Long sought Kombi on show


Rocco Pienaar spent about about seven years searching for the Kombi van he wanted.

He found it.

It was in South Africa and not for sale but the Tamahere local didn’t let that stop him, reports the Waikato Times.

Tamahere's Rocco Pienaar with his beloved Kombi
Tamahere’s Rocco Pienaar with his beloved Kombi

Now the 1967 machine is sitting in the window of Hamilton’s Ebbett Volkswagen in all its turquoise and chrome glory.

It’s not for sale, though – Pienaar is just renovating his garage. But the fact that his old bus is not for sale has not deterred countless offers from wannabe Kombi lovers. He has been offered upwards of $100K to part with the splitty but Pienaar won’t sell. He’s well and truly bitten by the VW bug which has spawned thousands of clubs across the globe with devotees hosting regular meets and the odd global trekking adventure.

Up until the early 90s, Kombi vans were a common site on New Zealand roads.

Much loved by students, hippies and air-cooled engine enthusiasts, the loveable Kombi was cheap transport despite a reputation for being unreliable and slow. But those wanting to buy a slice of instant cool better have deep pockets with a Kombi selling for $215k at a recent auction in Melbourne, setting a new world record price. With stakes that high it’s easy to see why Pienaar asked Hamilton’s Ebbett Volkswagen if they could look after his beloved van for a few weeks. Naturally the firm leapt at the chance. Pienaar’s love of Kombis dates back to childhood, when his parents had one they took on family holidays.

The reason [my parents] bought one was because, four children – we wouldn’t fight because we would each have a window,” he said.

“But I don’t think it was so much the windows that stopped us fighting. They couldn’t hear us because the engine was so loud.”

He remembers when Kombis like his cost 800 quid, when he was backpacking in London about 25 years ago.

Back then a mate just left one at the airport when he was finished with it, Pienaar said. Yet he spent about seven years looking “really hard” for his blue baby before he found it three-and-a-half years ago. It has the distinctive split front windscreen – 1967 models were the last made that way, he said. There’s no rust in it because of the dry climate it was in.

There’s no fifth gear either.

Pienaar shipped the van back to New Zealand, where it spent about nine months being overhauled by Waikato-based V-Dub Shoppe. That was all about mechanics, he said, and the paint and interior remain as they were when he bought it. It’s not uncommon to spend $100,000 restoring a Kombi, he said.

Once his had a tune-up, he snapped up an OLD VW number plate and Trends Car Audio put in a super sound system he can hear over the 1600cc, air-cooled engine.

The first time he got in the driver’s seat he didn’t want to get out, he said.

“Many of these older Kombis are in museums but we actually use this thing and drive it and enjoy it,” he said.

“Probably the thing I enjoy the most is when I drive it and people see it, it immediately brings a smile to their face.”

“I think it reminds people of what life was like in the 60s or early 70s.”

He’s had people come up to him in the street and try to buy it and others flash their lights at him, trying to get him to stop so they can have a look or take a picture.

He’s considering renting it out for special occasions.

Ebbett Volkswagen jumped at the chance to have Pienaar’s beloved Kombi at the dealership, dealer principal Richard van den Engel said.

“The reality is everyone’s got a Volkswagen story and everyone remembers this time in Volkswagen history,” he said.

“I guess for people it’s the lifestyle that goes with it … the surfboard on the roof, the camping down by the beach, the Kiwi holidays.”

“Fortunately we’ve had no accidents on the street just here but we have had a lot of heads turned, a lot of people pull in.”

Across the room from the retro ride is the modern day version of the Kombi.

The $130,000 California Ocean camper which packs in features including a solar shower and two double beds.

But the old version still has its magic – staffers have heard tales of Kombi-powered trips around Europe and even seen one woman well up at the sight of it.

The Kombi is expected to be at Ebbett Volkswagen in Hamilton for about three more weeks.

One thought on “Long sought Kombi on show

  • July 26, 2016 at 9:25 am

    I lusted after this beast just the other day, when passing the showroom. Of course it’s owned by a Tamahere resident! (We used to get similar reactions to our 1953 Citroen. Ah, those were the days.)


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