The second-generation Volkswagen Bus launched for 1968 and lasted through 1971. It retained the Beetle-based chassis, but had a new, larger body.

© Vince Manocchi

1968 Volkswagen Bus, The Second Generation

The 1968 Volkswagen Bus, the second generation of VW's versatile people mover was larger, sleeker, and more powerful than its predecessor. It did, however remained based on VW's Beetle, and even retained the little Bug's 94.5-inch wheelbase.

The body of the 1968 Volkswagen Bus grew in length by nearly five inches, to 174 inches overall, and height was up by about one inch, but width, turning circle, and front track hardly changed. Nearly three inches was added to the rear track, however.

Gone was the eight-window design, taking with it the charming available skylights. In its place was a body with three long windows on either side and a one-piece windshield that was 27-percent larger than the two-pane unit it replaced.

Passenger versions dumped the double side doors in favor of an industry first: a single right-side sliding door. Exterior door hinges were gone, so there was less to catch wind and dirt. Sacrificed also was the widow's-peak nose of the first-generation; the new bus had a flatter brow with less character but stronger bumpers and better headlamps.

Interior volume with the rear seats removed expanded by about six cubic feet, fuel capacity was 15.8 gallons, up from 10.6, and curb weight increased by about 400 pounds, to 2,723.

The second-generation VW Bus retained an upright driving position, but gained some front crush space for better crash protection.

© Vince Manocchi

Two passenger models were offered. The Kombi was now the base model and started at $2,211. The base Station Wagon cost $2,495 with seven seats, and $2,517 for the nine-seater.

The basic 1968 Campmobile listed for just $2,110, but for an additional $655, buyers could purchase purpose-designed camping equipment that included bedding and curtains, plus an icebox, stove, and sink with a 4.5-gallon water supply. Adding a pop-up roof cost another $280. The pop-up roof section was much larger than before and was hinged at the front. For $1,075, buyers could get the camping gear, the pop-top, and a custom tent that mated to the sliding-door opening.

Commercial models included panel vans and pick-up trucks with base prices ranging from $2,295 to $2,455.

All second-generation Type 2 models used the latest Beetle's 1600 engine (1,584cc, 96.6 cubic inches), here rated at 57 horsepower at 4400 rpm and 82 pounds/feet of torque at 3000. Horsepower was up over the first-generation, but so was curb weight, so the 1968 Volkswagen Bus really wasn't much faster than the last of the first-generation 1967s.

Zero-60 mph still took about 37 seconds and top speed remained 65 mph. VW calculated fuel consumption with the vehicle traveling at 75 percent of top speed, which worked out to 23 mpg at 53 mph. At 65 mph, where most real-world buses cruised, weather and road conditions permitting, owners saw about 19 mpg.

A four-speed manual with a 5.37:1 final drive ratio remained the sole transmission. Eliminating the wheel-hub reduction gears shed some unsprung weight and along with the new double-jointed rear axle, ball-joint front suspension, and wider track, improved both ride and handling. Some reviewers went so far as to call it car like.

Safety features included a deep-dish steering wheel--now mounted at a less bus like angle--a new padded dashboard, nonreflecting interior surfaces, safety belts for each seat, plus shoulder belts for all outboard positions.

This VW illustration shows the eight-passenger seating arrangement. Seven seats were standard, and there was a camper model that seated five and slept four.

© Volkswagen of America, Inc.

Sales continued strong. The two-millionth Type 2 Volkswagen Bus left VW Hanover's factory in 1968.

Go to the next page to learn about how the Volkswagen Bus continued to evolve, and how it stacked up to a new crop of rivals.

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