Lot 102

Monterey 2018

1961 Volkswagen Deluxe '23-Window' Microbus


$100,800 USD | Sold

United States | Monterey, California



Chassis No.
  • Rare and ultra-desirable 23-window Samba
  • Features delightful Safari windows
  • Rebuilt 1600 engine; just 1,100 miles since restoration
  • Photo-documented restoration
  • Includes VW Certificate of Authenticity and original owner’s manual

When Volkswagen first augmented its Beetle lineup with a van in 1950, it was intended as a workhorse with city-sized dimensions and a surprisingly robust payload.

Dutch VW importer Ben Pon sketched out a design for a van inspired in part by the Citroën H van with its distinctive corrugated body panels in the spring of 1947, and presented the idea to the home office in Germany. Strong post-war demand for the Type 1 Beetle pushed the van to the back burner for a couple of years. Eventually, early prototypes, using Pon’s idea of putting the driver above and partially ahead of the front axle were constructed. The project received CEO Heinz Nordhoff’s approval two years after Pon’s first sketch and product commenced at the end of 1949. The earliest Type 2 vans were utilitarian, but a passenger-oriented Microbus, with a full complement of side windows and benches for passengers, joined the lineup six months later.

As Central Europe’s economy rebounded from the ravages of World War II, Volkswagen found that its Microbus drivers were increasingly using their vans for touring. Accordingly, the automaker designed a version with an astounding 23 windows, including curved glass in the rearmost roof pillars that offered an unparalleled view out. These “Samba” vans also had a massive fabric sunroof and a hat bill-like shade over the windshield that set them apart from the conventional Microbus.

VW also set the Samba vans apart with a two-tone paint job and additional chrome brightwork. Later versions lost the distinctive rearmost curved windows, and the Samba was discontinued entirely when the Type 2 was redesigned in 1967.

The 1961 23-window Deluxe Samba offered here dates from about the middle of production. It was delivered new to the American West Coast, a typical destination for these 23-window vans. Six years ago, the Samba underwent an extensive rotisserie restoration by St. Martha’s Garage and was painted in Sealing Wax Red and Beige Grey. The interior was also completely refinished in new grey wool headliner, grey small diamond and pleated pattern upholstery panels, and German square weave carpet in luggage area. At that time, a 1,600-cc dual-port flat four was fitted, along with a 3:44 transmission for improved highway drivability. Furthermore, the transmission was rebuilt by Rancho Transmissions, while the steering was fully redone by Wolfgang International to ensure that the delightful 23-Window drives as good as it looks.

This stunning microbus was acquired by the current owner from a private collection of a plastic surgeon in Beverly Hills. Well maintained since, the van has covered about 1,100 miles since restoration and shows virtually no signs of use, remaining in remarkable condition.