56 remains in the Anchieta factory in Brazil, because the T1 and T2 were built there over a total of 56 years, and the first copy of the "Last Edition" is already in the Wolfsburg Autostadt. Where it will probably stay for licensing reasons as well as museums, because the Brazilian station wagon is not so easy to be licensed in Germany.

Classic cars at exorbitant prices

A lot of modifications are required for the car to be accepted by the TuV. A short ride is only possible with a short-term license plate or a red number. Two years ago a Dutch dealer had original T2c buses from Brazil on offer starting at € 26,000. The approval was made possible via the detour via Great Britain, which meant that the strict EU guidelines could be circumvented.

New Bulli specimens are only occasionally shipped to Europe. Alternatively, German T2 classic cars that are still in good condition are available. They then also have the air-cooled boxer engine, but are sometimes traded at horrific prices.

The technology is antiquated

A ride in the Last Edition T2 proves that – except for the engine – everything is still as it was before. So if you disregard the boring humming inline four-cylinder, you sit just as upright as before. The steering wheel has remained huge and its center is aimed right at the chin.

The seat can hardly be adjusted. In order to hit one of the four gears wildly touching with the eternally long gear lever, you have to lean forward. And when you step on the pedals, you can briefly see the road through the rubber seals.

Ironic slogan to say goodbye

The steering is similarly antiquated. Depending on the specimen – yes, it actually differs – it has more or less play. It is almost impossible to run in a straight line. This is of no consequence in Brazil when turning around the numerous potholes.

More trustworthy is the chassis, which is taut but comfortable at the front, but only taut at the rear – because VW complied with the Brazilian transport habits. It is not without irony that Volkswagen has now deregistered the Bulli from the dealer network; these are the first advertisements ever for the legend: “Unintroducing the Volkswagen Bus. Soon at no dealerships near you. "

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