By Ronan Glon
Friday, Nov 11th, 2011 @ 9:41 am
 
To Europeans and Americans the Volkswagen Type 2 (commonly called Bus or Combi) is a distant memory of days gone by. Once commonly used as every day transportation for all walks of life, the Bus has been sent to the vast pantheon of automotive history where it is often given VIP treatment.

Throughout most of Latin America the story is different. Mexico only stopped producing bay window Buses several years ago and Brazil still makes them. In those countries and others surrounding them, Buses are a common sight and with the exception of early split windows, they are not commonly considered collector cars.

The Bus' popularity and desirability in Europe and the fact that they are still coming out brand new in Brazil created a magnificent opportunity for Volkswagen's Dutch operations and as of last month, the Bus is available as a 2012 model.

The Buses' long journey starts in Brazil, where they are built new. They then get shipped to England where the interior furniture is built and fitted. Finally, they embark on a ferry to the Netherlands where final assembly takes place.

Aesthetically very little has changed since the early-1970s, when Volkswagen switched to square turn signals mounted below the windshield. It still has the same door handles, the same headlights, and so on.

Those taken with nostalgia might point out, "look, it even has the spare tire mounted on the front like our old one did!" Not entirely - it has something shaped like a spare tire bolted to the front, but it holds the engine's air filter.

There is also one big difference that sticks out like a sore thumb: a radiator in the front. It is usually painted in the same color as the body in an effort to camouflage it as much as possible, but it's there.

So what on earth is a radiator doing in the front of a Bus? Well, purists beware, the air-cooled flat-four has been swapped in favor of a 1.4 water-cooled straight-four that puts out 80 horsepower.

That's a little small to propel a camping-ready Bus and the 2012 Bus retains the lackadaisical character that its siblings from the 1970s had. 0 to 62 miles per hour takes a relaxing 16 seconds and it rumbles on to a top speed of 83 miles per hour.

The straight-four has been used in Buses in Brazil for a while now. It's more modern in conception than the flat-four was, it burns cleaner and runs quieter. Because it traces its roots back to Brazil, it can run on ethanol as well as on gasoline.

Engine aside, the Bus has not evolved much since it was last displayed new in European showrooms. It still has a four-speed transaxle and rear drum brakes.

The 2012 Bus is only available as camper and comes fully equipped with a gas stove, a water pump, a mini fridge and a built-in oven. Walkthrough front seats are standard and buyers can choose how many beds they want in the back. The seating position is still the same but the dashboard has been modernized and features an updated instrument panel.

In its heyday the Bus was marketed as an affordable alternative to station wagons. With prices ranging from 44,995€ to 55,995€ ($61,000 to $76,000), it is safe to say that the 2012 Bus has a very different target audience. The price can rise astronomically with options such as a flatscreen TV with a DVD player and air conditioning.

Those willing to shell out that kind of money for a Bus are rewarded with the possibility of customizing their camper as they please. The Bus is available in 20 retro-styled colors that can be mixed and matched in a two-tone motif. A period-correct roof rack is optional and buyers can choose what kind of wheels, tires, and suspension setup they want. The options range from the stock steelies and hubcaps with standard ride height to a slightly lowered Bus with sporty wheels that give it an EMPI look.

Currently the 2012 Bus is only available in the Netherlands but it can be registered anywhere in the European Union.