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The Kombi lives on

... pulling on our heart strings.  It's not the first time the German carmaker has toyed with our feelings like this. Back in 2001 VW rolled out a Kombi concept at the Detroit Motor Show but changed its mind about building it for real.

It's an emotional thing the Kombi van, and that's been the key to its success in the past and, if it ever gets built, to its future. You see it'd be hard to find somebody who doesn't have a soft spot for the Kombi. Our love affair with the Kombi has lasted 60 years now. It's difficult to explain why when they ain't exactly pretty and they don't go all that well. Yes, not only is love blind, it knows nothing about cars.

Any Kombi owner will be able to tell you all about the public affection their transportation gets. "I'd walk out of the house and find people in my driveway taking photos of it," Sharon Burton, 38, of Sydney says.

Admittedly, it is a brilliant example of a Kombi; so good in fact that it's on the market for $89,995. It's a 21 Window 1964 split screen model and rare. Burton bought it and shipped it over from the UK last year after seeing it for sale online.

When the van arrived in Australia Burton took it on a road trip to the Old Bar Kombi festival in Taree and won the show `n' shine. "When we were driving back from Taree people were hanging out of their cars taking photos on their phones as they drove past. There's something very unique about them. It doesn't matter what you go out and buy, you just can't replicate that look."

Burton had her first Kombi when she was at uni. "I had 1968 bay window that had all the internals, the cooker, the bunk beds But I'd always wanted to have either a 21 or a 23 window."

A baby is now on the way for Burton and though her husband and stepson love jumping in the Kombi and driving to get fish and chips the change in circumstances has led them hand it over to the folks at the Classic Throttle Shop to sell.

"There has always been a market for these wonderful machines," the Classic Throttle Shop's Nicholas Ramunni says. "A generation of buyers now have the means to invest in high quality examples, like the one Classic Throttle Shop has on offer, to re-live the good times and to pass on this experience to a new generation of admirers. "But high quality cars are hard to come by, in particular the variants like this the 21 Window."

Dean Coutts from Volkswagen specialists Volkspower in Melbourne agrees. "I'm afraid that it's becoming very difficult to find good cars," he says.

Coutts's father started Volkspower in 1957 and Dean's been working there for 30 years. You're not going to find many people who know more about the emotional and mechanical sides of the Kombi and if anybody can explain our love affair with the van it's this man.

"Pretty much everybody on the planet has a Kombi memory and they seem to be family memories that people develop, which I think makes people passionate about them for long periods of time."

"We've all been in a Commodore but people remember being in Kombis. It seems like a fantasy-type connection people have with these cars. When they go in an old Kombi it fulfils that dream."

Somebody who's keeping that dream alive, well, on the weekends at least, is Matt Brinsden, 38, from Melbourne. His current Kombi in an Australian-built 1964 split screen. "I got it in 2001 and spent four years getting it right as money permitted," Brinsden says. "I paid 1200 bucks and I've probably spent 30K on it."

Brinsden reckons this is his favourite Kombi, it's been to shows and won trophies, but these days, what with work and family, it only comes out when necessary. "If I get home from work and I've had a bad day I go for a drive in the Kombi and it cheers me up pretty quickly."

Brinsden's love for the Kombi started at the age of 19 when he saw one on the side of the road and bought it for $250. "I got this thing home and put it back on the road and loved it - went everywhere in it. That was a 1964 as well. That's where it all began."

Five Kombis, marriage, children and 20 years later Brinsden still feels the same way about the bus. But for a little while he dabbled with non-Volkswagens, but it only reinforced what he already knew - that Kombis were the way for him.

"For a few years I started chasing 1950s Holdens but they never gave me the same feeling as Kombis." And the answer to why we all love the Kombi so much is clear to Brinsden.

"It's almost that they're so ugly they're beautiful. I think the look of them, especially the front of that car, makes people smile," he says "There's this feeling that you get when you're driving, too, and I reckon all my mates would say the same thing - it is a feeling. I go for a drive on the weekend and you can't get the grin off your face."

Richard Berry
Senior Journalist
Richard had wanted to be an astrophysicist since he was a small child. He was so determined that he made it through two years of a physics degree, despite zero mathematical ability. Unable to build a laser in an exam and failing to solve the theoretical challenge of keeping a satellite in orbit, his professor noted the success Richard was enjoying in the drama and writing courses he had been doing on the side. Even though Richard couldn’t see how a degree in story-telling and pretending would ever get him a job, he completed one anyway. Richard has since been a best-selling author and a journalist for 20 years, writing about science, music, finance, cars, TV, art, film, cars, theatre, architecture, food, and cars. He also really likes cars, and has owned an HQ ute, Citroen 2CV, XW Falcon, CV8 Monaro and currently, a 1951 Ford Tudor. A husband and dad, Richard’s hobbies also include astronomy.
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