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Volkswagen California (T3)

25 years of the VW California

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8th April, 2013

Volkswagen Commercial Vehicles is celebrating the 25th anniversary of the Volkswagen California at Techno Classica (10th to 14th April 2013) in Germany. The vehicle’s production figures are fitting for an anniversary: around 100,000 California vans have come off the assembly line over the past 25 years.

A short retrospective of the history of this classic vehicle will be displayed at the Volkswagen Commercial Vehicles booth in Hall 7. It begins with the T3, covers the T4 and progresses to today’s T5. Naturally, the vehicle’s T1 and T2 ancestors complete the recreational vehicle’s show appearance.

The European holiday lifestyle in a camping van experienced its greatest boom in the 1980s. As in years before, visiting and exploring Southern Europe was the primary attraction – but no longer with a tent, towed camper, car or train, but with a camper van purchased especially for this purpose. This led to an entirely new type of holidaying experience – two days here, three days there. Greater individual freedom could hardly be experienced – far removed from everyday obligations. For Volkswagen, this was reason enough to put its own camper van on wheels: the California.

The idea was not entirely new. For a long time, Westfalia had been building a camper van named the Joker, which was based on the VW Transporter. The basic lay out of this custom camper van proved to be very practical over the years. A folding bench seat for two persons at the rear, which could be laid flat for reclining, and a narrow kitchen counter along the left side of the interior with a refrigerator, gas stove and sink and storage space. This type of lay out leaves a large space for entry through a wide sliding door. However, the Joker with its well-conceived detailed lay out and many small extras had become unaffordable for the average customer. And this is precisely where Volkswagen stepped in. With a thick red pencil and an eye towards significantly higher production volumes, designers trimmed the features of the Joker down to a healthy level. The success of this diet: a low entry-level price of just 39,900 German Marks.

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This set the stage for an entire generation of California camper vans, an idea that would be expressed over the next 25 years. Unlike high-roof vehicle models and those with a long wheelbase, the California featured a pop-top roof that articulated at the rear over all of its years and generations. The exhibited models also show this feature. While most are the T3 “base version” of the California model of those days, the “Freestyle” is also on display – it is the most coveted and late special model and is based on the T4. The exhibition finishes with a current California Beach Edition, which once again embodies the initial basic idea of an economical camping van.

Volkswagen has not sold the California in Australia.



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