Featured Cars


June 1, 2016
9 minutes read

For its time period, one would be hard pressed to find a more utilitarian vehicle than the original Split-Screen Transporter. By the mid-50s, its versatility extended well beyond its intended role as a people and cargo mover.

A host of sanctioned coachbuilders, including Meyer-Hagen, Magirus and Bachert began transforming Buses to suit the individual needs of the German public service utilities, as well as the private trade.

Meyer-Hagen was among the first companies to convert an early Split-Screen Panel Bus for the German fire brigade. The exterior was often accessoried only slightly with the addition of a powerful searchlight, single- or dual-overhead blue emergency lights and dual sirens, while the interior was fitted rather extensively with an array of equipment, including specialty tools and shovels, water hoses and a VW-powered water pump. Some versions also offered a seating area for additional fire-fitting personal with wooden racks and bins to store various gear, such as protective jackets and helmets. Additionally, the suspension was often beefed up to accommodate the extra weight of the added equipment.

Volkswagen’s expanding line of Transporters, such as the Single and Double Cab Pick-ups ideally lent themselves to several variations, including conversions equipped with an extending ladder and swivel turntable. Taking notice of their extreme popularity, Volkswagen itself, jumped into the fray and began building Fire Trucks of its own, the first being in 1956.

Interestingly, relatively few Split-Screen specialty Transporters were ever exported outside Europe. Moreover, since many of the fire trucks were operated by large independent companies for use on their own premises, they saw relatively little service and consequently were kept in near mint condition. In fact, many of these vehicles are still in service in the more remote areas of Europe, including the small Austrian village of Stogerbach. That is where this 1959 Fire Truck and matching ’54 Utility trailer were found, as indicated on each front door. The pair served the community as a fire and rescue vehicle for over three decades. Over the course of this time, the Fire Truck has logged only 29,781 kilometers and was well preserved inside the Fire Brigade station house.

The combo recently landed in the hands of private collector Joe Mond of Dabuque, Iowa. An avid Transporter enthusiast, Mond, who owns a number of rare Type II VWs, thought the Fire Truck and trailer would be a perfect addition to his collection.

Judging from two aluminum I.D. badges (found under the passenger side door), one of which reads, “Konred Rosenbauer K.G. Linz-Wien-Austria,” we can assume this was perhaps the Transporter’s coach-builder. It’s likely the other badge, which reads, “Hans Ebner Volkswagen,” indicates a local VW dealer.

As far as we can tell, the Fire Truck is un-restored and all original with the exception of two modifications, those being the bullet turn signals and slightly newer taillights. All ’59 Transporters came equipped with semaphore turn indicators and the smaller round taillights. The conversion most likely was part of an upgrade that happened to a lot of early German iron, in order to comply with TUV regulations. In any event, the original semaphores are still in tact and continue to work as if new.

Other parts of the Fire Truck also appear remarkably new, including its original red finish. Incredibly, all panels are in near perfect condition, void of any large blemishes. The front and rear black bumpers–complete with European plates –show only the slight sign of wear and tear with a little retouch of paint here and there. All four original 15in. wheels, which are painted black and carry color coordinated red hubcaps, are also in near mint condition. A stock set of tires posses nearly all their original tread and at close inspection reveal German inscription around the sidewall.

Much as the case with other coach-built Fire Trucks, Mond’s ’59 offers dual front-mounted sirens, a telescoping searchlight and dual roof-mounted flashing emergency lights. The sirens are operated by way of a timer switch located at the steering column. The six-volt searchlight, which mounts on the front passenger side, may also be removed for mobile hand operation. For better illumination, the light is equipped with a magnifying lens, which is also removable for easy replacement.

For extra cargo, an original Westfalia wood slat roof rack mounts along the roof top. Additional wood slats were used in the interior cargo area for the construction of a rear passenger bench and various cargo racks and cubbys.

While these custom additions are unique, the most notable cabin feature is an original 50s-era Ziegler water pump. Powered by a 36hp VW engine, the water pump, which is mounted on two parallel rails, may be easily extend beyond the side of the vehicle. This allows for easy access and the ability to physically transport the pump to a nearby water source. Current for the motor is derived from a vintage magneto set up, while a standard Bus hand crank is used to start the engine. Water hoses for the unit is stored in the back cargo area, as well as within the utility trailer. These antique hoses are themselves, quite unique. In addition to several feet of flexible hose line is a total of six, five-foot hard-cased hoses, which are constructed from an insulated woven fabric and linked via aluminum fasteners.

The driver’s quarters remained somewhat stock with the exception of a few modifications, including the aforementioned siren timer activation switch and an internal plug for the searchlight. Otherwise, the cockpit features a standard bench seat with typical door panels and kick board. The passenger door panel carries the original European parking meter and maintenance book. Here too, everything is incredibly well kept. Even the original floor mat appears surprisingly newer than one would expect from a 40 year-old vehicle.

Out back, the Transporter is powered by the original Type I engine and swingaxle. A standard 1200cc, 40hp engine dose not sound like enough power to motivate the Fire Truck, let alone pull a utility trailer full of equipment, but in 1959 this was considered the norm throughout the European community. As with the rest of the vehicle the engine compartment is immaculate.

As far as the utility trailer, it too is quite impressive. Manufactured a few years earlier than the Bus in 1954, the matching red trailer, which also comes with a flashing blue light, houses the majority of the equipment. It also provides storage for a pump of its own. Much of the miscellaneous fire-fitting and rescue gear is stowed with neatly divided wood compartments. Access to gear is made extremely easy by way of winged compartment doors at each side and traditional hinged doors at the front and rear. In emergency situations, the trailer is kept level and secure with the aid of two leveling stands at the rear corners. Lastly, black mud flaps with white VW logos hang appropriately below each fender.

In all, the pair is quite complete and inarguably impressive by anyone’s standard. It’s not everyday you come across an un-restored ’59 Kombi, let alone an original Fire Truck conversion. This pair from the Stogerback is about as clean as they come.

Article Source: www.vwtrendsweb.com



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