Editor’s note: Auto Doctor columns are not available at this time due to the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. Classic Classics will publish in the place of Auto Doctor until further notice.
Volkswagen's early version of a pickup truck, the lesser-known Transporter, was built on that same platform as the Beetle. The three-passenger Transporter essentially was a Microbus with the top half cut off behind the front seat. Besides the hinged tailgate at the rear, which could be lowered, the innovative folks at Volkswagen designed the drop-gate sides of the bed to perform in the same way as the tailgate.
The 1969 Volkswagen Type 2 Transporter was a single-cab model with left-hand drive, a 40-horsepower engine, manual four-speed transmission, and U.S. exhaust control pickup. All Transporters were painted a solid color. This is a story of a Lotus White one.
The wheels were painted Cloud White before the 7.00x14-inch tires were mounted. The upholstery was dark beige while the tool compartment beneath the bed, accessible from either side, was painted Light Beige. The Transporter, built to U.S. specifications -- including sealed-beam headlights, a speedometer in miles per hour, backup lights, rear-window defroster, and vent windows -- left the Hanover, Germany, factory December 13, 1968, on its way to the United States.
It sat on a lot for about six months until it was sold to another Volkswagen dealer, who used it as a parts delivery truck. The dealer decided to enhance the appearance of the bare-bones Transporter.
The top of the cab, wheels, and bumpers were left white, while the remainder of the 14.5-foot-long vehicle was painted a Microbus color -- Elm Green. The Spartan monochrome basket-weave vinyl interior was replaced with a two-tone interior also from a Microbus — Light Sand and Khaki Brown. A full-gauge instrument panel from a deluxe Microbus was installed, as well as all the chrome trim found inside and outside on the top-of-the-line Microbus.
After years of faithful service delivering parts for the VW dealership, the deluxe Transporter was sold to a Virginia man with restoration in mind. Despite the new owner's best intentions, the Transporter sank up to its axles in mud while awaiting a restoration that never came.
The next owner took the Volkswagen to the Shenandoah Valley where he brought it back to drivability and then gave it to his teenage son for daily use. With the son going off to college, the father wanted him to drive there with more than 40 horsepower at his command. Consequently, the Transporter was put up for sale.
That's when John Williams, a long-time Volkswagen fan, bought the unusual 6-foot, 5-inch-tall truck and had it trucked home. He then drove it the next two and half years the way it was. "I was the most popular guy on moving days," he recalls.
Williams decided the time had come for a total restoration for "Inga" (the name he gave the truck). The frame of the 2,370-pound Microbus was in excellent condition, but had the typical areas of rust, such as the doglegs ahead of the front wheels and the rocker panel.
Thankfully, Williams said, "The Holy Grail of VW pickups was intact." He was referring to the three drop gates, each one 14.8 inches high. "They are impossible to find."
The floor of the 5x8-foot bed was bent and bruised from its parts hauling days, as was the floor of what Williams calls the "Treasure Chest," the compartment under the bed. The Treasure Chest is the width of the truck and is 51 inches from the front to the rear and 13.4 inches high. It is accessible through one door on the right. With a near-vertical steering column the truck steers like, well, a truck, with 2.8 turns of the steering wheel lock-to-lock.
"Because of its unique history, I chose not to return Inga to the way she had left the factory, but as I found her, with Elm Green paint and a two-toned interior," Williams said. "Otherwise, I have tried to bring her back to as stock as possible."
Besides cosmetic fixes, the 96.6-cubic-inch four-cylinder engine was replaced. The new one, Williams reports, "still delivers 40 whopping horsepower." Although the speedometer is prepared to record speeds up to 90 mph, the owner's manual lists both the maximum and top speeds as 65 mph. After attaching VW mudflaps, Williams proclaimed Inga's restoration complete.
— Vern Parker, Motor Matters