The Volkswagen world is abuzz with talk about the rebirth of the microbus, only now as an electric vehicle. What was once the simplest and most-utilitarian of vehicles, turned hippie classic and Grateful Dead camp follower, the bus no longer would be so micro but would retain many of the stylistic touchstones that set the original apart from the straight world.
The Pick of the Day is a glorious 1958 Volkswagen 23-window bus, known as a Samba and reigning as the highest-valued of the original split-windshield models. The 23-window represents VW bus royalty, the most desirable of the many permutations of the rear-engine, air-cooled Type 2.
Everybody took notice of the soaring values of these rare models when in 2011, a restored 1963 Samba sold for $217,800 at a Barrett-Jackson auction, setting the trend for top-condition examples. Since then, that mark has been surpassed at auctions several times for both 23- and 21-window vans, both in the U.S. and Europe, and six-figure prices have become common.
“Anyone who is anyone knows that in the world of vintage Volkswagen buses, it’s all about the windows – and the more the merrier,” according to the Phoenix, Arizona, dealer advertising the VW on ClassicCars.com. “Five per side, eight skylights, the desirable split-screen windshield, a giant rear windshield, plus what may be the coolest pair of curved rear corner windows, and one has the ‘23-Window’ – more glass than metal!
“Called the ‘Samba’ or ‘Alpine’ in Europe, it was the addition of the skylights, plus the canvas sunroof that exposed an expansive 2/3 of the roof to the open air, that made the Microbus perfect for camping out wherever one might happen to find themselves.”
This Samba has been well-restored, the dealer says, both cosmetically and mechanically, so that it looks and runs as well or better than new. The engine has been updated with a newer and bigger dual-port 1,600cc flat four, which improves its drivability but detracts from its originality, and the interior has been outfitted with “authentic Mercedes tan striped broadcloth with European carpeting,” which the dealer notes are period correct.
These deluxe Sambas were lavishly appointed with trim from the factory, including the desirable chrome bars around the rear cargo area, but this one has been uploaded with a double helping of shiny stuff, “relatively dripping with chrome and stainless,” the seller says.
“Everything from many of the window frames, bumpers, the VW logo on the front… it has all the right details to make it look much better than a stock microbus,” the ad says. “This restoration was focused on making this a delightful cruiser rather than a trailer queen.”
The bus needs a few tweaks yet t0 the recently completed 20-year-plus restoration by the owner, the seller notes, including a hinge repair needed for the engine lid, which can be seen misaligned in the photos and which the dealer vows to fix before the VW goes home with a new owner.
Like most collector cars, condition is everything when valuing a Samba, and a prospective buyer would be advised to carefully look it over in person to ensure that it upholds the strong asking price of $129,800.
To view this listing on ClassicCars.com, see Pick of the Day.