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The Volkswagen Type 2 Microbus was Germany’s post-WWI I response to the overwhelming popularity of the Volkswagen Type 1, the iconic Volkswagen “Beetle” of the late 1930s. Launched in 1950 the microbus, like its predecessor, became wildly popular and synonymous with the freewheeling sixties and the hippie subculture of an evolving America.
This extraordinary Volkswagen 21-Window Microbus Deluxe was built in 1967 and finished in the captivating two-tone combination of Sea Blue and Cumulus White, color code L360. Although the early provenance is largely undocumented, it is known that the car was purchased around 1988 by Richard Grace, owner of the renowned Grace Family Vineyards in St. Helena, California. According to a magazine article written about the bus, Richard Grace and Steve Phillips, Volkswagen bus expert restorer in Redding, California, spotted the bus together at a swap meet. With Phillips’ endorsement, Grace purchased the vehicle and shipped it to the Phillips restoration shop.
Work began immediately. As was further described in the magazine article, the entire suspension and drivetrain were removed and the undercoating and paint stripped. The suspension, four-speed transaxle, and correct 1967 1,585 cc engine were rebuilt using German parts according to factory specifications. As testament to the meticulous care taken in restoration, all the cadmium-plated nuts were fitted specifically so that the tiny metric numbers face out and can be easily read – effectively rendering the undercarriage better than factory.
Joe Lemehaute, a paint master in Redding, painstakingly block-sanded and primed the bus, then repainted it. The upholstery was finished using the correct leatherette in Aero Papyrus (gray), exactly as the L360 color code issued by Volkswagen specified, and all features of the interior were addressed. The roof rack and safari windows were also restored; and Phillips spent hours locating NOS parts for such items as the headlight assemblies, turn signals, and antenna. The factory wheels were sandblasted and painted Cumulus White accompanied by the original German hubcaps, clips, and rivets; and the roof vent was equipped with ambulance fans. All in all, the restoration – culminated in scrupulous detailing – took one year, ten months, and three days to complete.
Grace enjoyed the bus until 1993 when Steven Lester of Rapid City, South Dakota, purchased the vehicle. The bus stayed with Lester in his extensive automobile collection for 18 years and was then sold to the current owner as part of the Lester estate in 2012.
In 2013, the new owner requested that the Stiftung AutoMuseum Volkswagen of Germany verify the specifications of the bus using the chassis number, and the subsequent “Enclosure” verification documentation accompanies the bus at sale, along with the jack and tool kit. More recently, the bus has undergone an intensive refurbishment by Agger Automotive of Englewood, Colorado, and, according to the consignor, with less than 600 miles on the restoration the bus “drives like a dream!”
Evident upon inspection, this lovely 21-Window Microbus Deluxe is one of the most correct Volkswagen buses in existence today. Presenting with panache, the Deluxe is a fun ride with the potential to be a source of great enjoyment for any discerning automotive enthusiast.