VW Terms & Definitions
Greetings, here are some terms and most helpful information.
VW Bus Terms and Definitions
Here are some helpful general VW and bus-specific definitions. I welcome any corrections, comments or additions to this list.
New OldStock. This term is probably most hotly debated subject in the VW world. While not specific to VW's, this term refers to an original part or accessory that has never been used. NOS parts generally come from old dealer stockpiles, and usually fetch a premium at swaps and auctions.
As the name implies, there are 3 criteria which must be met for a part to be considered NOS.
New- the part or accessory has not been used. Once an NOS part has been put into use, it should be referred to as being NOS in the past tense, ie "I installed NOS headlights on my bus." It is considered unethical to put such a part into service, then remove it after a time and offer it for sale as NOS again.
Old - of equivalent vintage as the car it would be used on. Some parts are still in production and commonly available, such as Bosch ignition components. These would not be referred to as NOS.
Stock- this is the element that generates the hottest debate. Strictly speaking, an NOS part is an OEM (original equipment manufacture) part, meaning a part or accessory that would have been available when the car was new. The contention arises from whether to consider vintage, non-OEM parts and accessories to be NOS. Strictly speaking, they do not meet the three criteria of NOS - specifically failing the "Stock" criteria. For example, should a new, unused, floor mat set sold by J.C. Whitney in 1960 be considered "NOS?" No, because it is not an original VW part. Some would argue that in this case, the floor matsarestill NOS, albeit NOS J.C. Whitney floor mats. Technically, this is true, but it takes it out of the VW context.
The NOS claim is often misused because there's usually money involved. When presented with parts that are touted as NOS, ask for proof! Here's some helpful hints for surviving the NOS game:
Many NOS parts will still be in their original wrapper or box, but not always.
Look for visual cues as to a part's age. Familiarize yourself with what the parts you need are supposed to look like.
If the words "Mexico" or "Brazil" (or any other non-European country,) appear anywhere on the wrapper or part, then most likely it is of a more recent vintage and fails the "Old" criteria.
The presence of cosmoline, a sticky, oily substance, on parts is not a guarantee of authenticity or age - cosmoline is still commonly used to coat machined parts to prevent corrosion during storage, and is easily obtainable.
Look for signs of "use wear" on the part. Some NOS parts may have what is called "shelf wear," which is light scratching and scuffing from being handled, and that is acceptable.
Look closely at the fastening points, and mounting areas - is there evidence of use? When nuts and bolts are fastened, the leave a circular impression. Look for pitting in chrome, and cracks in bakelite parts, such as knobs.
Look for bead-blasted and spray-painted surfaces. No parts would have come from the factory with a bead-blasted finish, which is evidenced by a very fine, but roughened texture.
Familiarize yourself with the finishes on parts that you need. It's very common to repaint parts and try to pass them off as NOS.
Keep in mind that there are a lot of high-quality reproductions out there. Some unscrupulous swappers have no qualms about roughing up a reproduction item and passing it off as "NOS with shelf wear." This was rampant with the repro round tool kits when they first came out and not a lot of people knew of their existence. When in doubt, ask around.
Get copies of the various mail-order catalogs to see if the part is available via mail order. A lot of the "NOS" stuff being sold at swaps and on eBay is literally pulled straight out of the catalogs and sold for several times the catalog price.
NOS doesn't always mean pristine condition. There are many cases where you would be better off restoring an original part, than trying to salvage an NOS piece that is in sorry shape.
Some parts, like rubber items, do not age well. An NOS part, while truly original and unused, might be functionally worthless.
The term "Barndoor" is generally credited to Jeff Walters back in the 80's. A barndoor bus has an engine lid that's about twice the height of a normal bus engine lid. The term is applied to all buses, from the first prototypes of 1949, to the last barndoor built in March of 1955, chassis #20-117901. Note that pickups, which were first built in August of 1952, and Ambulances , which were first built in 1951, are still referred to as "barndoor" even though they lack the characteristic large engine lid. If you look at the construction of the pickup and ambulance engine lids, however, you will notice the same construction as the barndoor engine lid, just "cut down" to fit the smaller engine compartment.
Very frequently, parts will be referred to as "barndoor," for example "barndoor middle seat" or "barndoor headlights." This is a common misuse of the term, because a lot of the parts that are considered "barndoor era" were in fact used up through the first part of 1956, when production moved from Wolfsburg to Hanover. The correct terminologies should be "Hanover" or "Wolfsburg." For example, a Wolfsburg bus middle seat has six legs; a Hanover bus middle seat would have 4 legs. However, there are always examples of anomalies which occurred during the changeover period.
The following is a short list of some of the barndoor-specific parts; these parts that will *only* fit on a barndoor:
front suspension & steering
dash and instruments
splined steering wheel (pre-53)
spare tire tray
The following is a short list of some of the parts which are barndoor-era, but can be fitted to non-barndoor buses:
3 spoke steering wheel
lightweight cargo doors
The following is a short list of some of the parts which are frequently mislabelled as "barndoor" parts
Bakelite dome lights - used on Wolfsburg-born buses
6-leg middle seat - used on Wolfsburg-born buses
3-piece doglegs (front wheel arches) - used on Wolfsburg-born buses
European asymmetrical bulb headlights - used until early 60's in Europe
Semaphores - used until 61 in Europe
Center brake light assembly - used until '57
Dual-filament "bubble" taillights - these are US-spec for 4/55-57 buses
Flat, integrated reflector, single filament taillights - European 4/55 - 57 buses
Another common misuse of this term is to refer to the side cargo doors as "barndoors," some have even referred to a double-door bus as "double barndoor."
Panels were the entry-leve commerical model. They had no windows in the cargo area except for the rear window, and there was an optional solid rear hatch available. Panels were also used as the basis for several camper conversions, such as Sundial and EZ-Camper.
Some people mistakenly refer to all buses as "kombis," when actually it's just one of several models. By definition, a "kombi" is a "kombination" of commercial and passenger vehicle, which could be change functionality with the quick removal of the rear seats. It has 3 windows in the sides of the cargo area, and one in the rear hatch. The rear window on a kombi is smaller than that of a deluxe. There were only hardboard panels for interior in the front cab section, covering the doors, roof, and behind the nose. There were no headliner or carpet, and rear seats were optional. Kombis were frequently used as the basis for campers.
The standard was the entry-level passenger model. It has the same window configuration as a kombi, but with a nicer lever of interior trim and a headliner. Standards usually came in two-tone paint schemes, and had middle and rear seats.
The Deluxes were the top-of-the-line models, primarily intended for passenger use. They had nicer interior, polished aluminum body molding and trim on bumpers. These had wrap-around corner windows and an extra set of side windows until 1963, after which the corner windows were discontinued due to a larger rear hatch. Pre-'64 deluxes are also known as 15-Window Deluxes and had a larger rear window; post '63's are known as 13-Window Deluxes. Also available was the 23-Window Deluxe (aka Samba), up through '63, and the 21-window from then until 1967. The 21/23 window deluxes had 8 skylight windows set in the roof line, and large fabric sunroofs, although you could order one without. 1960 is a notable year in the model line because they used special trim pieces behind the cargo door hinge, but strangely, only on the front set of hinges, and not the back, although the rears had holes drilled in them for the trim. Through some time in 1953, the skylight windows and the rear corners windows were plexiglass, with the "Plexiglas" logo on them. Note the spelling of plexiglas, with one "s". In 1954, the skylight windows were changed to green tinted glass, and only the corner windows were plexiglas. Starting some time in 1955, the plexiglass was replaced with normal glass for the corner windows as well.
The ambulance was unique, having a rear hatch without a window that opened down instead of up, as well as a metal and glass divider separating the cab from the cargo area. There were also 2 removable chairs, and a folding jump seat, in addition to a special platform built to hold 2 stretchers side-by-side. Other amenities included cabinets, extra grab rails mounted on the walls and roof, and a special headliner construction. Also available were fresh air fans: on barndoors, there was a roof mounted scoop able the windshield, with 2 fans mounted in it. Later ambulances had a special cover plate for the fresh-air box with the fans mounted on it. These fans can be retrofitted to non-ambulance models. You could also order the cargo doors on the driver's side. Ambulances are great for people who love busses and love gadgets.
Other ambulance-specific features:
left-hand side cargo doors
glass divider between cab and patient area
buzzer in patient area to get driver's attention
grab rails in ceiling
shelf above windows on passenger side
cabinets under stretcher table
specially reinforced rear hatch has no window and opens down instead of up
scoop over front windows with integral fans
cross light on front of roof
roll out chair
frosted glass on side windows
additional sound dampening in engine compartment
Single cabs were simple pickups with fold-down side gates and a lockable storage area under the bed. The engine vents were moved down to accommodate the bed. You could also get access doors for the under-bed area on both sides, as well as a metal frame hoop assembly and canvas covering for the bed. There was also a wide-bed version and a wooden bed version. The first single cabs were produced in August 1952, and until late '53, there was no stamped pattern on the side gates: they were smooth.
Same as single cab, with the addition of a bench seat behind the front seat, and a single access door on the passenger side. In 1957 and early '58, a company named Binz made the first double cabs, which are noticeable by the "suicide" extra passenger door. Also, the first regular factory production double cabs had a seam in the middle of the side gates, as the shorter gates for these double cabs were made by shortening normal gates. In '60 they started making gates specially for double cabs. Double cab gates are hard to find, but not rare.
A walk-thru bus is one that has a split front seat arrangement, with a 2 foot or so gap in the middle, allowing someone in the front seat to get up and walk to the back of the bus. A lot of people confuse the term "walk-thru" with "double-door"
This is one of the most comical misuses! Some people think the term "double door" refers to the two side cargo doors. It actually refers to a bus with cargo doors on both sides, and doesn't necessarily mean a bus with the twin cargo doors - there are buses with a sliding door on each side, which is a rare configuration. I have even heard the term "double barndoors" which is even more hilarious. For passenger models, the middle seat folded down on both sides - a very hard to find item!
Semaphores, or "trafficators," were the predecessor to the flashing turn signal. When activated, an electromagnet pulls the arm up, a light goes on inside, and when the semaphore is up all the way, a contact is made and the turn signal indicator lights up on the dash. The light does not blink, although some people have made minor modifications so they will.
Safari windows were a factory accessory, which consisted of a set of replacement windshields that hinged upwards, new wiper pivots that allowed for the arms to be swing out of the way, a rubber mount, aka "one eyed duck" to hold the wipers, and various hardware. They were popular in warmer climates; in Central America, about 80% of the buses were ordered with them! They are reproduced by several companies now, and the quality of the reproductions varies widely. All safaris leak, be they originals or aftermarket, which is why they are less popular in warmer climates. Please note that in some jurisdictions is it not legal to drive with the safaris open. I don't recommend driving at freeway speeds with them wide open, as there is too great of a chance of something flying in and striking you.
Westfalia is a coachbuilding company located in a German town of the same name. They were the "official" camping kit conversion company endorsed by VW. So tightly-linked are the three terms "VW," "Camper" and "Westfalia" that some people don't know that they are mutually exclusive. Important thing to remember is that Westfalia is a separate company from VW, and there are camper conversions other than the ones produced by Westfalia. Westfalia also made other VW conversions, particularly pickup variations, such as the Wide-Bed pickup. They also performed conversions on other makes besides VW.
The Binz was a coachbuilt double cab which was available as early as 1953. The Binz company took a single cab and added an extra passenger cabin of their own design.
What should you do when someone misuses a bus term? It depends on the situation. If it's a financial transaction, knowing the difference can mean a huge difference in the value of a part. The terms "barndoor" and "NOS" are often deliberately misused to inflate the perceived value of an item. Keep your cautious head on. But when someone comes up to you at the gas station and tells you about a bus they saw in a field up the road, with "double-double doors," just smile and say "Really? Can you give me directions?" When I got the lead on my '55 westy, it was described to me as a "barndoor." When I pressed for more information, it turned out that it wasn't. But when he mentioned it had these strange things mounted in the pillars behind the doors, my interest was piqued. Keep your mind open - you never know what you'll find out there...
Courtesy of vintagebus.com