1960 Volkswagen Split-Window Pickup
Volkswagen pickups were worked to death and their lifespan was shorter than that of a Roman slave

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Unquestionably among the most innovative designs of its day, the Volkswagen “dropside” pickup stretched the definition of full-service utility vehicles. Production of the pickup was started in 1952, and it borrowed the cab from the front of the popular Transporter Type 2.
The “dropside” ability meant that the truck’s five-by nine-foot bed could be exposed by dropping the side and tailgates. That made it easy to load large objects, which could be accessed from either side.
Over a million split-window Transporters were made but the pickups are increasingly rare, and a limited number remain. The Volkswagen Split-Window Pickup on offer appears to be in very presentable overall condition and benefitted from a thorough and professional restoration when it was in the care of the Blackhawk Collection. Having a few owners since, this example has enjoyed limited mileage and fastidious care. Most recently, it received a full engine rebuild by Volkswagen expert Bob Donald at Boston Engine Company.
The VW dropside pickup is a well-planned design, unlike today’s market in which as trucks grows bigger, bed size and usable space diminish. In the late ’60s a VW pickup could carry a mattress, ten hippies, and a bongo drum-or possibly even a Formula One racer with the nose removed. This truck deserves attention for its rarity, lovely overall condition, and unlimited use potential.

SCM Analysis

Detailing

Vehicle:1960 Volkswagen Pickup Split-Window
Number Produced:414,479 approx.
Original List Price:$1,895 (1960)
Distributor Caps:$7.50
Chassis Number Location:Right side front bulkhead behind seat
Engine Number Location:At generator support flange
Club Info:S.O.T.O. (Society of Transporter Owners), PO Box 3507, Chico, CA, 95927; Vintage Volkswagen Club of America
Website:http://www.vvwca.com
Investment Grade:C

This 1960 Volkswagen Split-Window Pickup sold for $15,275 at Christie’s auction in Monterey on August 18, 2005.
Periodic attempts to build a “world car” have been made by numerous manufacturers, but actually there’s already been one since 1950. It’s the Volkswagen Type 2 Transporter, which can be found all over the globe, from Katmandu, Nepal, to Valparaiso, Chile. The Transporter’s excellent ground clearance and ability to run economically and indefinitely on near-kerosene in all climates more than made up for its modest power output and low top speed.
Dutch importer Ben Pon’s original 1947 notebook sketch of the Type 2 led to over 6.5 million “bullis” (as they were called in Germany) being produced in air-cooled and water-cooled variations before the arrival of the front-engine Eurovan in 1993.
The first generation, or “split-window,” Transporter, named for its two-piece windshield, was made from 1950 to 1967. While the best-known models were the Kombi and Samba people-movers, with seating for up to nine passengers and as many as 23 windows, there was a dizzying selection of commercial variations. Volkswagen “buses,” as they are more popularly known, served as ambulances, police cars, hearses, crane trucks, fire trucks, campers, and even railroad speeders. Doors could be ordered on either or both sides.
The Volkswagen pickup arrived in 1952 and, while only about one third as many trucks were sold as buses, they proved enormously versatile. The 18-inch space between the original bus floor and the pickup bed proved to be an excellent lockable storage place for equipment.
Crew-cab pickups appeared in 1957 accompanied by a shorter five-foot bed, and full synchromesh transmission was fitted from 1959. In 1960, when our subject truck was sold, VW made its four-millionth Beetle; it would continue to produce more than a million a year for the next decade. The one-millionth Transporter was sold in 1962.
Christie’s price is a record for a VW pickup but far from the Microbus record of $99,000 realized by Gooding for a 1966 Westfalia Campmobile at Pebble Beach in August 2005 (SCM# 38911).
However, pickups are much rarer than buses, as their lifespan was shorter than that of a Roman slave. It can only be a matter of time before we see the first $20,000 crew cab for perhaps one of the rare early survivors from 1952. The current fad for specialist commercial vehicles also plays into the Transporter market-so perhaps a pickup with a tilt (canvas cover) and unusual markings will appear. There’s also a rare oversize bed option-a foot wider than the pickup cab.
Portlander and SCMer Brian Ross has restored a number of pickups and microbuses-including a lowered crew-cab pickup he sold at Barrett-Jackson a few years ago for $13,000. “It took me six years to build it; I got carried away. It was the lowest one on the planet,” he says ruefully, as he realized what the project cost.
Ross says mechanical parts are no problem for split-window pickups and many smart upgrades are easy, including fitting a larger engine, later disc brakes, and independent rear suspension from a post-1967 “bay window” Series 2.
That later rear end eliminates swing-axle handling and also does away with the torque-multiplying, and top-speed reducing, reduction gears (which allowed feeble early buses to haul heavy loads slowly with their 25-horsepower engines). Series 2 buses can cruise easily at 65-70 mph-15 mph faster than reduction-gear vehicles. Lowering buses and pickups transforms the handling.
The problems in restoring VW pickups are all to do with bodywork, says Ross. Beds tend to sag between the support rails, though reproductions can be found. Good original tailgates and sides are unheard of, he says, and nearly every restoration uses repops.
“The side pieces are long and always bowed, and the sides and tailgate are single-skin, so anything that slides around dents them.”
The same applies to the rear of the cab, he says. “Even if you fill the outside, the dents are visible inside.”
The biggest enemy is rust. Sides and tailgates rust out along the bottom, which means the hinges have nothing to attach to. When items in the bed hit the back of the cab, the impact breaks the rear seal and allows water to leak down into the storage compartment. “And then it leaks into the back of the seat box and rots that out,” Ross says. Other leaks can begin at screws that go into wood strips under the floor.
Rear fenders can fill up with mud and rust out, and Ross warns they aren’t the same as bus fenders, so restorers can wind up making new ones from scratch-and they can’t overlook that they have to be sound enough to carry the battery.
The front valance behind the bumper is also famous for rusting out, and the double skin of the front panel makes dent repair difficult.
Few Volkswagen Pickups have come to auction, but Ross thinks it’s because the market is waiting for them to cross the $20,000 mark, as a full restoration can cost that much and nobody wants to sell at a loss.
Ross says marginal running pickups can be bought for $2,500-$3,000, “but you’d have to be a real craftsman to save one of those.” Starting price for one worth fixing is about $7,000.
He reckons it’s worth buying the best you can find and waiting for the market to catch up. “I don’t see how you can restore one for what they’re bringing now,” he says. Which makes this handsome example well bought.

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