In 1947, the idea for a Volkswagen Bus was born when Dutch importer Ben Pon saw the motorised trolleys used to transport parts around a VW factory in Wolfsburg. This led to a sketch of a Beetle-based van resembling a box on wheels. A year later Heinz Nordhoff, VW Chief Executive, took on the idea and the VW Kombi launched at the Geneva Motor Show in November 1949. Production started in March 1950 and for the next four decades, the basic design remained the same – roughly 5 million buses were produced over that time. The uncomplicated design meant VW was able to turn out 90 body configurations including bakkies, fire engines, ambulances, wagons, ice cream vans and, of course, campervans.
Various outfits jumped on the camper wagon with perhaps the most famous name, Westfalia-Werke, kicking off its VW camper versions in 1951. Known as the Westfalia (derived from the Westphalia region in Germany), it immediately proved extremely popular and evolved with the Volkswagen Kombi through the years (the last VW Westy hit the campgrounds in 2003). Westfalia Campers were available from Volkswagen dealers worldwide and were also delivered via the Tourist Delivery Program whereby a customer would pick up their new van in Germany, drive it in Europe, and then VW would ship it to the customer's home.
Standard equipment included fold-out seats/beds, birch plywood interior panels, cabinetry for storage, ice box, sink, water storage and pump, electrical points, curtains, Venetian blinds and a laminated folding table. If more home-away-from-home was needed, there was an extensive optional extras list such as attached ‘pop up’ tops with canvas/screen sides, awnings and side tents, a portable chemical toilet, camping stove, child’s cot in the driver cab, dash-mounted map table and more storage boxes matching the interior panels.