Volkswagen Camper  (Summer 2002)

Silverfish Limited Edition Special Model

Looking a bit like a Last Edition Beetle, but bigger, the Type 2 Silverfish was the final bay window bus model produced in Germany. Words and pictures by David Eccles.

This delicious Deluxe was produced as a special Limited Edition for the last model year of the Bay window, or T2, 1978-9. Built in 1978 as a special commemorative model, it features a very distinctive and regal specification and was one of only 1,600 “Silberfisch”, as the model was known as in Germany, to be built. Of that original 1600 only six are known to survive, and none are in such beautiful condition. What is more, this particular bus has some totally unique features, as it was also a customer-ordered version of this special model. Make no mistake - you are looking at one of a kind.

The first thing to hit you is the dazzle from the metallic silver paintwork and the shine from the chrome trim and bumpers. Extras for the limited edition included chromed opening quarter light vent windows on the cab and passenger side windows, extra headlights, fog lights, air horns, heated rear window, padded dashboard, headrests, stereo pod speakers and to set it off, a sliding steel sunroof. The interior is finished in azure blue, soft velour upholstery and panelling, with matching blue carpets, which complements the silver perfectly, giving that regal touch.

The first owner was a disabled driver, who had several modifications carried out by the factory prior to delivery, and it is these features that make the bus unique. In order for him to gain access to the bus, he had to get from his wheelchair to the driver seat via the side door and passenger area. So, instead of the normal full length middle seat, the bus was fitted with a 2/3 seat and had a grab handle fitted just inside the side door for leverage / grip. The carpets still have the cut outs for the normal size seat! The bus is a walkthrough model to allow access to the front cab and the cab seats are not fitted to a bulkhead. Another unique feature is the swivelling front passenger seat. He sold it after two years and the next owner only used it for six weeks each summer, which is why the van has only covered 21,000 kms. Additionally he was fastidious in caring for the bus - it was kept covered in dry storage and frequently polished. If you lift the cab floor mats (normally the hiding place of horror stories) you see gleaming paintwork, which is clean enough to eat your dinner off! There is simply no rust anywhere - the bus looks like it has just come out of the showroom. The doors whisper shut with finger pressure and the sliding roof turning handle operates as if it were new, allowing the roof to effortlessly and gracefully glide back to let the sunshine in.

Bus enthusiast and collector Thomas Gahl then acquired the vehicle as part of his special collection, but reluctantly decided to part with it recentJy to make room for a Clipper (but not just any Clipper - watch this space!). Keith Taylor from Manchester spotted it for sale in the Camper and Commercial classifieds last issue, and immediately phoned up. He has been into buses for years and was in fact the very first recipient of the then fledgling SSVC's prestigious new award, Van of the Year, back in the 1980s. His boys are now at the age where it's fine to go on holidays to France or Bulgaria in a VW, but uncool for Dad to pick you up in a Camper (don't worry, this will soon turn into “buy us a Camper dad” - David). So Keith was looking for something a bit special - when he saw tile Silverfish he knew he just had to have it! The boys have even agreed that “it's OK”!

A deal was struck over the phone after Keith had seen pictures sent via email and Keith drove to Calais where he met Thomas and picked up the bus. He had a moment of panic on leaving Dover to drive back to Manchester in it when smoke began pouring out when he turned the heater on - but investigation revealed that this was caused by faulty push rod seals allowing oil to drip onto the heat exchangers and smoke as the engine heated up! That apart, the bus is absolutely perfect and Keith is already enjoying the extra power from the 2-litre engine.

He hopes to get to some events this year so, if you see something gleaming in the field, check out this rare, unique, stunning Silver Dream Machine.

Article reproduced by kind permission of the Editor, Volkswagen Camper & Commercial

                                                                                                                                                                                                                           

Volkswagen Camper Summer 2002

Silverfish Limited Edition Special Model

Looking a bit like a Last Edition Beetle, but bigger, the Type 2 Silverfish was the final bay window bus model produced in Germany. Words and pictures by David Eccles.