The boxy Volkswagen Transporter arrived on American shores circa 1949. Using regular Beetle mechanical components, Transporters quickly evolved into mini people carriers.

Dubbed the Microbus, Volkswagen’s unique vehicle became the trademark of a burgeoning hippie counterculture. The combination of economy and practicality made them an instant hit with the flower-power generation. Before long, their slab sides were adorned with Grateful Dead decals and painted flowers.

One of the rarest and most desirable buses built in this era was the 21-window microbus. The model shown here has benefited from a comprehensive professional restoration finished in red with a white roof. This Volkswagen is equipped with correct materials and options, safari windows, tip-out windshield and a California roof.

SCM Analysis


This vehicle sold for $28,050 (including 10% commission) at the RM Auction held January 21, 2000 in Phoenix, Arizona.

Other markets can come and go, but the VW Microbus market has made slow but steady gains that can be tracked back to the late ’80s. The Transporter was available in many configurations: single sliding door, dual sliding door (“walk through”), single-cab pickup, dual-cab pickup and of course, the Westfalia campers. Each variant has its own price point and it is generally agreed that the 21-window and 23-window varieties are most desirable. Also known as a Deluxe Microbus, they are the best equipped of all the Transporters, with two-tone paint divided by a chrome strip, four Plexiglas windows in the roof on each side, and a sliding fabric sunroof. The VW badge on the front was chrome instead of painted, and so were the hubcaps. (Earlier 23-window buses had curved Plexiglas windows on the rear corners, and these were eliminated in 1963 which created the 21-window bus.)

The Microbus marketplace is clearly nostalgia driven because, after all, the performance of the Microbus even under calm conditions gives new meaning to the term “unimpressive.” Still, they are well built, sturdy and will probably live on in reality even longer than in the minds of their past owners. All these ingredients add up to a quirky collectible that has enough quirky collectors involved to keep them humming on the road and in the marketplace.

There is a strong aftermarket of restoration parts for all air-cooled VWs and though the parts are reasonably priced, the amount of effort required to truly refinish and rebuild a Transporter in and out makes the purchase price in the high $20s a good deal for both buyer and seller. Today, even project Microbuses can bring $12,000, and you couldn’t restore one for the difference in price. The new owners of this Microbus also got a home for their collection of eight-track tapes, provided they can remember where they stored them in 1972, after they installed one of those new-fangled cassette players.-Michael Duffey

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