VW’S TYPE 2 WAS DESIGNED AS A CHEAP AND SIMPLE COMMERCIAL. BUT TODAY’S ROCK-STAR STATUS MEANS THERE’S COOL CHARACTER IN VW’S CARGO CARRIER AND COLIN HYETT’S IS ONE OF THE BEST
"WHEN HE WAS FOUR, COLIN TOLD HIS MUM: 'THAT’S MY DREAM CAR! I WANT ONE OF THOSE!’"
In Februar y 2015 jaws dropped around the countr y when a 1960 23-window Volkswagen Kombi Samba sold at auction for $202,000 ! Yes, it is t he most collectable of V W’s once-humble people movers but t wo hundred grand for a Kombi? Well, suspend your disbelief because the Kombi you are look ing at has been va lued in excess of t hat recordbrea k ing auction price. It belongs to Colin Hyett, a V W tragic since childhood and even if you happen to have a la z y $200k ly ing around, it’s not for sa le.
Colin’s air-cooled addiction began when he was four. He remembers the day it happened. “We were sitting at t he tra f f ic lights opposite t he cemeter y in Frankston and I looked up and saw this Kombi and said, ‘That’s my dream car, Mum, I want one of those one day’. It was a 23-window Microbus Deluxe in duck-egg blue and ivor y and she said, ‘Get your head out of t he clouds, Colin’.”
Colin’s mechanical engineer fat her was no fan of Volkswagens eit her; he preferred t he historic Porsche, Lotus and Cor vette race cars he worked on. But his workshop backed onto V W specia lists Edwards & Ruggero Motors in the Melbourne bayside suburb of Seaford and young Colin spent a lot of time t here ogling Beet les and Kombis. At 16 he bought his f irst car from t hem, an a ll-original a labaster-on-red 1957 Beet le, scraping together the $700 it cost by mowing law ns and doing gardening jobs.
But his fat her’s disdain for t he litt le German cars meant Colin didn’t have the ner ve to tell him he’d bought a Beetle and he initia lly stored it at Edwards & Ruggero. When he did tell him, he was made to park it three houses away from the family home. “He was ver y embarrassed by it and used to ca ll it t he Kraut wagon,” shrugs Colin, who
"IT’S ABSOLUTELY AMAZING TO DRIVE. EVERYONE TOOTS, WAVES OR FLASHES THE PEACE SIGN AT YOU"
still has t hat now ver y va luable V W. And t he last laugh.
By t he time he was at universit y Colin a lso had a ’58 Kombi – bought for $ 900 – which he lived in after his fat her k icked him out of home. “That was great fun, it was my mobile home, I could park it any where and not feel like I was camping at anyone’s house,” he reca lls. “I eventua lly sold it for $18,000 to f und a t rip to Ita ly”.
The ’58 Kombi was followed by a 1965 Microbus Delu xe Safari but it was a LHD American import and he wanted an Austra lian-delivered Kombi so it too was a lso sold to f und another overseas trip. When he returned he bought his f irst modern Volkswagen, an early Golf, and had his Beetle restored by Delu xe Kustoms. He also owns a ’61 Karmann Ghia and a ’94 Golf Convertible (by Karmann) and says his Volkswagen collection is complete.
Which brings us to the amazing Kombi you see here, again paid for by doing law n and gardening jobs – big gardening jobs. Colin is now a landscape gardener, based in Lang warrin outside Melbourne.
He found this 1961 23-window Microbus Safari on the internet nine years ago and paid a lmost $ 95,000 for it. “I rang around the Volkswagen club to f ind out if anyone
"VOLKSWAGENS – YOU CAN DRIVE THEM ANYWHERE AND ANYONE CAN FIX ONE"
k new the car,” he explains. “Someone said it was a great car so I got someone in Perth to look over it. I wanted to make sure t he body was fine. It needed some engine work but the body was in amazing condition. It was restored 31 years before I bought it and hasn’t been touched since; it was a ver y good restoration.”
He estimates he is only its fourt h owner. “I just k new it was t he right one,” he smiles. “It is the ultimate Kombi and my dream car and t hey are so rare. I just wanted one. It’d been for sa le for a while because of its high price but t he owner wouldn’t negotiate so I said, ‘Fair enough’ and had it trucked from Perth to Melbourne.”
When Colin’s dream car arrived, it more t han met his expectations. “It looked brand new. It was t he perfect colour, Paprika over Ivor y – t he original colour t hat was stamped on the car – and I thought, ‘I don’t need another car, t his is it’. I drove it home and the next day I took it to Edwards & Ruggero to have the engine rebuilt and for them to go over the whole car and convert t he elect rics to 12 volt.”
Colin reckons his Microbus cost £ 3800 new in 1961, a fortune at t he time for a t hinly veiled commercial vehicle wit h few creature comforts, but 'Splitt ies' like his are now the most sought after. He has a lready k nocked back an offer for t wice what he paid for it and reckons t he experience of owning and driv ing this prize-winning Microbus is priceless.
“It’s absolutely amazing to drive,” he
"IT IS THE ULTIMATE KOMBI AND MY DREAM CAR AND THEY ARE SO RARE"
smiles. “It’s like being in the open air, or in a ski boat, fresh air just fills the cabin. Everyone will too tor wave or flash the‘ peace sign’ and it takes me forever to get any where. If I go to get petrol, 10 people will talk tome; it’s great fun. I knew it was going to be slow, I knew it would attract attention but the good thing about Volkswagens is you can drive them any where and find parts and anyone can fix one .”
The only thing that would make his Kombi even more perfect would be a different colour, he says. “I would have liked the duck-egg blue and white that
I first saw when I was four and that’s why I bought the number plate‘ R2DTWO’ because it’s a Type 2 Kombi and StarWars character R2-D2 was a blue and white type -2 robot .”
This cool Kombi has even won over Colin’s doubting mother and she likes to drive it .“I think it’s the look-at-me thing ,” he laughs. Colin Hyett is no longer a dreamer.
TOP known as the Station Wagon or Bus (depending on where it was sold) and initially produced in two variants: the basic Kombi, with side windows and three bench seats and the Commercial panel van.
LEFT Unique brake pedal trajectory takes getting used to.
TOP Near flat twospoke tiller and minimalist gauges.
TOP Hyett believes his car was originally shipped new into Sydney and bought by a resort to chauffeur guests.
ABOVE The Kombi has more windows than most homes.
BELOW Air-cooled flat-four isn't fast, but sure will last.