Volkswagen's commercial vehicle division has done some extraordinary behind-the-scenes work over the past four years, fully restoring a unique, one-off VW Type 2 T1 that was modified by its buyer some 60 years ago.
It's both a feast for the eyes and the senses, and it can’t help but appeal to any fan of modern or vintage vehicles. Moreover, it is a great respect for history on VW’s part.
The modified bus was nicknamed the Volkswagen Half-Track Fox at the time. After leaving the Hanover, Germany factory where it was built, the vehicle was taken to Austria by its new owner. A trained mechanic, Kurt Kretzner had no intention of using his new Microbus in the conventional way. He modified it into a truly special off-road monster. It took him four years to turn the idea in his head into reality.
Kretzner presented his bus as a solution for everyone from hunters to forest rangers to doctors living in the area or basically anyone who needed to travel in inhospitable terrain when conditions could be challenging. He explained that he had modified the vehicle to his liking because he couldn’t find what he wanted on the market.
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As you can see on the images, the model has four axles. The two in the front, equipped with 14-inch tires, are used to steer the vehicle, while the two in the back have a chain drive mechanism that turns the 13-inch wheels into tracks. This configuration allows the bus to have a turning radius of about 10 meters.
Kretzner equipped each tire with a brake and installed an automatic limited-slip differential to help manage power... which was pretty measly. The Volkswagen Microbus was powered by a 1.2L engine developing only 33 hp. Its maximum speed was 35 km/h.
While it’s believed Kretzner built a second Half-Track Fox, Volkswagen says it’s likely only the original, the one now restored, remains in existence. After its construction and use in its early years, the vehicle ended up in the Porsche Museum in Gmünd, Austria. It then passed into the hands of a group of enthusiasts who attempted to restore it (around 2005), but that venture never panned out.
In 2018, the vehicle found its way into the possession of the Volkswagen commercial division. A team began a full restoration process, even repainting the exterior body in a matte orange similar to the original finish. Those working on the project were given free rein for the restoration of the interior. The restored Volkswagen Half-Track Fox made its first official appearance this past February, hence the series of images of the model in action in the snow.
We may be moving towards an all-electric era and the automotive world is evolving, but we should never forget what got us here in the first place.