If there's another vehicle (apart from the Beetle) the helped Volkswagen establish themselves on the map, it would be the Kombi. It was instrumental in expanding the German automaker's empire and became a cult icon in its own right. This year, it turns 70.
Officially known as the Type 2 (or Typ 2), the story of the Kombi actually started out with a Beetle-based parts transporter in the factory. A Dutch Volkswagen distributor by the name of Ben Pon saw the potential of the Beetle, and proposed that a van be made out of it. Pon even made a doodle of what it would be like on a notebook in 1947. It would be rear-engined to maximize interior space, along have a cab-over design. To this day, the cab-over design is still being used in commercial vehicles such as the Nissan NV350, Suzuki Carry and Mitsubishi L300.
Volkswagen liked the idea, and the company started building them in November of 1949 for the 1950 model year. The name Kombi is one of the two body styles available for the T2. Kombi was catered towards families with its extended seating capacity while the work van was dubbed the Commercial. More body styles were added throughout the years with the Microbus, Ambulance, and the pick-up. Sales grew substantially in the '60s, and even became a symbol of the 'Hippie' counterculture. The other car linked to that movement? The Beetle.
But apart from that, the Type 2 was also a huge hit in Latin America. Volkswagen Brasil started building them in 1951. Mexico began building their own Kombis and Buses by the late '60s, while Argentinian production began in 1980.
Even when the Caravelle was introduced in 1979, the Type 2 still soldiered on, overlapping three generations of the van. If there's any proof of its longevity and iconic status, the Type 2 only stopped production in 2013 with the last one rolling out in Brazil. It stayed around for a total of 63 years and was never significantly redesigned during its time. Only another Volkswagen, the Beetle, surpasses it as the longest-running single generation model of all time at 65 years.
The spirit of the Type 2 lives on in the modern-day Transporter T6. It may no longer be air-cooled and rear-engined, but it sticks to the tried and true formula of maximizing space in relatively compact dimensions. With that, Volkswagen's line of vans carry a legacy of 70 years and without the first one that rolled out all those years ago, the van market could be totally different from what we see now.