"For Business or Pleasure, Volkswagen Station Wagons are First-Class Transportation."
Known as "Station Wagon" in the U.S., the VW Transporter, at front, is the precursor of the modern minivan. The Hyundai Grace from 2002 or 2003, in the background, is half a century younger than the Transporter. Yet, it merely is a refined version of the basic concept laid out by its forerunner.
Dutch Volkswagen importer Ben Pon found open ears in Wolfsburg when he envisioned a commercial derivate of the VW Beetle upon visiting the Volkswagen factory in early 1947. The development, based on the backbone of the Beetle, began one year later, but technical difficulties demanded so many modifications that eventually the only commonality between both models was their identical wheelbase.
VW began producing the Transporter, called "Type 2", in 1950, as soon as the Wolfsburg factory's growing production capacity allowed for a second model, alongside of the Beetle "Type 1". From the beginning, the export accounted for 20 percent of the Transporter's annual production volume. According to a VW dealer handbook from 1954, no "Type 2" buses were exported to Cuba in the first two years of production, while 244 VW buses arrived at the island between 1952 and 1954. Our pictured bus is not from that batch: most likely it comes from South America, where VW subsequently began producing the Transporter in its new overseas factories.
The Brazilian Volkswagen factory, for instance, kept on producing the first generation, also known as T1, until 1975. It's hard to tell the exact age of our pictured model, but there are some hints: the extended roofline above the windshield betrays a model that's been produced after August 1955. And in 1968, the Brazilian T1 buses received the front end of the newer VW T2, which narrows down the birthday of our pictured T1 to the years in between.