Article and Photos by Stefan Daniël Kotzé
Volkswagen has been and probably will always be immensely popular with car enthusiasts all across the world. The older stuff is especially cool, like the Beetle, Karmann Ghia and of course the Type 2 buses, seen here.
The most sought after ones are the first generation T1 ones, built from 1950 – 1967, with restored, pristine condition, early model examples having sold for over $200 000 on auction in recent times. Crazy I know, but hey if the demand is there, dollars will be spent. The Type 2 T1s built between 1967 –1979 are still cool in their own right though, are more accessible and they still fetch reasonable prices too. For the owners of these buses, it’s rarely about the money, but more about the culture, lifestyle and everything else that goes hand in hand with owning one of the classics. It’s usually more of a love and often hate affair that could last a lifetime. When you own one of these, you’re normally in it for the long haul.
Now usually most of these buses, no matter what condition they are found in, whether it be a bit beaten up, fully rusted or even just an empty shell, gets restored to pristine condition, mainly because they hold the most value that way. The owner of these T2 buses, Humberto Sardinha, has had a long love affair with these buses, and as you can see, instead of just having a single restored one, he chose to rather build one restomod and one slammed rat bus. His first bus was the two-tone beige one, but when he got it, surprise surprise, it looked nothing like it does now. It was in an okay condition for a 1974 model, but definitely wasn’t great. It was also the most horrible light green colour, so not ideal.
Before starting the rebuild on it, he and some friends were planning to do a trip down to the coast, so they all met up one day, paintbrushes in hand and spend the day turning it into a proper hippie van, inappropriate slogans and drawings of lady parts included, of course. The most epic trip was had and the van attracted crowds wherever it went. After the trip, the big job of stripping it started, but with Humberto being a spray painter, he at least had ample knowledge and resources to help him along and carried out all the work by himself. The bus was stripped completely, inside and out, no easy feat then. He spent countless hours sanding and prepping the body and trim, before eventually laying down a full 2 tone custom colour in Standox basecoat paint.
The front grille is also a custom build piece, originally coming off a MAN semi-truck, but then extensively modified to make it fit. All new doors and windows were fitted, along with new rubbers and seals. A whole bunch of other parts were then imported from the UK. These included orange-less taillights, clear front indicator lenses, a wooden roof rack, front badge and wheel caps. Then there’s also the new mirrors and eyelids to finish the exterior trim off.
To get the bus to sit right, the suspension was lowered by a substantial 120mm, although it doesn’t look like it compared to the rat bus, but we’ll get to that later. 15” Red steel wheels were also fitted, along with some white wall inserts, wrapped in 195/55/15 tyres. The interior was fully re-upholstered and refreshed and came out pretty pristine. Now this is where the restomod part of the build kicks in the most. This bus doesn’t rock an air-cooled engine in its nether regions anymore and it’s not even running a different VW motor either. VW purists might get a bit rowdy at this moment, because it is now equipped with a Ford 3L V6 motor. Luckily this is not a purist build, and I don’t even mind at all, myself being a huge VW fanboy, because coupled with a custom built dual exit exhaust system, this thing sounds pretty badass and it’s no slouch either, oh and did I mention it can do flame pops on demand. The stock 4 speed box was still kept in place though.
Now to get onto my favourite bus of the two, the one that makes the beige bus look like it has 4×4 suspension, the totally badass RAT. This one when found was pretty worse for wear, being quite cancerous and instead of making it all pretty, it was decided to leave it mostly as is, instead focusing on bringing out its character. If I had to compare this bus to a person, it would definitely be Trevor from GTA V, no doubt. If you don’t know who that is, Google it, you’ll concur, guaranteed.
This one is a 1973 model and 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, bumps, 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 the window and that happened, but hey, why change it, when it flows so nicely with the rest of the build.
This bus does have the original 1700cc engine though, which was completely overhauled and repainted, running the stock 4 speed gearbox. The biggest part of this build was obviously to get it to lay frame, scraping on leaves and who knows, even dust. It involved some clever thinking and probably, no definitely, a lot of swearing. The whole engine and gearbox was raised substantially for clearance, while the brake booster, fuel tank and gear selector shaft had to be relocated.
The front suspension beam and front seats’ floor also had to be cut, modified and raised for increased clearance. AVS air bags along with VIAIR Corp. – High Performance Compressors and a single tank was then fitted to the bus, with the wired controller sitting between the two front, “slightly used” seats. All this work culminated in a total ride height loss of 350mm; colour me impressed.
Finishing up the build are 15” 8j BBS wheels finished in chrome with gold studs, wrapped in 165/50/15s in the front and 175/50/15s in the rear. The rear setup also runs some extreme camber in order to be tucked properly into the expertly sculpted, not dented at all, rear arches.
Humberto really loves his two buses, that were built for very different purposes and with completely different styles, but they’re both special in their own way and being able to say that they were both built in the garage, is pretty rad. They’re so special to him that he even used the two as his wedding cars, one for his wife and one for him, hence the “just hitched” number plate.
Which one would you choose if you could only have one?