Found For Sale: This newer classic Volkswagen Bus

Down throughout Mexico and well into Central and South America, the Volkswagen Bus roamed roads with fresh body panels and new, clean paint. That’s because Volkswagen built the iconic machine all the way through the late 2010s in certain markets. This model is called the T2c, and there’s a Mexican-market model for sale in El Paso, Texas. This is your way into the newer version of an otherwise classic machine.

It would be a weird time warp to drive one of these things. This specific VW Bus is a 1994 example with 1.8-liter water-cooled power. The seller says it was imported into the States and has a proper Texas title.

There’s an oddball effect that happens when you stare at this thing. It looks familiar and foreign all at once. The grille is different than what I’m used to seeing as is the blacked-out panel with the turn signals at either end. It’s like looking at a Volkswagen Bus that’s wearing a Groucho Marx disguise.

I believe $18k is a lot to ask for one of these. But true classic versions do trade hands for shocking amounts of money.

15 Comments

  1. The blacked out grille is a bit reminiscient of seeing someone you knew as a boy show up with a hipster stache. You recognize it’s there, its function and concept, but you’d also expect it to come off in a bit, returning to a more sensible face.

    How is it with the US rules about 25 years of age and such for special imports – since this model was offered in the US before, can you fetch a newish model for cheap in its home markets and register it freely?

    1. The short answer is no, the fact that an earlier model year of the vehicle was sold in the US is irrelevant. If, for a vehicle younger than 25 years, the vehicle is not certified as meeting US standards, then the only legal option is to petition the NHTSA to determine whether it can be brought into compliance by one of the small number of registered specialty companies engaged in such work. This is usually quite expensive, although for some vehicles the NHTSA has determined that the required modifications are comparatively minor. The NHTSA maintains a list of “nonconforming vehicles” that have already been determined to be eligible for modification to US standards:

      https://www.nhtsa.gov/importing-vehicle

    2. states may place further hurdles to owning an old car. i live in California, where cars used to be sold with different emissions equipment to meet the stricter standards. i can bring a non-CA-emissions car into the state after some number of years and/or miles, but i (generally) can’t bring in a car that was never compliant with federal standards, which most 25 year imports are not.

      the actual implementation of these rules is pretty patchy here and i know a few people who have snuck imported diesels into the state, which doesn’t require smog testing on 97- diesels. but it’s hit or miss, and if the state catches your car before you get the plates you might end up having to take it out of the state.

      CA also allows engine swaps by basically testing and regulating the car as though it were the car from which the engine came, as long as it’s the same year or newer. a fair rule, though almost impossible to comply with as enforced. i have always wondered if you could swap a US emissions engine into an imported car and get it through smog concerns that way.

      1. Why is that last rule so hard to comply with? It sure is costly and time-consuming to do an engine swap, but the basic idea seems very reasonable. After all, there are way too few LS1-Ladas on any road, really. 🙂

        1. Regulation in the US (on everything) would make the Byzantines blush. It is opaque by design, poorly understood by the rank and file people that run the bureaus, and ignored completely or enforced overzealously as is convenient for whoever in power happens to be advantaged or disadvantaged by its existence. One of the mysteries in all of this is the outsized influence of car dealers in state and local politics. Many states charge ridiculous fees to change your license plate when you move there, but if you trade in your old car at Good Ol’ Boy Chevrolet in Possum Junction, the new plate on a car identical to your own your own off the used lot is basically free. Likewise, any regulation that gets an old car off the road has a constituency with outsized influence pushing whatever narrative they can glom on to to make a few more bucks.

          We literally have gas sensors that test emissions on older vehicles with antiquated OEM emissions equipment that doesn’t actually have to work all that well, as long as it is physically present. You could swap an LS into a 1981 Camaro, run a couple of modern catalytic converters, and that same certifying equipment would tell you that its emissions are far superior to the forty year old junk you took off of it, but you’re now illegal for removing certified emissions equipment and replacing it with something provably better. My cynical guess is because people want you to buy another car from a dealer when your old one needs repairs.

          1. As an example – GM went through all manner of regulatory hoops to put together an LS based crate engine package that would pass regulatory muster that they sold (and maybe still sell) under the “e-Rod” brand name. Basically if you went to your certified Chevrolet Performance dealer and bought the whole package and that whole package installed and inspected just so, the state of California would allow you to drive on their roads legally. You or I could cobble together an identical system from new OE parts off the shelf or stuff from a junkyard at a fraction of the price, and it wouldn’t count, but pay full freight to Good Ol’ Boy Chevy and you can enjoy your hobby.

            I hate politics.

        2. yep, what neight said. CA sniffs tailpipe emissions on older cars (before 2000), yet still regulates approved combinations of equipment. so you’re evaluated separately on the actual emissions from the tailpipe and the pieces that get you there. makes sense on newer cars, which aren’t subject to the sniffer, but why i should have to comply with equipment rules when the thing being controlled is directly measured is beyond me.

          the state agency that verifies that you’ve put the newer motor in the older car is a real stickler and will get you on anything. the modifications you’re allowed to make to the engine and equipment and still be certified are extremely limited.

          1. Oh boy, thank you guys for the insight! Those are bizarre policies indeed, and not easy to rationalize. Same for how lobbyists – may they be carmakers, dealers or the gun industry – get so much outsized power in politics.

            The government agency regulating car imports here has been known to be quite un-friendly towards collectors and modifiers, too. We recently went from 30 to 20 years as the age threshhold for imports of cars without punishing taxes, and the agency barely complied with the new law. Putting electric motors and batteries from all the EVs that fill up our junkyards into classics is downright forbidden after a law change in 2019 – the only possible route, costly, difficult and with a lot of red tape that is hard to even identify, is compliance via EU/EFTA law in another country, typically Germany with their TÜV. But the administrators still have to comply with the law and the given rules, there’s no power at the clerk level other than them maybe withholding information when they should have helped the first time around. The one argument that keeps getting repeated is safety; but they even cast doubt as to whether an earlier Leaf can be operated legally with the battery of a later Leaf – that plugs more or less right in. Argh! Pointless.

  2. “Odometer not working”. Also, tachometer missing needle… and numbers.

    A 200km/h speedo in a Kombi?

    Is that how they came out of the factory? I’d want to know if somebody installed whatever instrument panel they could find in a fight with a gremlin, in which case, what other gremlins has the owner ‘fixed’ that I might like to know about?

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