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My Classic Car: Peter’s 1957 Volkswagen 1000


The 1957 VW camper | Peter Koehorst archives
The 1957 VW camper | Peter Koehorst archives

On a Friday morning in 1976 I was driving down Koeberg Road when I saw an old VW ‘Combi camper in a car sale yard. The tag was R650, or about $60. It ran OK, and it looked clean, rust-free and the front windows opened!

When the salesman offered to get it through the roadworthy test that afternoon, broke as I was, I bought it.

My mom packed a fantastic mound of fat sandwiches and gave me and my then-girl, now wife, a huge box of cocktail cookies and a jar of pink mayonnaise to go with them. We were set for the weekend.

She survived to become Mrs. Koehorst
She survived to become Mrs. Koehorst

We set off early on Saturday complete with our food, tame parakeet, and a tank of fuel. Once we were on the highway heading towards Paarl, we discovered that 30-35 m.p.h. was a good cruising speed for the little 1100cc with a rather noticeable reduction in speed up the hills. Downhill was a roller coaster ride! Got her up to 75 once.

It was so delicious with the sun pouring through the open front windows. Pippin, the bird, was running up and down the bench seat with his wings outstretched singing. I kept driving, and so we got back to Cape Town more than a year later.

We traveled so many miles that year and had so many adventures that it is difficult to highlight any. At times we were down to our very last Rand, and painstakingly made a few jewelry items on the Durban beachfront which we sold to surfers for food and fuel money.

In Zululand we worked on the making of ‘Zulu Dawn” an historic movie about the Zulu wars — 300 zulus in tribal dress armed with assegaais stormed across the plains striking for meat. A prize ox from props was slaughtered and all was well.

In the Free State we hooked up with two traveling operas and worked till we had enough cash for a tape deck.

In the Kruger national park an elephant swing his trunk through the windows while we were asleep and tried to steal fruit off the front seat.

We camped on the banks of a river near the Blydesdale Canyon and didn’t see a soul for three weeks.

The camper was amazing, and the cookies lasted a month!
I kept it, for the next 15 years, sold it reluctantly, and though we had many adventures with her over the years, the memories of that year of freedom on the road and those mayonnaise cookies has always stayed with me.

— Peter Koehorst, Kommetjie, South Africa

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  1. Nice story! I felt as if I was there with the Parakeet scooting back and forth signing. Sounds like a scene out of a Disney movie.
    This makes me want to hop in my cars and head on out for an adventure. Cheers!

  2. Hi Peter, My last memories of you are as 7 or 8 year old playing in Milner Road in Bloemfontein………………….seems like the fun and adventure we had in those days followed you through life! Great stuff!

  3. Dear Peter,
    Wow I saw your Bully ( we German call it Bully ) . I am just sitting in a Pub in Germany
    reading your very tempting story.I found out we are actually neighbours.
    The world is small…
    We live in Strelizia road ( unfortunately until now only part of the year).
    Would be nice to chat a bit. Would be nice if you drop a note if you would like to come along for a chat and a coffee. Just drop a note [email protected] beurer.de or sms +491713468809
    If needed spare parts from Germany could be organized

  4. Hi Peter, G’day from New Zealand. The first car I remember in my family was a VW Kombi that looked almost like yours (after a repaint during my dad’s tenure) but my memories of that car are all just family car stuff – I have nothing to compare with your fantastic adventure although I have travelled quite widely in your country so I can well imagine it all happening and the places.
    What a pity you don’t still have that old car – but you still have some fantastic memories.

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