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Odds & Ends, Vintage & Classic, Volkswagen — August 17, 2012 at 1:15 pm

Volkswagen Type 2 Pickups and Panel Vans


For those of us who don’t reside on the west coast, Volkswagen Type 2 pickup trucks and panel vans are not too common a sight. Even in the vintage VW haven that is California, passenger buses are generally more common than Type 2 work trucks. But despite their relative rarity, both the panel vans and single-cab and double-cab pickups are excellent work vehicles and fun and functional enthusiast machines.

A friend here in Atlanta has a 1960 VW Type 2 panel van, and his cross-country journey in that vehicle is the subject of an upcoming feature I recently wrote for Hemmings Classic Wheels. His 50-year old truck gave him little trouble on a 6,000-mile round-trip journey, proving the Type 2 is made to last. Split-window panel vans and pickups like his – 1967 and earlier so-called T1 models – are a bit more common than their bay-window, or T2,  post-1967 counterparts. The opposite is true of the passenger variants, with bay-window buses being far more common.

The reason has to do not with Americans preference for domestic light trucks, but with an import tariff placed on German-built light commercial vehicles in 1964. France and West Germany placed a tax on chicken imported from the U.S., and when diplomacy failed to resolve the “Chicken Wars,” President Johnson responded with a hefty 25% tax items like brandy and VW panel vans. While the inclusion of light commercial vehicles was, at the time, explained by a effort to match the value of the revenue lost on chicken exports, White House tapes later revealed that it was actually a result of a bargain with then-president of the UAW Walter Reuther. He agreed not to strike before the 1964 presidential election and to support Johnson’s civil rights platform.

The story of the Chicken Tax explains why I was surprised to see this bay-window VW double-cab pickup this morning.