Happy birthday Bulli: Volkswagen Transporter is 70

70 years ago this August, the oldest remaining road-legal Volkswagen Transporter ‘Bulli’ drove off the Wolfsburg production line.

As it wasn’t a particularly historic vehicle back then, it was delivered to a customer in Hildesheim to start more than two decades of a life of work.

It then disappeared and was not rediscovered until the early 1990s: restoration followed and, since 2014, the Bulli named Sofie has been a part of Volkswagen’s Classic Vehicles collection.

Volkswagen Transporter T1 Bulli

Sporting chassis number 20-1880, Sofie the Transporter is a Volkswagen Type 2: Type 1 is the Beetle. She was used as a working van for 23 years in Hildesheim, before being sold to a collector.

Between 1973 and 1992, she was passed between various Volkswagen collectors, until Dane Tonny L. discovered what was then the lowest chassis number known in the Bulli scene.

With around 100,000km on the clock, Tonny began planning the restoration, which he began in early 2000 and completed in spring 2003. Following that, he then covered more than 20,000km driving Sofie to classic events across Europe.

Then, in 2014, word got out that Tonny might consider selling Sofie the Transporter. The Volkswagen Commercial Vehicles ‘Oldtimer’ department got in touch.

And a few weeks later, a deal is struck: the world’s oldest street-legal Bulli joins the collection. “I know that she’ll fare best at home,” said a tearful Tonni at the time.

So it has proved. This month, Volkswagen has celebrated 70 years of the Transporter, vowing to keep her thriving for the next 70 years.   

Whether anyone tucked into the special spark plug cake was not recorded.

Volkswagen Transporter T1 Bulli

Specs: 1950 Volkswagen Transporter

Technical data

Year of manufacture: 1950

Colour: Dove Blue L 31

Chassis number: 20-1880

Engine: Rear air-cooled 4-cylinder 4-stroke boxer engine

Top speed: 49mph at 3,300 rpm

Engine capacity: 1,131 cc

Unladen weight: 990 kg

Payload: 760 kg

Power: 25hp at 3,300 rpm

Length / width / height: 4,100 mm / 1,700 mm / 1,900 mm

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Richard Aucock
I'm Managing Director at @editorial_mr. I run a bit, cycle a bit, love the automotive industry. I'm a World Car Awards juror and Deputy Chairman of the Guild of Motoring Writers.

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