Courtesy of Silverstone Auctions
Presented here is a 1966 Volkswagen Type 2 21-Window Samba fitted with the M164 sliding-door option from new. Only available on the 21-window Deluxe Samba model during production years 1966–67, the M164 sliding-door addition represented an expensive option and consequently, not many non-commercial customers ticked this box, meaning this model represents one of the rarest Sambas in existence. It is believed only nine other known LHD Microbus Deluxes with the M164 option survive worldwide. More interesting is the fact that, of those nine, only five are known to be “bulkhead” models, with this vehicle being one of only four in its original color combination. Another rare option on this Samba is the Eberspacher heater. Located in the engine bay and running on petrol, this basic bolt-on extra was used to heat the van whilst it toured the Swiss Alps, which was, of course, the Samba’s original raison’d’etre. This Samba is accompanied by a Certificate of Authenticity from the Stiftung AutoMuseum Volkswagen, confirming it was manufactured in Wolfsburg, Germany, on June 6, 1966, and was originally delivered to a Volkswagen dealership in Hanover. Now resplendent in its original factory colors of Beige Grey over Titian Red, and with many of its original parts painstakingly restored and refitted, this is one of the best-presented examples of these iconic vehicles we have ever seen. The flat-four, air-cooled, 1,500-cc engine is now in health and runs well with reliable Petronix electronic ignition and twin Solex carbs.

SCM Analysis


Vehicle:1966 Volkswagen Type 2 21-Window Samba Bus
Years Produced:1951–67
Number Produced:101,829 (all years)
Original List Price:$2,577
SCM Valuation:$90,200
Tune Up Cost:$100
Chassis Number Location:Behind front passenger’s seat
Engine Number Location:Stamped on a boss below the generator support
Club Info:Vintage Volkswagen Club of America
Alternatives:1961–65 Chevrolet Greenbrier, 1961–67 Ford Econoline, 1964–70 Dodge A100
Investment Grade:B

This van, Lot 334, sold for $71,256, including buyer’s premium, at Silverstone Auctions’ Northamptonshire, U.K., sale on May 13, 2017.

There’s something about a VW Microbus.

Maybe it’s the basic box shape; the Microbus is perhaps the most unstyled vehicle of the post-war period.

Maybe it’s the incredibly modest performance. The 1,500-cc engine of 1966 offered just 53 horsepower and a 0–60 mph time of “unachievable.”

Maybe it’s the association with a more innocent era in many of our lives.

Or maybe we just love them like we love an ugly puppy.

Whatever the reason, the VW bus has found its place in the pantheon of collectible cars, and none are more desirable than the 23- and 21-Window “Samba” vans. Mostly, these rigs just look great with their plethora of skylights and windows all around, including pop-open windshield panes.

If you expend even a modest sum on restoration, a VW bus will reward you by looking fantastic. You won’t drop a fortune rebuilding the drivetrain, either. Every part you need is readily available, and when you’re done you can drive it with pride and confidence.

What’s a Samba?

Let’s take a look at what makes a Samba. The 1966 Samba was officially named a Type 2 Deluxe Microbus. There were also base Microbus and Kombi versions, and the Samba name was invented to distinguish between the base and Deluxe trims. The basic Microbus had a sliding side door, solid metal roof and 11 windows. The Samba offered dual swing-out side doors, a cloth sunroof and 21 windows. The Samba also sported a little sunshade overhang above the windshield and a two-tone paint job.

Under the hood, the Samba van has a 1,500-cc engine that was based on the prior 1,300-cc and 1,200-cc engines dating back to the 1950s. You got a small, single-throat carburetor and a 4-speed fully synchronized manual transmission. Automatics and auto-sticks were still in Volkswagen’s future at this time. The transaxle employed swing axles suspended by VW’s traditional torsion bars, and your stopping power came courtesy of four small drum brakes.

The stated purpose of a Samba was to carry sightseeing groups, hence all the glass. You got three rows of seats that would accommodate up to nine passengers, although you wouldn’t want to climb any hills with that kind of weight on board. In the United States, Samba vans were mainly purchased because they were cool. The price bump over a basic Microbus was about $220, or a little over 10%, so why not?

A hot market, but a cool sale

VW vans are generally healthy in the market, and none more vigorous than the Samba models, although the Westfalia campers have been keeping pace.

It’s not uncommon to see a nice Samba trade well above $100,000. This year’s Barrett-Jackson extravaganza in Scottsdale saw a resto-mod 1965 21-window go for an eye-popping $302,500 (April 2017, “Market Moment,” p. 110).

So what happened here? This van is restored (and lightly modded) about as well as the one at Barrett-Jackson, so it should have brought at least the going money for a Samba. Yet we’re looking at a sale that must have left the seller crying into his pint.

This van carries a rare optional sliding side door, which is certainly just as attractive as the barn-door style. It’s also got the very effective — if slightly scary — gasoline-fired heater. When the engine-bay door is shut, the only way you’d know the engine is not proper is that this van would be slightly less frustrating to follow up a mountain road.

To elaborate, the engine is carrying a dual Solex carb kit that improves power nicely, but is decidedly not correct for the vehicle. There’s also a modern billet distributor and a set of billet pulleys driving a much later 12-volt alternator, rather than the correct 6-volt generator.

In the ordinary way of things, a well-done conversion from 6-volt to 12-volt operation is cause to celebrate. Absolutely everything will work better — from the spark plugs to the headlights — and especially the starter. But with a painstakingly restored vintage Samba, the owner could at least have the decency to eschew the anodized billet aluminum pulleys and the chromed EMPI cooling tin. Seriously, save those for the dune buggy.

Someone lucked into a deal

Yet for all that, there’s still no good reason for this van to have sold below market price. You can fix every anachronistic item on that engine in an evening — and still retain the benefits of the 12-volt electrical system. Overall, this is a beautiful example of an extremely desirable classic Samba.

Part of the appeal of auctions is that sometimes the stars align and someone just randomly scores a killer deal. It looks like that’s what happened here. This bus was extremely well bought. ♦

(Introductory description courtesy of Silverstone.)

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