For as long as custom car culture has existed, Volkswagens have been a popular choice for enthusiasts all across the world, the older stuff being especially cool.
Today, the most sought-after models are the first generation T1 Type 2 Buses built from 1950 to 1967. Early model examples in pristine restored condition have achieved over US$200,000 at auction, which is crazy really. But if the demand is there, dollars will be spent.
The second generation T2 Type 2s built between 1967 and 1979 are cool in their own right, and although they still command good money, they’re definitely more accessible than the first models.
But for the owners of these Buses, it’s rarely about the money. It’s about the culture, the lifestyle, and everything else that goes hand in hand with owning a classic Volkswagen. When you own one, you’re normally in it for the long haul.
Regardless of what condition they’re originally found in, most VW Buses are fully restored by their enthusiast owners, mainly because they’re most valuable in immaculate condition.
Humberto Sardinha, the owner of these two T2s, has had a long love affair with the VW Bus. This of course meant that he’d eventually end up with a mint example, but one was never going to be enough. His other T2 is something very different.
Beige, Not Boring
Humberto’s first bus – the subtle two-tone beige restored one – looked nothing like it does now when he acquired it. It was in fair condition for a 1974 model, but it definitely wasn’t great.
Before starting the rebuild, Humberto and some friends armed themselves with paintbrushes and decided to turn it into a hippie van ahead of a road trip down the South African coastline. I’m told it was an epic adventure, and the van attracted crowds wherever it went.
The T2 strip-down began straight after the excursion, but as Humberto is a spray painter by trade, he had all the knowledge and resources to carry out the work himself.
Once the Bus had been reduced to bare bodywork, Humberto spent countless hours prepping the exterior and trim, before eventually laying down two tones of custom-mixed Standox base coat.
All new doors and windows were fitted, along with new rubbers and seals. The front grille is a one-off modified piece originally from a MAN semi-truck.
A whole bunch of other parts were then imported from the UK including orange-less taillights, clear front indicator lenses, a wooden roof rack, front badge and wheel caps. New mirrors and eyelids, plus 15-inch steel wheels wrapped in 195/55R15 tyres finish the exterior off nicely.
To get the Bus to sit right, the suspension was lowered by a substantial 120mm. It might not look like it’s been dropped that much when compared to Humberto’s other Bus, but that one’s at another level of low, and we’ll get to it in a moment.
The interior was fully reupholstered and refreshed, and it came out pretty clean. The two-tone palette goes perfectly with the exterior and makes the inside look even bigger than it actually is.
Under the rear lid is where things get a little… unexpected. Where once sat the T2’s original air-cooled Volkswagen engine now resides a 3.0L Ford V6 mated to the Bus’s 4-speed gearbox.
Obviously this is not a purist build, but I’m a bit of a VW fanboy and I can’t say this conversion bothers me at all. Coupled with a custom dual-exit exhaust system, it sounds pretty badass and pops flames on demand, which I love.
The More Rust, The Merrier
If I had to pick a favourite from Humberto’s two T2s, it would have to be the one that makes the beige Bus look like it has 4×4 suspension. Yes, the rat one gets my vote.
While the restored Bus was born out of a pretty solid T2, let’s just say this one had plenty of ventilation. It would have been a huge job to fix all of the rust, so instead of going down that road, Humberto decided to leave the ’73 Bus mostly as-is, and instead focus on bringing out its character.
The ‘paintwork’ more or less consists of patina in the front and back with a few layers of clear-coat all over, just to keep it pristine, you know. Add in some dents, scrapes and a few holes, and it’s basically perfect.
Other exterior features include eyelids, two mismatched mirrors, and a cracked windscreen, which believe it or not wasn’t intentional. The day before the shoot, while in the garage, something knocked into the glass and it happened. But hey, why even change when it fits in so nicely with the rest of the build?
Unlike the beige Bus, this T2 retains its original 1,700cc engine, and it’s been completely overhauled and repainted.
The biggest part of this build was obviously to get it low, and that involved some clever thinking and probably – no, definitely – a lot of swearing. The engine and gearbox assembly was raised substantially for clearance, while the brake booster, fuel tank and gear selector shaft had to be relocated.
The front suspension beam and the front seat floor also had to be cut, modified and raised for increased clearance. AVS airbags along with Viair compressors and a single tank were then installed, with the wired controller sitting between the two front seats.
All this work culminated in a total ride height loss of 350mm, or 13.7-inches. Colour me impressed.
Finishing up the build is a set of 15×8-inch BBS wheels finished in chrome with gold studs, wrapped in 165/50R15 and 175/50R15 tyres front and rear respectively.
The rear runs some extreme camber in order for the wheel and tyre combo to tuck properly under the expertly-sculpted, not dented at all, rear arches.
Humberto really loves his two Buses. They’ve obviously been built for very different purposes and with completely different styles, but they’re both special in their own right. The fact that Humberto did all the work in his garage is pretty rad.
They’re so special to him that they were even used as his wedding cars – one for his wife and one for him – hence the ‘Just Hitched’ number plate, which has stayed on ever since that day.
Cutting Room Floor