When the Volkswagen T1 was built in the 1950s and 1960s, the Bulli was considered a symbol of the German economic miracle, but not a rarity – by the time it was replaced in 1967, VW had produced 1.8 million units. So it is hardly surprising that people back then were keen to experiment when it came to converting the transport. What appears to be sacrilegious today due to the high collector’s value was completely normal back then.
And so it came about that the Viennese Volkswagen mechanic Kurt Kretzner converted his 1962 T1 bus into a caterpillar vehicle. Because at that time, as Volkswagen writes, there was apparently a lack of highly off-road transporters in the mountains of Austria. No condition for the passionate skier.
Two built, one still alive
And so within six years he created two “caterpillar foxes”, as he called the extraordinary model. A conventional T1 from Hanover served as the basis. Kretzner equipped the vehicle with a steered double axle at the front and a rigid double axle at the rear. The mechanic mounted a total of four twin tires on the front axle, and the rear axle was equipped with two wheels each, around which the inventor attached a chain – including rubber buffers to protect asphalt roads.
However, Kretzner did not adapt the engine. As was customary in 1962, a 34 hp boxer did its work in the rear of the T1. However, due to the modifications, the “caterpillar fox” could not maintain its original top speed of 95 kilometers per hour. The bright orange off-road bulli only managed a leisurely 35 km/h.
However, the conversion was not a great success – even during the construction of the third vehicle, production came to a standstill, and the unique vehicle was only rarely seen in the wild. In the early 1990s, according to Volkswagen, the car went to the Porsche Museum in Gmünd. It stood there for many years until the Bullikartei eV association undertook the task of restoring it. From 2005, attempts were made to breathe new life into the “caterpillar fox”, but did not really make any progress.
Four years of work
In 2018, the original manufacturer was given the chance to make the car roadworthy again. The reconstruction of the collection of vintage Volkswagen Commercial Vehicles finally began. The mechanics in Hanover proceeded as is the case with all factory restorations: Everything removed, paint off and off to the conservation KTL bath. Then the “caterpillar fox” got its old color back and the interior followed.
According to VW, the technology is now state-of-the-art. A look into the cockpit reveals that this obviously has no effect on the look, everything looks as it should in a T1. The T1 didn’t become a camping van, even if that fate befell many surviving examples. There is not much to see apart from tool holders and spartan seating.
And even if the mechanics attest the revived “caterpillar fox” the best off-road characteristics, the bus should be lovingly preserved and put on display in a museum – the Bulli no longer has to be a workhorse, as its creator Kurt Kretzner once needed it.
source: VW Commercial Vehicles
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