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Uncle Gerbelmann

Uncle Gerbelmann from right

This panel van was bought new by the radio and television service Gerbelmann of Hannover, Germany, in 1972. That's why we nicknamed it "Uncle Gerbelmann" on the 1995 Wolfsburg Bug meeting.

Onkel Gerbelmann from front "Old Mr Gerbelmann was really pedantic. Fill it up daily, wash it each week. Man, we've cleaned these vans more often than we drove 'em!" That's what one of his former employees told me. And that's how the great condition of this van can be explained.

Unfortunately, there's very little information on the van's history nonetheless, because its owner, the aforementioned old Mr Gerbelmann, died in 1994. Until then, he drove this van as his "pensioner's car" after having left his firm in the mid-Seventies. This also explains the low mileage of under 25,000 miles (!) with which his widow tried to sell it after his death. Strangely enough, she didn't succeed for quite a while – having been unregistered on January 26th, 1994, it didn't find its way back onto the road until October, 1995.

Its second owner originally had wanted to buy a van to haul band equipment in. This is how Uncle Gerbelmann suffered from his first damages: for instance, the window in the cab division was removed and thrown away. I had to look for a replacement for quite a while ... Still, one should not blame the man too hard; at least he recognized the van's value and didn't build it into a camper or such.


Uncle Gerbelmann from front right It still looked a little untidy when I spotted it on the street in March, 1996. Its exceptional condition however could not be overlooked, which made me follow to the driver's aim, where I examined it more closely. Surprisingly it even was for sale due to the owner's girlfirend's pregnancy. It took several sleepless nights to figure out how to pay for the van, which wasn't exactly cheap, but well worth its price.

If you're into VW Transporters, you'll have noticed that mine is equipped with some features which weren't available to commercial vehicles from the factory. Most notably the chrome trim on the bumpers, which was standard equipment on deluxe buses of the time. Wing windows and dipping interior rear view mirror also are quite unusual for Transporters. I suppose that these things were retrofitted quite early, maybe even at the dealership's, to make the van look more valuable and thus better for the firm's image. Especially the wing windows are very important though, because there's a nasty current of air with the windows rolled down, presumably because of the cab division.

The wheel chrome rings aren't VW parts, neither are the fog lights. They are "original Gerbelmann" parts however, so they'll stay. I've only replaced the Bug foglight switch with a Bus one, and the foglights themselves with NOS Bosch lights which my granddad still had lying boxed in his garage when he died.

Another highlight is the trip recorder, which isn't as usual fitted in place of, but in addition to the standard speedo. There's a gearbox under the cab to distribute the one speedo cable into two. The trip recorder itself is older than the van and bears more kilometres than it, because it was taken from one of its predecessors. According to the employee, these were similarly painted and inscribed T1 panel vans of early '60s vintage. To find one of them is a dream – but a very unrealistic one, because what was put out of service in 1972 must have been re-cycled several times since. Who knows, maybe they're Golf fenders now – a pity, but such is life.

Uncle Gerbelmann from front left Uncle Gerbelmann used to be a permanent part of the VW Bus Museum's exhibition in Salzgitter, but the museum sadly didn't survive its fusion with the Community of Interest T2 and is therefore history now. Until then, the van even had to help with the occasional moving houses – but of course, like old Mr Gerbelmann, I've been doing my best to keep it unharmed in the process. At present, the van is standing safe and dry under the carport at my wrencher's, and it's scheduled to be back on the road in the not too distant future when we've fixed the oil leaks. But for the really hard jobs in the life of a VW Bus, there's Delzy now.

Unfortunately, Uncle Gerbelmann once partook in a rear-ender. This is why he has a too-new engine lid and slight differences in colour and gloss at the rear (even visible in the picture above, look at the "Antennenbau" as compared to the "Kundendienst"). It's going to stay that way – that's part of his history too! My plans are to conserve and polish, and to have the rims and front bumper repainted one day.

Let me quote another old Mr Gerbelmann anecdote here: When asked by his wife to haul some planted flower pots to an acquaintance of hers, he allegedly replied: "For God's sake, we can't do that! These are the things a car suffers from!" A VW Transporter, mind you, into which heaters and similar stuff are mindlessly thrown normally ...

Of course, any purchase offers are completly pointless – as opposed to contacting me to share any information about this van you might have. Be it pictures, tales, whatever – write me and it'll pay not only for me. I'll gladly answer your questions too.

Uncle Gerbelmann from rear right


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Last edited on July 14, 2004