Ger­man styling from Bri­tain’s most in­no­va­tive man­u­fac­turer

Type 2 Kombi T1

Classic Driver - - FRONT PAGE - STORY AND PHO­TOS TONY HAY­COCK

David Scam­mell’s fa­ther bought a Kombi in 1964. Money was short and the ve­hi­cle ex­pen­sive so he made a few of his own mod­i­fi­ca­tions to get his Kombi to the level of spec­i­fi­ca­tion he wanted, but couldn’t af­ford from the fac­tory.

It is no se­cret that I am a fan of com­mer­cial ve­hi­cles, be they truck, ute or van. So when my brother told me of an early VW Kombi which has been in the same fam­ily from new, has never been re­stored and is still in reg­u­lar use, this pushed both but­tons; it was a com­mer­cial and it was an orig­i­nal ve­hi­cle, my other fas­ci­na­tion. Time there­fore to head to Feild­ing and take a look!

The story of the de­vel­op­ment of VW post-war from the orig­i­nal Porsche- de­signed (and pos­si­bly “bor­rowed” from the mind of fel­low Aus­trian de­signer Hans Led­winka) KdF-Wa­gen to the Käfer (Bee­tle) has been told be­fore and I am sure the very short-sighted mem­ber of the Bri­tish Mil­i­tary, when on an in­spec­tion tour of war-rav­aged Ger­many in search of any wor­thy prizes to be handed out among the vic­tors de­clared the lit­tle four cylin­der air-cooled car to be of no value what­so­ever lived to re­gret his pass­ing over of the world’s top-sell­ing car of all time.

There was never any in­ten­tion for the VW to be built as any­thing other than a car. That is, un­til in 1946 when the Dutch­man Ben Pon vis­ited the re­built works at Wolfs­burg, look­ing to im­port cars into the Nether­lands. It was here that he spot­ted the fac­tory hack and en­vis­aged a pro­duc­tion ver­sion, based on the floor­pan of the VW Type 1, aka Bee­tle.

...some red paint,

a hack­saw and voila! One new pie dish be­came two new

VW air scoops.

At the time, the fac­tory was work­ing at full ca­pac­ity mak­ing cars to fill the de­mand for cheap, ba­sic and re­li­able trans­port as the world re­cov­ered from the war and it was not un­til 1949 when the en­ter­pris­ing Dutch­man’s con­cept be­came re­al­ity; a pur­pose built ve­hi­cle, ba­si­cally the same length as the car but on a sep­a­rate chas­sis with a uni­tary body on top, pow­ered by the same en­gine and gear­box, but work­ing through re­duc­tion gears to al­low the tiny 1100cc en­gine of the first ver­sions to be able to pull the ex­tra weight.

With a grow­ing fam­ily, Bruce Scam­mell was not go­ing to let this stop him from con­tin­u­ing his love of the VW, so the nat­u­ral choice was to go from a Bee­tle to a Kombi and that was pre­cisely how it was done, and in 1964 the fam­ily Bee­tle be­came the fam­ily Kombi.

Now, any reader with knowl­edge of the type will see in­stantly that there are some things about this car which are not quite as per the fac­tory. This is an as­tute ob­ser­va­tion as the Kombi’s cur­rent custodian, son David, pointed out, it was fit­ted (lit­er­ally within the first few days of ar­riv­ing in the Scam­mell fam­ily drive­way) with what he de­scribed as “pe­riod bling”; Some purely for per­sonal aes­thetic rea­sons but equally some for prac­ti­cal­ity, within the limited bud­get at the fam­ily’s dis­posal.

On the out­side, the first thing to be changed was the VW em­blem on the front. Bruce didn’t like the large one fit­ted as stan­dard so it was im­me­di­ately re­moved and re­placed with a small one from a car. The orig­i­nal one was care­fully put aside and now re­sides in David’s garage.

Any early VW owner will tell you that the 6 volt head­lights were never that great. Bruce got around this by adding a re­lay to the head­light cir­cuit and also fit­ting a large pair of spot­lights, run­ning through a sep­a­rate cir­cuit and also with their own re­lay.

Even the front num­ber plate got the spe­cial Scam­mell treat­ment. Ap­par­ently Bruce was a fas­tid­i­ous cleaner of cars and to make sure no part was missed, the num­ber plate bracket is hinged so it folds for­ward out of the way to en­sure all of the front panel can be ac­cessed for proper wash­ing.

He did not be­lieve in pol­ish as he thought it re­moved too much paint, the Kombi hav­ing never seen pol­ish since the day it left the fac­tory. Very fre­quent wash­ing and wax­ing have kept the paint in amaz­ing con­di­tion for a ve­hi­cle soon to cel­e­brate its 60th birth­day and which has cov­ered 207213 miles and at no stage of its life has it been any­thing but a well loved mode of fam­ily trans­port, well looked af­ter but never cod­dled!

When viewed from the side, more of the prac­ti­cal pe­riod up­grades to the Kombi are ev­i­dent.

Tow­ing a car­a­van was one of the tasks asked of it from new. Bruce de­cided that he needed to en­sure the max­i­mum amount of cool­ing air pos­si­ble was di­rected at the rear-mounted 1500 en­gine so he fit­ted scoops over the air in­takes.

They don’t look home­made, as aes­thet­ics were of great im­por­tance to Bruce, so he just had to think a lit­tle lat­er­ally.

A quick trip to the lo­cal hard­ware shop and prob­lem solved... some red paint, a hack­saw and voila! One new pie dish be­came two new VW air scoops.

Fac­tory run­ning boards may have been an op­tion at the time, but al­most cer­tainly out­side the bud­get yet very nec­es­sary for get­ting the fam­ily in and out of the car com­fort­ably. So be­ing a fel­low of a prac­ti­cal bent, he made his own, at­tached them to the chas­sis and they are noth­ing if not solid. Yet, as like all the ad­di­tions he made to the car, noth­ing looks like it was tacked on as an af­ter­thought.

As it left the as­sem­bly line, the wheels were painted in body colour, so in this case, red.

Our new Kombi owner thought that the white on the front and rear bumpers didn’t re­ally match any­thing else on the car so his so­lu­tion was sim­ple. In­stead of re­paint­ing the bumpers, the wheel rims went from red to white. An easy job and if it hadn’t been pointed out to me by David, I would never have known it wasn’t the fac­tory fin­ish.

Yet it is the in­te­rior which re­ally had the full ben­e­fit of Bruce’s im­prove­ments. The only way he could af­ford to buy the car was in the low­est spec pos­si­ble. This meant the in­side came with seats and a hood lin­ing but not a scrap of com­fort or re­fine­ment be­yond this. For that week or so af­ter the Kombi ar­rived at his Tau­marunui home, he must have been a busy boy!

The back of the front bench seat is a solid pressed steel panel, with a re­cess for the spare wheel. Not so friendly to the noses and front teeth of any un­re­strained off­spring sit­ting on the first of the two rows of back seats. Some pad­ding and match­ing red vinyl made it safer, look bet­ter and also was a good chance to mount a rear speaker for the 6 volt valve ra­dio (re­mem­ber those?) and the grab han­dle from a Bee­tle to make climb­ing in eas­ier.

On the floor went some lino of a colour and de­sign I dis­tinctly re­mem­ber as a young child on my grand­par­ent’s kitchen floor. It must be pretty strong stuff as it still is in very good shape today.

To the doors and side pan­els, what ap­pears to be Formica or some­thing very sim­i­lar, was cut to shape and screwed in place, while around the rear, padded ma­te­rial was added to cut down the noise and cover the last of the large ex­panse of painted steel.

Get­ting into the front seat to take the car for a drive, it was clear that as well as looks and com­fort, the Kombi had some very prac­ti­cal ad­di­tions to the driver’s com­part­ment.

We have al­ready men­tioned the ra­dio, con­trols nicely fit­ted to the dash, with the large box con­tain­ing the work­ings of it fur­ther down and a de­light­fully 1960s chrome aerial out front.

An ex­tra but­ton on the floor works the foot pump for the af­ter­mar­ket wind­screen wash­ers while in the panel in the roof, which nor­mally just holds the con­trols for the ven­ti­la­tion sys­tem, now also house a clock and a rev counter, the rev counter hav­ing seen ser­vice in sev­eral Bee­tles prior to in­stal­la­tion in the roof here.

Ap­par­ently the gear lever on a Kombi is a rather short item, not the most com­fort­able to op­er­ate. Not in this one. It has been ex­tended and falls nicely to hand, which is quite im­por­tant, as with only 1500cc to pro­pel it, on a long jour­ney there will be a fair amount of gear-chang­ing in­volved.

So hav­ing been given the run-down on what makes this such an im­por­tant piece of his fam­ily’s his­tory, we took it for a drive.

I have driven Bee­tles be­fore (well, one at least) and to be hon­est, I thought it was bloody aw­ful. I hated the ped­als, wasn’t fond of the seat­ing po­si­tion, it was noisy, un­com­fort­able, not ex­actly lively or all that much fun to drive.

To­tal heresy to my fa­ther, who along with both broth­ers Ash­ley and Kerry and mates Noel Probyn and Brian Spragg, all used and abused VW Bee­tles as ev­ery­day trans­port in ral­lies, hill­climbs and sprints in the lower North Is­land in the late 1950s and early 1960s and won’t hear a bad word said about the Peo­ple’s Car.

The Kombi on the other hand was a ball of fun! Seated up high and perched right at the very front, vis­i­bil­ity is as you can imagine, fan­tas­tic. Ped­als are well spaced and the brake and throt­tle nicely po­si­tioned for a heel-and toe down­shift, not es­sen­tial but it helps lessen the load on the trans­mis­sion which has never been touched since the car was new.

With the steer­ing wheel vir­tu­ally hor­i­zon­tal, chang­ing di­rec­tion makes you look and feel like a bus driver but it is light and very con­trol­lable and even in a strong cross-wind it was not a strug­gle to keep the car point­ing on the straight and nar­row.

90 km/h is achieved at 3400 on the over­head rev-counter and with the en­gine be­ing at the op­po­site end of the ve­hi­cle and sur­rounded by all of the ex­tra sound­proof­ing Bruce had added in that busy week in 1964 af­ter he bought it, there is al­most no en­gine noise at all.

The only give-away that we were trav­el­ling at speed was a bit of wind noise around the ¼ win­dows in the doors, the orig­i­nal rub­bers hav­ing hard­ened with age and are prob­a­bly due for re­place­ment be­fore too much longer.

Of course the huge ad­van­tage of a Euro­pean ve­hi­cle of this vin­tage over many oth­ers is the avail­abil­ity of parts. There is noth­ing which can­not be pur­chased brand new for this sort of ve­hi­cle and prices are amaz­ingly cheap.

Like the gear­box, the sus­pen­sion has not seen any re­me­dial work in its life and on the flow­ing back roads of ru­ral Manawatu, there was nei­ther any sign of body roll (it han­dles bet­ter than many so­called “sport­ing” cars I have driven) nor any sign of creaks, thumps or rat­tles from un­der­neath to be­lie the huge mileage the Scam­mell fam­ily have amassed in it.

Re­ally the only part which isn’t as it was when new is the en­gine, and the ma­jor work was done not so long af­ter pur­chased. This was one of the very first 1500cc VWs built, the en­gine sim­ply be­ing a stroked ver­sion of the ear­lier 1200.

Un­for­tu­nately the crank­case was not up to the task and many of these engines gave trou­ble, to the ex­tent that VW re-en­gi­neered the crank­case for later ver­sions.

Of course we need to re­mem­ber that this was in the days when a war­ranty was not much bet­ter than 20/20 (20 miles or 20 feet from the show­room, what­ever hap­pened first).

So when Bruce’s Kombi de­cided to rup­ture it­self, things were a lit­tle grim. Yet, to VW’s credit as they had no obli­ga­tion, they sup­plied him at cost with the later model and stronger 1500 which he fit­ted and which sits in the back to this day.

As we were driv­ing along, it oc­curred to me that the name of Scam­mell was ring­ing bells in the deep­est re­cesses of my shal­low mem­ory.

“Are you re­lated to an Es­ther?” I asked David. The re­ply, “Yes, she’s my sis­ter”.

Hmmm. I won­der if she still re­mem­bers the in­ci­dent at a Los An­ge­les air­port ho­tel 25-odd years ago in­volv­ing a swim­ming pool, a locked gate, a grumpy se­cu­rity guard and an in­flat­able bust of Ron­ald Rea­gan? It is not to­tally in­con­ceiv­able that there may have been drink in­volved but I could not pos­si­bly comment. The travel in­dus­try could be fun too!

And fi­nally, where did the name “Kombi” come from? In Ger­man, Kom­bi­na­tion­skraft­wa­gen, or com­bi­na­tion mo­tor ve­hi­cle. Ba­si­cally, sta­tion wagon!

How do you de­fine “orig­i­nal”? The badges on the front are not those it left the fac­tory with, but ba­si­cally ev­ery mod­i­fi­ca­tion made to this Kombi hap­pened within the first cou­ple of weeks of its life and all done by the first owner. Be­low left Ex­tra air is sent to the en­gine bay by a pair of scoops made from a most un­likely source. Be­low right See that press­ing on the trail­ing edge of the back door? Press­ings are the same for left and right, on the right the de­pres­sion is where the driver’s door han­dle would hit when back seat pas­sen­gers open the door to get in

More fam­ily heir­looms, the ser­vice book (full of dealer stamps), hand­book and sales brochure. Be­low In­side, the ef­forts Bruce Scam­mell went to in mak­ing his new fam­ily car as com­fort­able as pos­si­ble are what makes this Kombi unique

A relic from 1979. Car­less days are an al­most for­got­ten part of our re­cent motoring past The scoops were for a rea­son which the tow­bar be­trays. This Kombi has spent many miles with a car­a­van in close for­ma­tion

Old com­mer­cial ve­hi­cles can be an ac­quired taste. They are slower and nois­ier than the cars they are based on yet they still have a charm all of their own

A roof mounted rev-counter isn’t a stan­dard Kombi fit­ment but this item had al­ready served in more than one Bee­tle be­fore find­ing it’s way here

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