60 years (and 2 days) ago construction started on the new VW factory in Hanover. The Hanover factory was built to keep up with demand for Vw’s new commercial vehicles.
I bet you’ve done it.. Bought a van and something was broken! We’ve all done it, it’s only a small part, maybe something like a window seal or a door mirror. Next stop the internet and try and find said broken part, then it starts!
You bought the van as a Type 25, that’s what all your friends call them, that’s what they are called in adverts, in magazines, the internet forums and the Facebook groups, so what are all these parts advertised as T25, T3, Vanagon, Volksiebus, wedge, brick, Bulli, Type 2… hhhnnnnnngghh, which is correct?
The History Lesson
Let’s rewind to around 1950 when VW started production of their new van, what we now know as a split screen. VW already made a car, the Beetle, this was known as a Volkswagen Type 1, so what do you think they called their second vehicle? yep, a Type 2!
Fast forward to the 1961 Frankfurt motor show and VW release their 3rd vehicle, guess what that’s called? yep, Type 3!!
Paris motor show, 1968, guess what’s next? yep, Vw’s 4th model and yeah, you guessed it this was called the Type 4.
Got it? Type 1, Type 2, Type 3 and Type 4.. lets move on..
The first generation of VW Transporter or Type 2 lasted until 1967 when it was replaced with what’s colloquially as the “Bay Window” due to the shape of it’s wrap around front windscreen. Here lies the first identity crisis, 2 different vans made by the same people, both called the same thing and how to differentiate between them? hhmmm.
1979 comes around quickly and VW replace their aging Type 2 “Bay Window” Transporter with a new, fast, warm spacious coil sprung van and again it’s called a Transporter and is also a Type 2. oh dear.
Now, the Germans had come to know the Split [Type 2 1950-1967] as a “T1” short for “Transporter 1”
Next up the Bay [Type 2 1968-1979] was known as T2, again short for “Transporter 2”
Just have a guess what they called VW’s 3rd van….
A T4 is the 4th Transporter and the 5th a T5, simple really.
T for TRANSPORTER and not for “type”
The Chassis numbers
Right, come 1980 we have a problem, not only did VW bring out our favorite piece of Hannovers finest but they also changed the format of how VINs (Vehicle Identification Number) are recorded and here I believe is why we ended up with a few different names for what is the same thing.
All car manufacturers need to put an identification number on the frame somewhere and VW were no different and in the latter part of the 70’s they were using a 10 digit format, the first 2 digits of the 10 gave you some indication of what the vehicle was by way of an abbreviated version of the model code and the 3rd gave you the “model year”, which would be 7 for a 1977 manufactured vehicle for example ( VW model years actually ran from 1st of August to 31st July and not 1st of Jan – 31st December as you would expect, a vehicle manufactured in say September 1976 would actually be a 1977 model year, no idea why, probably some reason for that, I don’t know the answer, sorry!)
1160123456 would be a Type 1 1976 model year.
2170123456 would be a Type 2 1977 model year.
3130123456 would be a Type 3 1973 model year.
This system is fine until you get to 1980 as then you gain a certain amount of ambiguity as regards to the 3rd digit, is it a 1970 or a 1980? What they went on to do was start using letters to represent model years so 1980 became A, 1981 became B and so on and so forth..
An example VIN from 1980 would look something like this.
See the first 2 digits? hmmm you thinking what I’m thinking?
At some point in 1981 European vehicles manufacturers were obliged to adopt a standardised 17 digit ISO system and the VIN number changed to the format we still use today, something like this.
WV2 ZZZ 25 Z BH 012345
A certain amount of info can be buried in the VIN which we won’t go into too much detail here but you’ll notice that there’s a “25” in there again?
Right, to explain this further we have to rewind again.
You know we talked about Type numbers earlier? right, there are subdivisions of these type numbers, The Model code is actually 6 digits long and has been for as long as I can go back, this code can be deciphered against some tables and you can work out what engine and transmission the vehicle had, maybe which country it was exported to and if it was left or right hand drive.
The abbreviated Type numbers used for the T3 were..
245 – left hand drive pick up [Commercial vehicle, badged as “Transporter”]
246 – right hand drive pick up [Commercial vehicle, badged as “Transporter”]
247 – Left hand drive double cab pick up [Commercial vehicle, badged as “Transporter”]
248 – Right hand drive double cab pick up [Commercial vehicle, badged as “Transporter”]
251 – Left hand drive panel van [Commercial vehicle, badged as “Transporter”]
252 – Right hand drive panel van [Commercial vehicle, badged as “Transporter”]
253 – Left hand drive Kombi [Commercial vehicle, badged as “Transporter”]
254 – Right hand drive Kombi [Commercial vehicle, badged as “Transporter”]
255 – Left hand drive Caravelle [Passenger car, badged as Caravelle]
256 – Right hand drive Caravelle [Passenger car, badged as Caravelle]
So, this brings us on to the next silly thing,
“Yeah, I own a Type 25 pick up”.
This is plain daft, you can see from the above that all pick up type numbers/sales codes/model codes start with 24, so, you could say I own a type 24 pick up, well, you could but not really as if you look back through VW type numbers for “split screen” T1 models you’ll note that a Type 24 is actually a microbus deluxe, or a Samba!
A little game now, spot the odd one out..
T1, T2, T25, T4, T5..
So, to round up, don’t get your T’s and your Types mixed up.