A Barndoor Gathering in The Netherlands
"The original idea for the T1 van or Volkswagen Type 2 came from the Dutch Volkswagen importer Ben Pon, who drew the first sketches of the van on April 23, 1947."
From the Wagenwerkplaats to The Strip
The wagenwerkplaats is the exact same spot where the trains came in from Germany to distribute all VWs from Amersfoort to the VW dealers in the Netherlands. There is still a lot of VW history out here and that's why Amersfoort was the perfect location to bring these Barndoor splitbuses together!
Now some years later the industrial area in Amerfoort has been in development, meaning it's not possible for us to organise a show including camping there. So we looked and found this new location, 'The Strip' in Enschede.
The Strip is a former military runway / airstrip with old shelters on the sides and enough space behind and under trees for camping. The perfect atmosphere and setting for the 3rd edtiton of the Barndoor Gathering & Vintage VW Show - Ben Pon Show.
The concept for the Type 2 is credited to Dutch Volkswagen importer Ben Pon. Pon visited Wolfsburg in 1946, intending to purchase Type 1s for import to Holland, where he saw an improvised parts-mover "plattewagen" and realized something better was possible using the stock Type 1 pan. He first sketched the van in a doodle dated April 23, 1947, proposing a payload of 690 kg (1,500 lb) and placing the driver at the very front. Production would have to wait, however, as the factory was at capacity producing the Type 1.
When capacity freed up a prototype known internally as the Type 29 was produced in a short three months. The stock Type 1 pan proved to be too weak so the prototype used a ladder chassis with unit body construction. Coincidentally the wheelbase was the same as the Type 1's. Engineers reused the reduction gear from the Type 81, enabling the 1.5 ton van to use a 25 hp (19 kW) flat four engine.
Although the aerodynamics of the first prototypes were poor (with an initial drag coefficient of 0.75), engineers used the wind tunnel at the Technical University of Braunschweig to optimize the design. Simple changes such as splitting the windshield and roofline into a "vee" helped the production Type 2 achieve a drag coefficient of 0.44, exceeding the Type 1's 0.48. Volkswagen's new chief executive officer Heinz Nordhoff (appointed 1 January 1948) approved the van for production on 19 May 1949 and the first production model, now designated Type 2, rolled off the assembly line to debut 12 November. Only two models were offered: the Kombi (with two side windows and middle and rear seats that were easily removable by one person), and the Commercial. The Microbus was added in May 1950, joined by the Deluxe Microbus in June 1951. In all 9,541 Type 2s were produced in their first year of production.
An ambulance model was added in December 1951 which repositioned the fuel tank in front of the transaxle, put the spare tire behind the front seat, and added a "tailgate"-style rear door. These features became standard on the Type 2 from 1955 to 1967. 11,805 Type 2s were built in the 1951 model year. These were joined by a single-cab pickup in August 1952, and it changed the least of the Type 2s until all were heavily modified in 1968.
Ben Pon, Sr.
Ben Pon was a Dutch businessman. In 1947, Pon's Automobielhandel ("Pon's Car Dealership"), became the first dealer outside of Germany to sell vehicles manufactured by Volkswagen.
Ben's father, Mijndert Pon, owned a shop (founded in 1898) that sold sewing machines, household articles and tobacco goods at Arnhemseweg (Arnhem Road) in Amersfoort. Later, he added Opel bicycles and motorized bicycles to his range of goods. Beginning in 1920, Pon sold Opel and Ford automobiles as well as Continental tires. Ben and his brother Wijnand took over the shop in 1931 and renamed it Pon's Automobielhandel. On August 8, 1947, The Pons became Volkswagen's general importer for the Netherlands. During their first year they received 51 Volkswagen Beetles from Wolfsburg. The company also became an importer of Porsches in 1948.
A sketch made by Pon inspired the engineers at Volkswagen to develop the VW Type 2 Transporter (a van, commonly called the "VW Bus"), a vehicle that became a cultural icon for the Hippie generation of the 1960s.
In 1949, the first Beetle was shipped to the United States. Half a million were to follow by 1960. A mere two years later there were one million Beetles in the U.S. It has not been ascertained that Ben Pon was significantly involved in this success story, even though he was among the first to export them into the U.S. It cannot even be proved that he sold the first Beetle in the United States. He was, in fact, unable to find a partner for a distributorship and left the country with an unpaid hotel bill, but eventually it made him a multimillionaire and one of the richest people in the Netherlands.