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Cars that made SA great - A people mover that moves the people


AS THE second vehicle to be locally assembled by Volkswagen at its Uitenhage facility, the VW Kombi has certainly enjoyed some history with South Africans.

It was first seen in SA in 1955 and later in 1956 when the plant became part of the global Volkswagen Group’s network. The vehicle formed part of VW’s Type 2 range and gained popularity because of its looks and sturdy mechanicals. In 1956 a Kombi went for R1 348 and was powered by a 27kW/1200cc engine which allowed for a top speed of 80km/h. It was not uncommon for people to paint their Kombis and even customise the large interior to include beds, cupboards, fridges and even mini-workstations. Think back to the ice cream vans that would frequent our suburbs.

In 1967, the second generation Kombi, known as the Clipper, was released. Here we saw a new front end, a single pane windscreen and importantly a new 42kW 1.6-litre engine. The Clipper name fell out of favour and was eventually replaced with Microbus.

The car remained popular well into its lifecycle and even saw bigger, better engines come out such as the 1.7 and 1.8-litre units until the 2.0-litre came around in 1976. Then, the T3 in 1983 ushered in a water-cooled engine while six years later we saw the Kombi Syncro - the first production Type 2 with four-wheel-drive - was added to the range.

In 1991 a face-lifted version of the Kombi came out with the now famous bigger side windows and improved interior. The Microbus and Caravelle models received the Audi 2.5-litre five-cylinder engines which were updated to 2.6-litre versions in 1995, while the Kombi and Van models retained 1,8-litre four-cylinder mills.

Towards the end of its life, we saw the flagship Caravelle 2.6i Exclusiv emerge with two rearward facing seats and the popular Carat 2 wheels. In July 2002, Uitenhage officially ended production of the Kombi and marked the end of a glorious era, which had spanned 47 years.



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