The VW Kombis for millionaires
REMEMBER when the humble VW Kombi was the cheap and cheerful choice for surfers, hippies and families off on low-cost holidays?
Well, the world has very much moved on. These basic air-cooled buses are quickly becoming the reserve of millionaires rather than hard-up students, with even basket case rusted shells selling for five figures.
In fact, prices have gone a bit crazy of late. Last week a 1967 Kombi split-window microbus went under the hammer at Shannons Melbourne Summer Classic Auction with a guide price of between $60,000 and $80,000. And it smashed that. Bidding stopped at a monumental $158,000, making it $20k more than a brand new Jaguar F-Type Convertible sports car - a decent alternative if you were after something to rival a Kombi for road presence.
Said $158k Kombi was delightful of course, being a red and beige two-owner example recently benefiting from a full bare-metal restoration. Even so, in parts of South America these things are still taking village kids to school along potholed mountain tracks. It's a funny old world.
So you'd have thought $158,000 for a Kombi "splittie" would be a national if not global record for the VW classic? Not so. The Holy Grail of Kombi ownership is the VW Samba Bus, and the Shannons 2015 Melbourne Late Summer auction last February had a 1960 23-window example go for $202,000. And no, there's not an extra zero accidentally added, someone really did drop $200k on a hippie van.
The white roofed and Paprika red bodied Samba with tan interior was another stunningly restored example, and its pivoting barn-style doors (rather than sliding), Golde folding sunroof and its "step-through" nature did make it very cool indeed.
But $200k? That buys a lot on today's market. Need Kombi-esque seat space? How about Audi's technology-filled new Q7 seven-seater? It looks stunning, has 200kW and 600Nm of economical diesel power, four-wheel drive, a 12.3-inch LCD virtual cockpit, 10-speaker sound system, leather and every safety system you could dream of. You could buy one of these Q7s and have enough left over for a weekend plaything - let's go with a brand new Porsche Boxster - for the price of that old Samba Bus.
But I need to be honest here. I'm mocking the silly Kombi prices simply to hide my jealousy. I'm not immune to the classic VW's charms, I'm just bitter I bought a 1970 Beetle as my first car 20 years ago rather than shell out for what I thought was an extraordinary sum for the split-screen Kombi I dearly wanted. It's price? $7500. Should have bought it. Should have kept it ...