The Volkswagen T3, history and origin
After the Volkswagen T1, which became known as the hippie bus, it was followed by the slightly larger T2. Both buses were the air-cooled predecessors of the Volkswagen T3. This third type of Transporter got a completely different look. The cute round bus had given way to a rough, angular model. Due to this innovative design, this bus offered more space and was used for many different purposes. Some models can accommodate nine people, while others were used for freight transport. The Volkswagen T3 can therefore at least be called a very flexible vehicle.
In 1979 Volkswagen had launched the LT bus, the Transporter’s slightly bigger brother. It was more angular in shape than the T1 and T2 and had a much higher payload. This square shape was largely adopted in the design of the third transporter generation, the so-called T3. It had a payload capacity of 1 ton and, like the previous models, had an air-cooled engine that was located in the trunk. The Volkswagen T3 had a total length of 4.57 meters and a width of 1.85 meters. These dimensions allowed the bus to fit in a normal parking lot without any problem and still provide enough space for its various purposes.
In 1981, 2 years after the first introduction of the air-cooled T3, VW came up with the innovative idea to equip the Transporter with a water-cooled engine, namely the 1.6 diesel. This gave the bus more power and also prevented the engine from overheating. The difference between the air-cooled and water-cooled models is clearly visible on the muzzle, where a water-cooled bus has a second grill under the headlights and the air-cooled one cannot. In addition, in the first air-cooled models, the air grilles at the back of the flank were incorporated into the steel, whereas plastic grilles are to be found in the water-cooled buses. The production of the air- and water-cooled models overlapped each other for 1 year and in 1982 Volkswagen switched completely to the water-cooled engines.
In production for 24 years
In 1992 production of the T3 stopped in Wolfsburg, but the model was still built in Africa until 2003. However, buses manufactured in Africa cannot be put on the road in Europe, because they do not comply with European directives. The T3 largely owes its success to the fact that it was suitable for many different purposes. The buses were often used in the army, where they were used as a transport for goods transport or as an ambulance. There was also a wide variety of models for private individuals and companies. For example, you had a panel, a model without windows, which was extremely suitable as a company car. Furthermore, Volkswagen had provided a full line of camper versions for the T3 and they had also designed an enka (single cabin) and darkroom (double cabin) with a loading box at the rear. The vans were even popular at many funeral companies and they are also very popular as a food truck.
Although the third type of Transporter is known to us as the ‘T3’, it is known under different terms in different parts of the world. One speaks of a ‘T25’ in England and a ‘Vanagon’ in America. Germany prefers the term ‘bulli’, which actually immediately refers to all buses of the Volkswagen Transporter.
Miniatures of the T3 prove more difficult to find than the T1 and T2 vans. However, it is striking that the popularity of the third-generation bus is growing and the market is also increasingly responding to this. The buses increase in value every year and so the miniatures are also gradually increasing in value. At meetings you will also find more sellers who offer the T3 miniatures as before.
Meetings and clubs
Just like with all cars, there will be an era in which they can be labeled as ‘oldtimer’. This also means that more and more people are driving to meetings with these vans. There you can see them in person and often you can also ask the owner questions. Just like for many old-timers, you can also find different groups and clubs specifically for the T3 in which meetings are often organized. An example of this are the two Facebook groups of the Dutch group ‘Volkswagen T3 enthusiasts’ and the Belgian club ‘Volkswagen T3 Club Belgium’.