Class Sponsor

Year: 1952

Manufacturer: Volkswagen

Model: 'Barn door' transporter

Chassis Number: 20 -037490

Country: UK

Julian Hunt

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1952 Volkswagen ‘Barn door’ transporter

The first that current owner Julian Hunt heard of this very early, rare 1952 bus was when VW collector Volker Hess called him up to say he had found an early bus and that it was for sale. Photos were soon on the way from Germany – it turned out to be a fire truck. Being a 52 model it had all the early bits that Julian wanted, like the piano hinge vent windows. 

A deal was struck with Volker, who promised he would get it to Ostend in Belgium. Julian was to meet outside the train station at midnight one Saturday evening in May 1997. Because he bought the van on the strength of photos, the first proper look Julian got was when we were back on the channel tunnel. It looked a mess.

Julian parked it at the back of my flat and there it stayed for about a year getting covered in overgrown bushes while he sourced all the parts needed. The van was very incomplete and with the van being such an early model, it was difficult finding the right parts.

They included the correct grooved semaphores and new-old-stock (NOS) wiper grommets, front bumper, cab door handles, NOS vent window knobs, horn button, bumper irons, interior light, speedo and surround, NOS headlights, NOS vent window frame, side door rubber bump stops, cab divider, NOS ’53-55 engine lid ( for the hinge only, rear reflectors, NOS cab floor mat, NOS cargo door, NOS brake/number plate light, NOS cargo door handle, NOS safari catches, NOS engine lid handle, correct front badge, Safari windows, NOS wiper motor, NOS fuel tap and correct NOS headlights, used tail lights, correct ’52 battery cover, NOS cab door window frame and NOS wiper arms & blades.

While collecting parts an engine was sourced and rebuilt with a period Judson supercharger. It was also converted from 6 volt to 12 volt, although you would never know it. The suspension was then lowered and the gearbox swapped for one out of a low mileage 1958 ambulance. Period Sprintstar wheels – 4in front and 4.5in were also fitted.

Itt took 10 litres of Nitromors to remove the two coats of Firetruck red over the original L31 Dove Blue. Most of the panels were rusty and needed extensive repairs, including one sill, inner sills, outriggers, chassis members, A-pillars and areas around the windscreen.

With all the welding done and all the dents banged out the van went off to the sand blasters. Just the cab, cargo area and engine bay were blasted as it would have been impossible to strip them by hand. When the van returned it was totally bare metal inside and out. It was painted in original L31 Dove Blue. The cargo area was then painted a wired green which was matched from original paint on the back of one of the cargo doors; the paint used had a matting agent in it.

Julian then rented a garage from the council. The van had to be pushed out of the garage to be able to work on it, and Julian has just two days a week to work on it, with the Volksworld show was looming up fast. Determined not to use an auto electrician, Julian worked his way through the wiring and nearly fell over when everything worked first time without blowing any fuses.

The cab seat which was retrimmed in a vinyl as close to the original as possible. It was finally finished two days before the Volksworld show. Everything possible has been done to retain all the rare early features but with reversible period modifications added. It’s now known as one of the best early Transporters in the world.


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