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The Rare Volkswagen Karmann Coachbuilt Camper Van | VW Camper Van Blog

The Rare Volkswagen Karmann Coachbuilt Camper Van

Posted on February 14th, 2009

The Rare VW T25 Karmann Coachbuilt Camper Van

In this weeks guest VW blog post, Grenville Strickland tells the history of the rare but rather cool Karmann Coach Built VW T25 Camper Vans:

The roots of Karmann-Mobil can be traced to the Southern Hemisphere. During a visit to South Africa Wilhelm Karmann Jr. (b. 4th December 1914 Osnabrück, Germany in Osnabrück, Hannover, Germany) saw a Jurgens motorhome built on a VW Type 2 chassis and was so impressed with them, he requested licensed production (it is possible to see some similarity in the badges of early Karmann’s and that of the Jurgens). The Jurgens motorhomes had been launched in 1973.

The first motorhome produced by Wilhem Karmann was also based on the Volkswagen Type 2 chassis and was launched in 1974 also on the late Bay chassis. The bodies of these early Karmann’

s were of a sandwich structure, it had two beds, kitchen, shower, waste water tank, rear body supports, secondary battery, toilet, hot water heater and gas heating. It came with the option of a luggage rack over the driving cab. At the time these motorhomes were ahead of rivals in terms of build quality. The production of these vehicles continued through until 1979. In total, it is believed the Type 2 Karmann’s had a production run of approximately 1,000 units.

1987 VW T25 Karmann Cheetah (westy77)

1987 VW T25 Karmann Cheetah (westy77)

With the introduction of the Volkswagen Type 3 (T25/Transporter/Vanagon) in 1979, Karmann gave the motorhomes a permanent overhead can area with a bed for two people.

In total 741 T3 Karmann Gipsy’s were manufactured on the chassis of Volkswagen T3 (T25 / Transporter / Vanagon). This number excludes 30+ T3 Syncro models made between 1986 and 1989 and 7 Syncro 16″ made between 1991 and 1992. Parallel to that, 113 Karmann Cheetah’s were manufactured to make a grand total of 891 examples.

Karmann's everywhere! Northern Ireland is represented by Speedy's Gipsy

Karmann's everywhere! Northern Ireland is represented by Speedy's Gipsy

The early Volkswagen Type 3’s were normally aspirated air-cooled engines and due to the low power to weight ratio of these vehicles, only a very moderate road performance could be expected. With the introduction of the 1.6 turbo-diesel engine, the Karmann Gipsy and Cheetah’s went on to become one of the best-selling motorhomes of the day.

Unfortunately we don’t have any information for the Karmann motorhomes based on the Volkswagen LT chassis; all we know is the LT’s were produced between 1974-2006 and many examples can still be seen. The most luxurious of the LT models was the Karmann Distance Gold and these are very sought after.

Classic Karmann colours - very distinctive (Thomas A from Sweden)

Karmann Gipsy belonging to Chrismogs of the Karmann Website and Forum

In addition to luxuries found on the earlier models, the later Karmann Coachbuilts have central heating, hot and cold running water and large bathroom. They can - if needed - be totally self-contained. The vast majority of the Gipsy and Cheetah’s have a 1.6TD JX engine although many owners have upgraded to the larger 1.9 AAD engine for that little bit of extra power.

Late VW T25 Karmann Gipsy in perfect condition

Late VW T25 Karmann Gipsy in perfect condition

At present we know of 64 surviving Gipsy and Cheetahs, but there are many more out there we don’t know about. It is understood that there are 5 of these vehicles in North America, but 4 of these need to be confirmed. To our knowledge, three examples have so far been ‘written off’ (flood damage and road accident) in the UK and one scrapped in Germany representing 5% lost. If we were to apply that lost percentage to the total Karmann production figure, this means there are a maximum of 849 surviving examples. The Gipsy and Cheetah’s on the Karmann-Coachbuilts website represents just 7.54% of the total Karmann Gipsy/Cheetah production. One wonders where are the other 92.46%?!

Camping in style. The VW T25 Karmann Cheetah belonging to Dweezil

Camping in style. The VW T25 Karmann Cheetah belonging to Dweezil

From 1996, the design was updated and the new Karmann models were based on new Volkswagen T4 and were named Colorado and Missouri.

In the year 2000 Karmann Mobil was sold at Eura Mobil, although Karmann Mobil operate as an independent enterprise within the Eura Mobil group.

View looking forward. The inside of Thomas A's Gipsy (from Sweden)

View looking forward. The inside of Thomas A

View from the overhead cab bunk bed

View from the overhead cab bunk bed

In the year 2003 new superstructures on basis of the fifth transporter generation, the T5’s were introduced.

In 2008 a dedicated website and forum was started for the Karmann’s and it now has 75 registered users many of which are Karmann owners. More information about the Karmann Coachbuilt Volkswagens can be found on their website at www.karmann-coachbuilts.com.

Thanks to Grenville for contributing this blog post which I am sure will be of interest to any Karmann owners. If you haven’t logged on to the Karmann Couch Built website yet then take a look around. There is plenty of info and photos and you can even become a member!

Posted by Steve

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Posted on Saturday, February 14th, 2009 at 2:58 pm
Posted In T25 | Tags: ,

22 Responses to “The Rare Volkswagen Karmann Coachbuilt Camper Van”

  • Jools on February 20th, 2009 said:

    Hi,
    I would like to inform you that we own a much loved Karmann Gipsy that we have had for the last 8 years. It is an M reg RIGHT hand drive which I think is quite rare! The interior is very much like the one featured appart from it is in complete reverse.

  • Steve on February 25th, 2009 said:

    Hi Jools,

    Thanks for your comment. Your Karmann Gipsy sounds great - could you send me some photos through and I might be able to feature it on the blog?

    Steve

  • Bugger on March 4th, 2009 said:

    Well done! I stumbled over this article by pure chance and being an avid vw nut, I was suprised to see there is still more to learn about the humble vw. The only issue now, is that I want one. I have a T2 and find the room limiting when on long trips. A Gipsy or Cheeta would do nicely.
    Once again, a great article and Thanks!

  • Hans Scholz on March 13th, 2009 said:

    Hello all,
    i bought last year a 1985 Karmann gipsy 1,6 Diesel.
    I am now trying to get him a little bit better in condition.
    He had 20 owners !!!!and than me…but for 25 years he is in a good condition.
    regards Hans

  • Steve on March 28th, 2009 said:

    Hi Hans,

    Thanks for your comment - would be great to see some photos of the Gipsy! If you want to send them in please send them to info@vwcampervanblog.com

    Thanks

    Steve

  • kusuma on May 19th, 2009 said:

    Hi,
    I like the compact Camper vans. I looked up the Volkswagen Karmann Coachbuilt Camper Van that VW sells and it’s quite nice.

  • Corinne on May 26th, 2009 said:

    Hi,

    We have a T2 model coachbuilt Karmann for sale. It’s a 1978 model, LHD, with LPG conversion, hot water and a scooter/bicycle rack on the back. We have travelled across Europe in it and while its roomier inside that the normal T2, its dainty enough to get up tiny back roads. We have had great fun in it. Its all original, except for reupholstered seating and we have all the original paperwork with it.

    Call Michael on 07885 770666 for more details. We are in the UK

  • Steve on May 26th, 2009 said:

    Hi Corrine,

    The van sounds cool - could you email some photos over to info@vwcampervanblog.com - would be great to feature it on the site?

    Thanks

    Steve

  • chris on July 14th, 2009 said:

    just about to buy a 1994 lt karmann ghia will post photos asap

  • Steve on July 26th, 2009 said:

    Hi Chris,

    Look forward to seeing some photos!

    Steve

  • alan on August 5th, 2009 said:

    hello folks,

    just about to buy a 1991 vw karmann on a t4 chassis, has anyone got a clue what weight it is??

    cheers

  • Steve on August 12th, 2009 said:

    Hi Alan,

    I am afraid I haven’t a clue how heavy a Karmann would be - probably best to head over to http://www.karmann-coachbuilts.com and ask there - I am sure someone will know!

    Thanks for your comment!

    Steve

  • Fleetwood RV on December 18th, 2009 said:

    I love this Camper Van, really it look much cute and very attractive.The photos itself is so brilliant how will be the Van I am thinking that..I love this white color and all the features, also exterior and interior design of the Volkswagen Camper Van are very good..Amazing Van.Survival kits……..

  • Adele Dacre on January 29th, 2010 said:

    I am in the process of registering my camper in France. It is a LT31 type283 1991. chassis no.WV2ZZZ28ZMH016347. I bought it directly from Germany. I need details of the modification to complete the reg. document here in France. please could you help or give me any information as to where I could get the required info? There is some urgency.

    Many thanks
    Adele

  • Steve on January 31st, 2010 said:

    Fleetwood - Thanks for your comments. I too like the Karmann vans!

    Adele - I am afraid I do not know much about the LT models so I am unable to help. Sorry.

    Thanks

    Steve

  • Used Volvo Trucks on February 11th, 2010 said:

    The Volkswagen LT was the largest light commercial vehicle panel van produced by Volkswagen. The set of specifications for the new larger transporter, as an additional series, were very clear in requiring as much utility space as possible in a small footprint. Plans for the third generation of the ‘large transporter’ from Volkswagen Commercial Vehicles had already gone underway, and later that year the Volkswagen Crafter was launched.

  • Mel on March 11th, 2010 said:

    I have a Volkswagen Karmann Cheetah A5 series 1991,2.5 turbo diesel LHD,Ex condition and only 145.000 kms on the clock,we have had many,many good times with it but we are moving back to UK shortly and have to sell it,i am asking 11.000 euros.I can email as many pics as you like,do you know of anyone interested?

  • Brendan K on May 18th, 2010 said:

    I have just become the [hopefully] proud owner of a 1988 Karman Gipsy. Saw her adverisedd on Mobile.de at the weekend in Appeldorn Holand, phoned the chap and said I’d be there at 9 am Monday morning. I got there at 08.58, bought it and drove it back home yesterday. All went swingingly. Mechanically she is perfect but the dealer to his credit made no secret of the fact that there is a LOT of work to do on the living quarters. Still, hopefully it is only work, with no huge expense involved. When I had to practically rebuild my LMC 6400 I found my local timber yard extremely accomodating. They machined each piece of wood I needed to my exact equirements.
    As I progress the work I may need some advice from some of you real experts out there, but I have other plans for the summer and will not be able to start the work until early September.

  • Alain Pare on June 23rd, 2010 said:

    Hi,i am looking for a karmann mobil (gypsy,cheetah…) or Jurgens Autovilla preferably 1980 and lower.I live in Montreal Quebec and i am open to any suggestion or info about shipment and transportation of these vehicule. Thanks

  • Alain Pare on July 6th, 2010 said:

    Concerning a Karmann mobil or Jurgens Autovilla for sale my e-mail is apare@sutton.com

  • Jayco Rvs on February 1st, 2011 said:

    First motorhome launched by Karmann in 197 which had 2 chasis and it is also based on the Volkswagen, the production is continued till 1979 and they produce approximately 1000 units of motorhomes

  • Norman Rogers on February 17th, 2011 said:

    Can anybody tell me where the discharge plug on the fresh water tank is on the karman colorado 660 thanks

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