Rare Volkswagen Type 2 Schulwagen emerges after 43 years

(July 26, 2023) HERNDON, Va. — One of the highlight vehicles at the first International VW Bus Day and the launch of the 3-row ID. Buzz EV in Huntington Beach, Calif., on June 2 was Lind Bjornsen’s 1955 Volkswagen Type 2 Schulwagen. These vehicles were built as traveling training vehicles for VW dealerships and Bjornsen’s is believed to be the sole survivor. The vehicle was also a standout at the Orange County Transporter Organization’s Type 2 event in Long Beach, Calif., the next day.

In the early 1950s, Volkswagens and Porsches were among the vehicles imported to the U.S. by Austrian businessman Max Hoffman. However, Volkswagen decided to terminate its contract with Hoffman as sole importer and began groundwork on founding Volkswagen of America in 1954. Leadership in Wolfsburg wanted a dedicated U.S. organization to tap into the biggest car market in the world.

Volkswagen would go on to succeed and dominate the import market within a decade, but the company knew that in order to succeed they had to back up their sales organization with a parts and service network to support the customers after the sale.

Through 1954, Volkswagen representatives Will Van De Kamp and Geoffrey Lange set up the dealer and distributor network. In 1955, they had Wolfsburg send their very first employees, three service tech trainers, and a couple of specially-equipped Type 2 Kombis to travel around to dealerships and train service personnel. This was the basis of Volkswagen’s Mobile Service School. Interestingly, the first two of these Kombis were delivered to Volkswagen of America before the company was officially incorporated in October of 1955.

Eventually, the fleet of specially equipped Kombis, or Schulwagens, expanded to 14 vehicles, which at one point were photographed outside Volkswagen of America’s first office location in Englewood Cliffs, NJ.  At the time, these Schulwagens were the most expensive VWs built, at a cost of more than $5,000 —or the price of two 23-window De Luxe models.

This particular Schulwagen had lived in a barn in Ohio for 43 years, until it emerged and was eventually purchased by Bus collector and enthusiast Bjornsen, who figured out what was hiding under 10 layers of paint.  The unique set of options identified it as a VW factory Schulwagen for the Mobile Service School. The Volkswagen factory confirmed it was built and delivered to Volkswagen of America in January 1955.

During the restoration process, the layers of paint were stripped down to the original layer that showed the original VWoA livery. The mechanical aspects were all refreshed and the tools and equipment inside were sourced and built.  The paint was repaired and the logos were repainted. The whole restoration process took almost five months, which is an incredibly short timeline for such a project, especially considering the age of the vehicle and the special equipment.