Volkswagen may not be a local brand, but it’s as loved and revered in South Africa as the Big 5 and braaivleis.
Volkswagen, or VW, has given us the Beetle, the two-tone Kombi camper-van and a series of gas-sipping Golfs that keep on going.
The VW vehicle marque is as familiar to most of us as the rainbow flag. It’s shared our history through the fifties, the swinging sixties, the darkest days of apartheid and the bright new start of our Mandela-led democracy.
Legends in the making: the VW Beetle
From the moment the first SA-assembled Beetle rolled off the production line at the Uitenhage plant in 1951, VW stole the hearts of car-loving South Africans.
The legendary little family car, with its budget-beating fuel economy, well-rounded body shape and gutsy rear engine, sold for just R1 050 a pop.
The VW Beetle endured stiff competition from the sedan car market for more than a quarter of a century. In the 1990s, the small and sassy four-wheel celebrity, appropriately dressed in flower-power finery, tugged at the heart strings of South Africans all over again, in the evocative VW Memories TV ad.
The two-tone VW Kombi bus
Fifties South Africa witnessed the launch of Springbok Radio, the passing of the Group Areas Act and the maiden scheduled jet flight between South Africa and Britain in the De Havilland Comet. It also saw the arrival of the first-ever Kombi bus on our southern shores.
By 1955, South Africa was assembling the spacious camper-van locally, at the Eastern Cape assembly plant. The Kombi soon became the chosen vehicle of surfers, growing families and hoards of hippies, who pumped out cool tunes from its backend speakers.
Optional modifications for under R100
At a cost of R1 348, savvy South Africans could enjoy a fully modifiable Kombi van, custom built to go anywhere at a top speed of 80 kph. An optional two-tone paint job cost R12, while a sun-roof set you back an extra R67.
Several models followed hot on the heels of the first camper-van, but none were more popular than the Kombi bus.
The VW van was immortalised in David Kramer’s series of TV ads, including this favourite oldie promoting the Volksiebus’s fuel-injected engine and, not to be forgotten, this Volksiebus ad featuring a fire engine.
The Volksiebus was finally pulled off the global production line in 2014.
Seven generations of VW Golf
The era of the VW Golf in South Africa kicked off in the 1980s and continues to this day. Seven model generations and more than 35 years on, the VW Golf is still hugely popular.
Well-worn Citi Golfs, Golf Chicos and an entire crop of Golf GTIs – in convertible, hatchback and wagon body styles – ply South African cities, towns and rural areas.
In the early eighties, a brand new 1.3L Citi Golf retailed for just R7 635. Today, the top of the range Golf 7 will set you back a little under R600k!
If you were around in the ’80s but you’ve forgotten about this little car, perhaps this line from the TV ad will jog your memory: “Red, yellow, blue…this one’s for you”.
A best seller in 2016
Sixty years on, and VW is still one of the top car manufacturers in South Africa. Best sellers like the Beetle, Kombi and Golf have been joined by a new breed of Volksies that continue to grab top spot in annual new vehicle sales.
In 2016, the VW Polo Vivo claimed the kudos as the best-selling car in South Africa, with the VW Polo in second place. A pickup truck, the VW Amarok, was the seventh best-selling vehicle in the light commercial category.
Leading supplier of Volkswagen parts and spares
At Masterparts, we stock a comprehensive range of high-quality Volkswagen parts and spares. Whether your Volksie is an old model or a newer one, we’ll have the parts you need, at affordable prices.