HomePick of the DayEarly VW 23-window Samba bus that’s been restored with flair

Early VW 23-window Samba bus that’s been restored with flair


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.

The transporter has plenty of room for the crew

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!

The bus looks nicely finished, though the engine lid needs a hinge fix

“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.

The interior was upgraded with Mercedes upholstery and European carpeting

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 engine compartment looks clean and tidy

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.


Bob Golfen
Bob Golfen
Bob Golfen is a longtime automotive writer and editor, focusing on new vehicles, collector cars, car culture and the automotive lifestyle. He is the former automotive writer and editor for The Arizona Republic and SPEED.com, the website for the SPEED motorsports channel. He has written free-lance articles for a number of publications, including Autoweek, The New York Times and Barrett-Jackson auction catalogs. A collector car enthusiast with a wide range of knowledge about the old cars that we all love and desire, Bob enjoys tinkering with archaic machinery. His current obsession is a 1962 Porsche 356 Super coupe.


  1. I drove the bus at my job when I was in High School. I made deliveries and pickups at various stores. I remember there was no gas gauge. But, if you did run out of gas, all you had to do is pull a lever on the floor and that gave you an extra gallon of gas or about 35 miles. Great memories.

    • Horribly overpriced, but I’m sure there’s a guy out there with a fat belly/wallet in a Hawaiian shirt with a pony tail just waiting for it. In the real world, we used to have to drive the daylights out of these slugs just to get them from Point A to Point B, and that included extensive "energy management" also known as "figuring how to get over that next hill". Buena suerte to the new owner.

      • While reading the bio of this bus one sentence stood out. CAREFULLY inspect the van….. I have cash.. I’ll give you $ 20,045. For it. I’ll fix the hinge.

    • I owned one ,1970 to 1976, I had no idea that there was a lever on the floor that gave you an extra gallon of gas. Were all the buses equipped with this? I used to take the gas cap off and shake the van to listen to the sloshing to determine how much gas I had. Guess I was very good at it, I never ran out of gas.

  2. I remember reading an article similar to this where the writer said for the price of a brand new Porsche with change left over you can buy a sixty year old VW bus with all the attendant problems of a sixty year old car LOL !!!!!!

  3. I have always had a dream of owning a VW bus, I’m 75 now, knowing now that dream is just a dream, I so enjoyed looking at all the VW pictures and still dreaming,lol.


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